This is a guide to buying a used CBR600F or a CBR650F. Or if you are really lucky, a used CBR650R! (I kid. They just came out in 2019.)

The 2019 CBR650R. This is the culmination of the CBR600 line. You won't find many used!

"Balanced."

That's the word most often used to describe the CBR600F.

Second would be "all-rounder". This is to contrast it with the more race-oriented 600s to succeed it, like the ZX-6R (in 599cc form), the YZF-R6 or Honda's own CBR600RR.

The CBR600F is one of those iconic motorcycles that people recall fondly as being extremely ‘fun’ in a variety of situations. Ask anyone who’s had one and they’ll fondly describe them as being a perfect balance: lightweight, manoeuvrable, with plenty of horsepower and yet comfortable, torquey enough down low to be practical in the city and stylish.

CBR actually stands for “City Bike Racing”. Never mind that CBR600RR stands for “City Bike Racing… Race Replica”, a contradiction… but by the point the 600RR range was released (in 2003), CBR was more of a brand name than an acronym.

There are so many related motorcycles out there that I need to clarify what this is NOT: This is not a CBR600RR buyers guide or a CB600F buyer’s guide.

  • The CBR600RR is the “race replica” version of the CBR600F, much more oriented towards the track, and not really track friendly. They’re awesome motorcycles, even just to look at, let alone to fling around a track. But they’re of less interest to the average buyer (like me, and probably you), the vast majority of whom want something that can be driven day to day.
  • The CB600F is the “naked” version of the CBR600F. They actually share a lot of common features. I considered putting them together into one guide, but the complexity of doing that is that the years they were each released were slightly different, as were the engine tunings and specs. So I’ll write one separately.

If I had to pick which of the above motorcycles in the Honda 600cc range was most iconic and loved by the most people, it would be the CBR600F.

On to the model history and buyer's guide for the CBR600F.

General buying guide for a CBR600F

These were always considered fast, sporty bikes. Thus, the majority have been raced, either on the street or on the track. They’re not monsters with torque, but they can be wheelied. And many of them have been crashed and left out in the sun.

Models you should buy

The main two models of CBR600F you should buy are the CBR600F4 and the CBR600F4i ("normal" variant).

The CBR600F4 was the last of the carbureted original models of CBR600F. The reason it's a good one to get is that it's: lightweight, has a reasonable maintenance interval, and has a lot of the gremlins from earlier models ironed out.

The CBR600F4i was very similar, but added fuel injection and came in a sport variant.

Known problems with the CBR600F variants

There were a number of issues that most models of CBR600F shared.

These included:

  • Exhaust downpipes: These tend to rust on the joins from 4-2 and then 2-1. Check the underside in particular. This happened most often on early models.
  • Sticky petcock: The F and F2 had this issue, while the F3 or F4 did not (and obviously not the F4i, as it had no petcock due to being injected). Get a petcock off one of those to replace it in the carburettor.
  • Hydraualic cam change tensioner: Many failed. Best fix is to replace them with a billet manual unit from APE Race Parts. The stocker was noisy and prone to failure while the manual unit is less expensive, easy to install and adjust.
  • Regulator/rectifier: Reputedly 'made of cheese' on early Hondas. These keep failing particularly on the F to F3, so the best thing is to upgrade the unit completely. Check battery voltage at 5,000 RPM. If it's not anywhere near 14.5V, the regulator is dead. You can easily fit a GSXR1000 or a Yamaha R1 rectifier in its place, buying one from eBay.

The Original Honda CBR600F 1987-1990 aka the Hurricane

Original specs for the Honda CBR600F "Hurricane":

  • Liquid cooled, 4 cylinder, carbureted
  • 64kW (86hp), 60Nm (44ft-lb)
  • Redline at 12,500 RPM
  • 6-speed gearbox
  • 204kg (450lb) wet
  • 8,000km (5,000 mile)  valve adjustment intervals

This was the motorcycle that started it all.

What to pay for a CBR600F

Don't buy one of these. The main reason is not the known problems, but the really short 8,000km (5,000 mile) mile valve adjustment intervals. What is this, a Ducati? Definitely opt for a CBR600F2 or later, as those will be much more enjoyable to ride (the interval changed to 26,000 kilometres (12,000 miles).

Further, an original CBR600F is very difficult to find now, and if you do, a well-kept one will be similarly priced (if not higher priced) than a later model. If you’re looking for a CBR600F and find one like this, unless it’s very attractively priced (like, less than $2,000) and intact. And even then, only buy it for the living room.

CBR600F2 1991-1994

Changes for the CBR600F2 from the CBR600F:

  • Redesigned engine, with slightly more over-square pistons, allowing rev limit to increase from 12,500 to 13,000 RPM
  • Smaller engine was 2 inches smaller, moving the rider closer & improving handling
  • Valve adjustment intervals increased to 12,000 miles from 5,000, after a change from rocker arms to shim-under-bucket assembly
  • Increased carb size, 34mm vs 32mm previously
  • Slightly lower power (~1 kW/1 hp less), but improved torque (4 Nm/3 ft-lb more)
  • Suspension improvements: Longer front forks (378 to 41mm) with preload adjustments and a fatter front tire
  • Heavier: another 9kg (20hp) of weight! Wet weight is 455 lbs, but still the lightest in the class.

The Honda CBR600F2 was a motorcycle loved by everyone who rode it, and was considered to be the class-leading 600cc bike in both speed and handling. It ruled the roost until the ZX-6R appeared in 1995. Even then, usually Honda won.

What to pay for a CBR600F2

You shouldn't pay much — in the vicinity of about US$2,000 for a well-kept one which hasn't been crashed and whose paint is in reasonable shape, with title and registration. Most you'll find will NOT be in good shape and that'll dictate how much you pay.

CBR600F3 1995-1998

The CBR600F3 brought with it a number of improvements, nothing huge over the F2, but significant. Power was increased slightly, but more importantly, he torque curve was flattened significantly.

Cosmetically the CBR600F3 looked the same as the F2, but it produced more power thanks to improved carbs, fueling, ram-air induction and engine changes.

Changes for the CBR600F3 from the CBR600F2:

  • Moar power: 78kW (105hp) at 12,000 rpm, 66Nm (49 ft-lbs) at 10,500 rpm; increase of 5hp over CBR600F2
  • Bigger carbs, up to 36mm from 34mm
  • Redesigned engine internals, with higher compression (12.0:1), low-friction coating on piston rings and bearings, and a revised ignition system, leading to redline increase to 13,300 RPM (up from 13,000)
  • Ram-air induction (for higher horsepower as wind picked up)
  • New colour schemes: Black with white, Sparling Red or Purple with Yellow.
  • Improved front rotors
  • Fatter rear wheel
  • Same weight!

In 1997, Honda improved on the CBR600F3 again with a few more changes

  • Power increase of 3.7kW (5 hp): From a new muffler and ignition mapping. Total power brought up to 82 kW (110hp).
  • Revised ignition and ram-air for a smoother throttle curve.
  • Better suspension: Improved forks, shock and a resized chain

What to pay for a CBR600F3

Like the F2, you shouldn't pay much — ballpark around $2,500 is about right, for one that hasn't been crashed, whose paint is in good condition and whose service was done on schedule. Most you'll find will NOT be in good shape and that'll dictate how much you pay.

CBR600F4 1999-2000

This was the last carbureted CBR600F. This is probably the most popular model other than the CBR600F4i.

By this iteration of the CBR600F, most of the earlier gremlins were ironed out, too.

Major changes of the CBR600F4 over the F3:

  • Reduced wet weight to 197kg (434lb) from 206kg (434lb)... the lightest CBR600F so far!
  • Huge horsepower bump to 78kW (105hp) — an increase of 10 kW (15 hp!) over the previous numbers of 67kW (90 hP)
  • Higher redline of xyz
  • Better suspension, with 43mm front forks.
  • Better front brakes
  • Bigger rear wheel (5.5 inches)

The weight savings came mostly the introduction of an aluminium twin-spar frame to replace the steel-framed predecessors.

The higher redline came from an engine redesign, with shorter stroke and bigger bore pistons, for less overall mass.

What to pay for a CBR600F4

Like the earlier models, you shouldn't pay much — ballpark around US$2,500 is about right, for one that hasn't been crashed, whose paint is in good condition and whose service was done on schedule. Most you'll find will NOT be in good shape and that'll dictate how much you pay.

If you shop around or negotiate, you can find one for US$2,000. Don't spend more than $3,000 unless it's pristine; I guarantee you can get an F4i for that much.

CBR600F4i 2001-2006

This was the first fuel injected CBR600F. It's also probably the best value on the used market, and THE motorcycle to get. I almost regret writing this because it's the one I want.

Changes included

  • Added fuel injection, using "dual throat" throttle bodies
  • Sold in “Sport” and “normal” variants. Sport had a two part seat, no grab rail and no main stand.
  • Modified chassis: Strengthened steering head, a swingarm pivot point moved to the engine block, shorter wheelbase by 5mm

This is the model most people will be after.

The "dual throat" fuel injection system was a first for Honda. It was injectors joined in pairs, a design that Honda hoped would cure the snatchy issues of previous injected sportsbikes, the RC51 SP-1 and the CBR1000RR FireBlade. The ECU was also upgraded against those machines, measuring throttle, cam and coolant, more streams of data to process.

The Sport variant

Honda also introduced a "Sport" version of the 2001 CBR. It had a few small performance upgrades, including

  • Higher power higher up: By using dual concentric intake valve springs, to close the valve faster, Honda reduced valve float higher revs and allowed it to be tuned for more power. Valve lift was reduced slightly, valve seats strengthened and the flywheel lightened slightly.
  • Lower fifth and six gear ratios
  • Gold-painted cases to make it go faster
  • Aluminium cartridges in the forks
  • Split seats for the rider/pillion (not one seat) and no grab rail
  • No center stand!

After 2006, this line was actually temporarily retired, while Honda focused on the CBR600RR, which had been released in 2003.

The return of the CBR600F in 2011 was actually the release of a slightly different model that didn't quite feel the same to most people.

What to pay for a CBR600F4i

This is the model of the CBR600F to get, so it's the most expensive.

An early model in good condition is about $3,000. A later model in 2006 will set you back no more than $4,000, and that's only if it has low miles (less than 15,000 miles or 20,000 kilometers).

If you don't see one and are shopping around, you can pay a similar amount for a ZX-6R 636; those are more common, and good competitors. Bigger, and more powerful.

CBR600F 2011-2013: "The Faired Hornet"

The 2011 CBR600F

Not released in the USA, but released to critical disdain everywhere else, though it was really fine.

The 2011 CBR600F was described as "horrible" or as "a Hornet with a fairing" (hey, that sounds fine!). But it was a fine sports motorcycle, one that was much more oriented towards street use than the CBR600RR or any other of the 600cc motorcycles on the market.

No, it didn't produce north of 120 horsepower, nor did it rev as high. But it was extremely useable, with more torque. The problem is... that's hard to sell.

This says it all, from "Ash on Bikes":

The 2011 Italian-built CBR600F isn't quite created in the same vein as the old versions - those were all rounders that were also highly effective sports bikes, able to compete with more focussed supersports machines on the track right to the mid-noughties yet vastly superior as everyday machines. The new one doesn`t come close to the supersports bikes, but then they have moved on and become more hardcore than ever. It is though a fine all-rounder, with the bonus of a more relatively competitive price than before.

What it produced on paper:

  • 76kW (102hp) at 12,000 RPM; 7 horsepower less than the CBR600F4i
  • 65Nm (48ft-lb) of torque at 10,500 RPM; 3 more than the CBR600F4i.
  • 193 kg (425 lb) wet; 7kg lighter than the past

Seems pretty good, right? But people just compared it to other 600s (including the CBR600RR) and for that reason, claimed it came up short.

In reality, the CBR600F filled the same gap as the SV650S: a faired, comfortable sports motorcycle. It has a bunch of options including heated grips, ABS, a higher screen and luggage.

It also looks nice. But to my eye, it does look like the fairing was an afterthought.

CBR650F 2014-2018

The CBR650F was another evolution towards making motorcycles user-friendly. Like its immediate predecessor, it's a faired CB650F.

First, the changes:

  • 64kW (86hp) at 11,000rpm, a drop of 15hp
  • 63Nm (46 ft-lb) of torque at 8,000rpm, slightly less torque
  • Standard ABS brakes
  • More advanced electronics (digital everything)
  • Comfortable position (more so than even the VFR800)
  • Stiffer suspension, despite less adjustability

Why did the horsepower drop? It's so that they can be restricted for A2 license holders in the UK (and equivalent 35kW in Australia). According to the rules, the original motorcycle can't have produced over twice the horsepower. It wasn't for torque; that stayed the same.

The CBR650F is one of those motorcycles that people describe as "fun". Visordown puts it as "civilised but exciting, mild-mannered when you want it to be, with bite when you want that". Motorcycle news says for commuting through traffic, you "wouldn't rather be on any other bike".

It's described as having easy to use clutch, controls, riding position... basically an extremely neutral motorcycle, built on decades of experience.

It's reasonably priced, fast enough to get you into trouble and a good commuter. In other words, it's an all rounder, and designed to be so.

Unfortunately, the fact that it's so middle-ground means that it has lost a lot of the cachet that earlier models had. Of modern incarnations of the CBR, the CBR650F is one of the most boring. For this reason, even while this model was available, the earlier 2011 CBR600F was preferred.Even the earlier CBR600F4i was better.

Bennets described the CBR650F as

... a high-revving inline four-cylinder all-rounder that had bags of sporting potential compromised by a relaxed riding position and too many cost corners cut in terms of equipment and spec level – right way up forks, two-pot sliding caliper brakes, feature-lite dash, no rider aids. It was a nice bike, better than it should’ve been but not as good as it could’ve.

Either that, or the un-faired Hornet CB650F — the "original" experience of the same motorcycle.

There were some revisions to the CBR650F in 2018:

  • Decreasing power for Euro4 compliance (losing 1 kW and a few Nm)
  • Improving mid-range torque
  • Improved sound, using a new intake and exhaust
  • New front fork

CBR650R 2019-present

Damn! The CBR650R looks good.

The CBR650R continues the same spirit as the CBR650F (and CBR600F), being a street-ready alternative to the more focused RR machines.

Main changes:

  • 70kW (94Hp) @ 12,000RPM: more power, and higher up. Plus you get 5 more hp with ram air.
  • 64Nm (47ft-lb) @ 8,000RPM, again, barely any change in torque
  • 208 kg (458lbs) wet weight on ABS version which is standard in most markets — 5kg (12lbs) lighter than the CBR650F
  • Slipper clutch with a lighter action (not that the CBR650F had any problems... people loved it)
  • Styling revision, borrowing more from the CBR1000RR Fireblade
  • More forward riding position; lowered clip-ons, but still "a long way short of a Fireblade"
  • Beautiful, easy-to-read, large and colour electronics
  • Traction control (not that you need it that much)

The CBR650R develops real power, closer to its CBR600R predecessors. But still falls short of high-revving, high-power 600cc sportsbikes like the R6. And that's intentional.

There's a beginner-restricted version with only 47hp, but you can de-restrict it using a Stanley knife and about an hour of work (but don't tell anyone that's what you did).

Bennets loves how it's in the mid range for sports bikes.

It’s neither intimidatingly fast and ultimately reined-in, like a litre sportsbike, nor furiously demented, like a nailed-on supersports 600. It’s the Goldilocks zone of performance.