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Digital Subscriptions > Fast Bikes > Issue 333 > NOUGHTY BY NATURE


At the turn of the 21st century, Tony Blair’s Labour government was in charge and terrorism, as we know today, commenced. No need to panic though; the supersports segment was hotter than a witch’s tit in a brass bra…



The beginning of the 21st century brings fond memories (and mammaries) for myself. Tony Blair aside, I enjoyed life entering my twenties, filled with the stupid stuff one does at that age and revelling in an automatic full bike licence. And then there was the racing: Rossi on a 500, Edwards, Bayliss and Haga starring in WorldSBK’s glory years, and Walker versus Hodgson in BSB.

Back then, supersports sales were booming. Every Tom, Dick and Harry had one, and we were about to witness the litre bike revolution. While the likes of Honda and Kawasaki were late to the 1000cc party, Suzuki and Yamaha went willy-waving in the shape of the K1 and R1 – two bikes that shaped road-legal superbikes for years to come.

Talking of Suzukis, the GSX-R750 has been (until very recently) the perfect middleweight choice in a saturated field of litre bikes. Its only genuine challenger in recent times has been the odd Italian beauty, but Suzuki – unlike any other manufacturer – persisted with the Seven-Fiddy despite the rampant 1000cc insurgence.

At the polar opposite end of the glamour and hooligan spectra, Ducati’s 748 was the mild and meek little brother to the iconic 916, yet still offered those same sexy looks and an abundance of ownership appeal. And finally, something a little more Lidl, Honda’s longserving CBR600F is also drastically more affordable.

Having called in some serious favours from friends of FB, we assembled a selection of Noughties sportsbikes and spanked them around the leafy roads of Lincolnshire. Not everyone boasts the readies to own the latest 200bhp techno queens, so with a 2001 Yamaha R1, a Suzuki GSX-R750 K4, a 2000 Ducati 748S and a Honda CBR600 F4 in this line-up, there’s something to cater for every taste and budget.

Honda CBR600 F4

This is Boothy’s bike. He may well have been fastest newcomer at last year’s TT, but he sure as hell can’t look after bikes appropriately. Boothy bought it for a bargain, to be used as a mule for learning the Mountain Course, and it’s been left outside to gather detritus and for birds to poo on. I think the National Spider Web (NSW) convention also held their annual gathering on this very bike.

Nearly two decades’ old and in fairly shabby condition, it’s no surprise that this CBR feels a little disjointed, and the brakes are a bit shit. A part of me thought – and hoped – I was riding a MotoGP bike and the carbon brakes would soon warm up like Marquez’s, but they didn’t. The F4’s brakes were often spongy when new, and time hasn’t been kind to this setup.

The F series was often thought of as the perfect middleweight all-rounder, with ample sporting pedigree and a host of practical accessories as standard (grab rail, etc.). It’s a tad podgy but that shouldn’t deter pilots looking for a comfier ride (and frequent pillions), as the CBR brags decent weather protection and still manages to hustle upon introduction to bends. While the Honda lacks attitude and supersport sharpness of period rivals, it still steers with pace and reassuring neutrality, and is as nimble as they come. It’s effortless in change of direction and feels lighter than many fresher steeds. It must be Honda’s mass centralisation.

It’s certainly more at home on open, more flowing roads where you’re not asking for big lean heroics and overeager braking. That said, as demonstrated with Boothy, stick a decent rider on board and fit some sticky rubber, and you can see why Ten Kate’s early years in World Supersport were so fruitful. Incidentally, the F4 was the first CBR to benefit from a 5.5in rear rim, which allowed an array of rubber options and superior mid-corner stability.

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About Fast Bikes

Welcome to the November issue of Fast Bike , inside ... - Exclusive interview with Marc Marquez - Naughty by nature -Burgain Bullets from the noughties - 2000 Ducati 748 - 2001 Yamaha R1 - 2001 CBR600 - 2004 GSX-R 750 - Brake like brookes in 10 steps - Suzuki GSX-R1000 L6 VS L7 with BSB's Taylor Mackenzie - Best Helmets revealed - One (track) school for all - Know your slipper clutches - MV Agusta F4 Buyer's guide - Get Started Endurance racing