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Digital Subscriptions > Fast Bikes > 319 October 2016 > HERO TO ZERO

HERO TO ZERO

It came, it saw, it conquered. Then it conquered again, then conquered some more. But even mighty conquerors can be vanquished by the march of time, and so it is with the perennial Honda CBR600. Here's its last hurrah...

It's an icon that's given admirable service and pleasure to riders the world over, with the sporting middleweight’s numerous virtues appreciated by almost 700,000 buyers.It’s taken hordes to work, transported an even greater number to more distant destinations, and even given world championship race and title success to a few. A vast array of riders of all ages and levels of experience have benefited from its versatility, reliability, usability and ‘just-right’ Goldilocks appeal since it first appeared in 1987 at a cost of £3,299. A former national supersport champion claims the CBR is, ‘all things considered, the greatest motorcycle ever made’.He’s probably right.

Nevertheless, on its 30th birthday, Honda's venerable CBR600 is finally being put out to pasture. As you read this, the final few are coming off the Japanese production line.In October, the UK's very last batch of 100 bikes will be craned off a ship in Bristol. From there they'll be trucked to a selection of UK dealers to be readied for sale and when they've gone, that's it. Game over. The end. No more.Interesting to note, from an official point of view at least, Honda is not confirming the 600s imminent removal from its model line up. Politics, we think it’s called.

So why has such a hugely successful motorcycle that's meant so much to so many people come to the end of the line? The simple answer is because we don't want it any more.Well, not in sufficient numbers anyway. The bike that satisfied the needs of so many riders of diversified tastes for decades doesn't now have enough appeal to make it financially viable. Many have cited the CBR’s inability to meet the new Euro4 legislation. But though that's true, it's really the plummeting sales that's sealed its demise.

We’ve had a word with some of those more closely connected with the bike, had a spin on some of the earlier versions, and a final ride on the current CBR600RR.Here’s our tribute to a bike like no other.

THE CBR600’S STORY

You could almost imagine it. Somewhere back in the early 1980s in the corridors of the Honda factory, a bit of thought and imagination triggered informal discussions. These soon led to more serious plans, and then in due course the production of a unique machine that would alter motorcycling history and remain in production for three decades began. Yes, at a time and place no-one has ever recorded, a group of engineers began the process of making an exceptional bike for the masses. Better still, they elected to make it fit for virtually all purposes and excel at each one. It was to be the ultimate all-rounder, and it was to be called the CBR600.

As soon as it went on sale in 1987 it made its mark. It wasn't the first 600 ­ Kawasaki's GPZ600R had beaten Honda to that two years earlier. But the new CBR raised the bar by being more suited to more things. Dealers rubbed their hands with glee as the Honda immediately sold really well. Daryll Young ran an official Honda shop at the time. "We started taking orders from the NEC onwards. We did so well with it. Everything was right about it, including the price. We just couldn't get enough of them."

The popular 600 was bought by a broad range of riders. CBR owners would ride to racetracks at the weekend and watch blokes do battle with each other on slightly modded versions of the same bike. Racer Pete Boast bought one. "It was a beautiful bike. It was the bike to be on. It had balance, rideability, everything; good brakes and suspension, fast motor. It was another step. A massive step. I took one to the Isle of Man, stuck tyres and a steering damper on it and did 107 mph."

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