Honda’s first-generation Hornet ran from 1998 to 2006. It was hugely successful pretty much in all markets that it was sold in.
Like its competitors, the Honda CB600F Hornet was made from similar ingredients – that being a powerful and lightweight machine that is easy and fun to ride for new and experienced riders while offering great value for money.
Honda Hornet 600 Dyno Curve
|85 bhp @ 12,100 rpm
|43 ft/lb @ 10,000 rpm
The CB600F Hornet is powered by an engine donated from Honda’s hugely successful and legendary CBR600F, which at the time was Honda’s flagship Supersports motorcycle.
It’s an engine with a long lineage and a great reputation for offering exceptional performance and reliability.
The F3 CBR600 was to be replaced by the F4 in1999 which was a totally new bike with a heavily revised engine.
I guess Honda had some spare F3 engines laying around and some old CBR900RR wheels that they mated to a spine cradle chassis and bang here we have a Honda Hornet 600.
Originally the F3 CBR600 engine had 105 horsepower claimed at the crank and 48 ft/lb of torque.
Honda gave the Hornet 600 a slight retune for its new more road-going focus.
That meant as with all retunes a little less peak power, with a new claimed output from the 599 cc Inline four of 94 horsepower @ 12,000 rpm and 46 ft/lb produced at 9500 rpm.
There were some variations in the claimed power and torque figures between slight model changes throughout the lifecycle of the Hornet as well as between America and Europe but the differences are insignificant. It was the same rev-happy F3 engine many adored in the CBR600.
When measured on a rolling road peak power is a respectable 85 horsepower and 44 ft/lb of torque. It gives away around 7 horsepower to the F3 CBR600 peak horsepower at the rear wheels.
The power curve looks pretty similar between the two with the main difference being that from 10,000 rpm after the power plateaus off a little until it hits the 13,000 rpm or so limiter.
Perhaps this flattening of the power is a result of the smaller 34mm Mikuni carburettors in feeding the Hornet fuel as opposed to the larger 36 mm in the F3.
It’s very rare to see an actual ‘retuned’ sportsbike engine that’s been donated to a naked bike, actually produce more bottom and midrange. They just seem to have less peak power, and even sometimes less bottom and midrange.
The F3 CBR600 was good enough as it was, Honda should have just left it as is. The Hornet was directed at more inexperienced riders so 10 horsepower let might have been for that reason among others.
Despite the above, the Honda Hornet 600 engine delivers. The power curve is also nice and smooth which is quite typical of most inline fours and especially Hondas.
That little bump in torque you see at 4000 pm followed by the little dip is noticed but from there on power just builds in very linearly right up to 9000 rpm where the engine becomes a little more intense as it drives enthusiastically to 13,000 rpm on the tachometer.
It’s a fast engine from 9000 rpm but up against rivals of the time such as the Fazer 600, the Hornet does lose out a little in the midrange and bottom end.
The engine power delivery and character is definitely more in line with a Supersport 600 than say the Fazer 600, which delivers its power in a more grown-up and less frantic fashion.
Which is better is really up to the rider, though objectively most would agree that the Hornet engine is the most exciting in the class.
Honda Hornet 600 Thrust Curve
The Honda CB600F Hornet is geared a little longer in all gears except second and third gears than its main rival the Fazer 600. The Hornet also produces a little bit less power and torque throughout the entire rpm range.
Compared to the Fazer 600 and the SV650 the Honda Hornet engine needs to be worked a little harder in all most situations.
Even in isolation and without direct comparison to other motorcycles, if riding in normal circumstances the tachometer needs to be showing at least 6000 rpm before there is any decent drive in pretty much all gears.
If you are riding spiritedly then no lower than 7000 rpm is advised, and if you are really on it and chasing those lap times from traffic light to traffic light, where possible 8500 rpm and above is where you want to be, which is where Honda Hornet 600 accelerates with a ton of eagerness as it howls like a little F1 car.
As per the 600 cc Supersport roots, from 10,000 rpm onward you do expect the power to continue charge but things level off and you’re then looking to change up at around 12,500 rpm.
On some good twisty roads, the Hornet and its engine are very playful and good fun to use. It rewards you the more your thrash it and work the gearbox to keep it in that sweet spot where the most drive is.
In more sedate normal riding situations as mentioned, there is not as much drive as some rivals but certainly, enough to get regular rod duties such as polite overtakes done.
Though it would be nice if there was a little more!
70 mph shows around 5400 rpm on the tacho if in top gear where there is enough acceleration available but hooking down a gear or two is preferred when in a hurry.
Otherwise, you’ll have to wait till around 80 mph before the turbine starts to spool up and deliver some good acceleration.
|Speed at 5000 rpm
|Honda CB600F Hornet
|Yamaha FZS600 Fazer
|Speed 1st Gear
|Speed 2nd Gear
|Speed 3rd Gear
|Speed 4th Gear
|Speed 5th Gear
|Speed 6th Gear
Honda Hornet 600 acceleration through the gears
Motorcycles in this middleweight naked class are not meant to set speed records and nor is their speed the main reason why people choose them.
In staying that, potential buyers are very interested in the engine performance and straight-line speed, not just in practical circumstances but also when you’re having fun.
You want to know if you’re bike will at the very least be able to keep your friends in sight when the talking stops and the racing starts.
The little Honda Hornet 600 is a quick bike but as already pointed you have to thrash that 599 cc inline-four a little more than rivals.
It has enough straight-line performance, at least below 100 mph to keep even the fastest motorcycles within preying distance.
It’s only when speeds get silly that you’ll get dropped by more powerful motorcycles.
The CB600F Hornet is a little lighter than the Fazer and much lighter than the Suzuki Bandit 600 but is bested by the SV650 on the scales.
Lightness is also a part of the reason why motorcycles are fast and the Hornet lightweight does help it get a move along when maybe you’re caught out in the wrong gear.
Thrash the Hornet 600 through the box and use that upper rpm from 9000 rpm and it moves.
Honda Hornet can do 0-60 mph in 3.26 seconds
The Hornet 600 is actually one of the fastest from 0-60 mph in the class too, and even faster than many more powerful motorcycles. The Hornets can do 0-60 mph in only 3.26 seconds and 0-100 km/h in 3.49 seconds.
If you are a skilful rider, you can pretty much smoke most cars and bikes from the lights.
The combination of 85 horsepower, low weight and a first gear that can actually hit 60 mph is a good combination for a great 0-60 mph time
You can actually have too much power for a great 0-60 mph run, 70-100 horsepower in a lightweight motorcycle is very effective.
Add to the fact that the Hornet 600s clutch is light and provides a good progressive feel.
This bike can be launched well and crack consistent times one after the other without any complaints or drama.
There is also a fair bit of squat at the rear when hard on it in first gear, minimising wheelies when getting really aggressive from a dig.
It is important though to really slip the clutch at high rpm, no lower than 9000 rpm for the best times.
If you let the rpm drop with inefficient clutch slip rpm can easily fall off a cliff and it can bog a little screwing your time.
If you get it launched well and as described, it is important to rev out first right to past 12,500 rpm. Changing into second gear before will mean that you won’t hit 60 mph in first and will ruin the ET with an unnecessary gear change.
Once into second gear, 12,500 rpm upward changes from there on will net you the best times, any sooner and times will be fractionally lower.
This is clearly apparent if you check the thrust curve, as there is no point when the thrust curve of the preceding gear crosses the thrust curve of the proceeding gear.
Get the launch down, and the two consecutive changes nailed and the Hornet will do 0-100 mph in 7.57 seconds and a little after s it drives hard through fourth gear to achieve a 0-200km/h in 13.39 seconds!!
Honda Hornet 600 Quarter Mile 11.63 seconds
The same applies to the 0-402m sprint. 12,500rpm plus gear changes as you charge through the box. Not long after the Hornet 600 will cross the quarter mile in 11.63 seconds with a terminal speed of 118 mph.
The above time slots in a little below the average Supersport 600 at about a 0.8 slower and a 10 mph lower terminal speed. It’s still a great time and faster than plenty of sports cars and still one of the fastest in-class more than 20 years on.
Being a naked motorcycle and having a modest 85 horsepower, means that acceleration from 120 mph the Hornet 600 starts to relent a little and concede to the elements. Still, the Hornet’s 0-130 mph time of 17.27 seconds is not to be scoffed at.
Honda Hornet 600 Top Speed 139 mph
We have the naked Hornet 600. There is a semi-faired version with a decent-sized windshield that has a little more up top thanks to the protection it provides to the rider from the elements.
This model is also a little quicker accelerating from 120 mph to flat out fractionally.
Despite the completely unprotected cockpit the fully naked Hornet 600 still manages 139 mph which is faster than a CB650R.
There was no need to hook sixth gear as fifth gear is good enough for a top-speed run. The 600 Hornet actually went slower in sixth gear, as rpm dropped and it just sat there with not enough power or aero to push past the wind.
Honda could have run a larger rear sprocket and top speed would not be negatively impacted, but acceleration in-gear would have been improved greatly, and it would have made up for the lack of bottom and midrange power which is where the Hornet 600 lags against some rivals.
The faired version of the Hornet is good for low to mid 140s mph, yet both motorcycles are geared at the redline to be good for 165 mph plus but will never get there unless with the kind helping hand of a massive tailwind while charging down a steep decline.
If you are 55 kg and very short, you might get a little closer to that in normal conditions, but not the average-sized rider.
|Honda Hornet 600 Top Speed And Acceleration
|11.63 @ 118 mph
|22.04 @ 135 mph
|31.85 @ 138 mph
Honda CB600F Hornet Specifications
|Honda CB600F Hornet Specficiations
|Liquid-cooled4-stroke 16-valve DOHC inline-4
|Bore & Stroke
|65 x 45,2mm
|34 mm slanted flat-side CV type x 4
|Max. Power output
|94 bhp @ 12,000rpm
|46 ft/lb @ 9,500rpm
|Computer-controlled digital transitorised with electronic advance
|‘O’-ring sealed chain
|2090 x 730 x 1060mm
|Tyres – FRONT:
|130/70ZR16 (61W) (Michelin Bridgestone)
|Tyres – REAR:
|180/55ZR17 (73W) (Michelin Bridgestone)
|Suspension – FRONT:
|41mm telescopic fork, 125mm axle travel
|Suspension – REAR:
|Monoshock damper with 7-step adjustable preload, 128mm axle travel
|Brakes – FRONT:
|296mmx4.5mm dual hydraulic disc with dual piston calipers, floating rods and resin mould pads
|Brakes – REAR:
|220mmx5mm single piston caliper hydraulic disc with sintered metal pads
|176kg (Wet 195kg)