If you’ve never been on a motorcycle before, but just love the look of sports bikes, or you are a MotoGP fan and want to get into biking, you may wonder whether a Honda CBR 600 RR is a good starter bike. I mean, the engine is nearly half the size of the CBR 1000 RR Fireblade.
If you already ride a dirt bike, dual sport or cruiser, a Honda CBR 600 RR may be the perfect first sports bike. But what if you’ve never been on a motorcycle before?
It is not advised to get a sports bike like a Honda CBR 600 RR for your first motorcycle. If you’ve never ridden a bike before, a CBR 600 RR may be too powerful. A mistake on a fast sports bike will likely be more serious than on a smaller motorcycle. If you already have experience, a CBR 600 RR may be a perfect first sports bike.
Many experienced riders will tell you that you can start on any bike. That it is about the rider, not the bike. While this is true, for a complete beginner that does not know anything about how to ride a bike, a CBR 600 RR can end in a disaster.
Why a Honda CBR 600 RR is a Bad Idea as a Beginner Bike
With 118 hp and a top speed of between 150 and 160 mph, it is easy to see why the Honda CBR 600 RR is a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands. If you’ve never operated a motorcycle before, you are a serious MotoGP fan and you have friends that already ride fast… what could go wrong, right?
Let’s look at a few reasons why I think it is not a good idea to learn to ride a motorcycle for the first time on a CBR 600 RR.
While anyone can learn to ride a motorcycle, it does take some getting used to. If you are still learning throttle and clutch control, a slow bike will be much more forgiving if you make a mistake. I’ve seen what happens if you grab a handful of throttle and drop the clutch out too quickly. On a small bike, it may just jump forward or may fall over. On a 118 hp sports bike, it will launch the bike like a rocket and possibly drop you in peak traffic.
The same applies to stopping. On a bike with average brakes, you can grab a fistful and stay upright, provided that you are in a straight line and have traction. A CBR 600 RR has two massive 310 mm discs with 4-piston calipers up front. A handful at the wrong speed my result in a flip. Though, the newer ABS-systems will prevent you from an unintentional stoppie.
On a bike that only tops out above 150 mph, and gets there quickly if you are in a rush, the temptation will be too much for some. You might be very cautious and have a lot of self-control, but it only takes one “Let’s just see how fast it is” and a car pulling out in front of you for it to end in the hospital or worse.
I am a very careful rider and don’t like riding at silly speeds. I once tested the CBR 1000 RR and I never got close to the power band on the road. So I wanted to see how fast it will go in first gear. Opening up the throttle on the highway I was going 96 mph before reaching the red line. There is just no way to ride a 1 000 cc sports bike hard on the public road.
The CBR 600 RR is much more forgiving and you can wind it up a bit, but you will still be above the speed limit if you want to ride it anywhere near power curve.
It will fall over
I once heard someone say that the best beginner bike is one that you are willing to drop. Most riders drop their bike a couple times when they are starting out. Either because you lost your balance while standing still or you forgot to put out the side stand (it happens!). If you just bought an $11 799 CBR 600 RR, the damage caused by a driveway drop will be painful.
Make sure you are able to pick up the bike yourself too.
Sports bikes do not have the most comfortable ergonomics. You’ve got your feet tucked up under your backside, knees bent, and you are spread across the tank with the weight on your wrists. The narrow handlebars and steep rake of the front suspension is also not made for slow speed turning.
The CBR was designed for leaning over in fast corners, not for crawling around at walking pace in an empty parking lot where you will likely be practicing clutch control.
What if You Have Already Made up Your Mind?
Okay, let’s say you’ve already bought the CBR 600 RR and want to learn how to ride it. Or you’ve already made up your mind and nothing I say is going to convince you otherwise. That’s okay, it is an amazing bike and you will love it. But only if you stay alive. Keep the following in mind as you learn how to ride:
Don’t try to keep up with others
This is one of the most common mistakes new bikers make. They go on a ride with more experienced riders and the pace heats up. Not wanting to be left behind, or look like a loser, they invariable push harder than they are comfortable with. If you ride above the limit of your current skill level, it will not take much to make a mistake. And at the speeds you will likely be going, you are taking a serious risk.
So many new riders have ended up under a car or over a cliff by going into a corner to hot and not making the turn. Or not paying attention and slamming into a car pulling out of a side street. Rather take your time and let the others laugh at you or ride with people that are also just starting out.
I don’t want to generalize, but young guys are especially prone to out-ride their talent level due to their egos. If you notice this happening, just imagine how uncool you will look when you crash.
You WILL be tempted to see how fast it is
Even if you don’t ride with faster riders, you will quickly notice that your CBR 600 RR never reaches anywhere near the red line if you stick to the speed limit. You will undoubtedly want to know what it feels like if you push a bit harder. I know, I’ve done it every time I test a new bike.
I remember riding the BMW S 1000 RR for the first time. I waited for a long piece of straight road and opened the throttle (not even fully!) and when I looked down I was already above 140 mph. With tall grass on either side of the road I very quickly reined in the speed lest a rabbit or a deer jump out in front of me.
You are not Rossi
Many riders choose sports bikes because they are MotoGP fans. If this is you and you’ve never been on a bike before, be careful. You are not Valentino Rossi and the public road is not the same as a race track. There’s debris on the uneven surfaces, cars trying to run you over and no run-off areas. Don’t be a fool and rather take the your CBR 600 RR to a racetrack if you want to get your knee down.
Don’t be a fool
Whatever you do, don’t try to wheelie! The guys that make it look so easy when pulling away at a traffic light have been doing so for many years. Most of them first learned how to get the wheel up on a dirt bike. You WILL flip the bike and land on your ass!
Many have learned on a 600
As you read through the various motorcycle forums you will find many accounts of riders who started out on a CBR 600 RR. A lost of them will say it is the perfect bike to start on, because it is not too powerful and that you’ll soon want a 1 000 cc Fireblade. While it may be true that many did so successfully, the graveyard is full of riders who weren’t so lucky. And they are not on the internet to tell their story.
So What Bike Should You Start Out On?
It may not seem as cool as a CBR 600 RR, but it is a much better idea to start out on a smaller second-hand bike. If you drop the bike, it won’t hurt as much and you’ll have more confidence knowing that a fall is not that expensive.
Anything up to 300 cc is perfect and won’t be nearly as intimidating. The Honda CB 300 F or even the CBR 300 R is a great place to start.
This might sound silly, but one of the most fun bikes I’ve ridden was the old Honda CBR 125 R. With very little power and a 6-speed gearbox I could race it flat out through all the gears. With my little experience with sports bikes, it was the perfect bike to learn how to ride a bike to its limits.
In a mountain pass you need to keep the engine near the red line to keep moving and you need a long straight to reach a top speed of just over 90 mph. I had more fun on the little 125 than the Fireblade as I didn’t have access to a race track.
If you are not set on a sports bike for you first motorcycle, a dual sport is not a bad place to start. The ergonomics are way more comfortable (read this post to find out why) and a 650 single (like a KLR 650) or a twin (like the Suzuki V-Strom 650) are much less intimidating than a CBR 600 RR. You might even decide that the ability to go off road is more fun.
That’s what happened to me when I bought my first bike. I was looking for a Honda CB 750 F as I loved sports bikes, but got a Yamaha XT 500 instead. I immediately fell in love with dual sport riding and never looked back.
Other Advice for Beginner Riders
It is so easy to learn bad habits on a bike. Rather do it right from the start and take a rider training course to learn how to safety ride and stop a motorcycle in traffic.
Practice on private property
When you are still learning how to control the clutch when pulling away and how to stop safely without falling over, stay off the public roads. Find an empty parking lot and practice your slow riding skills until you can comfortably control the bike without looking down at the controls.
Start on a dirt bike
Once you’ve learned how to pull away and stop, the best place to master the move advanced riding skills is on gravel. With less grip, you will quickly learn how the bike behaves when it loses traction, but you’ll be going much slower. The experience you gain in a low traction environment will make you a much better rider on the tarmac.
What Do Other Riders Say About the CBR 600 RR as a Starter Bike?
If you don’t believe me, there are tons of opinions on various bike forums about the Honda CBR 600 RR specifically as a beginner bike. You can check out the relevant threads in the links below:
- CBR Forum
While it entirely depends on the rider and how much self-discipline you have, the Honda CBR 600 RR is not the ideal beginners bike in my opinion. If you’ve been riding other bikes for a while, it is an awesome bike as a first sports bike. But if you still need to learn where the controls are and how to pull away and stop smoothly, a 600 cc sports bike is probably a bad idea.
Make Sure You are Protected
Beginner riders often skimp on protective riding gear as it can be quite expensive. Most motorcycle accidents happen during the first few months of riding, and a study published in the Journal of Trauma showed 56% of injuries happen to lower extremities (ankles and legs). Bike boots are therefore a must.
A helmet is a no-brainer, and so is a jacket. The hands are also high up on the list of injuries, due to the natural reflex to catch yourself when you fall. While I always recommend getting the best gear you can afford, it doesn’t have to be the most expensive. Below is a list of some good value gear available on Amazon that I recommend:
* To find out whether you should get a full faced street helmet or a dual sport, check out this post.
If you have never ridden a motorcycle before, here are some suggested articles on this site that may help you along: