I have this problem that when I set my mind on something, I obsess about it. It will literally consume me and my life. I will research it on my phone at work, I’ll think about while having dinner, I’ll read everything there is to know and Google every webpage there is to find. On the computer I will look at different pages on the internet and look at these same pages over and over again. It’s a daily struggle, my cross to bear. And it brings me to my first foray into the world of road bikes.
I had it in my mind that I must get a road bike. Riding a trail bike was no longer enough! I got into one of my states. My every waking moment was thinking about getting one. I had to have one. The sound, the speed! I was consumed. I trawled Bikesales, Gumtree and eBay incessantly looking for the bike for me. But there was that familiar stumbling block that every great man must overcome, a great woman. My girlfriend at the time (now my fiancé, so everybody calm down) was adamant that road bikes were dangerous beyond measure; as soon as I touched one I would vaporize, crash in a fireball or start killing kittens. I tried every argument there was to no avail. My plan was ruined; I was doomed to being caged on the road like a common peasant. At best I could stick my head out the window of the car to feel the wind in my hair or ride a push bike at crazy speeds while making motorbike noises. But the light is darkest before the dawn.
A short time later I was on the phone to father one night. I mentioned my dilemma and he said something I’ll never forget, ‘It’s easier to seek forgiveness than to ask for permission.’ That was exactly what I needed to hear. I went and looked at a 1995 Honda CBR600F3 and purchased it for $2400.
Enough with the history lesson, what are my thoughts on the bike? I really liked it. The old girl was an excellent first step onto the tarmac for me and really got me hooked.
My first thoughts on the CBR were that it sounded quite throaty for a 600cc inline 4, a pleasant surprise. Also, the bike was rather comfortable. While the position is sporty, it is not leaned forward in a way that will place pressure on your wrists like later model super sports. This makes the F3 a surprisingly capable tourer. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly not a BMW 1200GS but if you are going for a long days ride with stops to get fuel/lunch you are not going to feel overly sore. The tank range isn’t horrible either with mileage to the tale of roughly 6 litres/100km.
Engine wise; while adequate don’t expect your arms to get pulled out of their sockets. This is a 1995 600 at the end of the day. In saying that, the power more than matches the chassis. Power comes on in a smooth, linear fashion and keeps on revving. There are no hiccups along the way and you will definitely be able to keep up with friends on their modern bikes.
The suspension and brakes are solid with no major complaints. Considering the age of the bike this is quite an achievement. It certainly isn’t as responsive or smooth as later model bikes, but does the job. The suspension is adjustable and can still be tweaked to be comfortable on the road or track. One thing I would recommend is putting on a set of modern brake pads as they do make a difference. Failing that, a set of braided brake lines would not go astray.
On the handling side of things, expect a very neutral response. It certainly won’t dart around like a GP bike (or a newish 600/1000) but this provides a stable base, solidifying the bike as more of a sports tourer than track day specialist. Predictable is the best way to describe the handling, and predictable is always good.
Another thing that surprised me about the F3, is that even today, the paint work and build quality still stands the test of time. The paint is still deep in colour and the fasteners rust free. This bike should last a few years to come yet.
Reliability is also fantastic with no major issues (it’s a Honda after all!). There are a couple of things to look out for though. On my bike the cam chain tensioner went causing the bike to clatter like a diesel on and around idle. Turns out, it’s a common problem on this bike. This proved very easy to fix though. A new tensioner (about $50 from Honda), 3 bolts and 10 minutes fixed it straight up. Another thing on my F3 is that it hated those cold morning starts. It would run on a couple of cylinders and you would have to keep the revs up or it would die and would prove very difficult to start after this. I am certain this would have been fixed by cleaning/servicing the carbs and replacing the spark plugs. If you are looking at buying one just make sure you do a cold start.
So is the F3 a good bike? Definitely! The fact it is still a solid bike after all these years cements its place as a legendary bike. This bike is definitely worth picking up if you are after a solid second hand bike to scratch on, tour, or just plain ride. I really enjoyed my time on the bike. Sure it isn’t sexy or outrageously quick but if you are on limited funds and new to riding its perfect. The only problem is now I’m hooked and I never stop looking at the latest and greatest bikes. This bike will definitely not be the last time I rely on saying, “It’s easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission”.