The Hurricane, released in 1987, was Honda’s first CBR and the company’s first inline, four-cylinder, liquid-cooled sportbike. Wearing a slippery, full-fairing covering the entire motorcycle, producing 83 bhp and weighing 397 lbs. dry, the new Honda CBR was an uncontested sportbike success. That same year the American Motorcyclist Association initiated a new racing class expressly for 600cc motorcycles and the newly minted Hurricane won every race that first season.
Launched at the same time as the 600cc Hurricane was its big brother, the Hurricane 1000. Much heavier than the smaller bike and with no national racing outlet the 1000cc motorcycle was regarded more as a sport-tourer. Like its sibling, the Hurricane 1000 utilized an inline four-cylinder liquid-cooled engine.
By 1989 Honda decided to drop the Hurricane name and go with just the alphanumeric designation, so the two bikes became known to the public as the Honda CBR600F and Honda CBR1000F.
By 1991 a new version of the Honda CBR was ready for introduction, the Honda CBR600F2 raised the bar for 600cc sportbike performance so high other manufacturers were scrambling to catch up. The Honda CBR600F2 struck an almost perfect balance of performance and comfort.Right on the heels of the CBR600F2 was Honda’s next literbike, the Honda CBR900RR (the first Honda CBR to wear the double-R designation).
Like the Suzuki GSX-R750 before it, the Honda CBR900RR was unmatched in terms of light weight and high horsepower – it weighed only a few more pounds than the CBR600F2 yet produced 122 hp at the rear wheel. Besides its stunning performance, the original CBR900RR was also known for its distinctive fairing holes (said to aid side-to-side transitioning) and its controversial 16-inch front wheel.
Over the years both bikes would be upgraded as they kept pace with the changing performance climate. The Honda CBR600F2 became the F3 in 1994, the F4 in 1999, and the F4i in 2001. In 2003 Honda launched the CBR600RR, a racier version of Honda’s middleweight. It was made lighter and faster in its 2007 redesign.
The bigger Honda CBR maintained its CBR900RR designation, despite receiving an engine upgrade in 1996 increasing from 893cc to 919cc. In 2000 another engine displacement increase came with a new designation emphasizing the new bike’s larger engine, and Honda CBR929RR was born. This only lasted until 2002 when another model, the Honda CBR954RR, displaced the one from only a couple years prior. The 900 series finally came to end when in 2004 Honda launched the CBR1000RR, a ground-up new model meant to compete in the changing atmosphere of superbike racing.
From 1996 to 2003 the Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird competed against top-speed sportbikes like Kawasaki’s ZX-11 Ninja and Suzuki’s Hayabusa. For a couple years the Super Blackbird held the title of world’s fastest production bike, but the Hayabusa relieved Honda of that title in 1999 and has held on to it ever since.
In 2011 Honda brought to the U.S. market the CBR250R, the first small-displacement sportbike from Honda meant to compete against Kawasaki’s Ninja 250.