Riders looking to test the limits of their ability with a high-performance motorcycle have a variety of options at their disposal. As the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer, it should be no surprise that Honda has one of the best selections of high-performance bikes available, ranging from classics to cutting-edge. While the newest of those remain out of reach for all but the most deep-pocketed enthusiasts, certain older models have depreciated to temptingly attainable levels.
Honda's performance bikes are certainly among the fastest in their respective classes, but measuring exactly how fast is no easy task. Comparing top speed is largely irrelevant as many of Honda's fastest bikes are limited to 186 mph thanks to the long-standing Japanese manufacturers' gentleman's agreement, and so we've opted to rank them here based on their reported quarter mile times.
It's worth noting that not every Honda model has comparable quarter-mile times, and this is by no means an exhaustive list. Rather, we've picked out a selection of the brand's best models from years past that are among the fastest in their class.
1987 Honda Hurricane CBR600F – 12.01 seconds
The first generation of Honda's CBR600 line debuted in 1987, and instantly caused a stir. It was a road-legal motorcycle that wasn't just ready for the race track, but could compete against the best in its class at the time. Its quarter-mile time was quoted by Motor Cycle News as 12.01 seconds, and its top speed sat around 140 mph. It took design inspiration from Honda's competition motorcycles, and still managed to remain civilized enough to tackle backroads with the same aplomb as a race track.
It wasn't the best-selling CBR, and it's not regarded as one of the best-looking either, but it was a force to be reckoned with and could challenge even the most seasoned riders. Further iterations of the CBR would advance the road racer formula even further, but the original remains one of Honda's greatest and fastest to boot.
2013 Honda CBR600RR C-ABS – 10.94 seconds
While the Honda CBR600RR C-ABS wasn't the fastest motorcycle of its kind in a straight line, the Combined ABS helped it keep up with more powerful bikes on the road. Cycle World still achieved a 10.94 second quarter mile time during its testing though, so it's no slouch. The motorcycle was designed to provide the best of both worlds for riders – pack enough power to be competitive when pushed, but remain comfortable and accessible enough for more everyday riding.
Unlike certain other bikes that need a circuit to wring the best out of them, the CBR600RR C-ABS was fast, no matter whether on the track or on the road. The bike gained a number of improvements for the 2013 model year, chief among those being the new standard ABS system. It also gained Showa's Big Piston Forks, improving its already impressive handling over previous iterations. Despite being one of the fastest Hondas of its kind, the CBR600RR C-ABS wasn't the fastest sportbike on the market, but its superior handling more than made up for what it lacked in all-out power.
2001 Honda CBR600F4i – 10.91 seconds
The first Honda 600 to offer fuel injection was the 2001 CBR600F4i, which launched with a few extra horses (although only a small performance advantage) over its predecessor. Cycle World achieved a 10.91 second quarter mile best during testing, although it was noted that the tester thought there was potential for a faster time. Part of that was down to the bike's tendency to lift the front wheel under heavy acceleration — a fun quirk, but not a fast one.
It might have been rowdier when pushed to its limits, but the CBR600F4i didn't lose all of the accessibility that the line was famed for. This was still a bike that could be ridden as regular transportation without too much compromise, unlike certain competitors that focused on performance over all else. Honda's decision to stick to creating one all-rounder 600 rather than opting to split the line in two may have rankled some, but ultimately, the end product was still a strong contender against more specialized competition.
2002 Honda RC51 – 10.55 seconds
Built as a homologation special, the Honda RC51 is a proper race bike for the road. In competition, it was very successful, winning the 2002 World Superbike Championship at the hands of Colin Edwards. On the road, it still keeps most of its racing DNA, which makes it a significant departure from most of Honda's other models. There's not a hint of practicality here, but as a result, it is fast. Like many of the brand's bikes, it's not class-leading in a straight line; Motorcyclist clocked a best time of 10.55 seconds with a lightly modded example.
It does, however, have huge reserves of torque, which can be deployed to great effect on a track. While even the most experienced riders are going to struggle to wring Edwards-style performance out of it, at least they'll feel like him while hurtling towards an apex at breakneck speed.
2002 Honda CBR954RR Fireblade – 10.48 seconds
Debuting in 2002, the CBR954RR Fireblade was significantly different from its predecessor, with almost every key element being given a thorough workover to ensure better performance both on the road and on the track. The revised model aimed at delivering more consistent torque, improving stopping power, and sharper cornering. It delivered on all fronts, and as a result, was among the best in class around a track with a suitably experienced rider at the helm.
Testing at launch by Motorcyclist achieved a 10.48 second quarter mile time, making it one of the fastest bikes of its kind at the time. It faced tough competition from the likes of Yamaha and Suzuki, but was praised by testers at the time for its agility compared to its rivals. It reaffirmed the Fireblade name as a top contender for the overall "best in segment" crown, becoming one of Honda's fastest motorcycles in the process.
2010 Honda VFR1200F – 10.33 seconds
Splitting the difference between sport bike and sport-tourer, the 2010 Honda VFR1200F made some compromises, but mostly the right ones. Its range was shorter than most tourers, and opinions varied on its long-distance comfort. However, the tradeoff led to improved performance, with Cycle World's testing achieving a 10.33 second-best quarter mile time. That's no small feat for a model designed for road use rather than track dominance.
A number of key improvements were made over the previous iteration, including a lighter engine and frame, and an optional new dual-clutch transmission (DCT). A new, buzzier, V4 engine could reach a reported 145 horsepower, and delivered torque predictably throughout its rev range. A variety of optional extras like a top trunk and hard side bags were available to bring the bike more into conventional touring spec. However, the Honda VFR1200F was never set to be a mile muncher. It was more sport than tourer, and its performance figures proved it.
2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade C-ABS – 10.32 seconds
With the addition of the Combined ABS system, the 2009 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade added an extra level of reassurance for riders looking to maximize the superbike's performance without sacrificing any of said performance. It added a mere 24 pounds to the overall weight, yet promised to prevent high-speed wheel lockups. MCN reported that the revised model was capable of running a quarter mile in just 10.32 seconds, reaching 150 mph before the quarter mile marker and topping out north of 180 mph.
Honda's racing know-how filtered through to pretty much every aspect of the bike, and all without compromising on the build quality that made Honda's offerings stand out among their peers. A gem with plenty of fans, the '09 Fireblade is arguably one of the best to date, with plenty of satisfied owners that can attest to its prowess on the track.
2000 Honda CBR929RR Fireblade – 10.31 seconds
Although its successor was superior on the circuit, the CBR929RR Fireblade had a slight edge in straight-line performance, at least according to Motorcyclist's quarter-mile test times. At 10.31 seconds, the '00 Fireblade beat the '02 model by a mere 0.15 seconds. In plenty of other areas, the '00 model was competitive for the time, although slightly less so, in retrospect. Its styling hasn't aged as well as certain other bikes from the era, and the early implementation of the fuel injection system had its flaws.
Nonetheless, it was still a compelling alternative to the Kawasakis, Suzukis, and Yamahas of the time, and boasted largely comparable performance, at least on the track. On the street, or anywhere with a less-than-perfect surface, it was less competitive. The '00 Fireblade may not have been the greatest Fireblade in the back catalog, perhaps, but a significant one nonetheless. After all, its flaws gave Honda's engineers a list of key improvement areas that led to the development of the more compelling '02 model.
1997 Honda CBR1100XX – 10.25 seconds
At the time of its release in 1997, the CBR1100XX was billed as the world's fastest production motorcycle. Top speed was rumored to be north of 180 mph, although realistically, it was likely a few mph under that figure. Drag strip performance was impressive though, as Cycle World reports a quarter mile time of 10.25 seconds. The key appeal of the CBR1100XX was that it was every bit as versatile as it was fast. If needed, it could serve as a relatively docile highway commuter, although take it to the back roads and it was a different beast altogether.
The CBR1100XX was also more suited to touring than many comparably fast bikes, being both more comfortable over longer distances and slightly less thirsty, at least at legal speeds. It would ultimately be bested in performance terms by the Suzuki motorcycle, Hayabusa, unveiled in 1999, but despite its short reign, it remains one of Honda's fastest motorcycles to date.
2013 Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade – 9.98 seconds
Pinning down one Honda Superbike as definitively the fastest isn't really possible. However, when it comes down to hundredths of a second, things like test conditions, tires, and rider confidence will affect figures more than the bike itself. Nevertheless, the 2013 CBR1000RR Fireblade is safely among the very top contenders, with Cycle World clocking a 9.98-second quarter mile.
The CBR1000RR is more of the same from Honda, but in a good way, as it's accessible by sport bike standards, yet very fast in the right hands. It's built with the same high quality as the brand's fans have come to expect, but not at the expense of being too conservative. It offers more power than the average rider will ever be able to wring out of it, but without being too difficult to manage at lower speeds. In short, it's all the motorcycle that most Honda fans could want.