New-For-2004 Hondas

One year after the release of the CBR600RR - a motorcycle that raised eyebrows for being so radical, edgy and focused - Big Red faces 2004 with another, more-focused barrage of new bikes.

The CBR1000RR aims to do what the good-but-not-good-enough CBR954RR could not (dethrone Suzuki's GSX-R1000 as King of the literbikes), while the tasty-looking, middleweight standard 599 - Europe's popular Hornet 600 - marks Honda's entry into direct competition with the Suzuki SV650 and brand-new Yamaha FZ6. Also making 2004 public appearances are the attractive, well-equipped and ultra-affordable Shadow Aero cruiser, a pair of track-only 50s - the Dream and NSR50R - and some civic duty in the form of a police-edition ST1100.

CBR1000RR

Honda's officially tossed itself into the Open-Class Literbike Wars of 2004 with its all-new CBR1000RR. Sporting looks, physical dimensions and a Unit Pro-Link rear suspension akin to its CBR600RR brethren, and packing such features as an electronic steering damper, radial-mount front brake calipers and of course a fresh-from-the-ground-up 998cc liquid-cooled inline four, Big Red's newest big-boy sportbike should prove an interesting foe for last year's indomitable GSX-R1000 - not to mention the new 2004 open-classers from Kawasaki, Yamaha and Aprilia.

599

Just like Yamaha with its new FZ6, Honda is delving headlong into the suddenly competitive middleweight standard - or, naked - class with the new 599. Known as the Hornet 600 to the rest of the world, the 599 is essentially a downsized 919. Like the 919, the 599 is an attractive motorcycle - made all the much more so by the fact that, unlike the 919, Honda will offer this one in colors other than black or "Asphalt"...the 599 as you can see can be had in yellow.

Packing what is essentially a CBR600F3 powerplant - complete with 34mm flat-slide CV carburetors - the 599 should slot right between the R6-powered 2004 Yamaha FZ6 and the SV650 in terms of power. And with a claimed dry weight of 402 pounds, the Honda again should fall somewhere between the little Fizzer and baby SV.

Shadow Aero

The new-for-'04 Honda Shadow Aero proves that - in Honda's opinion, at least - retro styling ain't just for Indian Motorcycles, PT Cruisers and New Beetles. In stark contrast to Big Red's big, bad, cruiser-from-space also known as the Rune, the new 750cc Shadow Aero does its eye-pleasing the old-fashioned way via a clean, simple, old-school look that's hard not to appreciate - especially at its $TKKK price.

Dream 50 and NSR50R

A few glances at Honda's new Dream 50 and NSR50R make it pretty clear that 2004 is a good time to be a well-financed little person - or a full-sized fan of little bikes. Sadly, both of these neat-looking pocket rockets are legal for track-use only, but then many of their riders may only be legal for track-use.

ST1100P

With the Honda's 2004 release of the ST1100P (as in Police), Ponch, Jon and the rest of the nation's motorcycle officers will have another choice of mounts upon which to rein in the fun of others and - more importantly - fight the good fight against crime. That's right boys and girls, you can now file the ST1100 alongside BMW RT1100s and Kawasaki's ancient KZ1000s as motorcycles that, when seen in the mirrors, will induce a brief moment of terror followed by repeated speedometer consultation.

Check out our December 2003 issue - available the third week of October - for more info on the new-for-2004 Hondas.

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