The Honda CBR600RR is, without a doubt, the most versatile, broadly capable 600 on the market today. It’s equally at home on track or on a city commute. It’s even all-day comfortable and easy to ride, which makes it our pick of the entire Honda range for sport touring. There’s just one problem: it’s woefully ugly. For 2012, the CBR600 hasn’t received a single mechanical update, but it does get this new paint job. It’s not just red and white colors that help, but the way the graphics have been laid out serves to visual lighten the bike, emphasizing the points and creases over the blocky proportions.

There’s four main tricks going on here that visually elevate this red and white 2012 Honda CBR600RR above the graphics of previous years:

1. The all-white tailpiece separates bodywork from underseat exhaust and ugly plate hanger. That plastic is nice and pointy, making the tail look nice and pointy and sportsbikey. Previous years and dark colors saw the plastic and exhaust flow into one amorphous visual chunk.

Visually separating the side fairings with an alternate color never worked for the CBR. Neither did a colored tail piece or mono-color nose.

2. The white wheels shift visual emphasis to the colored bodywork, again visually lightening the shape.

3. Older CBRs separated the vertical side fairings into a separate graphic element. Here, they’re tied in, with the use of graphics and colors, to the top fairing and tank, leaving the side engine covers all-black. This finally achieves the trick those vertical side fairings were supposed to do in the first place; the proportions are now made taller while the lengthy is visually reduced. The awkward gap between side and nose fairings is now almost invisible.

An unfortunate comparison, but this generation CBR600RR has always had a bit of the Fazer to it. Blame the square headlights, abrupt nose and the awkward suggestion of 3/4 fairing in the split between nose and side.

4. To us, this generation’s headlights and squat top fairing have always looked a little too 1st-gen Yamaha Fazer 600 to us. Especially compared to the old 600RR’s rakish lamps and pointy nose. Here, designers have colored the portion of the fairing below those headlights white, emphasizing their angularity and drawing the eye to the colored top portion. It’s not quite the 600RR of old, but it is closer.

Other decisions, like choosing to stick to just three simple colors and the minimal badging also help. The overall effect is a bike that looks sharp, fresh and fast. Quite an achievement for a bike that’s been around since 2006.

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