Introduced in 1998, the Honda CB600F — better known as the the Honda 599 (USA) or Hornet (Europe) — utilized the old mid-90s CBR600F sportbike engine, tuned to 97 horsepower and set in a basic chassis with upright bars and no fairings. The result was a supersport-sized naked bike perfect for urban commuting or weekend canyon-running:
“The Honda CB600F Hornet uses simple ingredients, thoughtfully combined to create a motorcycle far better than you’d guess.” —MCN
The high exhaust and wide rear time gave the bike streetfighter aesthetics. However, the suspension was one of the bike’s drawbacks:
“Ultimately the suspension is budget, even the USD forks are more fashion than function.” —MCN
Enter our friend Nicola Manca (@miciogattillo), co-founder of Dust’n Sardinia, who found himself in possession of a very trick set of Öhlins FG43 forks, complete with billet caliper mounts, tin-coated inner steel tubes, and external damping adjusters. What better place to mount them than a Hornet Hornet 600, especially for the kind of bike he had in mind:
“What I wanted: a reliable bike, not too powerful, requiring little maintenance but capable of having fun. And above all, it had to be cheap.”
After a long search, he found a ’98 Hornet in perfect working order…for just 700 euros! Within a few hours of the purchase, he’d already mounted a new tank, subchassis, and saddle — and set off for a maiden voyage around Corsica. Over the next two years, the bike would be a constant work-in-progress, gaining high-performance brakes to complement the Öhlins forks, an Öhlins rear shock, a custom paint scheme and saddle from his friend Matteo “Moor” Murgia, and much more.
Below, we get the full story on the build from Nicola himself, as well as the some striking photos from the talented Andrea Caredda (@andrews_diary).
Honda Hornet 600 “Elise”: In the Builder’s Words
Everything started one morning when I found myself holding an Öhlins FG43 fork with billet caliper mounts. A piece of gunnery that would have been a shame to miss. But the problem was that I didn’t have a bike to fit it on. The idea came to me when I saw a render of a Bimota HB1, redesigned in a modern key. It was a tribute to the first model built by the Rimini-based company that, following an accident on the track, destroyed all the superstructures of a Honda CB750 — only the engine was saved. Around those four cylinders was developed a motorcycle that started the history of the small motorcycle manufacturer, improving the chassis and the performance of what until a short time before was a Honda.
With the same approach I started looking for a CB750, whose ratings, unfortunately, are overstated. Then I thought better about what I wanted: a reliable bike, not too powerful, requiring little maintenance but capable of having fun. And above all, it had to be cheap.
The choice, inevitably, fell on the much-abused Honda Hornet 600: a bike that until then had had very little space in the custom world and that came out as standard with a chassis decidedly undersized compared to the performance of the engine, which is close to 100 hp.
After a long search I bought one for 700 euros, and with only 19 thousand km. The bike was in perfect working order, so much so that once the purchase was completed, I went home with it. A few hours later the bike already had a CB400SS tank, a new chassis and a saddle, ready for a test of a few thousand km in Corsica.
Given the bike’s behaviour during the trip I decided it would be a base to work on. It was a long job, lasting almost two years, during which I often happened to recover a part, assemble it and use the bike despite being in a work in progress, until its conclusion.
The bike is currently fitted with an Öhlins FG43 fork with racing damping and CNC feet, revised hydraulics, SRT variable bending handlebars, Grimeca 330 RSV4 derived discs, Brembo M4 calipers, Brembo 19×18/20 RCS radial pump, and Motogadget Miniscope instrumentation completes the front end.
A single Öhlins TTX shock absorber has been fitted at the rear, while the braking system has been kept original with the replacement of the brake hose with one in aeronautical braided steel. The rims are Excel with Ergal hub, both 17″, tubeless.
As for the fuel tank, on which there are no stickers, I left freedom to my friend Matteo “Moor” Murgia, who found a timeless combination of colors, which made the reservoir classic as well as elegant. The saddle, also made by Matteo, is in full grain leather with aerodynamic hump.