2018 Honda CBR650F Test & Review – “Between Two Worlds”

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  • The 2018 Honda CBR650 is a sporty all-rounder, just like the CBR600F and CBR600RR series.

  • It should appeal greatly to beginners and advanced riders.

  • Priced from RM 44,453 (basic selling price with 0% GST).

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When it comes to the hallowed “CBR” name, one conjures up images of red, white and black sportbikes howling at the redline, including the infamous CBR600F and CBR600RR that rule the middleweight class. How about this 2018 Honda CBR650F we tested here then?

We had an earlier impression of the CBR650F during Honda’s iftar event and during the RC213-V test ride, both at the Sepang International Circuit last year.

On the track, the CBR650F was a joy to ride, due to the smooth surface (compared to public roads). I remember fondly of it being flickable and the torquey engine.

First and foremost, the bike looks great, like a pure sportbike. The bodywork leaves a number of bits exposed, such as the magnesium-coloured engine cases. The bodywork which covers the subframe is duly sculptured and gives the bike a very slim waist. The seat reminds one of the CBR600F’s.

The seating position is also sporty with more weight on the front and high-mounted footpegs, hence putting your face just behind the small windscreen. There are two small LCD screens underneath that windscreen. The LED headlamp can be regarded as distinctive.

Quality as you’d expect of a Honda is readily apparent throughout the entire bike. From the paintwork to how the panels join, most cables and wires are hidden way, the switchgears don’t feel tacky. Honda always goes OCD about the tidiness of their bikes.

For a four-cylinder engine, the engine actually rumbles during idle. Blip the throttle and you’ll hear a warble from the airbox underneath the fuel tank.

 

You need to slip the clutch in order to pull away, not due to the engine but because there’s only a clutch cable adjuster. So, the problem is if you adjusted it to bring the clutch lever closer to the handlebar, the clutch takes a long while to engage and vice-versa. But you’ll get used to it after a while or fit an aftermarket adjustable lever

Another point scored is its low seat height, which should cater to all riders. The seat cushioning is pretty comfortable, too.

But once underway, the CBR650F’s engine belies the “stereotype” of inline-Four engines. It’s torquey! Unlike certain 600cc inline-Fours of the same class we’ve ridden, the Honda’s engine doesn’t wait until it hits midrange to be of use. Instead it charged forward as soon as the throttle was twisted.

It picks up speed really fast all the way to its top speed, without feeling strained. However, it did feel like the bike was geared short for urban and casual riding. In my personal opinion, I would reduce two teeth on the rear sprocket to give the bike longer touring legs.

On congested city streets, the smooth throttle, linear power delivery and torque makes for an easy bike to ride; meaning you’re hardly ever find yourself in the wrong gear.

The steering felt a little “heavy” at first but was because I was pressing down onto the handlebars. However, in a sporty crouch with the arms straight out, the bike was predictably nimble.

That didn’t mean the ergonomics was designed by Marquis de Sade, though.

Around corners, you could do your best impression of Marc Marquez (well, maybe 30% of it). You could hang off very nicely by using the deep knee cutouts on the tank to support your lower body and the tank to support your outer arm as you carve through corners at some pretty scary speeds.

This is when the chassis showed its class as the Showa Dual Bending Valve (SDBV) forks provide good feedback to the palms of your hands while the rear shock handled damping pretty well, for a basic set up. The CBR650F was stable through corners without a tendency to either stand up or shake its handlebar.

Of course, being a basic suspension system, the bumps on KL roads are its worst enemies. Still, you don’t get kicked out of the seat.

On congested city streets, the smooth throttle, linear power delivery and torque makes for an easy bike to ride; meaning you’re hardly ever find yourself in the wrong gear.

The brakes are up to the job although it lacked an initial hard bite. It’s not a problem if you came up from smaller bikes but remember to brake earlier and harder if you’re used to four-piston calipers on bigger bikes.

But what can one expect from a RM 44K bike? Öhlins, Brembos, Bosch IMU?

There were a couple of things that I found at odds with the bike, though. First was the LCD screens. While they aren’t difficult to decipher, I’d prefer one large screen. Secondly, I’d prefer the front brakes to have a harder bite.

Those are just my personal opinion as the Honda CBR650F is a sweet, entry-level middleweight to ride. It has the kind of comfort and performance you’d find on the early CBR600F models. Being a simple bike, the rider could learn much from riding as you need to learn the fundamentals of motorcycle control.

Speaking about the CBR600RR, that’s a pure sportbike. The CBR650F, on the other hand sits comfortably between other anemic 600/650cc middleweights and the CBR600RR’s hardcore edge. While the former’s engine produces 120bhp, the CBR650F’s brings 90bhp (4bhp up from 2016) to the table. That’s already way more powerful than the rest of its class; it’s 20bhp more than the Kawasaki Ninja 650 and only 16bhp more than the Yamaha MT-07.

In conclusion, the 2018 Honda CBR650F is a great as a daily commuter and weekend thrill chaser. It wouldn’t be out of place on the racetrack, either. So yes, you could say the 2018 Honda CBR650F is the best of both worlds.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

2018 HONDA CBR650F

ENGINE  
ENGINE TYPE 4-stroke, DOHC, 16-valve, liquid-cooled, inline-Four
DISPLACEMENT 648.72 cc
BORE x STROKE 67.0 mm x 46.0 mm
POWER 90 bhp (67 kW) @ 11,000 RPM
TORQUE 64 Nm @ 8,000 RPM
COMPRESSION RATIO 11.4:1
TRANSMISSION 6-speed
FUEL SYSTEM PGM-Fi programmed fuel injection
CLUTCH Multiple-plate wet clutch, cable-operated
CHASSIS  
FRAME Steel diamond
FRONT SUSPENSION ø 41 mm Showa Dual Bending Valve (SDBV) telescopic forks
REAR SUSPENSION Monoshock with adjustable spring preload
FRONT BRAKE 2 X Two-piston caliper and ø 320 mm discs
REAR BRAKE 1 X Single-piston caliper, ø 240 mm brake disc
TIRES FRONT/REAR 120/70 ZR-17; 180/55 ZR-17
STEERING HEAD ANGLE 25.5o
TRAIL 101 mm
WHEEL BASE 1,449 mm
SEAT HEIGHT 810 mm
FUEL TANK CAPACITY 17.3 litres
KERB WEIGHT 214 kg

 

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