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2014 Honda CBR650F First Ride

Monday, July 7, 2014

The CBR650Fs handling is typical of a modern Honda sportbike: agile  accurate and easy to get a feel for.
The CBR650F’s handling is typical of a modern Honda sportbike: agile, accurate and easy to get a feel for. Unfortunately, during the course of our ride, we had an accident, and weren’t able to shoot a video for this test ride...
A full-size sportbike doesn’t have to cost over ten grand. That’s what Honda believes with its fresh faced CBR650F ($8499). Powered by a long stroke 649cc Inline Four, the 650F is designed for motorcyclists who want a more purposeful Supersport-styled motorcycle for the road.

Assembled in Thailand, the CBR-F slots between the Parallel Twin-powered CBR500R ($6299, and also built in Thailand) and the high-revving and Japanese-built CBR600RR four-cylinder ($11,499). Honda claims the engine is a new design versus the double-R’s tried-and-true 599cc mill, yet some of the components including the clutch and ignition cover appear the same. Still, a look at the parts fiche proves that the engine cases and cylinder head are not the same. The 67mm cylinder bore however is, but the F gets its extra 50cc capacity via a 3.5mm longer piston stroke.

Fuel is squeezed to a modest 11.4:1 ratio versus the RR’s 12.2:1 spec and is injected into 8mm smaller throttle bodies (32mm) via a four-injector set-up. It runs on standard 87-octane fuel and drinks from a 4.5-gallon capacity tank. Exhaust is pumped through a low-slung 4-2-1 exhaust with a symmetrical header design inspired by the ’74 CB400 four-cylinder. Power is put back to the meaty 180-series rear tire via a manual cable-actuated clutch, six-speed transmission, and chain final drive.

Were big fans of the CBR650Fs styling. It has a unique form that is clean yet edgy  but not overly so.
The CBR650Fs cockpit is relaxed and conducive to long days in the saddle. The instrumentation is functional and easy to decipher at a glance.
Although the CBR-Fs engine appears the same as the CBR600RR  the parts fiche confirms that the engine cases and cylinder head are indeed different with the CBR650F tuned for torque and low-to-mid acceleration performance.
(Top) We’re big fans of the CBR650F’s styling. It has a unique form that is clean yet edgy, but not overly so. (Center) The CBR650F’s cockpit is relaxed and conducive to long days in the saddle. The instrumentation is functional and easy to decipher at a glance. (Bottom) Although the CBR-F’s engine appears the same as the CBR600RR, the parts fiche confirms that the engine cases and cylinder head are indeed different with the CBR650F tuned for torque and low-to-mid acceleration performance.
The engine serves as an active part of the chassis and is hung at a 30-degree forward tilt inside a double oval spar steel main and subframe (not detachable) with a boomerang shaped cast swingarm fabricated from aluminum. Wheelbase is rated at 57 inches—3.1 in. longer than the track-oriented CBR600RR and 1.5 more of a stretch than the 500 Single-R. Steering geometry is also more relaxed with stability in mind, ala’ the 500. Suspension components include a traditional non-inverted cartridge fork (4.25 in. of travel) and a coil spring shock absorber (5.04 in. travel) that attaches directly between the frame and swingarm, without a linkage. Suspension adjustment is limited to seven-levels of spring preload on the shock body.

Like a big bike, the CBR-F rolls on a full-size and highly fashionable pair of directional 12-spoke cast aluminum rims shoed with Dunlop’s Sportmax D222 rubber (modified Honda-specific version based off of the commercial grade RoadSmart II sport-touring tires). Braking hardware is also up to date with a pair of 320mm diameter cross-drilled, wave-shaped discs pinched by dual piston, non-radial mount calipers at the front, and a single piston caliper clamping a 240mm rotor. Both calipers are sourced from Nissin. Similarly to Big Red’s other sportbikes, each brake can be applied independently with no linking-effect. ABS is available as a $500 option with the Matte Black colorway.

The motorcycle is packaged nicely, blanketed in full body work that’s similar, but different compared to the rest of the CBR family. Build quality is high and close to what we expect of the Japanese-built machinery. Styling is sharp, and aggressive for a motorcycle in this price range. Clever aesthetic touches include the rear fender hugger and the tail’s integrated under pan that give a clean look. We also appreciate the flat profile of the forward fairing and the LED ‘position’ lights integrated above either side of the halogen headlamp. Another nice touch is the blacked-out frame and fork. Instrumentation is functional and easy-to-read. A pair of LCD panels provide vitals, including rolling and engine speed, as well as a fuel gauge, clock, and trip meters.

With a fully fueled and ready-to-ride curb weight of 461 pounds, this Honda is no doubt a little on the porky side compared to other 600cc Supersports. But once in the saddle the Candy Blue bike feels every bit as nimble as its RR cousins. Seat height (31.9 in.) is just a smidge lower than the 600, but an inch higher than the half-liter CBR. Still, it’s an easy motorcycle to get a feel for with an inviting cockpit that doesn’t put much strain on the wrists or knees.

Feed out the clutch lever, and its engagement is more forgiving than other sportbikes—a welcome trait for less experience riders. Turn the twist grip and the blue bike moves forward smoothly, with extra bottom-end pep versus a traditional Japanese 600 replica racer. However it’s more sluggish, and not as quick to rev as a full-on Supersport. It also has a shorter rev ceiling with the engine petering out at 11,000 rpm, compared to the CBR600RR’s 15,400 redline. Still, it makes for a friendlier, and less intimidating experience, since you don’t have to overly slip the clutch and get the
The CBR650Fs ergonomics are laid out well. This is one of the least demanding sportbike-style motorcycles on the road.
The CBR-Fs seat height is an inch taller than the CBR500RR  but still a little bit shorter than Hondas sportier and track-oriented CBR600RR.
The CBR650Fs engine has a peppier bottom-end than a standard 600cc Supersport. And although its a little slower to rev it performs well on the road with decent acceleration in its first three  or four gears.
(Top) The CBR650F’s ergonomics are laid out well. This is one of the least demanding sportbike-style motorcycles on the road. (Center) The CBR-F’s seat height is an inch taller than the CBR500R, but still a little bit shorter than Honda’s sportier and track-oriented CBR600RR. (Bottom) The CBR650F’s engine has a peppier bottom-end than a standard 600cc Supersport. And although it’s a little slower to rev it performs well on the road with decent acceleration in its first three, or four gears.
engine spinning high in the revs when accelerating from stop signs. Throttle response is accurate, plus the engine is smooth-running and devoid of hand-numbing vibration. It sounds the part, too delivering an ear pleasing and signature four-cylinder scream at high rpm.

Row through the six-speed gearbox and it offers a short lever throw and precise feel between cogs when properly engaged. Curiously, however, it did pop out of gear a couple times, with one occasion combining with too much front brake pressure, slippery tarmac and the less-than stellar grip from the OE-fitted tires resulting in a low-side crash during our test ride which prematurely ended our day.

Up until that point, we were happy with its easy handling manners and suspension settings which give an excellent compromise between road comfort and sporting performance. Although the bike is sprung a little soft the damping provided effective road holding without excessive movement. Ground clearance was plentiful too even at a spirited pace. Both brakes offer plenty of stopping power but braking feel isn’t as acute as a Supersport racer.

If you’re looking for a peppy full-size sportbike that’s easy to master and rails around town, then chances are you’re going to love this CBR650F. Though it lacks the finely calibrated sport chassis of the 600RR, it’s m ore useable engine and relaxed cockpit more than make up for it if you ride exclusively on public roads. Honda also offers a few street-friendly accessories including a taller windscreen, heated hand grips and a rear tail tray and/or lockable trunk that further boost its street cred. 
Honda CBR650F Highs & Lows
  • Smooth, steady stream of bottom-end engine power
  • Feels light in motion
  • Comfy ergos and suspension settings
  • OE tires could offer more grip
  • Transmission may take extra mileage to break-in

2014 Honda CBR650F Photo Gallery
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Accidents Happen – Wear Proper Gear
Accidents happen. That’s why it’s essential to wear proper safety gear every time you swing a leg over a motorcycle. Fortunately, this time, I was wearing my favorite urban street riding kit by REV’IT!, featuring the Stellar Leather Jacket, Stellar Glove, and Campo Jeans, matched to the X-Square Boot by TCX and a Shoei RF-1200 Helmet when I hit the deck.

During the 40 mph low side crash, the gear performed as advertised. I am especially pleased by the impact and abrasion resistance of the coat and the rugged, reinforced construction of the denim with it holding together well instead of ripping and tearing when in contact with asphalt… Though I wish I would have installed the optional bio-armor in the knees, so I could have avoided road rash.

As always, the quality, fit and protection of Shoei helmets continue to make us believers. Although my head didn’t take too hard of a hit against the pavement upon inspection of the inner EPS liner, it’s clear that the technology did its job absorbing energy and allowing my head to be unscathed without any form of a concussion.
2014 Honda CBR650F Technical Specs
Engine: 649cc liquid-cooled Inline Four, 16-valve DOHC
Bore x Stroke: 67.0 x 46.0mm
Compression Ratio: 11.4:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel-injection (Single injectors per cylinder)
Clutch: Wet multi-plate; Cable actuation
Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive: Chain; 15/42 gearing
Frame: Twin-spar steel
Front Suspension: 41mm Showa; 4.25 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Showa coil spring shock w/ preload adjustment (no linkage); 5.04 in. travel
Front Brakes: 320mm discs with twin-piston Nissin calipers 
Rear Brake: 240mm disc with single-piston caliper
Wheelbase: 57.0 in.
Rake / Trail: 25.3 deg. / 3.98 in.
Seat Height: 31.9 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gal.
MSRP: $8499
Colors: Red; Candy Blue; Matte Metallic Black
Warranty: One year, unlimited mileage

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pacman52   November 23, 2014 06:43 AM
I think the new CBR 650F will be an excellent choice for someone looking for a middle weight SPORT touring motorcycle. It's normal for some to mention the FZ-09 & FZ-07 & FZ6R as being better bikes for the money. This is why there are many makes & models to please each of us. To me, the CBR 650F is a bette bike because of the seating position, its look and its engine. I like mostly all the bikes but I prefer some... Ps. Yamaha and Honda are my favorite brands.
GAJ   July 19, 2014 09:59 AM
Have to agree that this bike is over priced for what it is. The Yamaha's, from a value and/or performance standpoint all beat it. You want a fairing? Get the far cheaper FZ6r which essentially is designed for the same mission. Don't need the fairing? The FZ07 has tremendous price/value and will walk away from this bike for $1,500 less. Only problem with the FZ07 is that good luck trying to find one.
zenjim   July 10, 2014 06:34 AM
What's up with those socks?
RaptorFA   July 9, 2014 08:52 AM
Clarification... I meant to say that the 650 would be a wiser choice for the street over say the RR bikes, not the FZ's! And Adam, I'm glad you were not hurt in the wreck. Makes me wonder How much damage the bike received? It speaks to the surviveability aspects of the machine.
RaptorFA   July 9, 2014 08:47 AM
Doug, I tend to agree. But then again, it comes back to whether or not you like 'em nekked! I tend to like faired bikes, so the FZ's, though a better bike, won't get my money. This new 650 seems OK, and will be a much wiser choice for the street. But I have to say I am not thrilled by the tranny problems because I am not sure that was a one-off event, and as usual they skimped out on the suspension... AGAIN! C'mon, Honda, the R&D spend on modern shocks is over. Why are you going to make us have to spend more money on suspension upgrades when you could just give us decent components right from the git. That just pushes the "actual" price of the bike right back up to a high number. Doesn't make any sense.
Lee   July 8, 2014 06:19 PM
Hey Out if you every feel yourself getting hypercritical take a deep breath and try to remember we're all just trying to get by.
DougEFresh5101   July 8, 2014 02:02 PM
Based upon this review it seems like this bike can't compete with the FZ-09 for $500 less. If you want to argue that the FZ-09 would be too much bike for someone also interested in this honda then there is always the FZ-07 which is well below 8k and appears to be more fun per dollar. I think Yamaha is still the winner in this battle.
AnthonyD   July 8, 2014 11:36 AM
When I bought my full-size sportbike it was under 10 grand!!! 07 zx6r OTD for around $7900 new. Prices today are crazy.
Piglet2010   July 7, 2014 06:09 PM
Nice to see another moto designed for use, rather that posing. Too bad it does not have a traditional (1980's) style tail with enough under-seat storage for a rain suit.