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.
(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
(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.
- 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