Honda CB650R: Design and Features
That question hung in the air as I looked at the CB650R parked in the office. And my word is I fell in love the way it looks, right then and there. The language of Honda’s ‘Neo Sports Cafe’ design lends itself well to this motorcycle, just like any other modern Honda CB.
Rounded LED headlights, bronze Y-spoke alloy, and chiseled 15.4-liter fuel tank are the design elements that attract attention. The glossy candy chromosphere paint scheme of our test bikes is interesting to look at and contrasts well with the silver tank extensions that cover the air intake ducts. However, when viewed from a saddle, they look like weird add-ons.
The blacked-out tail section is the only bit of design that I’ve found to be smooth, despite the silver number plate hangers and fat 180-section tires trying to bring the look to life.
As everyone has said, the real beauty of street naked motorcycles is in the open bits. Here the engine and side-casing with frame, bronze head cover, as well as four symmetrically lined exhaust header pipes add to the visual drama. The CB650R is a watch from every angle and I’m sure the design will age nicely over time.
That beautiful design did not come in the way of functionality and ergonomics. Split seats are spacious and comfortable while the rearset footpath and flat handlebars keep you in a sporty position. Despite having an inline-four engine at the bottom, the tank is not too wide, so your feet are not uncomfortably spilled. Short city ride or long highway trip, so this motorcycle will not be a problem. You just have to be more discriminating with the help you render toward other people.
What could be an ergonomic problem, at least until you get used to it, place the horn switch. For some reason Honda has set it up where you’d normally find the turn indicator switch and you’ll inadvertently become the annoying, Hong Kong road user when the hint is what you’re trying to do! Other than that, the compact yet nicely driven reverse LCD display packs enough data but is outdated in 2021 on a middleweight motorcycle.
Honda CB650R: Engine
The CB650R’s sleeveless proverbial ace is its inline-four engine. It is the only motorcycle in this displacement class to feature this type of layout and is India’s favorite engine format for sportbikes. Personally, I always like Inline-Four for their top strength and addictive sound. This particular engine does not disappoint.
It fires and you’re greeted with a smooth hum. At low speeds it is almost silent, and considering its tractability, it is easy to hold 40kph in 6th gear. That said, the engine is hard rev and it feels humming around the tank and the seat in between. After 6,000 rpm it does not feature a ‘Honda’ engine but it is by no means annoying. In fact. I’ll close my eyes to it because beyond that point, this engine really comes into its own.
The energy flows with the energy between 8,000 and 12,000 rpm, the speed increases rapidly and the noise from the exhaust becomes addictively loud. There is a sense of joy in bringing this engine back to the redline and it almost seems like it has taken on a different personality – one that is alive and full of energy. I would say that this engine has a lot more character than the clinical Honda CBR650F of the past.
Indeed, with 86hp and 57.5Nm, the performance on offer is quite impressive enough for a 206kg motorcycle, although the engine has been slightly disconnected for our fuel quality and riding conditions.
Complementing this sweet engine is a sleek and precise six-speed gearbox. The Slipper Clutch works perfectly in sync during hard downshifts and it’s a pleasure to operate. The clutch lever action is also light, which makes it easier to deal with dense city traffic.
That being said, the bike doesn’t have ride-by-wire and so does the ride mode. Nevertheless, linear power delivery makes it easy to ride a motorcycle.i
Honda CB650R: ride and handling
One of the big changes that Honda made to its 650 line up with this iteration is the introduction of a non-adjustable Showa SFF-BP or Separate Function Fork- Big Piston. The advantage lies in better bump absorption and more feel from the front end.
Riding over undulations and pothole riddled streets, we found the suspension does a fairly good job of isolating them, although the ride is firm. On the flipside, the bike is easy to flick through a set of corners and remains planted throughout. First-time big bike riders will find the CB’s forgiving handling quite endearing.
But as you gain experience and begin to push hard, the Dunlop Sportmax tires hinder your ability to explore the full handling potential of the bike. The rear, in particular, tends to move while fully leaned over and that’s a bit unnerving. Thankfully, there’s a switchable traction control system that works well to keep things in check.
The Nissin brakes deserve special mention for their sharp initial bite and ability to haul the bike down to a stop from triple digit speeds, without any drama. I also liked the Emergency Stop Signal system that activates the hazard lights when the rider applies the brakes suddenly, say to avoid an obstacle on the road.
Honda CB650R: should you buy one?
The more time we spent riding the Honda CB650R the more we liked it. It’s quite an enjoyable motorcycle and as said before, it is a fantastic upgrade from a200-400cc motorcycle. It may be lacking in the features department but the riding experience makes up for it. However, for all its virtues, the price tag still cannot be justified even after you consider Honda’s low cost of ownership for its big bikes.
For perspective’s sake, the Triumph Trident 660 is the CB’s direct competition and it’s over Rs 1.5 lakh cheaper, while the price difference between the same two bikes in the UK is currently just Rs 5,000. While the Triumph is due for a sizable price hike early next year it is still unlikely to fall in the vicinity of the CB’s astronomical asking price. In fact, even the more powerful and feature packed Kawasaki Z900 is priced lower than the CB650R, at Rs 8.42 lakh. And the Triumph Street Triple R isn’t too far away either, at Rs 9.15 lakh.
Which begs the question, why would you spend so much money on the CB650R? While the motorcycle is extremely likeable, you’ll have to be a Honda fan who doesn’t place value as a high priority to put down the money. If that’s the case, it’ll certainly be a story of the heart winning over the head, but also one you won’t regret.
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