When the invitation came for the Honda CB650R and CBR650R press release, I was very eager to attend. On paper, the Honda 650s seem like one of the most underrated purchases out there and I really wanted to find out for myself. Put it this way: What are your typical walks? Really I like? For most people who buy 650 class average weights, you will probably take short trips during the week, maybe some commuting. On weekends, you can take a quick tour, hit the fun roads with friends, or possibly attend a track day. Maybe a longer trip here or there. A naked or sporty 650 will do all that and more.
Two different directions for Honda’s updated platform. Photo by Kevin Wing.
The class is already loaded with popular options like Yamaha’s MT-07 ($ 7,599), Suzuki’s SV650 ($ 7,099 / $ 7,499 ABS), Kawasaki Z650 ($ 6,999 / $ 7,399 ABS) and Triumph Street Triple S ($ 9,950). The Yamaha XSR700 ($ 8,499) and Suzuki SV650X ($ 8,399) are also in the race. For a 650 fairing, Kawasaki has you covered with their Ninja 650 ($ 7,399 / $ 7,999 ABS). This is one of the most hyper-competitive markets in motorcycling. Introduced in 2014, Honda’s CB650F / CBR650F models never quite fit.
Part of the problem might have been the style, not that the competition is that impressive. On top of that, Honda’s F-series is distinguished by the use of a four-cylinder engine instead of a twin. As much as I love them, all four in a line generally weigh more than their twin counterparts and cost more to produce, all other things being equal. As a result, the F models suffered a significant weight penalty and cost slightly more than their rivals. If you are Honda, what do you do? For one thing, you could stand in line and follow everyone else. Or take a much more interesting approach: Refit the four-cylinder to offer something unique in this class.
A radical departure from the style of the old 650. Photo by Kevin Wing.
Honda’s refinements of the 650 platform didn’t involve splitting the CB and CBR into totally separate bikes, and I have no problem with that. It keeps the prices lower and the shared components work well together, so why mess with the recipe?
The front fork is now inverted, with radial mount calipers as well. Photo by Kevin Wing.
The bikes have lighter and stiffer frames, and their riding positions are more aggressive than previous versions. A significant improvement is the front suspension. Honda ditched the conventional F-series front end for a 41mm Showa Separate Function (SFF) fork. The new fork offers radial caliper mounts for better braking. Honda-installed four-piston Nissin calipers for a respectable modern brake setup. Two-channel ABS and switchable traction control are available as an option. At the rear, Showa also supplies the seven-step adjustable rear shock.
The engine received some key updates to go with the “R” suffix. Photo by Kevin Wing.
Honda has made a commitment to this four-cylinder engine, so they spent some time improving its latest version. Changes in timing, piston shape, compression ratio, and intake design resulted in a 1,000 rpm increase for the redline. The maximum torque is 8,500 rpm and the maximum power is 12,000, so this engine wants it to be revved up. If you’re like me, that’s part of the appeal of these things in the first place. Glad to see Honda adopt the character of the 650. Honda does not publish horsepower figures in the United States, but the general consensus assumption among the test drivers was around 80 and it changes. (Honda Europe claims 70 kW, or about 93 horsepower. This is right on the edge of some license restrictions in other countries).
Yes please. Photo by Kevin Wing.
Glad to see that they kept one of my favorite engine parts, the four ‘waterfall’ heads inspired by the old CB400F. I think these are some of the most attractive pipes on the market today. The muffler is not that pretty, especially from the left side of the bike where you can see the “box” of the muffler. Manufacturers have to do their best to pass modern emission standards of …