It’s safe to say there aren’t many standard sport-bodied middleweight bikes on sale today. With na market favouring naked bikes, those seeking something sportier are left with very few choices. The Honda CBR650F is one of the few.
Nevertheless, Honda’s offering holds promise, especially for riders keen to upgrade from their sub-500cc starter machines. We spent considerable time astride the refreshed CBR650F during the recent festive holidays to gauge what it had in store for such riders.
Firstly, there’s its sharpened fairing design. Then there’s the dashing ‘Matt Gun Powder Black’ paint scheme, as pictured, as well as the modern LED lighting all around. Altogether, most will agree this is one good looking standard sport bike indeed.
Complementing that is the presence of several new bits as part of the CB650F’s mid-life update in 2017. Some are quite obvious, like the redesigned under-slung exhaust, and the alloy wheels. Others are a little harder to spot, notably the upgraded front forks and brakes – more on that later.
As we settled into the CBR650F’s 810mm hot seat, what quickly became apparent was the revised riding ergonomics. The handlebars have been lowered, encouraging a more aggressive riding stance. Everything else remains largely unchanged, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on your preferences.
Thumb the start button and the DOHC 649cc inline four tucked under this bike’s pretty skin comes effortlessly to life at first crank like any other Honda. Compliance with Euro 4 standards does see this powerplant’s exhaust lacking a few decibels, but the engine’s sweet crescendo once past 6,000rpm masks this well.
As you would guess from its 12,000rpm redline, it’s a rather rev-happy mill, offering decent outputs of 90bhp and 64Nm. Ride it right and the 17.3-litre tank should easily reward you with between 400 and 500km of travel.
Thankfully, the 6-speed manual transmission paired to this mill remains as slick as ever. As it isn’t a full-blown supersport, it’s easy to forgive the CBR650F for not having a slip-assist clutch or even a quick-shift. If anything, this makes it a perfect steed for anyone to continue honing his or her riding skills.
Unchanged too is the car-like instrument panel – gear indicator still absent – so too its somewhat difficult to grasp readouts. Mastering the harmonics of the CBR650F’s powertrain is essential, but most will find it easy thanks to the abundant power and torque past the 5,000rpm mark, as well as the slick transmission action mentioned earlier.
More importantly, this refreshed CBR650F feels less tiring to ride than its predecessor thanks to its new Showa Dual Bending Valves (SDBV) front forks. They offer better damping and absorption, thus further refining its ride
Equally improved are the front anchors. There’s a pair of new Nissin dual piston callipers that offers better bite when grabbing the two 320mm discs paired with them. The presence of an adjustable lever also enables the rider to easily modulate the brakes.
That said, things would have been sweeter if the dual channel ABS suite found in the European-spec model were present. With that missing, we reckon this bike is meant for intermediate riders at least. If you’re a fresh B licence holder, you’d best start off with this bike’s lesser siblings, the CBR250R or the CBR500R.
Throughout our 10-day test, we put the CBR650F through the typical daily urban commute and several highway cruises in between, and, on one weekend, a B-road jaunt through Kuala Kelawang. The CBR650F did it all easily, it’s only limitation being this writer’s own fitness and skill levels.
All in all, the sporty styling, versatile performance and rather decent capabilities of this standard sport bike do somewhat justify its princely RM47,115.94 starting price. Absent ABS and other niggles aside, the Honda CBR650F’s appeal as a stylish and relatively sporty second step remains as strong as ever, if we’re honest. It becomes even more appealing when you consider the other, limited options available.
|Engine||Liquid-cooled DOHC 649cc inline four-cylinder, 90bhp, 64Nm|
|Fuel tank||17.3 litres|
|Transmission||6-speed manual, chain drive|
The absence of ABS is disquieting, but sporty looks and versatility will tempt any intermediate rider.