Test-ride: Honda CBR650R & CB650R

By thoriq, 02 September 2019

Double Dose
After what seemed like ages, the mighty Japanese big wing marque finally gave its 650-series middleweights the makeover they deserve, bringing us to the sporty new CBR650R and stylishly fresh CB650R.

There are plenty of changes abound in both these contemporary Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM) offerings besides their name designations. After spending some time in the hot seats of both back-to-back, those upgrading into either one of them from a starter single- or twin-cylinder machine are definitely in for a treat.

2019 Honda CBR650R
2019 Honda CBR650R (RM45,499)
2019 Honda CB650R
2019 Honda CB650R (RM43,499)

Firstly, both bikes look great, especially the sport-bodied CBR650R. Replacing the CBR650F model that preceded it, Honda has infused a lot of traits from its mighty CBR1000RR Fireblade superbike here. The result is nothing short of spectacular to say the least.

The CB650R, on the other hand, which replaces the previous CB650F, has been completely refashioned, becoming Honda’s new mid-sized Neo Sport Café offering slotting in between the CB250R and CB1000R. Compared to its segment rivals, this one packs arguably the most refreshing look amongst the lot.

Though both share the same 805mm seat heights, life behind the tank of each are worlds apart. In the CBR650R’s case, it now feels much sportier and more aggressive than before thanks to the lowered positioning of its clip-on bars. Things are more relaxed and upright in the CB650R as it boasts tall and wide bars instead.

That aside, we’re certain many will welcome the new fully digital instrument display panel. The car-like, dual-dial layout seen in their predecessors has been phased out in favour of a simpler yet richer new panel, complete with gear position readout that was annoyingly absent in the models prior.

The other common thing in both machines is the revised 649cc in-line four heart. Now brimmed with a host of lightened new parts, a revised intake and a prettier copper-hued crankcase, the mill delivers noticeably more torque in the mid rev-ranges, which in turn grants greater versatility for daily riding.


Unchanged in this four-banger is its rev-happy and smooth nature, as well as the sweet crescendo when nearing its redline at just over 12,000rpm. On top of that comes the new assist and slipper clutch primed in its transmission, which grants a lighter and more precise lever action when banging up and down all six cogs present.

For avid supersports fan, there’s the CBR650R’s newfound sportiness to bask in, all thanks to the significantly lightened chassis, as well as series of new hardware and features supplementing that. Key highlights of the latter two lie in the new Showa suspension and now radially mounted Nissin front brake assembly.

Present in both now too are traction control and dual-channel ABS. Previously absent in past iterations, the addition of both aren’t just welcoming; they fuel greater riding confidence through enhanced control, especially in hairy situations where rapid speed and direction changes are warranted.

With the CBR650R, there’s a set of standard-equipped sport-biased tyres added in the mix, thus priming it for weekend B-road corner-carving jaunts. Though not as sharp and peppy as a true supersport like Honda’s legendary CBR600RR, it’s far from inadequate for this task to say the least.

The fairing-less CB650R twin, on the other hand, which also benefits from the lightened and enhanced chassis, doesn’t feel too shabby when tasked with B-road corner carving too. However, its aforementioned upright riding ergonomics, as well as its employment of all-purpose tyres as standard instead, suggests otherwise.


In fact, the CB650R feels much more at home in the concrete jungle, offering even greater agility and versatility over its sport-bodied twin here. It’s easier to filter through traffic with this machine’s upright riding ergonomics, and it’s a more pillion-friendly bike amongst the two.

Of course, no machine is perfect, and there are some drawbacks to live with like the lack of adjustments for the front forks, as well as the clutch and brake levers. Absent wind protection aside, there’s also the CB650R’s glare-prone display panel due its fixed angle and position amongst others too.

Above all else though, we’re certain both these machines will feel a tad bit ‘vanilla’ over time, as how most UJMs eventually get. Nevertheless, what’s undeniable here is how both have significantly upped the ante over their respective predecessors.

If anything, the tempting price tags both machines command should convince many. Neither will disappoint, so it’s only a matter of choosing which style you prefer to rock with: Sporty or Street?

SCORE: 8/10

Style, improved ergonomics, sportier performance and handling.

Quickly feels ‘vanilla’ as most modern UJMs normally do.














kg (kerb)



Honda CBR650R - RM45,499

Honda CB650R - RM43,499

(base prices excluding insurance, registration and on-road costs)