Honda CBR650F Review
Like a glove
Pros - Easy to live with, massive street presence
Cons – Pricey, boring instrumentation
So you have moved up in the world. Fastrack watches have made way for Seikos and Fossils and you no longer find the need to mark the calendar for sale-days. Similarly, motorcycling has graduated from an economical mode of transport to a hobby. No one wants to look like a snob, but who doesn’t want the neighbours to take notice, maybe even admire your taste. So where do you plonk your money? Could the Honda CBR650F be the one?
The CBR650F is pegged as an everyday sportbike. It has been around for a while now, but 2018 has brought along a slew of changes. It gets improved suspension and brakes, LED headlamps and a BS-IV compliant engine with a bump in power output. And surprisingly, it is Rs 30,000 more affordable than before.
In true Honda sense, the fit-and-finish on the CBR650F is top-notch. The matte paint scheme gives the bike a sinister look and does a good job of drawing the spotlight. The switchgear has a lovely tactile feel, there are no panel gaps to speak of, and the parts quality is the best in class. However, the turn indicator and horn switch positions have been inverted and takes time getting used to. Also, the instrument cluster surround looks plasticky and doesn’t go well with the rest of the bike.
It might look like a sportbike and feature rear-set footpegs and clip-on handlebars, but the CBR650F is as comfortable as any streetfighter. The seat is wide and accommodating, and you have the freedom to choose the riding position. You could move forward and sit upright, or slide to the back and crouch over the tank for a more committed stance. Either way, there is hardly any weight on your wrists. And irrespective of how many hours you spend in traffic, neither does the CBR650F doesn’t make you wish you spent more time exercising your back, nor does it make you stock up on Burnol for your thighs. I also don’t remember the last time I saw a single-piece seat on a sportbike. It works wonders for pillion comfort.
There is something unique about the inline four engines, it’s like they have split personalities. This one feels lazy and underpowered under 4,000rpm. You can feel the drama building up from the exhaust note, but the pace doesn’t match the noise. Stay on the throttle and it suddenly picks up pace and you can feel a smile on your face. And then all hell breaks loose as you get closer to the 11,500 redline. You get a high-pitched and frenetic scream accompanied by a kick in the back. And the vibrations, annoying they might be, further amplify the sensation of speed. It might not be the quickest bike around, but sure does pack enough drama to keep that smile on your face.
This 649cc engine develops 85bhp and 60.5Nm of torque, and is mated to a six-speed gearbox. The first gear is tall, and you can hit an indicated 101kmph before the limiter cuts in. The second and third are short and are perfect for city riding. The throttle response is butter-smooth, but the vibrations, which creep in after 4,500rpm, feel uncharacteristic for a Honda. It might feel really easy to putter around the city, but extracting performance out of it requires it to be revved really hard. And even so, there is hardly any signs of stress from the engine.
The steering isn’t very light, but this also makes the CBR650F feel more predictable. The Showa suspension takes care of all the mid-corner bumps without a word of complaint. It offers a good compromise for commuting through pothole-ridden roads and sports riding through the twisties. The ride quality is in fact one of the finest I have experienced on a sportbike. The dual 320mm discs up front pack strong stopping power with a good feel and progression, although the nitpicking side of me found the initial bite to be a little soft for a sportbike.
Apart from the ABS, immobiliser, a die-cast swingarm and LED headlamps, there is nothing much to brag about. It does get a fully-digital instrument cluster, but the design looks like Honda just swapped the analogue dials from a decade-old console with digital displays. It even misses out on a gear-position indicator. The ABS can’t be turned off, and there isn’t a CBS or traction control system either.
On our standard test route, the CBR650F returned 23.8kmpl. It might not sound like a lot, but the CBR650F still is over three kmpl more efficient than the older bike. Out on the highway, thanks to the 17-litre fuel tank, you can easily cover 400 kilometres between fuel stops.
Fitness of purpose
The CBR650F takes care of your daily grind while doubling up as a touring motorcycle for the occasional weekend ride admirably. In the city, the riding position isn’t physically demanding, the clutch is light and heat-flow is well taken care of. For touring, the LED lamps are powerful and have a good spread, the seat is firm and comfortable and the engine packs enough punch to keep you entertained. The CBR650F tips the scales at a hefty 216 kilograms, but I could hardly feel it as I moved the bike around for the photographer, which should be a boon in parking lots.
The CBR650F strikes the ideal middle ground for the mundane commutes and the weekend rides. And despite the lack of rider aids, it might even put a smile on your face on the race track. Even so, I find it hard to justify the Rs 8.4 lakhs price tag (on-road). The Suzuki GSX-S750, a streetfighter it may be, is way more powerful and better equipped, and the Kawasaki Ninja 650, which might fall short of two cylinders, is just as versatile and a lot more affordable.
Photography by Kaustubh Gandhi
Helmet: Arai Quantum-J - Rs 45,000
Jacket: Joe Rocket Alter Ego 3.0 - Rs 20,000
Gloves: Ixon Moto HP - Rs 9,500
Pants: AGV Sport Airtex - Rs 6,500
Boots: Sidi B2 - Rs 17,000
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