Honda offers a compelling alternative to uncompromising, uncomfortable sport bikes. The all-new CBR650F
targets sporty riders who want a fundamentally sound, easygoing bike with decent comfort for daily use, and enough speed to feel the adrenaline rushing through their veins on weekends.
In order to make it accessible to as many potential buyers as possible (base MSRP of $9,499), production entirely takes place in Thailand. Yet, quality is still part of the equation. In fact, fit and finish, material selection and paint treatment are all beyond reproach. It's tough to get more bang for your buck, folks.
The DNA of a sport bike
The upswept tail and full fairing pointing at the front wheel give the Honda CBR650F the look of a supersport. The wide 180mm rear tire (vs. 160mm on the CBF600SA) further enhances its racy looks.
The exposed powerplant looks clean and burly at the same time. Meanwhile, the 4-in-1 exhaust system in bright finish can be admired through a judiciously located opening at the bottom of the fairing. The tailpipe underneath the aluminum swingarm comes just short of hiding the splendid rear tire and turbine-style wheel.
The easy-to-read, fully digital instrument panel consists of two displays: one for the speedometer/tachometer, and one for the time, fuel gauge and trip meters. Too bad there's no gear indicator, though.
Comfortable and fun? You bet!
|The upswept tail and full fairing pointing at the front wheel give the Honda CBR650F the look of a superbike. (Photo: Bill Petro)
The new diamond steel frame with twin elliptical spars connects with a 41mm front fork. Braking is handled by dual 320mm front discs with 2-piston callipers and a single 240mm rear disc -- all backed by ABS. The rider's seat stands 810mm off the ground or 24mm higher than the CBR500R's.
Despite weighing 208 kg, the 2014 Honda CBR650F feels very much at ease on winding roads and proves surprisingly sharp when launching into corners. Don't sweat if you have to brake late, and don't even bother with ground clearance -- unless you want to impersonate Marc Marquez. This bike keeps its poise even when pushed near the limit. The perfectly calibrated suspension helps you maintain a good pace while providing comfort on patchy roads.
Thanks to some clever ergonomics that put the rider close to the handlebars, the CBR650F makes it easy to deal with weight transfers when accelerating, braking and cornering. With very little stress on the wrists, comfort is markedly improved, too.
|Braking is handled by dual 320mm front discs with 2-piston callipers and a single 240mm rear disc -- all backed by ABS. (Photo: Bill Petro)
The proud heir to the CBF600SA gets a brand new 649cc engine using the familiar architecture from Honda's 4-cylinder sport bikes (cylinders canted forward 30° to lower the centre of gravity; stacked 6-speed gearbox and starter/clutch layout to reduce size). It produces 86 hp at 11,000 rpm and 46.5 lb-ft of torque at 8,000 rpm. Honda engineers revised the camshafts (with a short valve overlap) and intake funnels (long and short) in order to maximize torque below 6,000 rpm.
The engine offers a wide powerband that's particularly rich in the middle and helps deliver strong passing manoeuvres. Compared to the CBF600, the new Honda CBR650F also has a big edge at lower revs, but not enough to match 2- and 3-cylinder engines from the competition. In fact, you'll feel the engine bucking a bit when you twist the throttle below 3,000 rpm.
On the other hand, performance is superb at higher revs, especially from 7,000-11,500 rpm, making the CBR650F feel more like a true sport bike than the average street bike. The sound from the intake system adds to the thrill.
|The proud heir to the CBF600SA gets a brand new 649cc engine using the familiar architecture from Honda's 4-cylinder sport bikes. It produces 86 hp at 11,000 rpm and 46.5 lb-ft of torque at 8,000 rpm. (Photo: Bill Petro)
Wrapping up the 2014 Honda CBR650F
This machine can seemingly do it all, from cruising to attacking and everything in between. Styling, material selection, and build quality rival much more expensive bikes, while riding dynamics are surprisingly sharp for the price. To top it all off, there's enough comfort for you to go on long trips.
Sure, the CBR650F doesn't generate as much low-end torque as 2- and 3-cylinder competitors, but it makes up for it with extra grunt at higher revs -- not unlike Honda's RR models. Here we have one of the best surprises of 2014.
- Affordable and rider-friendly
- Racy looks
- High-revving engine
- Fit and finish
- Engine is somewhat reluctant at lower revs
- No gear indicator