Honda CBR 650F Review

Honda CBR 650F Review

From the first time you look at the Honda CBR 650F, you begin to wonder what Honda was really thinking about when they came up with it. It’s about 20 kilos heavier than an average middleweight sports bike, it also makes less horsepower than your average middleweight. You don’t need to be Sherlock to deduce that it will not be nearly as fast as any of the middleweights around. Even the Rs 8 lakh price tag is on the pricier side. Logical prognosis then would be that Honda, after all these years of producing brilliant motorcycle after brilliant motorcycle, have made a boo-boo. Or have they?

For starters, it looks absolutely brilliant. The super-sport meets sports-tourer styling doesn’t sound great on paper, but on the CBR it looks perfect. The high-set handle bars and low-set foot pegs along with the nicely padded seats have been so well integrated that you’d probably have to look twice to notice them. Otherwise there is not a component on the motorcycle that looks out of place. Smooth crisp flowing lines dominate most of what you see. It’s the kind of motorcycle that you stare at trying to figure out how to segment it. By the time you’re done and have reached no clear conclusion of what it is, you realise that you’ve fallen for it. There is also a small easter egg on the CBR 650F – as homage to the original Honda CBR 400F the 650 retains the 4-into-1 exhaust layout. Even more interestingly the 650F isn’t some rebuild and doesn’t have any carry overs from any motorcycle Honda have built in the past. It’s all new from the ground up. In the end, the bunch of us at the office unanimously agree that the 650F is an outstanding motorcycle to look at. And we rarely agree on anything.

Thumb the starter and the 4-cylinder in-line comes to life, minus the histrionics. It then settles into a mild mannered hum, so perfectly Honda, that you’d have to look at the rev meter to check whether it is running or not. Now you can tell that Honda have put a lot of thought into the way they’ve built the motorcycle from the attention to detail on the engine. For one, the engine acts as a stressed member of the double oval spar steel frame chassis. The motor is canted forward by 30-degrees while the boomerang-shaped cast swingarm is fabricated from aluminum.

This lowers the centre of gravity and is probably why it handles so well. But we will get to that later. The low-end torque and the meaty mid-range are what make the four-pot in-line engine so easy to ride in the city that you might be led to believe that the bike is a slouch. You’d be quite wrong. It’s no greased lightning, but bring the revs up and the digits climb at a surprisingly spirited and linear rate. Triple digits come without so as much as breaking a sweat and the meaty mid-range keeps the bike going through well into the higher triple digit speeds. In fact even after a brisk highway run on the CBR 650F, we couldn’t catch it running out of breath. Let’s not forget, wind her up a bit and the engine comes to life with that buttery smooth oh-so-Honda whine, which is just music to the ears.

Now a large part of the dynamics come from the unique seating position of the CBR. For one, the seating position is more like a sports-tourer than track machine courtesy the clip-on handlebars that are mounted above the triple clamp rather than below. The foot pegs are also placed for rider comfort rather than racetrack ergonomics. To make up for this and despite its extra padding, the seat is a tad lower than your average super-sport.The fork and shock soak up most road imperfections without harshness or bottoming, with only the deepest and most sharp-edged bumps delivering any kind of thump through the seat. Which essentially means you could ride yours to work and still manage to get a pretty respectable angle of attack round corners.

Although pretty rudimentary for a bike from this segment, the Ohlin RWUs front shocks on the CBR does not give cause for complaint. They tread that fine line between comfort and precision. Give it a little bit of a nudge in the right direction and the CBR is a precision instrument, more than willing to dice its way through tighter twisty bits. The radially-mounted Nissin disc brake at the front is pretty spot on (there’s a single disc at the rear), the bite is sharp and precise and gives you a lot of feel. Despite there being no ABS, the bite is strong and sharp but comfortably below unsettling. Pair that up with the 120/70 17-inch Dunlop Sport Max tyres in the front and 180/55 17-inch rear and you are likely to be surprised by its willingness to get around twisty bits.

Equipment wise there really isn’t much that makes the CBR 650F very exciting, but you do get a twin-LCD unit, in place of the standard analogue dials. Build quality is actually quite good despite it being mostly built in Thailand, finding its way to the country via the CKD route.

In the end, what you get for your moolah – which is quite a bit, if you consider the `8 lakh on-road price in Pune – is a genuinely practical everyday use motorcycle that you can take on weekend rides, long hauls and also carry a pillion. Even the occasional track day can be weaved into consideration, though it’s definitely not a focused track tool. So Honda have built a bike that can pretty much do anything – the jack of all trades – and it is brilliant at that. And here we were thinking they’d gone cuckoo.

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