Words: Mikko Nieminen, Editor of Motorcycle Sport & Leisure magazine.
Photos: Zep Gori, Francesc Montero, Ciro Meggiolaro, Ula Serra-Prats.
Honda has produced some great bikes over the years. Some of them have been iconic (the Fireblade and the Africa Twin for instance), others almost indescribable (I still don’t quite know what to call the X-ADV), but above all else the Japanese manufacturer’s success is built on a wide range of sensible, real-world bikes.
The new CB650R and CBR650R are a great example of sensible, yet capable machines from the big H.
They’re new models, replacing – and heavily based on – the CB650F and CBR650F, with increased power, reduced weight, tweaked riding position and a number of changes to the chassis.
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The bikes look the business too. The four-to-one exhaust pipes have been tastefully swept to the side, inspired by the setup of the CB400F from the mid-seventies. The new USD forks and bigger radially mounted four-piston brake calipers give the front a more athletic look. The shorter and higher subframe allows for a compact tail, and the overall styling has a more premium feel about it than before: the CBR bares more than a faint resemblance to the Fireblade, and the CB has been given the full Neo Sports Cafe treatment like that of the CB1000R with a round headlight and minimal panelling. Both bikes look more grown-up than their predecessors.
According to Honda, the updated four-cylinder engine now makes 5% more power. The peak power of 94bhp is reached at 12,000rpm and maximum torque is available at 8500rpm. These figures would seem to suggest that the engine needs to spin fairly fast to propel the bike forward in a meaningful way, but there’s sufficient low-end too. Honda engineers have also managed to level the dip in power around 7000rpm, which plagued the old engine, and now acceleration is smooth throughout the range.
From the 7000rpm mark the pick-up is more eager and instant, and the bike feels happy to gallop along the roads. It never gets too much though, and you can enjoy the feeling that you are the boss of the bike – not the other way round.
Although the suspension is identical on both bikes, the CBR’s front felt a little softer, presumably due to the more forward-leaning riding position, which placed more of my weight on the front of the bike. Both bikes felt solid though, with no problems in fast corners or heavy braking. The suspension may only offer shock preload adjustment, but it works well without any fiddling.
One thing that I had mixed feelings about on both bikes was the new LCD dash. It looks good and it’s easy to read, but the glare from the sun meant that a lot of the time you couldn’t see the digits clearly even with the brightness on full blast.
On a more positive note, the brakes are excellent. They also have an emergency function, which activates the hazard lights for a moment if you brake really hard. On our test ride I saw the hazards flashing a few times when some of the riders braked hard before some of the sharp corners on our route. It’s a clever feature and seems to work well.
I had a better time on both bikes than I had expected. It was great to see how versatile, usable and grin-inducing these bikes can be. So which would I pick? The CBR offered a bit more of a thrilling ride, but the CB is over seven hundred pounds cheaper at £6999. Oh, I don’t know – you choose!
For the full launch report, check out the next issue of Motorcycle Sport and Leisure. For more information, visit: www.mslmagazine.co.uk
Honda CB650R (CBR650R)
Price: £6999 (£7729)
Engine: 649cc liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, 16-valve, DOHC, inline 4-cylinder
Power: 93.9bhp (70kW) @ 12,000rpm
Torque: 47.2lb-ft (64Nm) @ 8500rpm
Fuel tank: 15.4 litres
Fuel consumption: 57.6mpg (20.4km/litre)
Transmission: 6-speed, chain final drive
Frame: Steel diamond
Seat height: 810mm
Kerb weight: 202kg (207kg)
Suspension: (F) 41mm Showa Separate Function Fork USD; (R) Monoshock damper with adjustable preload
Brakes: (F) 4-piston radialmount calipers, 310mm discs; (R) single piston caliper, 240mm disc. 2-channel ABS
Wheels: Hollow section cast aluminium
Tyres: (F) 120/70; (R) 180/55
Warranty: Two-year, unlimited mileage warranty.
Roadside recovery: Hondacare Assistance: Two years of breakdown cover including Europe.
Security: Datatag Security and Datatool TraKKing Adventure GPS Tracker (subscription £9.95 a month).