I have to admit it right now: I’ve never been a fan of naked bikes. Maybe it’s my age, but these days I like a bit of comfort, and that includes keeping the wind away as much as possible.
Then I rode the CB650F and it reminded me what I had been missing. There is nothing like a ride on a bike, and when you can sit on that bike a look ahead and see nothing but the road – well that’s as raw and naked as you can get while on a motorised anything.
Since I had dropped of my BMW K1200GT for a service, Motormart in Lower Hutt Wellington suggested I should test ride the CB650F. After stepping off the 281Kg Beemer, the Honda felt like a toy. At a surprisingly heavy 208Kg though, it’s not really that light for what it is. In saying that, this bike can still boogie.
Sure it’s not as sexy as a Street Triple, but it is an honest and peppy run around. And that’s not to say it’s not sexy. Those four-into-one pipes at the front are a piece of art…look at them! They catch your eye as soon as you see the CB.
Even that little stumpy muffler looks quite cool. I thought the 180/55/17 tyre on the rear looked a little too big for the bike, but that’s just be my view.
One surprising omission was self-cancelling indicators, but hey no biggie there.
What’s it like to live with?
I only had the CB for 36 hours, so it wasn’t a real test, but it did give me enough time to get to know it a little. That engine sound I have missed. To get a leg back over a four-cylinder Japanese motorbike was a refreshing change. You can’t say the Japanese do not make a good four-cylinder engine. They’ve been making them for many decades and it shows. That 64Kw water-cooled 650cc engine loves to rev like most Japanese fours, and the higher the better.
Along with that urge to wind it out, the noise it makes about 6,000rpm is pretty darn fine. Vibrations are kept to a minimum, and the rubber foot pegs helps here. The mirrors do vibrate at idle a bit like my old Buell did, but nowhere near as bad.
The 6-speed gearbox is…good. It’s not the greatest – it can be a bit clunky between gears, although my test bike had under 100km on the clock so maybe this would improve with a few miles on it.
Front forks are standard items (no upside-down forks here) fitted with dual 320mm discs which do an excellent job of pulling speed down, even though they are simple two-pot jobs. Two-channel ABS is standard, a nice touch.
Rear suspension is a standard swing arm – not single-sided, but still a nice looking design. I didn’t have enough time with the bike to test it out properly, but it seemed confident in ride and handling, especially for the target market of the bike of mainly city riding. The ride is on the firmer side, but never uncomfortable.
The all-digital dash took a little getting used to, but it’s very clear on the info it reads out, and a trip computer is standard, to give you overall fuel economy and instantaneous. The left hand display gives you a rev counter and a digital speedo in the one unit. The other side has a fuel gauge and trip computer info, as well as a clock. One thing I did miss was a gear indicator. In saying that, the engine is quite torquey for a high-revving four, so it is happy to potter along in a higher gear without much complaint.
On the trip to drop the Honda off, I managed to strike one of Wellington’s ‘friendly’ winds on the motorway. Okay, now I remember why I like bikes with a fairing. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but I did need to concentrate that bit more and keep my hands firmly planted on the grips.
Kate’s Pillion POV
Having only been on two motorcycles my whole life, the Honda CB650 was a fascinating 3rd ride for me. But since I only rode as a pillion for 70 km on it, I can’t comment too much on the comfort. One of the problems of the Honda was trying to hold on. At the back there’s no handle on either side to grab but I found straight down on the seat was the slightest indent to grab a hold of. Along with that, I found that leaning forward slightly more than you would helps with your balance. But the further I went on, my confidence grew. I found it way easier and I wasn’t also worrying that I was going to tumble off if my Dad did a surprise speed up. So it’s either having the little indent to grab onto or grabbing a hold of the rider. If you’re not comfortable with gripping on the rider or the rider doesn’t want you to hold on them, this may not be the pillion bike for you.
Another thing was that the pillion seat is quite small. I’m quite short/small so it was fine for me.
What I liked about the Honda CB650 is that when we went around corners it was a breeze for me/the passenger. Even though it was hard to hold on, going at a reasonable speed around corners was absolutely fine. The seat was comfortable for the amount of time I was on it, but I couldn’t imagine what long rides would be like. One hour – 1 hour and a half I would think the limit be until you start to get uncomfortable. Road trip or long distances, the Honda is not the one for you as a pillion. You would be numb and aching after 3 hours. But moderate distances, it was lovely and I bet you would get some looks.
So overall passenger’s view; great bike, great for a racy vibe, great for experienced passenger but not for a newbie. I would love to ride pillion on the Honda CB650 again sometime.
What do we think?
Bad points for the CB? At $12,495 the price might be a struggle for some, even if this isn’t a LAMS bike. There are some excellent bikes in this range – not to mention the Suzuki GSX1200FA at just $1,000 more.
The CB650F is a great town ride. If you want something more than a LAMS bike but want it chuckable and fun to ride, this is a bike that is worthy of a test ride. It may not be suited to long distance rides but for what you are probably buying it for, it’s spot on.
I can’t rate the CB650F – 36 hours is just not a fair and just amount of time to see what it’s really like. In saying that, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. Super easy to ride, nimble, fun, nice sounds – it’s a complete package for a city bike with the occasional scratch thrown in.
If you are in the market for a naked middleweight, make sure the CB650FA is on your to-ride list.
Read more about the Honda CB650F here:
Many thanks to the team at Motomart in Lower Hutt, Wellington, for the test bike: www.motomart.co.nz
What it’s up against
|Brand/Model||Engine||Power, Kw||0-100Km/h, seconds||Price, RRP|
|Honda CB650F||650cc 4-cylinder||64||3.6||$12,495|
|Yamaha MT07||689cc 2-cylinder||56||3.8||$11,999|
|Kawasaki ER-6n ABS||649cc 2-cylinder||53||4.6||$11,495|