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Let me tell you what I feel about this Honda CBR650F. It is a sporty 650 no doubt. But neither does it demand my pound of flesh in ergonomic comfort to make me a sport-rider nor does it expect me to have feline reflexes to handle its power. The foot pegs are low enough for my knees not to get tucked up like a trussed up chicken’s on the roast. And yes even the heat is not there to roast them anyways. The bars are not that far that I have to grovel and beg space from my ample midriff to reach them or hold my breath in and die blue-faced of asphyxia before I can shift to third. On this one I could take my 7 and something son for a ride and not feel compelled to keep feeling his legs with my hand just to make sure he’s still there behind me. And above all it doesn’t vibrate either me or itself into a frenzy, in the name of character, each time I wind up the right wrist. Short and sweet – I like the Honda CBR650F.
These kind of 650’s are considered ‘entry level’ sports bikes in the mature markets of the West. The Indian market however is not that mature yet, neither financially nor in riding skills. But Honda have made this 650 as user friendly a 600+ cc in-line four with 85 strong horses on the leash as can be possible while keeping it eminently controllable even at 200+ kph. Of course this ‘user friendliness’ is seen as ‘boring’ by the more excitable of the species amongst us two-wheel aficionados. But nevertheless it is a trait that will go a long way in ensuring sales for Honda. Globally Honda apparently wants to plug all holes in its motorcycle line-up and the 650F is probably the last such plug in a lineup that starts with the CBR150R, rides the CBR250R, the 300, the 500 and through to the VFR800 Interceptor. The 650F betrays its strategic placement also as a bridge between the more performance oriented and expensive super-sports 600RR and the Fireblade further up by the visible choice of a sport-bike fairing, the sporty ergonomics and finally the in-line 4 engine choice that wraps it up. India however will consider it a ‘big’ bike in any case and by far going by the ride experience, it is not at all a misfit when being viewed as one.
I have always considered looks as subjective and not really all that important to get spot on,, compared to other functional aspects of the motorcycle. It is a fit case for function over form. A pretty bike with a bad engine and evil handling is not a good bike at all while an ugly one that goes like stink and handles great still holds loads of universal good in it. The 650F is not a stunning sight but pretty neat and dapper in appearance. A slick suited urban dweller who also knows what the wind feels like beyond the ‘ton’. There’s a bit more of the engine and mechanicals visible beneath the full fairing that would be on a full-dress sports bike but then the fairing does give it a dynamic visual impression. It looks built both with the solidity of utility as well as the finesse of speed in mind. The tech specs tell us that the frame is steel, the engine a stressed member and the whole arrangement pretty stiff which promises good predictable handling even though the non-adjustable right-side up front forks are unexpected and the ‘only adjustable for pre-load’ mono-shock rear looks advance-tech compared to the front as a result. The bike however is not a variation, development or iteration of any of the older existing Honda models. It is totally new from the ground up and built to specific inputs arising from exhaustive market research aimed towards making it an affordable and reliable motorcycle. So no leading edge tech there – just tried and tested fully functional technology meant to work while costing less and to keep working for years.
The engine, a 649cc in-line four (liquid cooled 16 Valve DOHC PGM-FI fuelled) develops a healthy 86 BHP at 11k RPM and about 62 Nm of torque at 8000 RPM. A relatively low 11.4:1 compression ratio allows it to run on normal fuel without issues. The engine has been canted forward at a 30 degree angle to lower the C of G and aid mass centralisation. While at it, the forward cant also helps shorten the intake path and so improves flow through the engine. Which translates to smoother and quicker RPM build up and a definite improvement in both performance and fuel efficiency. The engine has been placed so that the static weight distribution over both the axles is 50-50. The PGM FI feeding through 32mm throttle bodies provide faultless fuelling with no flat spot whatsoever across the entire RPM band. The engine is smooth and hiccup free right from idling to redline. The 6 speed gear box is ‘Honda’ slick and the cable operated wet clutch is light and has good feel.
The bike idles softly and getting it underway holds no drama. Easy to use. The engine, a derivative of the well-tried 600cc (with added cc’s by an increase in stroke length) makes good useable power even at around 4000 RPM. Take it past 7000 and it starts sounding and feeling serious right till 10,500 which is some 500 RPM below its 11,000 red-line. Three digit speeds come up surprisingly quickly and there’s a slight tingle in the bars when the revs hit 8000+ and the bike starts pulling ever stronger. Work through the gears and you’ll get past the second 100 quickly enough to light up the helmet insides with that silly grin. The fairing does a fairly good job of keeping most of the wind out of the way of your head and chest. Buffeting however does happen past 150 kmph or so. The bike sits smooth and quiet though at 120 kmph in top gear and gives you the feeling of it being able to do that from here to Timbuktu. And then you’ll take a short break either to refuel or to rest. The 650F has no desire for rest though it’s 17.3 ltr will begin needing a refill in some 300 kms odd.
The suspension may be basic but the 650F handles anything and everything thrown at it with aplomb. Sprung a trifle soft, the bias towards rider comfort being understandable since this is not an outright sports bike, both the front (41mm dia 4.2 inch travel forks) and the rear (4 inch travel mono-shock) do a good job of smoothing out the road irregularities and providing good road-holding. If your weight is closer to the ‘mildly obese’ as yours truly is, just click up a couple of notches on the rear mono-shock 7-step preload and all will be good with the rear too. The rider seat is comfy though the pillion will need a tiny tidy rear end to find any comfort on its perch. Seat height at 810 mm is as much as the KTM Duke’s but since it tapers towards the tank. Those who find the Duke too tall will be comfortable with this one.
The 650F’s geometry (rake at 25.3 deg and trail a shade below 4 inches) all point towards straight line stability and that’s what the bike does. But then these figures coupled with a 1440mm wheelbase make the bike a lazy turner. Counter-steer positively and it does respond but there’s no sharpness as would be in a sports-bike. 180 rear and 120 front tyres on 17 inch rims provide ample rubber though the 17 inch rims do add to the reluctance shown in directional changes at speed due to the greater gyroscopic rotating mass. At the same time it need be pointed that low speed control is great. The laziness at speed though is not by far a drawback but a consequence of the choice of geometry to make this bike the versatile tool that it has turned out to be. Brakes are good with two 320mm discs with twin-pot callipers up front and a single 240 mm disc with a single piston calliper at the rear, enough to get the 212 kilo bike to shed speed quickly. ABS, if opted for, is amazingly unobtrusive. So good and smooth is the transition that you don’t even feel it cutting in.
The instrument console is a mix of LED’s LCD and split digital displays. The LCD based ‘analogue’ tacho is nice as is the 6-segment fuel gauge. It comes with 2 trips, a ‘mileage’ gauge, clock and all the usual tell-tale lights. The horn button is the most awkwardly placed on any bike I have ever ridden this side of a Harley or a BMW. Even after a couple of hours in the saddle I would almost feel compelled to look down to locate it. I doubt if anyone has eyes in their left thumb. At least I don’t. The whole touch and feel though of the bars, controls and switchgear is typical Honda top notch quality. Lights are adequate as they are on almost all bikes, big or small. There’s no bike to my knowledge that cannot outride its own stock lights. The Hayabusa for example is scary to ride at even 150 kmph, half its top speed, on stock lights!
To wrap up, the Honda 650F is an unpretentious ride to town or head for the horizon kind of a bike. Cribbing has no end and it stands as a fact that even though most riders would likely never approach this newest CBR’s real-world limits, it might still get bashed for being a “boringly perfect, no-personality Honda.” But a quick reminder to such brethren is a three word description of what constitutes high quality in anything – fitness for use. Once we stop comparing spec sheets on paper and think in terms of real world performance and utility of motorcycles, the Honda 650F makes tons of sense. So go get it if you have the thought, the inclination and the moolah.
Honda CBR650F Review – Technical Specifications
Length x Width x Height 2107mm x 753mm x 1149mm
Wheel Base 1449mm
Ground Clearance 133mm
Seat Height 810mm
Kerb Weight 215kg
Fuel Tank Capacity 17.3 L
Type Liquid Cooled Inline Four Cylinder DOHC
Fuel System PGM-FI Program Automatic Enrichment Circuit
Max Net Power 63.6 kW @ 11000 rpm
Max Net Torque 62.9 Nm @ 8000 rpm
Compression Ratio 11.4 : 1
No. of Gears: 6 Speed
Tyres & brakes
Tyre size (front) 5 Spoke Aluminium Cast 120/70-17 (Tubeless)
Tyre Size (Rear) 5 Spoke Aluminium Cast 180/55-17 (Tubeless)
Brake Type & Size (Front) 2 x 320mm Disc (ABS)
Brake Type & Size (Rear) 1 x 240mm Disc (ABS)
Frame & Suspension
Frame type Steel Diamond
Front 41mm Telescopic Fork
Rear Monoshock with 7-stage spring preload adjustment