Honda’s CBR family is recognized around the world with a storied history, and a range that covers the market from the entry-level on up to the fiery-eyed pegdraggers. The CBR650F is the bike Honda built for riders sitting on the fence between the two extremes. This is an important bracket since many, if not most, riders will wind up staying here for the duration once they graduate up from their entry-level trainer, because it takes a certain sort to want to move up to the stupidfast sector, and not all of us have what it takes (testicular fortitude/deathwish/whatever). With a 649 cc engine and sport suspension, the CBR650F — back for MY18 after a hiatus in 2017 — brings it to the competition in the mid-range sportsbike category.

Continue reading for my review of the Honda CBR650F.

  • 2015 - 2018 Honda CBR650F
  • Year:
    2015- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Liquid-Cooled Inline Four-Cylinder
  • Displacement:
    649 cc
  • Price:
    8499
  • Price:

Design

2015 - 2018 Honda CBR650F
- image 716690

Maybe it’s because my taste in bikes developed in the ’80s, but I must confess that generally, whenever I hear the name “Honda,” the first things that pop into my head are “boxy” and even “fugly.” Is it fair? Maybe not entirely, but aesthetics are subjective after all, so it’s with great relief that I say this bike doesn’t fit that mindset in any form or fashion. I find this to be a rather fetching bike with a good blend of angles and curves that seems to have a little something for everyone, regardless of preference, but not enough of either to be off-putting.

A cylops headlight leads the way in the full front fairing with DRLs located in the upper corners of the clear lamp cover for a neat-and-clean arrangement. A low-profile windshield forms a small protective zone for the rider, but you really have to lean down into it to find any relief from the wind pressure. Below, the cowling lowers funnel air over the radiator and engine compartment while creating a bit of a dead zone for the legs with vents to reduce horsepower-sapping drag as the cooling air reintegrates with the slipstream.

The fuel tank is narrow at the knee but has the customary knee-hanger flare near the top for a race-tastic look and function. Jockey-mount footpegs and clip-on, drag-style handlebars put the rider into a fairly aggressive riding posture, and taller riders will probably feel a bit cramped in the leg. A comfy seat cups and cradles the rider’s butt with just enough scoop in the back for safety and very little rise to the pillion pad with the usual grab strap and “Jesus” rail to keep the passenger aboard.

Though this is certainly not a naked bike, much of the frame is visible, and the body panels stop short of covering the engine so the mill is almost completely visible when viewed from the side. Another fairing cutout just behind the chin reveals the four-into-one exhaust collector for another tantalizing view of the inner workings. A gull-wing shape in the swingarm leaves room for the high-and-tight muffler where it peeks out on the right side of the bike.

Chassis

2015 - 2018 Honda CBR650F
- image 716692

Honda bases the steel frame design around two 64-by-30 mm elliptical spars that are plainly visible at the sides, and come tuned for aggressive riding styles. What doesn’t come tuned for that kind of riding, unfortunately, is the suspension. The 41 mm, rwu forks don’t exactly instill the confidence one gets from usd forks, and the rear monoshock bears the only ride-quality tweak with a seven-position preload adjustment.

Suspension travel is pretty good with 5 inches at the axle in back and 4.3 inches up front, but the feel is a bit too soft. It seems to be OK enough if you’re taking it easy or traveling on rough roads, but it tends to wallow in aggressive corners and dives a little more than one would hope under the front brake. Honda would do well to revise that setup, and the sooner the better. I mean, I know the factory has to keep prices down, but adjustable forks are getting more common and cheaper all the time, and this is really the only negative point on ride quality. Easy fix guys.

A pair of 320 mm discs work with twin-pot calipers to slow the front wheel, and the wave-cut disc profile helps to dissipate heat. In back, we have a 240 mm disc and single-pot caliper , and though you can get the bike without ABS protection, an ABS-equipped version is available if you like having that extra safety net.

Finally, cast rims mount 17-inch hoops with a 120/70 up front and 180/55 in back for plenty of rubber on the road. These tires, along with the 25.3-degree rake and 3.98 inches of trail, help the bike attack the corners with much enthusiasm, even if the suspension isn’t quite up to the job.

Drivetrain

2015 - 2018 Honda CBR650F
- image 716691

It’s hard to beat an inline four when it comes to smooth power delivery, and the 649 cc mill in the “F” doesn’t disappoint. Not only does the plant deliver rider-friendly and usable muscle, it won’t rattle the fillings out of your teeth or put your hands to sleep at highway speeds.

As you’d expect on a four-cylinder, the block runs an oversquare layout with a 67 mm bore and 46 mm stroke with a 30-degree forward tilt to the whole business. Tapered funnels in the 32 mm throttle bodies help pack air from the streamlined air box into the combustion chambers for as much volumetric efficiency as they could milk out of the naturally-aspirated system. Dual over-head cams actuate the 16 valves across the head, and the 11.4-to-1 compression ratio is warm enough to call for the premium-grade road champagne at the pump.

Thin cylinder liners help keep weight down, and vents in the crank journals allow air to move around freely in the crankcase to reduce pumping losses. Not only does the engine feel smooth winding up, but compression braking is also fairly comforting as it doesn’t put the “brakes” on too hard all at once, so even without a slipper clutch you can scrub speed rather aggressively with confidence.

All of the above gives us a lump that delivers a respectable 46 pound-feet of torque at 8,000 rpm backed up by 86 horsepower at a frenetic 11 grand. No, you won’t be hitting the track with those numbers, but it ain’t that kind of bike. A six-speed transmission and chain final drive send the power to the pavement, and the gearbox comes in a stacked configuration for better weight centralization.

Price

2015 - 2018 Honda CBR650F
- image 716685

You could score a base-model 2016 CBR650F in Matte Black Metallic/Candy Red or Matte Black Metallic for $8,499, and the ABS version for $8,999 in the same colors. Honda didn’t carry the CBR650F forward into 2017 for the U.S. market and price is TBD for 2018 as of this writing, but I expect it to be the same or a couple bills more.

Competitor

2015 - 2017 Yamaha FZ6R
- image 701834
2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 650
- image 698195

The 600-to-700 cc range can be a stepping-stone tier or a final destination, so the bikes need to be friendly yet powerful enough to not bore an experienced rider rigid. This large slice of the market has no shortage of natives vying for control. I’m going to go with some of the usual suspects and hit up Kawasaki for its Ninja 650 ABS, and Yamaha for the FZ6R.

The Ninja alone gets dual headlights set in its typically pointy front end while the other two run a cyclops lamp. From there, the Ninja maintains a more angular look that pushes the boundaries of what I find attractive, but hey, different streaks for different freaks, right?

Honda and Kawi both run 649 cc mills, but Kawi prefers a parallel-twin to the inline four, and Yamaha brings up the rear with a 600 cc lump in an inline-four configuration. The similarities are what one would expect; water-cooled, fuel-injected, electronic ignition is present across the board. Not an overwhelming display of electronic gadgetry either, just basic power generation. Honda scores in said power department with its 86 ponies and 46 pounds of grunt, where Yamaha trails a bit with 77/44 and Kawi claims a total of 71/48, which is surprising given the size difference over the Tuning Fork mill.

When we get to the checkout, Honda takes a bit of a hit with both the other bikes rolling for less cheddar. The Ninja can be had with ABS for $7,799, but Yamaha sends the FZ6R out with no ABS for the same price, yet both are less expensive than the $8,999 CBR with ABS (or $8,499 without). Gotta say that in a market that is so important and so closely contested, this price difference is going to hurt the Red Riders in the long run if the MY18 comes in much higher.

He Said

“More and more I’m finding Hondas that I like the looks of, even if it doesn’t take much work to find those characteristics that turn me off. This is definitely one of their better-looking products, and the feedback and ride is definitely what one would expect from Honda. Best of all, this could serve as an all-in-one first bike that won’t get terribly boring and be outgrown too quickly, if at all.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "I like this as a first bike or even a commuter. I think tall folks might want to look to the aftermarket for a windscreen with a little more coverage. I’d probably want to go for flush-mount turn signals since the stock turn signals just seem to interrupt the flow of the body panels and would look all-around more sleek."

Specifications

Engine Type Liquid-Cooled Inline Four-Cylinder
Displacement 649cc
Bore And Stroke 67mm x 46mm
Induction PGM-FI Programmed Automatic Enrichment Circuit, with 32mm Throttle Bodies
Ignition Digital transistorized with electronic advance
Compression Ratio 11.4:1
Valve Train DOHC; four valves per cylinder
Transmission Six-speed
Final Drive #525 O-ring chain
Front Suspension 41mm Fork; 4.3 inches travel
Rear Suspension Single shock with spring-preload adjustability; 5.0 inches travel
Front Brake Two-piston calipers with dual 320mm discs (ABS model w/ ABS)
Rear Brake Single-caliper 240mm disc (ABS model w/ ABS)
Front Tire 120/70ZR-17 radial
Rear Tire 180/55ZR-17 radial
Rake 25.3° (Caster Angle)
Trail 101.3mm (3.98 inches)
Wheelbase 57 inches
Seat Height 31.9 inches
Curb Weight 461 pounds (ABS model: 467 pounds)
Fuel Capacity 4.5 gallons
Emissions Meets current EPA standards. California version meets current CARB standards and may differ slightly due to emissions equipment.
Model ID: CBR650F (ABS: CBR650FA)
Available Colors
2015: Red, Candy Blue, Matte Black Metallic
2016: Matte Black Metallic/Candy Red
2018: Matte Black Metallic/Candy Red
Factory Warranty One Year, transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan.
Price
2015, 2016: $8,499 (ABS model: $8,999)
2018: TBD

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: powersports.honda.com, kawasaki.com, yamaha-motor.com

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