2014 Honda CBR650F — Honda’s Midweight Contender
Honda adds a egalitarian sports tourer to their range just in time for summer. But does it have the goods?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Hondas. Starting with my beloved 1995 Honda Accord, this obsession with Japanese design and reliability continued right through until it was time to make the jump from the 200-something cc bikes that I had been learning on to my first “Big Bike”.
Whilst I’ve always loved the look and idea of the Fireblade range, the idea of riding around Melbourne’s busy city streets with my knees constantly beside my elbows and having to feather the accelerator for fear of ending up in the boot of the nearest taxi steered me away from choosing one of the well-known RR sports bikes and look at something that would saddle the divide between the inherent sexiness of the sports bikes and the utilitarian tourers like the VFR range.
Lucky for me (and my wallet), Honda had just introduced the new 2014 Honda CBR650F sports tourer into their already fantastic range of bikes. Whilst the CBRF may look like the lovechild of the VFR800 and the CBR600RR (and may lead some to assume that it’s just a repackaged offering with a new fairing designed to hide old technology under a shiny new skin), it is a completely new model, designed from the ground up.
From the outside, the new 2014 Honda CBR650F looks great. Like the greats of Hollywood on the red carpet wearing dresses that leave little to the imagination, the CBR650F’s minimalist fairing shows off plenty of engine without giving too much away. The riding position is a little more upright than the traditional sports bikes and allows for long rides without too much strain on the back but still provides a more sporty position for those tight corners and windy mountain roads. The seat is firm but not overly uncomfortable and the pegs are easy to reach.
With two digital readout displays, the CBR650F provides easy to read information without having to adjust your head position too much. The digital display provides odometer, speed, average fuel consumption and tacho on softly backlit screens. One component that the CBR650F sadly misses out on is a gear indicator — a pity given the plethora of information available to the rider.
The 2014 Honda CBR650F runs a liquid cooled 649cc inline four engine like the CBR600RR — an interesting choice given the preference of similar brands for parallel twins. With an advertised output of 86 horsepower at 11,000 rpm and 63 Nm of torque at 8,000 rpm, the CBR650F’s DOHC 16 valve direct cam engine with PGM fuel injection provides plenty of power whilst providing a more civilised ride than its screaming race bike cousins.
With a steel diamond frame and a single seven stage adjustable preload monoshock swing arm, the CBR650F continues Honda’s mass-centralisation philosophy that places the majority of the bike’s weight low and in the middle to improve riding and handling in the corners. The bike features clip on bars above a 41mm telescopic fork.
Now, whilst riding motorcycles comes with its own inherent risks (a fact that is constantly drilled into me by an overly concerned mother of mine) so I tend to steer towards motorcycles with superior safety characteristics. The Honda CBR650F, thankfully, ticks this box with dual ventilated front discs with twin pistons up front and a single piston ventilated disc at the rear, reinforced by ABS which is fitted as standard.
How it rides
Let me start by saying that I’m no fair-weather rider. I’ll be the first to admit that when other riders tell me that the moment they see a cloud in the sky they quickly lock the bike up in the garage and snuggle up under the blanket my eyes start their long journey towards the horizon as I scoff at their overly safe riding habits.
That being said, I’m no boy-racer either. I see the rice rockets and their quasi-suicidal/organ donor riders scream by on their high powered litre bikes and my back quickly starts aching at the very thought of being squished into the crouched over riding position that is the hallmark of the top racing bikes.
I’m more of the type of rider that would as soon use his bike to dawdle down to the shops to pick up the milk (must remember to bring the backpack) as I would to go for a ride through the notorious twisties that have made the Black Spur so famous (or infamous) amongst the riding population.
Luckily for me, the 2014 Honda CBR650F is a jack of all trades, master of none. As mentioned before, the seating position allows for both a relaxed ride down the peninsula whilst taking in the sights (although, with the shocking Melbourne weather as of late, the normally stunning bay views have been somewhat muted by the grey soup that has stood in for our Spring) as well as a slightly more sporty position for taking in the faster routes, one corner at a time.
There’s certainly no doubt that the bike looks the part. The fairings contribute to the sport bike heritage of the CBR650F whilst showing off the Honda engineering underneath. The design saddles the divide between the show-all nature of the naked class and the sleek, aerodynamic nature of the sports bike family. The paint is of a very high quality with beautiful matte black areas complimenting the pearlescent sections (available in a variety of colours including white, black and tri-colour).
The engine is an interesting beast on its own. It’s well known that Hondas, whilst reliable and well-engineered, require plenty of throttle to get the best out of the engine. Right from the original famous CBR250RR “mosquito on steroids”, this trend has continued with the new CBR650F. Optimal power band is between 6,000–8,000 rpm which is, well, fine except when I took the bike into city traffic. Low down power was adequate for navigating the traffic of Melbourne (and the unique driving styles of some of Melbourne’s taxi ranks — any rider will understand what I mean here) but when power was required, it came on a little suddenly as soon as the power band was hit, leaving me jumping on the clutch and brakes to rein my mount back in.
The CBR650F handles the corners well — certainly not with the poise and finesse that the pure bred sports bikes do — and is a decent mount for longer rides. Around town, the Honda is easy to manoeuver. At 211kg dry it’s no light weight but it’s relatively easy to move around (if your parking is anything like mine). Power comes on gradually (until you hit that power band) and provides plenty of useable down low range for city traffic and day to day riding whilst holding enough in reserve for some fun weekend riding around the mountain ranges.
With a retail price of approximately $10,599 (plus ORC), the 2014 Honda CBR650F isn’t the cheapest option but does represent some serious value for money. That being said, there are some very capable alternatives available to anyone considering this as their next bike.
· Yamaha FZ6R — an older model but well established in the mid-weight sport tourer bracket. The FZR comes with a transverse DOHC 4 cylinder engine which produces a respectable 51.6 Nm of torque — lower than the Honda and without the race stance. These can be found for around $8,999 ride away, or cheaper if you don’t mind buying second hand.
· Kawasaki Ninja 650L (ABS) — comes in an update 2016 model which retails for approx. $9,999. This has a more relaxed seating position and comes with higher bars than the Honda. The engine (a more conventional parallel twin which produces a lower 56 Nm of torque) isn’t as punchy as the Honda but doesn’t have the same race-bred heritage.
· Suzuki GSX650F — definitely more of a touring bike than the Honda, the GSX comes with a much more relaxed riding position which may detract somewhat from the twisties — if that’s your thing. This bike comes with an inline DOHC 4 cylinder engine with 61.5 Nm of torque. New, the GSX650F retails from approximately $9,990 ride-away.
I can’t put my hand on my heart and say it’s the most exciting bike out there but then again, when you’re looking for a bike that not only works as a daily ride down to the shops and back, or to and from work, but also has a respectable amount of power for those enticing weekend mountain rides, you have to make concessions.
That being said, the Honda represents value for money, useable low down power for daily riding, a mid-sports bike stance, gorgeous looks, great handling and commendable safety features packaged into one model. The price may be a little more than the competition but, like all Hondas, you get what you pay for.
I’ve had my CBR650F for around a year now and have enjoyed every minute on it. I’ve taken it on long rides down the peninsula, taking in the sun and the sights of the bay whilst feeling the wind rushing past on my face as well as muscled it through the busy Melbourne traffic, avoiding the gridlock and impending death at the hands (and wheels) of the notorious taxi driver ranks, and always come home safely.
Yes, the engine may have its own inherent quibbles and the price leaves something to be desired but there’s no doubt that the CBR650F continues the Honda brand’s history of reliability and efficiency. It’s a bike that is at home on the city streets as it is on the highways and corners and, in the end, it left a smile on my face.
And that’s all you can really ask for, isn’t it?
649cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke 16-valve DOHC inline 4
Bore & Stroke
67 x 46mm
PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
2,110mm x 755mm x 1,145mm
41mm conventional telescopic fork with 108mm travel
Monoshock damper with adjustable preload, 128mm travel
Dual hydraulic disc with dual-piston callipers and sintered metal pads, 2 channel ABS
240 x 5mm hydraulic disc with single piston calliper and resin mould pads, 2 channel ABS
(Specifications sourced from honda.com.au)