Chip off its shoul­der

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Two Wheels - CRAIG DUFF

RE­TURN­ING rid­ers have cre­ated a niche for mid­dleweight ma­chines that aren’t en­cum­bered by en­gine chips that limit per­for­mance to learner level.

They don’t want the ride po­si­tion or rock-hard sus­pen­sion of a sports bike ei­ther but they ap­pre­ci­ate lean an­gles enough not to want a dual-pur­pose ma­chine.

Honda now has three ma­chines fit­ting that bill, from the top-shelf VFR800R to the cheaper CB650F naked bike and its CBR650F faired sib­ling.

At $10,599 be­fore on-roads, the CBR650F is a gen­uine all­rounder. Com­pro­mises have been made com­pared to race ver­sions with the CBR plate — ABS is the only elec­tronic aid.

What it lacks in terms of the lat­est tech it more than atones for by hav­ing the chas­sis/ sus­pen­sion setup to roll over rip­pled cor­ru­ga­tions at 40km/h with­out up­set­ting the line or rider. It then pro­gres­sively weights up in re­sponse to more ag­gres­sive cor­ner­ing.

With this com­bi­na­tion, the bike is aimed at rid­ers who want an even-tem­pered steed ca­pa­ble of han­dling the Mon­day-to-Fri­day grind then get­ting to grips with a favourite sec­tion of tar­mac on the week­ends.

This is an en­gag­ing bike that can quickly get your at­ten­tion and if it can’t stay with a 600cc su­pers­port in a straight line, it won’t dis­grace it­self through the bends.

The en­gine par­tic­i­pates in the game by be­ing hugely lin­ear: tractable and with lit­tle throt­tle snatch from 3000rpm be­fore open­ing up at about 8000rpm to en­gage eye­browrais­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion.

In com­mon with most of Honda’s small and mid­dleweight fleet, it is built in Thai­land but you won’t know it from the typ­i­cally high build qual­ity. The fake car­bon-fi­bre pan­els around the LCD in­stru­ments and the fair­ing show great de­tail and the gaps are con­sis­tent across the ma­chine.

The clip-on han­dle­bars look sporty with­out un­duly load­ing Ac­cept the fact that the Honda en­gi­neers can set up the sus­pen­sion bet­ter than most rid­ers and the CBR650F makes an ideal com­pan­ion for those pre­pared to sac­ri­fice out­right track speed for real-world ride­abil­ity.

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