Revised in-line four supersport returns. Is it as desirable, though?
Since its initial launch in 2015, the honda cBR650F has been the go-to bike for anyone wanting an easy-to-ride, fully-faired, four-cylinder motorcycle, with a sporty look and comfortable riding position. the fact that being a honda, it is ultra-reliable is an added bonus. now, for 2018, the Japanese manufacturers have refreshed this motorcycle with a more aggressive front end, louder exhaust and new suspension components.
honda have done well to retain the instantly recognizable silhouette of the cBR650F, but have made several cosmetic changes to give the bike a fresh look. the headlight is now a lot more angular and fully leD, while the fairing has been shortened along the sides to provide a clear view of that excellent four-cylinder engine. the engine, too, gets a new look, courtesy those bronzed case-covers, similar to those on the 2017 Fireblade. i love the window on the right side that exposes the four gleaming exhaust headers as they neatly make their way to the under-slung exhaust. ultimately, the new cBR650F looks a lot more sharp and angular than the outgoing bike, while the matte black on our test bike gave it an air of understated elegance.
the front suspension is now showa’s Dual Bending Valve telescopic fork that adapts the compression damping to suit different surfaces and load conditions, while the rear suspension duties are handled by a seven-stage, preload-adjustable monoshock, mounted directly to the die-cast aluminium swingarm. the brakes feature new nissin two-piston calipers gripping a pair of 320-mm wavy rotors up front, with a smaller 240-mm disc doing duty at the rear.
having swung a leg over the bike and settled into the comfortable seat, i was immediately in familiar territory. the excellent riding position has been carried over from the outgoing bike, combining reasonably low-set foot-pegs and an easy reach to the clip-ons for what is probably the most comfortable full-faired motorcycle in our market. the dash has been carried over from last year’s bike and, although the twin-pod lcD unit displays info clearly in all but the brightest sunlight, it looks somewhat bland and dated; we would have loved to see a new, updated cockpit on this motorcycle. the engine spun to life with a quick dab of the starter, and i was immediately taken aback by the booming exhaust note. the old bike sounded quite subdued. it’s nice that the new exhaust not only looks different, but also sounds so much better in this 2018 version.
My ride started in the midst of Mumbai’s rushhour traffic and it took me less than five minutes to get completely comfortable with squeezing through gaps and splitting lanes on this bike. at 216 kilograms wet, this is not what you would call a light motorcycle, but once on the move, she hides her weight well and is extremely easy to manoeuvre through tight traffic. the engine makes usable torque from less than 3,000 rpm and feels extremely tractable, allowing one to make one’s way through the city at less than 30 km/h in fifth gear. there were no overheating issues even in bumper-to-bumper traffic and although i could hear the radiator fan spin up when stationary, it directed the warm air away from me. the six-speed gearbox is smooth and never missed a shift. it features shorter ratios to aid acceleration and make the most of the available torque. there is no ride-by-wire throttle, rider modes or traction control on offer, and these features were not missed due to the buttery-smooth, cableoperated throttle that flawlessly transferred my most subtle inputs to the rear wheel in a predictable and fuss-free manner.
When a stretch of clear road opened up before me, i grabbed a handful of throttle and was
immediately catapulted forward as the digital tacho headed for the 12,000-rpm rev limit. Power delivery is creamy-smooth, with no sudden surges or flat spots, allowing newer riders to get comfortable with the bike’s power without any unpleasant surprises in store for them.
in its current euro 4 state of tune, the liquid-cooled fourcylinder engine makes 86.5 Ps at 11,000 rpm, while the peak torque of 60.5 nm comes in at 8,500 rpm. these might not be earth-shattering figures, but be assured that the cBR650F is a seriously fast motorcycle, attaining triple-digit speeds effortlessly and with its top speed well in excess of 220 km/h. the commanding riding position is easy on the rider’s arms and wrists, and the sweet-handling chassis responds well to every nudge and steering input. the bike is easy to throw around and obediently goes where told; however, i have mixed feelings about the new front suspension. On the one hand, the showa Dual Bending Valve system keeps the front well-damped over a variety of surfaces, proving a suitable compromise between ride quality and handling, but, on the other, i did find that the fork would occasionally bottom out over unmarked speed-breakers and fork-dive in panic braking situations was a little too much for my taste.
another thing that bothered me was the lack of grip available from the stock Dunlops. the tyres on the bike i rode were less than halfway worn, but they were struggling to get the power down to the road. On anything less than perfect tarmac, the rear tyre would break traction without warning and start spinning the moment i twisted the throttle, making fast corner exits a scary proposition. the propensity to light up the rear at will might be appealing to some, but could end badly for a novice who suddenly finds the motorcycle going sideways under them as they are attempting an overtaking manoeuvre. We would love to see more confidence-inspiring rubber on this motorcycle in the near future.
honda have done a fine job with this 2018 refresh of their doit-all middleweight motorcycle. the ease of use and flexibility of this bike make it ideal for a broad spectrum of users and it will be as happy being your daily commuter as it will be hitting the canyons. as the only faired, four-cylinder motorcycle available in the entry-level premium bike segment, the cBR650F is bound to find takers; it is perfect for enthusiastic young riders who are graduating up from a smaller motorcycle and will also appeal to mature riders who want the faired, sporty feel at a reasonable cost, without having to contend with the cramped, hunched-over riding position of a modern race replica.
Honda have done a fine job with this 2018 refresh. This motorcycle will be as happy being your daily commuter as it will be hitting the canyons