Honda CBR650F

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

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