Sometimes it doesn’t take much to boost the fortunes of a bike and the key to success can often be purely down to styling. Take Honda’s neo sports café range of bikes for example. Comprising of the CB125R, CB300R and CB1000R, they have all proved remarkably popular in their respective segments. The CB125R was even the second best-selling 125 in Europe last year, which is impressive considering how competitive that class is. This year Honda have decided to build on the CB-family success and for 2019 there will be a new CB in town – the CB650R.
The CB650R is effectively a CBR650R with different styling. But that is no bad thing as the fully faired CBR650R, which is also new this year, is an excellent machine. The clever part is that in previous years the naked version of Honda’s middleweight sportsbike has been, well, a bit bland. There was nothing that wrong with the outgoing CB650F, it just failed to stand out in the packed middleweight class where the likes of the Yamaha MT-07, Kawasaki Z650, Triumph Street Triple and even the Ducati Scramblers or Monster had more going for them in the minds of many a motorcyclist. The introduction of the CB650R has righted this wrong, as this new model is far from some shrinking violet…
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If you like the CB-look you will love the CB650R as it remains true to the simple, minimalist ethos that Honda have created. Short, squat and dark, the CB proudly shows off its side-swept exhausts (a nod to the legendary CB400F) while bronze engine covers, metallic panels and the bronzed inverted forks add a dash of visual interest. It’s a great looking bike and one that, thanks to sharing its major components with the CBR650R, also comes with a high specification that includes inverted forks, radial brakes, traction control, an LCD dash and new ten-spoke wheels. Visually it’s a winner and it also rides really well.
Where the CBR has clip-ons, the CB gets flat bars to suit its naked bike look. Moved 13mm further away from the rider and 8mm lower than on last year’s CB650F, they give an aggressive stance that is purposeful without being uncomfortable. It may look all mean, but with a low 810mm seat height (the seat is sculpted to make this feel even lower), the CB is actually about as friendly as it gets. In town, which is were a lot of CBs will live, the excellent gearbox and super-light clutch seamlessly combine to ease you through traffic while the CB’s low 202kg weight is nice and manageable for newer riders. Speaking of which, there is an A2-restrictor kit to take the CB’s 92.6bhp down to a legal 35kW if required, and that can easily be removed once you have gained your full licence. But in many ways it would be a shame to limit the CB to town riding as it is a cracking bike once outside of the city limits…
Thanks to its CBR-derived chassis, the CB is a remarkably good handling bike. It flows beautifully through the bends with its excellent Showa suspension delivering a plush ride. Honda’s classic Hornet used to surprise more than a few sportsbike riders thanks to its agile chassis and I could see the CB being just a sneaky! And the inline four motor also suits this kind of bike.
While lovely and smooth when you just want to chill-out, the fact the CB is powered by an inline four rather than a parallel twin means when the mood hits you can take it by the scruff of its neck and rev it like hell. In fact, Honda have even upped the rev limit by 1000rpm this year to encourage you to do so. In a middleweight class dominated by twins, this ability to really hammer a motor is a welcome delight and certainly adds to the CB’s overall appeal. Not that it needs much boosting of its appeal!
Where the CB650F was often overlooked, the CB650R is unlikely to remain in the shadows. This is a delightful naked from Honda with bags of spirit, great handling and a very cool look. And the price tag, which is £6999 (£89 a month on PCP) is not going to do it any harm when you consider its high specification.
Engine: 649cc liquid-cooled 16v DOHC inline four
Power: 92.6bhp @ 12,000rpm
Torque: 47.2lb.ft @ 8500rpm
Claimed economy: 56mpg