The new Honda CB650F, whatever you do, don't think it is related to the Honda Hornet (CB600F). No, the Honda CB650F is a brand new motorcycle that is designed by a completely new design team that fuses elements of the discontinued Honda CB600F Hornet, the spottily-practical CBR600F and even the CB500, and gives unprecedented middleweight experiences. The Honda CB650F is a motorcycle that is got the aggressive streetfighter image and is great to be seen riding, but is accessible, usable, and an ideal first step into four-cylinder big-bike motorcycling...
At least that's what Honda want us to believe. However, while the Honda CB650F was sketched out by trendy, youngful hipsters in ill-fitting strides, the senior project managers are all long-serving Honda stalwarts.. The Honda CB650F's project leader, Yoshijuki Kurayoshi, had a hand in the original Honda CB400RR, the first Honda Fireblade and the VFR750 and VFT800. The head of testing worked on the Honda RC45, CBR600RR and CBR1000RR and the super special NSR500 and RC211V.
Not, scuttling across the roads just outside Bangkok. I've not ridden a Honda CB650F before, and yet it feels like I have. It's instantly familiar and encouraging, and immediately reconcilable as a Honda.
And on unknown roads this is good thing. It sounds like a cliche, and probably is, but the Honda CB650F is heady with the scent of Big Honda usability. The cable clutch is light, the throttle and fueling are predictable and very smooth, controls and handling have a reassuring and supportive feel. The Honda CB650F has quite an up-to-its-toes stance, looking high at the rear and with fairly forward seating, and it doesn't quite have the sucked-down low-speed balance of an Honda NC700 or the Honda CB600F Hornet. However, at low speed the Honda CB650F handling is as difficult as remembering to blink. Ungainly it isn't, and it stay accurate and eager at speed, flipping and tipping readily with positive connection at the traditionally-shaped handlebars – you feel a confidence-boosting front-end weigh bias. There's never a whiff or instability.
Honda are the masters of suspension at the less exotic end of the market, models like the Honda CBF always being noticeable superior to similarly-priced rivals. So it continues with the Honda CB650F. There's a [;easing blend of control and comfort and little sensation of 'budget' from the unadjustable front forks and linkage-free rear shock. Nissin brakes have smart machined logos, ample power and ABS as standard.
While the ride height gives a sporty edge and aggressive poise, you don't teeter on the Honda CB650F. The steel tube frame is narrow at its middle and the seat is nipped in at the front, allowing limbs to dangle freely. There are other practical niceties as well, such as an ample pillion grab-strap and molded-in handles, bungee points, and a dash carrying fuel data. However, there are a couple of omissions too, such as a gear position indicator. And though the seat is well-padded and comfortable, it's not the longest and it's a bit scooped-out, occasionally feeling a bit short of buttock placement options.
The saddle also passes on a few vibes. Cruising around you don't notice anything, but work the engine a bit hard, keep revs up near 7,000 rpm, and your cheeks detect high-frequency tingles. They're not the only parts: subtle buzzing comes through the handlebars, levers and footpegs, and mirrors that are absolutely useless at 100km/h to top. Chunky weights on the underside of the pegs show vibes must have been more obvious during development.
These small tingles are the only slight negative with the new Honda CB650F engine. Declared as 'all new' but derived from the previous Honda CBR600 models, the good-looking engine pulls without a hint of huffiness from 50km/h in top gear, thanks to long intake tracts, small-bore throttles and virtually no valve overlap. It's happiest dispensing smooth thrust in the midrange, attacking never-ending sequences of twisty roads with flexible third-gear drive, yet hand onto the throttle and there's a taste of four-cylinder top-end sparkle as well. The Honda CB640F hasn't the instant twin-cylinder punch of the latest Yamaha MT-07 or the zinging three-cylinder power of a Italian or British made 650cc class triple, but equally doesn't feel lacking in either; It's utterly usable and adaptable.