2018 Honda CB650F First Ride Review

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Tuesday I wrote about the CBR650F; today it’s the new 2018 CB650F. It loses an “R,” its fairing and clip-on handlebars – and gains a nice aluminum handlebar and abbreviated bodywork to make it a naked bike. The end!

No, wait, there’s more. The other thing it gained was admission to the USA. Honda’s been selling it in other markets for a couple years now, where the F must’ve been popular enough for American Honda to take a chance on bringing it over here.

As you know, we MOites are huge fans of the more upright, standard bike ergonomics that result from putting a nice, easy-to-grab  handlebar onto what used to be a bent-over crotch rocket, but in this case the donorcycle CBR650F really isn’t that bent-over to begin with – just slightly so – so the choice between CBR and CB isn’t that big a jump.

Cool wheels, wave-type brake rotors, and that CB400F-inspired four-into-one stainless pipe – the new F presses my aesthetic buttons.

Most of the time I got to spend riding the CBR and CB back to back was on mountain roads high above Los Angeles, and for attacking fast curves, the CBR’s slightly more committed, lower-bar riding position provides superior front-end communication and greater accuracy, since it puts a bit more of your weight on the front contact patch. Having said that, the CB is right on its heels.

Alas, it was in the 50s up there last week, and the wind was whipping right through my perforated Dainese jacket. It was a little chilly on the CB; the CBR’s small-but-effective sport fairing was just right that day, both for warmth and for keeping my bloated torso from being blown around and making it more difficult to stay on course at higher speeds.

All roads and rivers drain to the sea, though, and by the time we got back down to Glendale and temps pushing 90, it was then time to wangle the key to a CB. For squirting around town at lower speeds and weaseling through traffic, it takes the upper hand.

The CB has all the same upgrades as the CBR: a bit more punch in the lower part of the rev band thanks to airbox revisions and a new, throatier exhaust, along with shorter gearing in the lower gears for quicker acceleration. The 649cc descendant of the original Hurricane isn’t exactly a fire breather, but the 76.7 rear-wheel horses our last CBR650 made a few years ago is enough for sporty fun in the light, nimble CB.

LED lights, tail and head. Rear spring preload is the only suspension adjustment. My 170-pound payload needed none extra.

The CBR is a tad more planted at higher speeds, but the CB and its new Showa Dual Bending Valve fork up front will be hard to beat for zipping around town and commuting. If the new CBR650F reminded me of the old CBR600F2/F3/F4 while I was riding it down the Angeles Crest, the new 650F reminds me of the CB500F, albeit a much faster, smoother one with better suspension – and that’s not a bad thing at all. We love that little bike, and in fact in our test of it wrote, “Any manufacturer wishing to build a “standard” motorcycle should take their measurements from this one.”

Just like the 500F and the CB1000F, the 650 serves up completely transparent, comfortable ergonomics and a great seat that invites you to sit there all day. Well, maybe not all day, but plenty long enough to get where you’re going. Our scales have the 500F at 414 pounds, and Honda says the CB650F weighs 454 all gassed up; that’s 11 pounds lighter than what it claims for the CBR650F. With the wider, higher handlebar, sit-up ergos and no fairing out front, it almost feels more on scale with the 500.

There’s really nothing not to like except the price tag, depending on the depth of your pockets: $8,249, and $8,749 if you want ABS (you do). That’s $500 less than the faired CBR650F, but just like we moaned Tuesday, still right there with some bigger, more powerful new nakeds like the new Kawasaki Z900 and Suzuki GSX-S750 – a pair of bikes which pack quite a bit more punch along with the same kind of user-friendliness as the CB650F.

This is a perfectly nice mid-size practical sportbike, but for this kind of dough, practical doesn’t quite get it. As one commenter inquired after the CBR650F review, what would be so wrong with taking the 782cc V-Four from the last Interceptor (still listed as a 2015 model on Honda’s site for $10,799), and slapping that into a sweet, rumbly, midsize naked bike? Yeah the sticker price would have to be bumping against $10K, but if we’re already at $8K anyway… as they say in the advertising biz, we’d like a little sizzle with our steak.

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2018 Honda CB650F
+ Highs

  • Sweet looks, nice detailing
  • Outstanding ergos for everyday running around
  • Great, supple suspension
– Sighs

  • 77 hp is nice, but…
  • I miss my `86 VF500F
  • The rent is still too damn high

(motorcycle.com, https://goo.gl/nB9oFn)

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