Honda CBR650F review: Fuck you again Honda

By | October 31, 2015

Here’s my first video review, and it’s the CBR650F!

First things first, I don’t think this is a decent enough review. I got to ride the bike for barely 10 kilometers, in shitty traffic, with a pillion behind me. I don’t think a review can be real enough unless you ride the bike for at least one service interval, 6000 kms in the case of CBR650F, but then we all know that shit ain’t going to happen.

Or it may, if my plans don’t backfire. 

It’s common knowledge that I wasn’t impressed by the way Honda launched this bike, or the way they priced it, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying what is a brilliant piece of Japanese engineering. Honda CBR650F is a unique machine in the Indian market, one of the very few fast bikes that is comfortable, not only for the rider but the pillion too.

One important thing that you must understand is that nobody is unbiased, every review that you see anywhere will be based completely on that person’s past experiences. I ride a Duke 390, so whatever comparisons I make will by default be against the bike that I’m used to. A dude coming from an S1000RR might find the CBR650F slow, while someone else coming from a CD100 might find it impossibly quick. Keep that in mind.

Here are the positives and negatives that I found in this bike. You can find plenty of user reviews on Team-bhp too, but this is my personal take.

CBR650F review: Positives

1. Manageability

For me, the best part about the CBR650F is how domesticated it is. It’s an inline-4, with 87 horses and 63 Nm, so you might expect it to bite your ass at the slightest twitch of the throttle. What happens though is the complete opposite, no matter how stupid you are with the gas, this thing still loves you.

The dimensions aren’t too big either, the bike doesn’t feel too big or unwieldy. The brakes are brilliant with ABS as standard. The clutch is light, shifts are smooth, and the tires are very forgiving.

The CBR650F is so confidence inspiring, I won’t mind recommending it to a beginner. 

And the confidence comes mainly from the power delivery, that crazy smooth way this machine climbs up the revs. No matter what gear, no matter what speed, you twist the throttle, you move forward in a beautifully predictable way, something that you don’t really expect from an 8 lac+ machine.

2. Looks

The front of the bike doesn’t look too good to me, it’s rather bland and puny. The ass though, is pretty sweet. Saying that CBR650F is a fully-faired machine is kind of a lie though, that fiber cover is a weird mashup between a bikini fairing and a full one, but you do get to see those 4 glorious golden exhaust pipes just below the engine.

I would give the CBR650F 6/10 in the looks department, and that’s awesome. This bike is supposed to be a tourer, and tourer’s never sit safely in the garage, tourers find themselves parked by the side of the pavement, or outside the gate, or in front of a shitty dhaba.

With the looks that the CBR has, rarely anybody would fuck with it, and that’s a huge bonus for a country like India, where random people come and ejaculate on your headlight in the middle of the night.

3. Service costs

This is something unique to the CBR650F, reasonable service costs. Most 650cc+ machines enjoy premium TLC moolah, and that can be a big problem. Kawasaki is known to charge exorbitantly for its labor and parts, sometimes 500 bucks for a fucking bolt. Honda promises the regular service costs will be under 4000, with a healthy but not too exciting service interval of 6000 kms.

However, we still don’t know how much replacement parts will cost, for example chain sets or brake pads or fairing and shit. As the ownership reviews mount up, that part will get clearer too. But for now, the CBR promises to be the most easy to maintain “big” bike.

4. Service network

Thanks to its massive reach in the commuter segment, Honda has a good service network across the nation. However, not all Honda outlets will be able to handle the 650, but I’m sure it’ll be easier for Honda to upgrade some of their facilities as compared to Triumph which had to start from scratch.

In Hyderabad, you can get the bike serviced at 2 places, which isn’t too bad. I’m sure in Bangalore and other biker-dominated areas this number would be much higher.

What Honda is doing with the CBR is creating a separate bay alongside the regular service area to take care of the big machine. The one where I went had a nice space for the owner to sit in, and also TV and shit. I still doubt that every such bay will have a dedicated service engineer though, they’ll mostly just keep 1 and send him to different areas on different days.

5. Comfort

This bike has that rare combo of being more than fast enough, while still being pretty comfy. The single seat may not look too sexy, but it’s so easy on the butt, while also leaving plenty of space for the pillion to wiggle on. The handlebars are in a sport-biased position, but not all-out sporty like a Daytona. The footpegs are also in a pseudo-aggressive set, without being too taxing on your body.

The fuel tank is meaty, which gives you lots of space to grip with your knees. I was surprised to see that the bike comes by default with 2 grip panels on the sides of the tank, which prevent scratches and help you hold the bike like a bitch.

The fuel tank capacity though is OKish at 17 liters, which should translate to a range of about 350 kms on full tank, which is not bad at all.

Overall, there’s nothing you could’ve asked for more from a tourer, apart from maybe better suspension. Not only are the front shocks a bit on the firmer side, they are not adjustable either. The rear one is adjustable though, so I guess it won’t be too bad on bad roads afterall.

CBR650F review: Negatives

1. Cost

And this is why that “Fuck you again Honda” part is there in the title, the pricing of this bike is downright stupid. For a guy like me, everything is perfect. It’s not an intimidating machine, it’s fast enough, it looks good enough, and sounds good enough, but I still can’t even think of ever owning one.

Not only can I not afford an 8+ lac machine, but even if I could, why won’t I go for something far better in that money? Z800 is far more powerful, looks better, and comes with so many more bells and whistles. Ducati Monster has more exotic appeal, Ducati Scrambler has far better off-roading capabilities. The list just goes on and on.

By pricing the bike at that idiotic level, Honda have made the buyer’s decision so much more complicated. The about to launch Kawasaki Versys 650 is expected to be priced below 7, on road. It most likely will have ABS, will be much more comfy, and more or less as quick as the CBR.

Yes the bike is unique, but you can’t ask for a premium just because there’s nobody exactly like you.

2. Shitty instrument cluster

It’s quite surprising just how bad the instrument cluster is on the CBR650F, it looks borrowed from Honda Shine or something. I used to think that Kawasaki Ninja 650 had the worst one out there in the premium segment, but Honda has gone even deeper.

You barely get anything, I just noticed the speed. If there is something else, it’s either illegible, or useless. The digital tachometer is extremely stupid, and doesn’t, at all, fuel any excitement that it should. The speed is quite big and prominent though, which is a good thing.

You get a clock and fuel gauge and trip meters, and that’s about the end of the list. You don’t even get a temperature gauge, just a lamp to warn you that the engine might explode sometime soon.

The worst part is that the cluster feels more or less like an afterthought, like they made the complete bike, tested it, were about to ship the production pieces out and then someone noticed the fucking consoles were missing, so they just pulled some from the R&D garbage and voila.

3. The little weird things

As expected, I didn’t do much cornering on the bike, but I did notice that if I had, it’d have been rather easy to brush those fat fucking footpegs. I’m not really sure what’s going on there, but the footpegs on the CBR650F are like Dayton’s footpegs that got cancer.

In many international reviews, I’ve seen the testers complain about how easy it is to scrape the footpeg and even the underbelly of this machine on tight turns. That is weird, especially considering this bike is supposed to be kind of an all rounder.

I also noticed that the right side of the engine case protrudes really far out, so much so that when you put your right foot down, it’s rather easy to brush your leg against that thing. Although it’s not recommended to ride ANY big in chaddi, but with the CBR it’s completely out of the question.

I also noticed that the clutch wire is completely exposed near the engine side! I guess that’s the way it is on most big bikes, but that looks kinda stupid, especially considering most small bikes have that part covered with that small wavy piece of rubber. The argument can be made that leaving it open makes it easier to see for any degradation, although leaving it open does mean that far more degradation will occur over a given period of time.

The position of the handlebars is also a spot of bother for me. Most bikes with clip-ons aren’t really comfortable in super-tight low-speed corners, but with the CBR650F, your hand very easily hits the tank, restricting your movement that tiny bit. I think you’ll get used to this quirk with time, but it’ll always be there.

Also, there’s this thin gear shift rod just above the shifter on the left side, and that really scares me, but it looks super easy to break. One fall on the left side, and you’ll most likely be left with 1 gear only. I don’t know how it’ll perform in the real world, but superficially it’s kinda like Benelli 1130’s radiator, an important component at a weak spot.

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So that’s it! It’s kinda surprising how much stuff you can say about a bike, even when you spend barely 20 minutes with it. Like I’ve said in the beginning, this is a shitty review, so don’t take my word for it. If you like this bike, go take a test ride, ask an owner, make an opinion and then make a decision.

Try everything before you buy anything.

  • Bubba Blue

    Nobody else seems to like it.

  • David Legan

    Maybe a little less profanity? I’m no prude, and when profanity makes your point, I’m ok with it. Your does not.

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Point taken.

  • Adrian Brandon Rynjah

    Would really like a naked version of this.

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Should be fun, cheaper, scarier.

  • sandeep edara

    Hey Akhil,

    I remember your post where in you had said the perfect kind of adv. bike not too heavy/bulky like a GS, should have just enough power, be considerably light.. what do have to say about the Benelli Trek 502 which was showcased in EICMA.. do you think Benelli has addressed this ?

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Yes they have, but I really doubt it’ll see India 🙁

  • Rahul Sen

    Ha ha….
    Dude , are you prepared for your “Legal Notice” from Honda now? 😛

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Completely 🙂

  • Kumar

    Hey, nice review brother. How about a comparison with the Ninja 650 or other tourers?

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Not sure man, I think it’s a problem with my website’s time zone, but who gives a shit 🙂

      650F is better than the Ninja as far as the pull and ABS and brakes go. Looks wise Ninja is better, and also for mileage. The cost is where Ninja wins hands down.

      • Ansuman Baliarsingh

        But Akhil I went to see the Ninja and they have no ABS, the rear tire is 160 and its not an in-L4 engine. But ya the pricing of this is way too much. should have be 7 instead of 8.5