Honda CBR 650F Test Drive & Review

So folks, this is my first bike review! Not too many photos though, let’s see how this goes… 😛

Well, the Honda CBR650F. The first thing that comes to mind is that either “expensive” or “inline 4″, or maybe both together! But why is it so you ask?! In my opinion and my opinion only, it’s the bike that India needs, not the bike that you want it to be right now! Cheesy opinion right? Hopefully the rest of my write up will explain why.

Let’s get this out there, I absolutely love this bike! It’s what I found in my Honda CBR250R as well and why I love it so much, the 650F takes it a leap forward. Let me explain.

At first sight, it’s beautiful to look at. Those sharp, angular lines, muscular build and the killer colour combinations (only the red and white colour scheme is available in India for now) are beautiful and give it tremendous presence on the road. The different colours available internationally are shown in the gallery all the way below. Not to forget the exhaust system gently flowing towards the right rear end of the bike with subtle exposure of the 4 pipes in-between the fairing. Will provide examples of all these visual cues in the gallery.

Now, the feels! It’s all about the feels, I tell you! I’ll begin with the cons so that you can appreciate even those later. The windscreen is the biggest fail IMO, it might as well not be there. Well, almost. Beyond 150 kph, it’s difficult to battle the wind blast. Me, being 5’10”, felt the wind blast from quite low down on my chest, which is extremely surprising considering that there’s a proper windscreen. Switch it out with an aftermarket double bubble windscreen and it should be way better.

Secondly, the engine, it’s too quiet for an inline 4. This however can be easily solved with an aftermarket exhaust. This is one of the most refined engines I’ve come across. That being said, it behaves a bit different while riding it. There is a bit of a buzz beyond 6,000 rpm but I didn’t mind it much, though a couple of my friends did. I feel this gives the rider a better sense of the bike itself (please read on to get a better idea of what that means).

Third, the initial throttle response is a bit jerky. Just at the very beginning when one just goes to open the throttle, it’s like an on/off switch. This takes a bit of getting used to and can only be countered by some clutch play. You will have no issues later on in the rev range.

Now for what I consider to be the pros of the bike. If you wish to have some fun on the bike, then sitting upright and opening the throttle feels quite unsettling. To really enjoy open roads on this bike, you need to lean forward, crouch down, grip the tank and tuck in, only then do you get the confidence of really having some fun with that sweet inline 4 engine! There’s oodles of gut wrenching power beyond 6,000 RPM!

The brakes are amazing! Even upon hard braking, I never managed to hit the ABS threshold where the ABS should kick in. The ABS should, however, kick in on much harsher conditions than was present on the test drive, say, wet roads and/or gravel, etc., where there may be loss of grip.

The ride quality is really sublime and cornering is a breeze once you’re in the crouched position. It soaks up all the bumps and will perform well as the sports tourer it’s meant to be. Sometimes though, you may find yourself scraping the exhaust’s underbelly on certain monster humps within the city from time to time.

Next comes the maintenance, which is surprisingly reasonable. The average cost for the smaller 250R is about INR 2,000/-, this is just another INR 1,000/- above, not including parts and accessories. Please note that one’s mileage may vary, but even with that, without any extra work/damage, INR 3,000-5,000/- should be the average service cost at the max. Even the mileage returned is in the range of ~22-24 kmpl within the city and it’s said to go all the way till 30 kmpl on the highway! That’s almost the same as my CBR250R right now!

All in all, if one was to start off on a ~600cc bike, this would be perfect for that, not that I recommend starting off on a ~600cc bike at all. It’s an extremely forgiving yet exciting motorcycle. The bike is uncomfortable to open the throttle (if you really wanna have some fun) on unless you’re properly prepped, ready and switch to, what I call, the “pro” mode by changing your riding stance on the bike. You can’t mess around on this bike even if you wanted to, it won’t let you! The power is mainly after 6,000-7,000 RPMs, it’s very smooth and gradual till then, no sudden power. It’s almost idiot proof, perfect for India in a way (you can take that in every sense of the sentence and you’d know it’s true!). These traits are very similar to it’s smaller sibling, Honda CBR250R, as well. Hence this bike should, ideally, appeal to all existing owners of the BabyBlade who love their current bike for what it is. This is not the bike that India wants, but it’s definitely the bike that India needs it to be right now!

P.S.: Please don’t compare this bike with the likes of any of the Kawasaki Ninja 650s (er6n, versys or the standard version) or the Z800, Street Triple or the Daytona, or for that matter any of the Benellis. Because it isn’t competing with any of them! This bike is in its own world and class where some of the others might fare better and most others won’t even come close. So please consider this bike only if you’re looking for what’s written above and nothing else. It’s a bloody good combo for a sports tourer and it’s definitely worth the price!

Big Thanks to Silicon Honda, Bangalore for arranging this test drive! You have a beautiful machine here but please get us more colours so that I can buy one!

Indranil Guha

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