Honda’s CBR650F offers a more practical and affordable four-cylinder middleweight sportbike alternative to today’s track-focused 600cc supersports. The 650F wraps race-inspired styling around a far more relaxed riding position than that of a contemporary supersport, and its DOHC liquid-cooled inline-four engine is tuned for very linear, easy-to-manage power delivery as well.
Best of all, this all-new model carries an $8,499 MSRP (an ABS model sells for $500 more), which is about three grand less than a CBR600RR.
The user-friendly 650F houses an entirely new engine in an all-new steel perimeter frame. Cost-saving measures are evident in the conventional 41mm non-adjustable fork and shock, which features an easy-to-use ramped spring preload adjuster. Even the twin-piston front brake calipers on this new Honda are of the single-action, pin-slide variety found on many other bargain bikes.
Don’t allow any of this to put you off. If back-road sport riding is in your playbook, the 650F delivers accessible corner-carving performance. Chassis balance and handling stability are superb, the 650F blending neutral steering and taut suspension with excellent bump compliance. The brakes provide all the power you need in panic stops or charging the corners of a twisty road.
Clutch pull is uncannily light, which complements a slick six-speed gearbox. Engine vibration remains subdued at lower revs, only becoming a bit buzzy in the bars above 7,000 rpm. Under normal riding conditions, there really is no need to spin this engine above 7,000 rpm thanks to its generous spread of torque.
I found riding this new CBR to be reminiscent of Honda's CBR600F4 of a decade ago, harking back to a time when broad-focused supersports won races and the hearts of everyday riders. Interestingly, I pulled up a dyno chart of the Cycle World Ten Best-winning F4 and discovered the 650F produces upward of 10 pound-feet more torque across the bottom half of the rev range. It deserves at least an honorable mention!
While championship-winning CBRs of yore might not have been regarded as entry-level bikes in their day, the new CBR650F, by modern standards, represents a viable choice for riders of varying ability. It’s a testament to this Honda’s uncanny refinement, rideability, and performance value.