- Inline-four engine unique to the class
- Stable chassis matched with smooth power delivery
- Honda fit and finish
- The competition is getting stiffer each year
- Limited technology
- MSRP inching closer to the $10,000 mark
Honda has proven time and time again its ability to build practical, well-handling standard bikes that hit all the right marks, and the CB650R is no exception. Here is a bike that might not offer all the canyon-carving performance that some of its competitors might, but deserves praise for its well-rounded build sheet. The only thing going against the CB650R is the small price gap between it and its very capable competition.
Inline four-cylinder engines have been a staple of Honda’s lineup since the 750 Four debuted in 1969. Fast-forward 50 years to 2019, when Honda’s CBR650F and CB650F middleweights were heavily revised and given the R suffix to better match the bike’s sporty performance. The outgoing streetfighter-styled CB650F was replaced with a freshly designed naked middleweight that now represents what Honda calls its Neo-Sports Café segment. This new styling, reminiscent of the late ‘90s/early ‘00s Hornet/Honda 599, is seen in today’s CB650R, modernized with blacked-out paint and burnished bronze detailing.
Today, the CB continues to bring the classic high-revving spirit of its flamboyant predecessors with its liquid-cooled 649cc mill. The CB650R claims a unique spot in today’s current middleweight class as being one of the only 650cc bikes equipped with an inline-four engine, unless your definition of “middleweight” includes the GSX-S750 or Z900.
The midsize CB makes for an appropriate step up from beginner bikes or a reintroduction to riding. Its engine, comfortable ergos, solid braking performance, and top-quality receive top grades that, for those interested, may outweigh the somewhat unbalanced suspension and high price.
Updates for 2023
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The 2023 CB650R is unchanged for 2023 hold for a $100 price increase and move to Matte Grey Metallic paint (versus Matte Black Metallic). Keen observers will notice a few more small differences, like the red shock spring which replaces last year’s yellow spring.
The last major update for the CB650R was in 2021.
Pricing and Variants
The CB650R is available in just one trim, for $9,399.
No shortage of options in the middleweight naked-bike category, with every manufacturer offering something a little different. Intended use and experience will play a big role in finding the right bike, and the Honda CB650R slots itself somewhere in the middle of the competition.
Main contenders in this space include the Triumph Trident 660 ($8,595), Yamaha MT-07 ($8,199), Suzuki SV650 ($7,399), and Kawasaki Z650 ($7,749). Those in search of top-tier performance might look at the Aprilia Tuono 660 ($10,699) or Aprilia Tuono 660 Factory ($10,999).
Keep in mind that larger-displacement naked bikes aren’t far from the CB650R. Triumph’s Street Triple R ($9,995) and Street Triple RS ($12,595) might be considered, as well as Yamaha’s MT-09 ($9,799) and Öhlins-equipped MT-09 SP ($11,499). Twin-cylinder options include the Suzuki GSX-8S ($8,849), KTM’s 790 Duke ($9,199) and 890 Duke R ($12,949), plus Ducati’s Monster Plus ($12,995) and up-spec Monster SP ($15,595).
Powertrain: Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The twin-spar frame houses the same powerplant seen in the CBR650R, a liquid-cooled DOHC 649cc inline-four. The CB’s engine is tuned for high rpm, as is evident in its peak power figures and real-world character. As seen in Cycle World’s dyno test, its peak 81.9 hp is achieved at 10,870 rpm and its 42.97 lb.-ft. of torque at 7,960 rpm. At 7,000 rpm there is some vibration present; push it past 8,000 and the vibration diminishes. In any case, the ride is an exciting one. In a recent review, we noted that “aggressive riders will be entertained by the opportunity to push it to high rpm and draw out more of its raucous energy, but the linear way the power is delivered means the bike is also accessible to riders climbing the displacement ranks.”
A twist of the throttle rewards riders with crisp throttle response and addictive intake and exhaust sounds. Twin air ducts on either side of the fuel tank direct air into the airbox to produce a great growl; a large 1.5-inch bore tailpipe trumpets sound out of the exhaust.
In 2021 Honda swapped the CB’s Showa Separate Function fork for a Showa Separate Function Fork Big Piston. This fork carries over into the 2023 model year and gives the middleweight CB a sporty and firm ride quality. This stiffness helps the bike track into turns, but harsh bumps have their say.
On the other end, the Showa shock does a better job absorbing roughed-up roads, though rebound and compression adjustability would help balance out the ride. The bike’s 445 pounds is carried well, which is nice when hitting snaking turns.
Stopping is handled by Nissin calipers at both ends. The dual radial-mounted four-piston units at the front work particularly well with the two floating 310mm discs; braking is responsive and managed with an easy one-finger pull at the lever. The rear’s single-piston caliper grabs hold of a 240mm disc. Coming to a stop is uncomplicated, as it should be.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
During Cycle World’s time on the bike, we averaged 47 mpg.
Ergonomics: Comfort and Utility
The CB’s handlebar was canted forward as part of the MY21 changes and the reach there is comfortable, whereas the pulled-back peg position makes the full rider triangle somewhat sporty. Honda managed to keep the bike fairly narrow, which is impressive considering there is an inline-four engine there.
The 32-inch seat height is reasonably approachable, especially considering that Honda’s beginner-friendly CB300R is only fractions lower.
While the CB does not have ride modes, it does have rider aids such as Honda Selectable Torque Control (or traction control) and two-channel ABS. HSTC can be turned off.
The white-on-black LCD display is somewhat modern, although it’s quickly starting to fall behind full-color TFT units. Font sizes were increased in the CB’s most recent update and the display angle was slightly altered to help with visibility in full sun.
Honda keeps all of the CB’s lighting up to modern standards; LEDs are found in the headlight, taillight, and turn signals.
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Honda’s transferable warranty includes one-year, unlimited-mileage coverage. The HondaCare Protection Plan is available for extending that coverage.
Like the CB1000R, the middleweight CB has fine fit and finish. Minimalist details match the bike’s clean look, making for a simple yet effective design.
2023 Honda CB650R Claimed Specifications
|Engine:||649cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled inline-four; 4 valves/cyl.|
|Bore x Stroke:||67.0 x 46.0mm|
|Cycle World Measured Horsepower:||80.55 hp @ 11,000 rpm|
|Cycle World Measured Torque:||42.14 lb.-ft. @ 8,160 rpm|
|Fuel Delivery:||PGM-FI w/ 32mm throttle bodies|
|Engine Management/Ignition:||Full transistorized|
|Frame:||Twin-spar, steel-diamond frame|
|Front Suspension:||41mm inverted Showa SFF fork; 4.7 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension:||Showa shock, preload adjustable; 5.0 in. travel|
|Front Brake:||Dual radial-mounted 4-piston Nissin hydraulic calipers, floating 310mm discs w/ ABS|
|Rear Brake:||1-piston caliper, 240mm disc w/ ABS|
|Wheels, Front/Rear:||Cast aluminum, 17 in./17 in.|
|Tires, Front/Rear:||120/70-17 / 180/55-17|
|Ground Clearance:||5.8 in.|
|Seat Height:||31.9 in.|
|Fuel Capacity:||4.1 gal. (0.8 gal. reserve)|
|Cycle World Measured Wet Weight:||445 lb.|