2018 Honda CB650F

Editor Score: 86.25%
Engine 17.5/20
Suspension/Handling 13.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.5/10
Brakes 9.0/10
Instruments/Controls4.5/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.25/10
Appearance/Quality 9.0/10
Desirability 8.0/10
Value 7.0/10
Overall Score86.25/100

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.

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

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  • Gabriel Owens

    In the same price range as better bikes. Sorry. Coming from a Honda guy.

    • Born to Ride

      I’d rather buy a clean used 919.

  • Ulysses Araujo

    If anyone is interested, the passenger seat (at least in the previous year models, doesn’t seem to have changed) is nice and flat and girls can take half an hour rides without complaining too much. Lacks decent grab rails but seems much better than the pointy seats of the other offerings on the same class.

    • Lee

      A bike with grab rails is like dating your sister. Who cares? If you have a female passenger who won’t wrap her arms around your waist you might as well take your mother for a ride. And if you’re taking your buddy for a ride and he needs grab rails you either tell him he’s on his own or you get a gay buddy.

  • Born to Ride

    I wish they would have continued the 919/599 Italian designed aesthetic. Honda should play to their strengths, simple refined elegance in engineering and design. Let Kawasaki do the sugoyomi or whatever it’s called.

    Also Burns, your last paragraph is spot on the money!

  • Mad4TheCrest

    A totally nice but underwhelming machine. Is there anything in it worth the extra bucks over its larger competitors? Is that dual bending valve fork where the money went?

    I want to like this middleweight and it’s CBR sibling, but … alas, where’s the value for money?

    • Gabriel Owens

      Typical honda

      • spiff

        From the company that brought us the CB750, Interceptors, CBR600, and the the CBR900RR (which I believe is the biggest game changer since the CB750).

        When did “typical Honda” happen? Did the automotive guys start inviting the bike guys to Christmas parties or something?

        • spiff

          The more I think about it the 86 GSXR deserves mention.

        • Gabriel Owens

          Yeah this is also the company that gave us The Rune, the dn-01, the ctx1300, and the NM4.

        • Kevin Duke

          To my eyes, it happened not long after Soichiro died…

    • Lee

      Where’s the value for the money? Let me guess. I’ve owned Yamahas that were great bikes that fell apart quite promptly. Is it possible that comparable Hondas cost significantly more and weigh more because they’re better quality and will last far longer? Is Yamaha putting out state of the art motorcycles at great value prices and lowest weight because they’re not going to last? Only those with a crystal ball are going to hazard an answer. Based on the crap Yamaha has sold me I’d rather pay more up front for a Honda.

  • JMDGT

    As an old Honda guy I say they have some work to do.

  • MotorbikeMike

    I could stare at those header pipes all day.

    • James Stewart

      I agree, the header pipes are a work of art…leading to the now standard cow’s udder of muffler box. Every time I see one of these collectors? catalytic convertors? I can’t help myself asking how much weight savings, better exhaust note, and ground clearance could be gained with an aftermarket slip-on. (and probably an ECU tune… and a visit from the CARB/EPA Police…)

  • NDA

    This should only be $3-400 more than an SV650. It has a bit more power and slightly better forks but also weighs more and has a cheaper, linkage-less suspension setup. Nicer bodywork but cheaper gauges. The same thing will happen to this bike that happened to the old CBR650: it will lose every comparison because of its price, no one will buy it because it lost every comparison, and then in two years unsold leftovers will be $2k off. It’s a shame, at $7300 it would be a serious contender.

  • SRMark

    Like the pipes and wheels. Rest is pretty much like everything else out there. Rear end cluster looks like a turd dangling from a cat’s butt.

  • Craig Hoffman

    Do inverted forks really cost that much more? Ugh. Irrational of me perhaps, but I detest the look of budget conventional forks, even with double bendy valve thingies.

    Honda needs a good bitch slapping as they have slipped into a somnolent catatonic state. Honda can do better than this. They have to.

    • Lee

      I’d drop 8.2K in a second if it meant higher cost up front, higher quality and reliability over the life of the bike. 8.2K if it meant a great handling bike with a great engine. 8.2K if it meant all those spec reading riders on Yamaha YZ-07s were going to wind up owning a handful of shit after 20K miles. 8.2K for the best-looking header of any bike in the world. 8.2K if it didn’t have a stupid fairing in front of the gas tank.

  • Lee

    My take is, Honda’s got the balls to complete with a heavier costlier bike because their reputation is for high quality reliable bikes. What I don’t get is those stupid fairings in front of the gas tank. You know riders want naked bikes, you give them a naked bike, then why fuck it up with ugly little fairings that say, Look! I’m a naked bike but I know people buy bikes with fairings so here’s some ridiculous fairings?