2019 Honda CB650R Review - First Ride

Ryan Adams
by Ryan Adams

The 650R looks great naked

During our time in and around Palm Springs, CA, we had the chance to test not only the CBR650R, but also Honda’s new naked, the CB650R. The naked 650R shares many of the same functional components from the fully faired 650, but along with its aluminum handlebar, it has attitude and handling all its own.

2019 Honda CB650R

Editor Score: 87.25%
Engine 17.5/20
Suspension/Handling 13.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 8.0/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.0/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 7.75/10
Overall Score87.25/100

2019 Honda CBR650R Review – First Ride

For 2019, the CB650 has gained an R, dropped the F, and received new clothes that slot it in line perfectly next to the CB1000R and CB300R with what Honda calls Neo Sports Cafe styling. We’re fans. Not only are we fans of the styling, but also we love naked bikes with their upright standard bike ergos. It’s like having your cake and eating it too. The CB has a slightly more aggressive riding position than last year’s F model – as is the case with the CBR650R versus the previous F model – but for me, I feel the CB650R puts the rider in just the right position to attack canyon roads while still being all day comfortable.

2019 honda cb650r review first ride, Check out the lustrous nanopigment paint The CB650R s dual layer candy paint is applied with a nanopigment clear coat on top of a base coat Aluminum flakes in the base coat give this paint a shimmering look
Check out the “lustrous nanopigment paint.” “The CB650R’s dual-layer candy paint is applied with a nanopigment clear coat on top of a base coat. Aluminum flakes in the base coat give this paint a shimmering look.”

The CB shares the chassis developments with the CBR. These changes put the handlebar slightly more forward and lower, with footpegs slightly higher and further back. Thankfully, the CB doesn’t fall into the awkward place we worried about ergonomically for the CBR650R. The CB, ergonomically, feels near perfect for my 5’8” self. The bar puts you in an upright but slightly canted forward position, and the footpegs don’t feel unnecessarily high. With both 650Rs, Honda was able to cut weight. The standard CB is said to be 9.2 pounds lighter, with the ABS model shaving 11.6 pounds from last year’s ABS-equipped CB650F. The frame, which is 4.2 pounds lighter than last year, the fuel tank (0.5 gal less capacity); footpegs, ABS components, and the new five-spoke cast aluminum wheels are all lightened.

2019 honda cb650r review first ride, Honda says pull at the clutch lever is reduced by 12 thanks to the assist and slipper clutch We say it s light AF bro
Honda says pull at the clutch lever is reduced by 12% thanks to the assist and slipper clutch. We say, it’s light AF, bro.

The new lighter five-spoke cast-aluminum wheels get a bronze treatment which, combined with fork tubes and engine cases of the same color as well as the LED lighting throughout, stylish headlight, waterfall-style exhaust, and general neo sports cafe styling, ensure that the 2019 Honda CB650R will turn heads.

Our time spent blasting around town, snaking through the mountains, and weaving our way through country hillsides left me on the fence about the two new 650Rs. They both look fantastic, but it was interesting how different they felt while sharing almost everything except for aesthetics and a handlebar.

2019 honda cb650r review first ride

The CBR felt like a more dedicated sportbike, not nearly as much fun on anything besides the twistiest of canyon roads; the CB was a lot of fun the entire time and felt like a bike that would be much easier to live with. Surprise. In the twistier sections, the weight bias of the CBR loads the front suspension, giving a slightly stiffer more planted feel while the CB’s seating position is more neutral. Despite using the same Showa components, the fork has a softer feel as it rides higher in the stroke. This also translated to a more comfortable ride around town. The only suspension adjustment on the Showa units is rear spring preload.

2019 honda cb650r review first ride, The sleek LCD screen blends nicely into the dash area and styling of the CB
The sleek LCD screen blends nicely into the dash area and styling of the CB.

During our ride in the California desert we experienced everything from dry midday heat, to pouring rain and pounding hail. Both bikes share the 649cc inline-Four, which is quite smooth in the way it makes power. The engine’s smooth power build up combined with competent Nissin braking components, made the CB650R effortless to ride in adverse conditions. Because the power and brakes aren’t at superbike levels, it actually makes smoothing out inputs much easier.

Wind protection is more or less non-existent on the CB650R, but it’s not much better on the CBR650 either. The claimed 447-pound curb weight doesn’t seem to help the bike much on freeways, as we still got knocked around a bit in the near hurricane-like conditions we experienced. There’s a fair amount of windblast happening, but that’s to be expected with a naked bike.

2019 honda cb650r review first ride, Waterfall pipes cascading down the front of the CB a CB400F homage
Waterfall pipes cascading down the front of the CB, a CB400F homage…

The same revisions to the engine for the 2019 CBR carry over to the CB. The motor receives a new piston shape, revised cam profiles, a slightly higher compression ratio, and optimized valve timing as well as an extra 1,000 revs, putting redline at 12,000 rpm. The airbox has also been tilted 20 degrees to allow for smoother airflow from the refined dual air intake ducts located under the headlight. Honda says the CB650R has gained a five percent increase in power above 10,000 rpm. The 649cc inline Four’s powerband comes on just after 8,000 rpm and lasts nearly all the way to 12,000. That’s not to say that you need to have the motor spun up to get around; scooting through town the CB650R delivers accessible power north of 4,000 rpm, too.

Mostly devoid of electronics, the CB is available with ABS for a $300 premium, which also adds traction control. The two cannot be chosen separately and while ABS is always on, TC can be turned off on the fly via a dedicated button on the left-hand switchgear.

2019 honda cb650r review first ride, The 2019 CB650R and CBR650R have both increased in price by 650 compared to the outgoing 2018 models
The 2019 CB650R and CBR650R have both increased in price by $650 compared to the outgoing 2018 models.

At $8,899 for the standard model and $9,199 for ABS (and TC), the CB suffers from the same pricing issues we mentioned for the CBR. The price seems a bit high for the amount of performance and when considering other bikes in the segment.

I feel like the slightly cheaper price of the CB650R – versus the CBR – combined with the naked styling, put the CB in the spotlight for many. Not to mention naked bikes are all the rage these days! The 2019 Honda CB650R is an elegant stylish middleweight naked that can get up and go when asked, while still retaining around town manners. That makes it a great all-rounder buyers can be proud to show up to their local bike night on.

2019 honda cb650r review first ride, Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm…

2019 Honda CB650R

+ Highs

  • Neo Sports Cafe stilo
  • Comfort you can live with
  • Buttery smooth inline-Four

– Sighs

  • Pricey
  • Horn button still in the wrong place
  • Buttery smooth can sometimes mean bland

2019 Honda CB650R Specifications

MSRP$8,899 ($9,199 w/ABS)
Engine Type649cc liquid-cooled inline Four-cylinder DOHC 16-valve
Bore and Stroke67mm x 46mm
Compression Ratio11.6:1
Transmission6-speed; wet multi-plate clutch
Final DriveChain
Front Suspension41mm inverted Showa Separate Function Fork (SFF); 4.72-inches of travel
Rear SuspensionShowa single shock w/adjustable preload; 5.04-inches of travel
Front BrakeDual four-piston radial mount Nissin hydraulic calipers with 310mm floating discs (2 channel ABS available)
Rear BrakeSingle one-piston hydraulic caliper w/240mm disc (2 channel ABS available)
Front Tire120/70-17
Rear Tire180/55-17
Rake/Trail30.0 deg/4.0 in
Wheelbase57.0 in.
Seat Height31.9 in.
Curb Weight (Claimed)445 lbs.
Fuel Capacity4.1 gal. (0.8 gal. reserve)
ColorsChromosphere Red
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2 of 81 comments
  • Meaty Midrange Meaty Midrange on Jun 05, 2019

    I love the "waterfall" pipes, but wonder how they'll look after a few months of use. I was very disappointed when my CB1100's headers corroded and turned brown after a short time.

  • Bob Bob on Oct 04, 2019

    It appears that the swing-arm hasn't been drilled and tapped for spools. With no center-stand available, maintenance could be challenging.