2019 Honda CBR650R Review - First Ride

Ryan Adams
by Ryan Adams

The CBR650 drops the F for an R

When I first laid eyes on the 2019 Honda CBR650R, I was pleasantly surprised, impressed, and thankful. For too long the standard sporty middleweight category of motorcycles has been plagued with styling that ranges from dated to cheap to what were they thinking. The 2019 Honda CBR650R is none of these. Razor sharp styling derived from the CBR1000RR combined with LED lighting give this sporty middleweight style for miles with a look owners are sure to be proud of.

2019 Honda CBR650R

Editor Score: 84.25%
Engine 17.5/20
Suspension/Handling 13.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 8.0/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 7.0/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 8.0/10
Value 7.75/10
Overall Score84.25/100

2018 Honda CBR650F First Ride Review

When the new 650 sports standard debuted in 2014, Honda wanted to fill a gap for the everymotorcyclist. A sportbike with more comfortable ergos and subdued power that was lower in the rpm-range; a CBR you could live with around town akin to its 600cc F-designated predecessors. For 2019, the CBR650 drops the F for an R and it isn’t just the model name that’s more aggressive.

The R Treatment

Lighter, faster and more agile. The aim for Honda’s newest CBR was to bring a touch more RR to it’s everyday sportbike. Slight revisions throughout the motorcycle from frame and engine to the rider ergonomics bring the 650 closer to its double-R toting cousins.

The buttery inline four starts delivering smooth power as low as 4,000 rpm, which then continues to build nearly all the way to its 12,000-rpm redline.

The engine 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 ram air intake ducts located under the headlights. Honda says the CBR650R has gained a five percent increase in power above 10,000 rpm. The 649cc inline Four is sewing machine smooth with a nice powerband coming on just after 8,000 rpm 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 CBR650R delivers accessible power out of its mid-range, too.

Lightweight and flickable, the Showa suspension setup proves to be a good all-rounder.

Weight savings starts as deep as the steel frame, with Honda claiming 4.2-pounds of weight loss from the outgoing unit. The fuel tank, footpegs, ABS components, and five-spoke cast aluminum wheels have all been scrutinized through the CBR’s weight loss program. Big Red claims the 2019 non-ABS CBR650R has lost 9.2 lbs, whereas the ABS model is dubbed the biggest loser with 11.6 lbs shaved.

The weight loss combined with the Showa Separate Function Fork (SFF) and shock make for an agile little sportbike. The fork offers no adjustment, but feels well set from the factory. Sporty enough for canyon carving and compliant enough to not be jarring in the city. The shock is comfortable, though a few hard-edged bumps launching my butt just off the seat left me wanting to slow the rebound. Alas, spring preload on the shock is the only suspension adjustment to be made.

ABS can be had for a $300 premium and also includes Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), which can be turned off on the fly via a dedicated button on the left hand switchgear.

The radially mounted four-piston Nissin calipers with dual 310mm floating discs get the bike stopped positively, though aren’t the most communicative at the lever. Speaking of the front brake lever, it’s adjustable. Just set it, and forget it! The rear brake, well it works, but on a sporty bike, you won’t be relying on it for its sheer power. On the 2019 CBR650R, should you plunk down the extra $300 for the ABS model, you also get Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), or as we call it everywhere else, traction control. The two come as a package, never to be separated, though you can disable HSTC with the press of a button on the fly.

The sportier ergos on the new CBR650 were welcome on canyon roads, but in town, not so much.

The rider triangle has been tweaked to bring the handlebars 1.2-inches forward and a touch lower with the footpegs two-tenths of an inch up and one-tenth rearward. I believe these changes add to the fun on the canyon roads we enjoyed before the hailstorm set in during our ride in the California desert, but I’m not sure I favor the changes around town. Which brings me to the question: Did Honda bring the CBR650R too close to its sporting familia?

The CBR650R, or F as it was previously known, was designed to be an everyday sportbike, as adept at city scooting as it is canyon carving. Do the changes to the riding position put a damper on the 650’s utilitarian allure? Only you can decide, but for me, it now teeters on the edge.

Is that a CBR1000RR or are you just happy to see me?

This bike looks great, as I mentioned before, it’s a breath of fresh air in a category of bikes that have for too long looked cheap or dated. The rider looking for a practical motorcycle doesn’t want the thing to look like a toaster anymore than the liter-bike buyer, so why has it taken this long for a functional sportbike to look this good? I don’t know and I don’t care because Honda has knocked it out of the park with the CBR650R’s styling.

LED lighting is found throughout. Oh, and thank gawd someone finally found a way around those hideous orange bulbous turn signals from the bad old days.

Clearly derived from the CBR1000RR, the CBR650 looks razor sharp and the LED lighting throughout just adds to the quality, and modern look. Also new is the is the LCD dash, which has received a fair helping of modernization. The new component is similar to that found on the CB1000R and features speedo, tach, clock, standard trip info, engine temp, gear position, and a shift light, all wrapped up in a contemporary black rectangle.

The dash is now a sleek and elegant unit with the essentials plus a few niceties such as a gear indicator and shift light.

As John stated in his review of the 2018 CBR650F, “the CBR’s not blazing fast or really amazingly anything, but it does make good useable power at only 4,000 rpm, and pulls smoothly all the way to 11K”. The same holds true for the 2019 model with the addition of a thousand revs.

The transmission works quite well, providing positive shifts while moving, though when stopped, some found it difficult to find a gear. The assist/slipper clutch is also incredibly smooth with a very light pull at the lever.

Visually, the 2019 CBR650R is a stunner for sure, but as the weight dropped and power increased, so did the price. The standard model sits at $9,399 with ABS adding a few hundred at $9,699. Do these prices and the ergonomic changes leave the CBR650R in an odd in-between space for interested riders, or did Honda give the buying public what they wanted with this model? Only time will tell. For us, we enjoyed a day out in the canyons onboard the 2019 Honda CBR650R and can confidently say the fit and finish is unequivocally there, as is the Honda performance and, we’d like to assume, Honda reliability. The bike is in dealers now, so if it tickles your fancy, go have a peek.

2019 Honda CBR650R

+ Highs

  • Better looking than most
  • Light flickable handling
  • Buttery smooth inline-Four

– Sighs

  • Pricey
  • Is it too sporty
  • Buttery smooth can sometimes mean bland

2019 Honda CBR650R Specifications

MSRP$9,399 ($9,699 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)458 lbs.
Fuel Capacity4.1 gal. (0.8 gal. reserve)
ColorsGrand Prix Red/Stripe
Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams

Ryan’s time in the motorcycle industry has revolved around sales and marketing prior to landing a gig at Motorcycle.com. An avid motorcyclist, interested in all shapes, sizes, and colors of motorized two-wheeled vehicles, Ryan brings a young, passionate enthusiasm to the digital pages of MO.

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