The Honda CBR650R is the successor to the Honda CBR650F and although their names differ by only one letter, motorcycles do things very differently. The CBR650F is one of the best mid-weight motorcycles I have ever ridden simply because it adapted well to our everyday needs. And that’s why the CBR650R has big footsteps to fill. The difference I spoke of, however, is that while the CBR650R was one of the most well-behaved machines, the CBR650R is its spoiled cousin. One who is loud, bold and a little naughty. But is the CBR650R cut from the same fabric still adorable?
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Let’s start with the design and Honda did a fantastic job. In my opinion, the CBR650R is one of the best looking fully faired motorcycles in the Indian market right now as it meets all the criteria you need for your sports motorcycle. Stickers, rim tapes, angry double headlights, exposed manifolds and a dominant presence that attracts everyone’s attention – check everything. One big reason it works so well is because the CBR650R looks strikingly similar to the previous generation Honda Fireblade, which was its much larger, much more expensive flagship liter-class superbike.
The 2021 Honda CBR650R has air intakes under the headlights. (Photo: Manav Sinha / News18.com)
I would also like to point out that the new LED headlights work great at night which was a bit of an issue with the older CBR650F. In addition, the two slots under the headlights are real air intakes and not just for the look. Not only do they add extra performance the faster you go, but they also give you some show-off rights I would say.
As with Honda’s premium motorcycles, the fit and finish of everything is top notch. The seats are particularly noteworthy as they are very comfortable and the pillion seat is actually usable, which is usually not the case with fully faired motorcycles.
The Honda CBR650R has comfortable seats for both the driver and the pillion passenger. (Photo: Manav Sinha / News18.com)
The Honda CBR650R also feels sportier once you’re on it. The footrests have been placed a little higher and are offset to the rear. The handlebars are also lower and a little forward, which gives you that “sport bike feeling” in relation to the riding position. The seats are still very accessible, however, as I could put both feet firmly on the floor at 5’10 “and yet the bike doesn’t feel cramped for people who are 1.80 m tall.
Could you still go on tour with it? Sure, because it’s not as extreme as a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R. It’s still a sports tourer. There will be a little pressure on your wrists the first time, but you will get used to it.
The CBR650R’s wind deflector does a decent job, but it would be better if you put a bigger one on top. Honda has also given the motorcycle an up-to-date digital instrument cluster that tells you everything you need to know. If anything, it’s a bit small and pretty basic, but it has good visibility and is easy to read, so no complaints.
The Honda CBR650R gets a fully digital LCD instrument cluster. (Photo: Manav Sinha / News18.com)
The highlight of the CBR650R is definitely the engine it has. It’s a four cylinder engine and it sounds brilliant. And while the CBR650F felt mute, the CBR650R is a roar and at high RPM your friends can hear you from afar.
The exposed exhaust manifolds peeked out from under the fairing of the Honda CBR650R. (Photo: Manav Sinha / News18.com)
The big change, however, is in the character of the motorcycle. Honda gave it 1,000 more revs to play with and below 6,000 RPM the bike is much more docile than before. It’s a city-friendly motorcycle in this region. You can engage it in 4th gear at 27 km / h and continue driving without any problems. The bike can handle bad roads, speeding and city traffic with no problems and the thermal management is great too. But as soon as you pass the 6,000 rpm mark, the motorcycle changes its character and becomes a hooligan with fast revs and linear power transmission. Just don’t leave it at 6,000 RPM because there is noticeable vibration at that point, but above and below everything is sophistication-city.
So it looks like the part, sounds like the part and speaks all around thanks to the good hardware. It has a non-adjustable Showa upside-down fork at the front and a monoshock at the rear. The entire suspension setup, along with the updated suspension, made the bike even more versatile.
The Honda CBR650R is sportier than the CBR650F, but still pleasant to drive. (Photo: Manav Sinha / News18.com)
There are no riding modes on the motorcycle as it instead uses the traditional cable throttle which makes for a great connection with the bike. The on-off transitions can be a little harsh at times, but it’s finicky considering how nifty the whole experience is. The clutch lever feels light and you can cruise around town in fourth gear as the bike doesn’t require many gear changes and the CBR650R doesn’t tire the rider.
On the safety front, it has a two-channel ABS and a switchable traction control. However, the traction control switch is in a rather weird position where you would normally have a light switch, and that can be confusing. But you have to hold it down for about a second to activate or deactivate the traction control system so that at least you don’t accidentally toggle the system. The brakes also do a good job with a lot of bite and feedback to the driver.
The traction control switch can be confused with the headlight switch. (Photo: Manav Sinha / News18.com)
The Honda CBR650R is also much lighter than before and a lot of that comes from lighter wheels that, in keeping with the updated riding position, have also made the bike livelier and feel like it’s ready to drop direction on the one hat .
The Honda CBR650R still retains the charm of any sports motorcycle. (Photo: Manav Sinha / News18.com)
In short, it’s fantastic, but we have to talk about the price. Yes, for Rs 8.90 lakh (ex showroom, Maharashtra) it is an expensive motorcycle to buy. But there is more. You see, with a Honda big bike you have two things to offer: First, it will be extremely reliable. Second, ownership, parts availability, and service support are among the best in the country among all premium motorcycle brands. Most importantly, the Honda Big Bikes have some of the lowest maintenance costs. So you need to keep these factors in mind as well when considering the value of this motorcycle. Post that and else if price isn’t an issue for you I think the Honda CBR650R is one of the best mid-weight motorcycles you can buy.
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