HONDA SLR650 (1996-2001) Review

Published: 24 November 2006

"A fairly joyless machine that barely redeems itself as a reasonably efficient commuter"

Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Riding

"A fairly joyless machine that barely redeems itself as a reasonably efficient commuter"

  • At a glance
  • 644cc  -  39 bhp
  • 43 mpg  -  123 miles range
  • Medium seat height (845mm)
  • Suitable for A2 licence

Overall Rating 3 out of 5

The Honda SLR650 is a fairly joyless machine that barely redeems itself as a reasonably efficient commuter. Essentially it’s a more heavily road-biased Dominator built at Honda’s plant in Spain, back in the days when the Continental factory’s quality control occasionally went adios. A Honda CB500 is simply miles better.

Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5

The Honda SLR650 copes well with city riding – it has a decent turning circle, it’s nicely-balanced and the brakes cope with its low’ish weight and low speeds. The front gives little to no feedback and feels weirdly remote when you begin riding harder. The SLR can cope with farm tracks and the like, but it’s no off-roader despite the styling. Pillions like it, with a decent seat and comfort.

Engine 3 out of 5

The Honda SLR650's SOHC air-cooled motor produces decent torque, but few thrills. The 100mm piston thumps the bike eventually to about 90mph, but you’re a cruel master if you keep it there - and a masochistic one as at that speed the vibes will quickly turn your fingers white. The Honda SLR650 is reliable, though.

Build Quality & Reliability 3 out of 5

Can be a bit hit and miss. Some bikes suffered from poor wheel bearings, a poor finish and paint on the fork legs flakes off if not protected (clear nail varnish works a treat).

Value & Running Costs 2 out of 5

The Honda SLR650 was only made for three years and it wasn’t a sales success in the UK. Unless you’re only looking for a workaday commuter then the SLR is easily beaten on value by bikes like the Honda Hornet 600 or CB500, Suzuki Bandit 600 and Yamaha’s excellent Fazer 600. Unless it’s an unbeatable bargain avoid. Find a Honda SL650 for sale.

Insurance group: 8 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 1 out of 5

Bum basic is over-egging it. The Honda SLR650 is a no frills bike – so no tacho, a poor headlight and no centrestand. There’s virtually no unique aftermarket products available, either.

Owners' Reviews

9 owners have reviewed their HONDA SLR650 (1996-2001) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

We’re currently improving the way this section works, which means we’ve had to suspend the submission of new owners’ reviews for a short period. Please check back soon.

Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 3.2 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 2.7 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 3.9 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3.3 out of 5
Equipment 3.4 out of 5
1 out of 5

Poor at best

24 October 2012 by Anonymous

Now I’ve ridden some poor bikes but this is a shocker. After a few beers on e-bay bought one of the last ‘01 FX’s, having read some of the articles on here I thought it would be a reasonable winter bike. The bike itself is a little scruffy but looks... Read more well looked after. Generally I take the MCN reviews with a pinch of salt, but the front end of this bike gives absolutely no confidence what so ever, with a fairly good death weave at about 70mph. It makes my old Diversion which I had 2-3 years ago, which was 12 years old at the time; seem like a completely planted race bike. The engine is fairly gutless for a single, but will rattle the rest of the badly put together bike to bits. Don’t try and buy any after market bits for this bike, you’ll spend ages on the internet believing there must be some useful bits of luggage, exhausts or anything to make the bike more interesting but there isn’t! I’m going to plod on through winter and hopefully ditch it or scrap it in the spring. Avoid – there aren’t any redeeming features.

Overall Rating 1 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 1 out of 5
Engine 1 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 1 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 2 out of 5
Equipment 2 out of 5
4 out of 5

Underrated

31 December 2011 by stevieboyni

This is somewhat a negative review from MCN but i must agree with the previous reviewer that a lot of people place the bike in the wrong class. It's a great bike for all kinds of weathers and conditions and yes it can handle some of the rough stuff... Read more although nothing too crazy as the clearance isn't great. As a standard bike it can be a little dull but with a few modifications can turn this into a real fun machine. MCN point to the fact that there isn't a lot of aftermarket parts for the bike but this isn't true. Without plugging any companies i managed to source exhausts (which gives the bike the soul and power a RFVC engine should), handguards, heated grips, screen, bars, top box etc, etc.. None of this was a problem. These bikes are a lot more popular in Germany and other parts of Europe so you can source more on the aftermarket there. I really can't fault the bike, it's lovely and torquey and comfortable enough for a days riding. With the mods i've done turns it into the bike it should be... A cut price adventure bike. It could do with a bigger tank but i'm working on that too! Bulletproof reliability so far and you can get decent tyres on it. If you fancy one and see one at decent money go for it :)

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 2 out of 5
4 out of 5

Better than you think

02 February 2011 by ranorthe

The SLR is a lot better than I thought it would be. Comments about lack of equipment are just daft, it has a speedo and a fuel tap, what more do you need? Think of it as a trail bike and you're about there, it's basic and solid. I think a lot of the... Read more complaints about the SLR is because people put it in the wrong category. It's not a sports bike, a tourer, or a commuter, it's a trail / enduro bike so it should be compared to F650 / XT660 / XF650 etc, not bandits and SVs... It's surprisingly good off road, only limited by the 19" front wheel and certainly better than the BMW F650 I used to own. It has a (small) bash plate and the frame goes right under the engine so you don't have to worry about grounding the crankcases. The brakes are very good (twin piston Brembo up front) and the very large diameter forks give good handling. Maintainance is a doddle, screw and lock nut tappets and a couple of litres of oil and you're done. It will sit at 75 to 80MPH all day, but it's hard work on the upper body. For a trip to France I'll fit a windscreen. The engine is a gem, great thunking gobs of torque from very low revs makes overtaking easy at any speed and cruising along at a relaxed pace is enjoyable with the reassuring throb from the big lump to keep you company. I get about 55MPG, which gives about 110 miles to reserve, not ideal but the seat is designed for off road so you're ready for a break. They hold their value really well, because people who know about these things know how good they are..

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
3 out of 5

Marmite

25 January 2011 by Ovski

I love it at times and detest it at others. Have been using one for last 10months for 30mile a day commute over mainly dual carriage ways. Absolutely fantastic in town when stuck in traffic, its slim and light enough to really throw about and squeeze... Read more through tight gaps. It will quite happily plod along at 60-70mph but the front is so light that the slightest breeze will have you blown about all over the road. Brakes are fine for commuting but take carry a pillion at your peril. Ridiculously cheap to run. It does like a drop of oil but will run for ever on not a lot of petrol - I average 60mpg on my commute. The lack of feedback from the front wheel mentioned by MCN is spot on - its very un-nerving. Coming from a sports bike before this I was bored of it within in a week and have only kept it whilst saving up for another bike. That sad, if you only want it for a commute through town/city you cant go far wrong!

Overall Rating 3 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 2 out of 5
Engine 2 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 2 out of 5
4 out of 5

Grins per mile

15 May 2010 by oldblokebiker

I have had one of these for a short while. Having had many different bikes over my 35 years of riding I was looking for something to make me grin on the way to work. It is basic, it is a single thumper, it doesn't have a lot of power, it doesn't have... Read more lots of goodies. But isn't that the point? Not as cheap to buy as some people like to make out. There is a following who will grab one of these when they are up for sale. I commute 42 miles a day. Mostly back A roads with a few miles of national speed limit duel carrageway then a few miles of traffic laden mixed roads. The bike takes it all in it's stride. 55 MPG on average. It is the kind of bike that wants you to take it 'the long way round' and I grin as I get off it every day. You can even get decent rubber for it (I run Tourance EXP's). Cheap to run, a blast to ride and not much to go wrong. It could do with a 6th gear and a bigger tank but apart from that I LOVE it.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
3 out of 5

Cheap, reliable, comfortable biking.

26 May 2006 by Grey Crow

This bike goes a lot better than it looks, although that's not saying much! It pulls strongly and cleanly from low revs and makes a great sound as you would expect from a big single. I find the handling quite confidence inspiring, within it's limits,... Read more but the brakes could be a little sharper. The seat comfort is nowhere near as bad as the KLE500 I once owned and you could actually ride this bike as far as the fuel tank will take you. Speaking of which, fuel economy isn't bad at between 50 and 60mpg depending on how it's ridden. Strengths: Cheap to buy and run while still being fun to ride at sensible speeds. Weaknesses: Could look slightly more aggressive. Brakes not the best.

Overall Rating 3 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 2 out of 5
Engine 2 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
4 out of 5

No frills fun commuter

12 February 2005 by stephencornes

Fun for round town, but dont even try to keep up with other bikes on a ride out. Really reliable and just about copes with the British winters if you keep an eye on things. Strengths: Cheap 2nd hand and cheap to maintain. Weaknesses: Not as... Read more economical as expected & tank too small, around 90 miles between fill ups.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
3 out of 5

My Review

16 October 2001 by mengrb

Used mainly for commuting. The business on twisty country roads. Forget motorways and serious distance, especially 2-up. Under powered (but it is cheap to run). The brakes are apalling (for a motorcycle). Ultra reliable, no problems to date (although... Read more it hasn't been thru a British winter yet). Has the potential to become the favourite hack.

Overall Rating 3 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 2 out of 5
Engine 2 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 3 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 2 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
3 out of 5

My Review

25 July 2001 by PaulHalfpenny

A good bike for shortish, punchy rides on country roads. Excellent as a 'back-to-biking' machine, available at low prices. Mine had only done 294 miles (on an 'X' plate) when purchased. Not the prettiest but neither am I! With a small front screen... Read more and top-box the SLR would be ideal for practical commuter work.

Strengths



Weaknesses

Overall Rating 3 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 2 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 3 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
Read all 9 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1996
Year discontinued 2001
Original price -
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 8 of 17
Annual road tax £80
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 39 bhp
Max torque 40 ft-lb
Top speed 92 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 15.9 secs
Average fuel consumption 43 mpg
Tank range 123 miles
Specification
Engine size 644cc
Engine type 4v single, 5 gears
Frame type Tubular steel cradle
Fuel capacity 13 litres
Seat height 845mm
Bike weight 161kg
Front suspension None
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake Single 276mm disc
Rear brake 200mm disc
Front tyre size 100/90 x 19
Rear tyre size 120/90 x 17

History & Versions

Model history

1995: Honda Dominator released.
1997: Honda releases the SLR650 – a more road-biased version of the Dommie.
1999: Honda cans the SLR650, but re-releases it as the FX650-Vigor.
2001: The Honda SLR650 Vigor is deleted.

Other versions

None.

Photo Gallery

  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Riding
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Engine
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Riding
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Riding
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Riding
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Top view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Front view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Engine
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Riding
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Engine
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Riding
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Riding
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Riding
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Top view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Front view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Engine
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Brakes
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda SLR650/Vigor motorcycle review - Side view