First rides: Honda CB650F & CBR650F

Published: 13 April 2017

Honda’s five new 2017 bike bonanza has been a few days full of surprises for MCN from the oddly charming Rebel impressing to the thoroughly refined CB1100 EX displaying retro charm at its best and the CB1100 RS slightly deflating our high expectations. And the two new CB models kept the surprises coming.

The CB650F and CBR650F can basically be treated as one bike as to all intents and purpose they are the same – it’s just that the CB comes with flat bars and the CBR gets a full fairing and clip-ons. Both bikes have received the same updates for 2017 – new forks, reduced gear ratios, 4bhp more power and a new look – and both bikes have been totally transformed for the better because of it.

Read more MCN first rides here.

In the UK we tend to favour the naked CB650F, which easily outsells the faired CBR650F, and for my money it remains the better variant. Fans of this bike should certainly try the 2017 machine for size as it is leagues ahead of the outgoing model, both in terms of handling and performance. The new Showa forks give the CB far more precise handling while the altered riding position, which puts you more over the front of the bike in an aggressive naked bike stance, really suits the CB.

The engine is now not only more spirited in its performance due to the gearing mods, it also sound better thanks to a new pipe and overall the bike looks much better for its redesign. Against the current crop of middleweights such as the SV650, MT-07 and Z650 the CB650F certainly won’t be far off the pace and may well even now be a few meters ahead.

The CBR is also a bit of a revelation and is miles better than the soft older CBR650F model. Like the CB its new suspension drastically improves its handling while the engine adds a nice dose of attitude. It’s no supersport bike, not by a long stretch of the imagination, but it is a comfortable and sporty commuter and would make a cracking budget sports tourer.

So that’s four hits and one near miss for Honda this week, which isn’t bad going at all.

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