Weighing a claimed 226kg all-up, (not including the accessory Shad hard panniers you see in the pictures) the CFMoto isn’t light – 30kg heavier than a Tracer 700 and 33kg more than a Ninja 650. You feel most of the bulk moving it around at walking pace, but it’s manageable around town and doesn’t adversely affect handling.
It’s always stable, easy steering and thanks to its natural bar and peg position and padded seat, it’s comfortable on the long haul, too. Metzeler sports touring tyres may be a generation old and take a while to warm up in the cold, but they offer big wet and dry grip when they’re up to temperature.
For solo riding the 650GT’s suspension is well controlled and there’s plenty of ground clearance, but it’s easy to get it to throw shapes in the corners if you push on. Brakes have decent power but need a big squeeze to persuade them to do their thing. But for the kind of riding its designed for it behaves itself, corners and stops with confidence.
Loading it up will be a different story and its soft rear shock will struggle to keep its shape when you add a pillion and luggage. Pillions will squeeze on, but there isn’t much room for genuine two-up comfort.
There’s no question the CFMoto rides well. A deep, gurgling induction roar keeps your ears interested under hard acceleration, the six-speed gearbox is sweet and it’s 115mph-fast when you tease the ER-6-esque 650cc parallel twin towards its 10,000rpm redline. But the 60bhp mini tourer lacks midrange urgency and the kind of sparkly, laugh-out-loud fun you’ll find on the more free-revving 73bhp Tracer 700 and 67bhp Ninja 650.
On the flipside the CFMoto is unthreatening and easy to ride, with a friendly power delivery (although the engine can splutter at very low rpm and when it’s cold), a light clutch, throttle and low 795mm seat.
It returns an average of 49mpg, which is on par with Tracer 700s we’ve tested, so you should be able to squeeze a healthy 205 miles out of the GT’s 19 litre tank.
Only time will tell how durable the CFMoto will fare with a winter under its belt, but the fit and finish on our new test bike looks good and Chinese engines generally have Terminator-like durability (it always used to be that the rest of the bike rotted around them). The 650GT comes with a two-year parts and labour warranty, too.
In terms of value for money and all-out friendliness the CFMoto 650GT is a credible alternative to its Japanese rivals, but if you’re after more fun and performance they still lead the way.
Ooh, backlit switchgear. And a colour dash…and LED headlights. There isn’t usually much to be gained from straddling a new bike for the first time in the dark, but the CFMoto 650GT is keen to impress.
It has an important job to do. This isn’t just a mid-capacity ‘Grand Tourer’, it’s a Chinese-built machine out to prove it can cut the mustard with the big boys, not just in the way it rides, but how it’s built, too. And it needs to bring it’s A Game to because although it’s cheaper than its closest rivals: the Yamaha Tracer 700 and Kawasaki Ninja 650, the price gap between China and Japan isn’t as gaping as it once was.
A further poke around the GT in the daylight and the good stuff keeps coming. The 650GT has two power modes (Touring and Sport), petal-shaped front brake discs, J Juan calipers (check out their logo on the front of WSB champ, Jonathan Rea’s leathers, the next time you look), steel braided hoses, LED running lights, indicators and tail light, a manually adjustable screen, Metzeler Roadtec Z8 rubber and two power sockets (two USBs and a 12v) handily located on each side of the clocks.
And for those who don’t like the idea of traction control, your wish is there command: there are no rider aids apart from ABS.