Here at Cycle World, we know full well that the European and North American motorcycle markets are dramatically different, each having unique needs that are met by carefully selected model lineups. But at the EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, Italy, we came across a new Euro-market Honda middleweight that looks like it would be a huge hit on our side of the pond—even if it didn’t have attractive exhaust headers that conjure up memories of the classic CB400/4.
It’s called the Honda CB650F, and this naked streetfighter is powered by a 649cc inline-four, the Japanese company’s third new engine in three years. Key design features of the powerplant include cylinders canted forward 30 degrees, a 16-valve DOHC cylinder head with direct cam actuation, PGM-FI fuel injection (working with 32mm throttle bodies), and connecting rods optimized in length to minimize side forces on the pistons, which have asymmetric skirts to further reduce friction. What’s more, breathing holes in the crankcase walls between the journals reduce pumping losses as rpm rises.
Honda says the oversquare engine, with a 67.0mm bore and a 46.0mm stroke, is tuned for good torque below 4,000 rpm and great midrange roll-on throttle response. Yet the CB650F engine can also rev, with a claimed 86 hp arriving at 11,000 rpm and a peak torque value of 46 foot-pounds reached at 8,000. And thanks to internal water channeling from head to cylinders, the number of hoses has been reduced, giving this Honda engine a clean, uncluttered appearance that can be appreciated from its highly visible spot beneath the bike’s minimal fairing, where the aforementioned headers are also display. Honda, interestingly, placed the oil cooler on the left front and the oil filter on the back of the engine to help accommodate those cool 4-into-2-into-1 pipes, which sweep back to the right and flow into a stubby underslung muffler that helps with mass centralization.
The CB650F chassis—a twin-spar arrangement designed to be extra stiff around the headstock and a bit “flexible” down by the spars—has cast pivot plates, a 41mm Showa fork and a conventional aluminum swingarm acting directly on a single shock. Moreover, Honda says the bike—which has twin 320mm front brake discs and a 240mm rear with standard ABS—has a slim feel, and the high-set handlebars are designed to give riders, especially beginners, excellent confidence and control on the bike, which has a claimed curb weight of 454 lb., a rake of 25.5 degrees and 3.98 inches of trail.
So, do you think American Honda will import a naked middleweight streetfighter such as the Euro-market CB650F? Probably not, but we certainly hope so. Middleweight bikes typically have excellent power-to-weight ratios, and the new CB650F—whose design team intentionally included many Honda engineers still in their 20s—would be a great addition to the lineup, slotted above the trio of 500 parallel-twins but still well below the far sportier CBR600RR.
While we appreciate Honda’s efforts to get more people riding with approachable bikes such as the 500s, the NC700X and the new family of CTXs, we see the European-market CB650F—or at least a bike very similar to it—as another way to accomplish that same goal while dramatically upping the fun quotient and simultaneously celebrating the company’s history. Agree?