2019 Honda CB650R First Ride

Honda drops the “F” and adds an “R” to its CB650R naked bike.

Honda's all about its Neo-Sport Café concept, adding another variation to its US model lineup with the 2019 CB650R. Big Red's latest middleweight replaces the more streetfighter-esque "F"-designation CB650F, adding a level of flair while also amplifying performance.

Styling-wise the CB follows the shape of Honda’s awesome CB300R, an entry-level streetbike that rides better than you’d think considering its sub-five-grand price tag. The 650 sports flat lines that are modern and tasteful. Trim body panels showcase the chiseled 649cc inline-four and the elegant symmetrical pipes that were styled off of Honda’s ’75 CB400. Most importantly, it looks unlike other manufacturer’s naked bikes and comes with full LED lighting and exceptionally high build quality—an impressive feat considering its stamped from Honda’s Thailand (versus Japanese) factory.

2019 Honda CB650R riding on road.
Honda adds a middleweight-powered CB to its 2019 Neo-Sports Café lineup with the CB650R.Kevin Wing

The CB650R is powered by a purpose-built inline-four introduced six years ago. Although it shares the CBR600RR’s bore measurements (67mm), the internals are purpose built for road, not competition. It gets its extra 50cc capacity via a 3.5mm longer piston stroke. For 2019, it uses new pistons with a different crown shape, as well as updated valve timing and new camshaft profiles. Redline is now rated at 12,800 rpm—1,000 more than before.

An updated airbox design helps the engine breathe easier through larger induction ports and an air filter that is 1.7 times larger. As a side note, we also noticed a more rowdy intake note when the throttle is twisted.

2019 Honda CB650R in garage.
For 2019, Honda’s middleweight naked bike drops its “F” designation and adds an “R” which equates to more performance.Kevin Wing

In terms of day-to-day around-town use, the previous engine configuration wasn’t a slouch, churning out in excess of 38 pound-feet of torque from 4,000 to 10,000 rpm. Horsepower-wise, it produced 79.1 hp at 10,760 rpm. This reworked powerplant delivered 80.1 hp at 11,000 rpm and 41.7 pound-feet at 8,200 rpm—a marginal increase in horsepower, but a nearly 10 percent bump in torque.

The new version feels more lively and ready to play than we remember. But there is a fair amount of engine vibration above 6,000 rpm. The clutch lever requires less of a tug too, and the six-speed gearbox has appropriate gear ratios so the engine hums in its sweet spot. Curiously, the transmission did pop into neutral during our ride. In terms of fuel economy, we averaged 39.5 mpg, during our 100-some-mile loop, mostly at highway speeds.

Honda’s 2019 CB650R racing down road.
Honda’s 2019 CB650R is 9 pounds lighter than the bike it replaces. On the road it feels nimble and is ready to play.Kevin Wing

An iPhone 4-sized monochrome digital display keeps tabs on engine vitals. While replete with information, including a handy fuel gauge and gear position indicator, the readouts appear crunched and can be difficult to ascertain at a glance. We do appreciate the crispness of the fonts and that the display is legible even in direct sunlight.

There still isn’t any adjustable engine power, nor throttle modes, but that’s okay. In typical analog Honda fashion, throttle response is near perfect. Its smooth action is compatible for a less experienced rider as it is for more seasoned twist tube yanker. Honda Selectable Torque Control (Big Red nomenclature for traction control) is now standard on ABS-equipped CBs, for a $300 upcharge. HSTC modulates engine torque to help maintain rear tire grip over slippery surfaces. It’s always “on” by default, but it can be easily disabled, if you want to pop wheelies or slide the rear end over loose surfaces.

2019 Honda CB650R back wheel.
The 2019 CB650R now benefits from a set of racy radial-mount four-piston front brake calipers from Nissin. The wheels are lighter too, and Metzeler Roadtec 01 tires are standard fitment.Kevin Wing

With its 4.1-gallon fuel tank topped off, the CB650R weighs 455 pounds on the Cycle World scales, which Honda says is 9 pounds less than the outgoing F model. Specifically the frame, fuel tank, wheels, and even the footpegs are lighter. The ergonomics were also adjusted slightly for a more aggressive stance, yet it isn't overdone. We also like how thin the motorcycle feels between our legs—especially considering its inline-four engine configuration.

On the road the Honda feels balanced and ready to play. Updated suspension components offer a pleasing compromise between sporting feel through twisty sections of tarmac and everyday comfort over beat-up road surfaces. True, there isn’t any suspension adjustment (aside from spring preload on the shock), but the damping is so well calibrated we didn’t miss it. Metzeler’s awesome and do-it-all Roadtec 01 tires further complement handling. On a side note, this is the first time we’ve seen Metzeler providing OE-fitment on a Honda motorcycle.

2019 Honda CB650R redesigned airbox and air intake system.
The airbox and air intake system was redesigned on the CB650R. We noticed a more pleasing intake growl when the throttle is twisted.Kevin Wing

Radial-mount front brakes offer more feel than the previous axial-mount setup, and the front brake lever offers six-position adjustment to accommodate different sized hands. We were pleased that our test bike wasn’t an ABS-equipped version as it facilitates a more entertaining riding experience since you can lock the rear brake and pitch the bike left and right during deceleration.

Once again, Honda proves it has found the sweet spot in terms of styling, performance, and fit and finish with its 2019 CB650R. As easy to ride as it is amusing, it is the ideal steppingstone for riders looking to climb the ranks of motorcycling and upgrade from a smaller-displacement bike. Yet with its big-bike-like performance, it has the muscle to keep you engaged for years to come.

2019 Honda CB650R symmetrical pipes.
The middleweight CB continues to borrow styling cues, including these symmetrical pipes from Honda’s 1975 CB400.Kevin Wing
2019 Honda CB650R Specifications
PRICE $8,899 (non-ABS), $9,299 w/ ABS
ENGINE 649cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC inline-four; 16-valve
BORE x STROKE 67.0mm x 46.0mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 11.6:1
HORSEPOWER 80.1 hp @ 11,000 rpm (Cycle World dyno)
TORQUE 41.7 lb.-ft. @ 8,200 rpm (Cycle World dyno)
FUEL DELIVERY PGM-FI w/ 32mm throttle bodies
CLUTCH Wet multi-plate; cable actuation
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
FRAME Steel
FRONT SUSPENSION 41mm Showa inverted fork, 4.25-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock adjustable for spring preload; 5.0-in. travel
FRONT BRAKES Radial-mount 4-piston Nissin calipers, 320mm discs
REAR BRAKE 1-piston caliper, 240mm disc
WHEELS Cast aluminum; 17 x 3.5-in. front, 17 x 5.0-in. rear
TIRES Metzeler Roadtec 01; 120/70-17 front, 180/55-17 rear
RAKE/TRAIL 32°/4.0 in.
WHEELBASE 57.0 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 31.9 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.1 gal.
CURB WEIGHT 455 lb. ( Cycle World scales)
WARRANTY 1 year
AVAILABLE May 2019
CONTACT powersports.honda.com
2019 Honda CB650R riding on road.
Honda’s 2019 CB650R is a worthy do-it-all mount that’s at home in the city as it is out on country back roads.Kevin Wing

GEARBOX

2019 Honda CB650R saddle.
The saddle is supportive for longer rides yet features a slim junction at the back of the fuel tank. This makes the bike feel skinny and helps shorter riders feel comfortable planting both feet on the ground.Kevin Wing
2019 Honda CB650R digital instrumentation display.
Digital instrumentation is replete with information. However the display is a tad compact for our tastes.Kevin Wing
2019 Honda CB650R 649cc inline-four.
Honda’s 649cc inline-four looks elegant. Inside it gets updated pistons (new crown shape) and revised valve-train timing. It also revs 1,000 rpm higher than before.Kevin Wing
2019 Honda CB650R riding on road.
The Honda CB650R proves to be a great do-it-all motorcycle. It’s a natural steppingstone for riders moving up from a small-displacement bike.Kevin Wing