2019 Honda CB650R Review:
The Newest Neo Sports Café
If there’s one cinematic trope that relates to the world of motorcycling, it’s that of the ugly duckling. This year, Big Red has given its 2019 Honda CB650R the Neo Sports Café makeover, changing the middleweight standard-motorcycle from frump to fox with the snap of a finger.
Of course, the CB650R’s beauty is more than skin-deep. Alongside styling cues from the CB1000R and CB300R, several mechanical changes imbue it with greater performance.
We spent time with the revised 2019 Honda CB650R in the California resort town of Palm Desert, and to the nearby San Jacinto Mountains to bring you these Fast Facts.
1. UJMs and inline-4 motors—is there a more iconic pairing? Honda has been infatuated with the inline-4 configuration since the 1969 CB750K0. With that much time under their belts, it’s no surprise that the 2019 CB650R’s DOHC inline-4 is such a smooth, user-friendly piece of kit. It offers up a good amount of low-end poke in the city streets, complimented by commendable mid-range that shows itself around 6k rpm, while peak torque is reached at 8500 rpm. Beyond that, you’ll be twisting the mechanical throttle and revving this engine to the moon, without a single hiccup in the fueling, it pulls to peak horsepower at a lofty 12,000 rpm. It’s relatively docile down low, making it good in traffic, and the linear power band gives you about 8000 rpm to work with.
2. Honda brings further refinement to the beloved inline-4, and a little more power. Honda imbued the ravishing CB650R with several engine updates that impact the overall power output. With an extra 1000 rpm on tap, the redline has increased to 12,500 rpm, giving the engine a claimed five percent more gumption above 10k. The impetus for these updates wasn’t to obtain dyno bragging rights, as Honda North America doesn’t cite specific horsepower or torque figures. Instead, it was to smooth out the engine over the entire rev-range. To do that, a new piston with a revised shape was brought in, updated cam profiles, and a dual-duct intake airbox, as opposed to the previous single duct unit. Together, these changes make an already silky inline-four even more so.
3. An assist-and-slipper clutch is now proudly featured with the six-speed gearbox. The new clutch gives the lever a light, one finger pull. Clicking through the gearbox—up or down—is done with ease. When things heat up in the canyons, you’ll have the slip feature watching over your shoulder in case you get a bit overzealous when downshifting.
4. The 2019 Honda CB650R’s frame hit the gym—leaner, lighter, and stronger. When it comes down to basic geometry, the CB650R has no alterations from the F that it replaces; the wheelbase is still 57 inches, with a sporting rake of 25.3-degrees—pars for the course in this class. Honda engineers approached this issue from a few directions. They use stamped pivot plates, as opposed to pressed, to shave off over four pounds. A new engine hanger, with a central bar, is claimed to dampen engine vibration further. Lastly, the seat-rail is raised two inches, allowing engineers to shorten the subframe section by two inches, improving mass centralization. While the swingarm remains untouched dimensionally, the mounting point for the Showa shock now uses a Heim-joint like connection that is said to improve actuation through the stroke.
5. The CB650R has a neutral riding position, perfect for those looking for a daily rider. In comparison to the now departed CB650F, the updated R model features an improved rider triangle that a marginally more aggressive riding position with the grips moved forward a half-inch and down 0.3 inches. Additionally, the footpegs now sit slightly higher and rearward than before. The riding position is neutral, and there’s more than enough leeway in the comfy 32-inch saddle to have some fun in the canyons. In short, it’s just the type of riding position I look for in a standard machine —comfortable, a good reach to the tarmac, and zero weight on the wrists. Of course, like all naked bikes, the rider is subject to more wind-blast when at higher speeds, though riding on the freeway isn’t too bad.
6. Honda’s revised middleweight receives fancy new Showa suspenders. A marked improvement over the previous Showa Dual-Bending Valve traditional fork, the CB650R now sports an inverted non-adjustable 41mm Showa SFF fork. Damping and spring rates are set up for casual street riding, making it comfy on the abused tarmac, and still up for a romp in the canyons. The Showa shock with spring-preload adjustment does a commendable job of masking the savagery of sun-baked tarmac and, again, propping the motorcycle up well once you’ve found yourself in the twisty stuff. Interestingly, the CB650R and its sporty brother, the CBR650R have identical suspension setups, yet the standard bike’s fork feels slightly softer—most likely due to the riding position. With an MSRP in the $9k range, I’d appreciate some meaningful suspension adjustability.
7. The Neo-Sports Café middleweight is no slouch in the twisty stuff. Standard bikes have the broadest of descriptions, and while the CB650R excels in the city streets with its downright effortless handling, I am glad to report that those characteristics stay true once you are in the canyons. With the upright handlebars at your disposal, you can toss the motorcycle around in the corners without a care in the world, while solid feedback is readily felt through the chassis.
8. New 5-spoke 17-inch wheels shave off even more weight from the 2019 Honda CB650R. Together, the new alloy wheels save a claimed two pounds compared to its predecessor. Importantly to note, this is unsprung weight being shed, which has an even more significant positive impact on handling abilities. The sport-touring Metzeler Roadtec 01 tires help keep the attractive CB looking stellar and also come in standard sizes—120/70 and 180/55—so you can install your favorite tires if the long-wearing Metzelers don’t meet your needs.
9. Just shy of a dozen pounds—that’s how much weight the CB650R has shed compared to the F. The 4.1-gallon tank did lose roughly a half gallon of fuel capacity, which contributes to the overall curb weight savings. Still, the wheels, frame, and other revised bits have trimmed the CB to the tune of 11.6 pounds.
10. Radial Nissin calipers are now part of the program. With the introduction of an inverted fork, it was time for some improved brakes. That is exactly what we get in the form of four-piston radially mounted Nissin calipers working in conjunction with 310mm rotors. There isn’t a shocking initial bite, which is desirable for a city dweller and plenty of power to match. Although feel at the lever is marginally stiffer than I’d like, there’s still enough sensitivity when trail braking. In the rear, a basic single-pot caliper works on a 240mm disc that has good feel and power.
11. The ABS/traction-control package is optional. An additional $300 for the ABS/TC package isn’t much to ask when considering how much a simple mistake can cost and on a street bike; I always recommend having rider aids in your back pocket, and both are unobtrusive. Luckily, for all the wheelie aficionados out there, TC can be turned off at the touch of a button on the left control. ABS cannot be disabled or adjusted.
12. A modernized LCD dash fits with the Neo-Sports Café motif. It looks the part and has about everything that I could ask for from a street bike with a gear indicator, fuel gauge, speedometer, tachometer, and more. I would like a brighter LCD screen, as it is difficult to see in direct sunlight.
13. In a sea of middleweight parallel-twin standard bikes, the new 2019 Honda CB650R stands out. It’s hard not to crane your neck while walking by the CB650R when it’s on the sidestand. Alluring good looks aside, Honda’s middleweight standard makes a strong case for itself in its class. The CB650R has plenty of headroom to make highway work a breeze, and the inline-4 delivers enough punch to keep you occupied in the city, as well as providing plenty of tractable power on tap when you make it to the backcountry. Combine that power with excellent handling, and the CB650R shines through with a unique experience in the segment, making it a competitive option.
- Helmet: Shoei X-Fourteen
- Jacket: Spidi Bolide
- Gloves: Spidi G-Carbon
- Jeans: Spidi J-Dyneema
- Boots: TCX Roadster 2
2019 Honda CBR650R Specs
- Type: Inline-4
- Displacement: 649cc
- Bore x stroke: 67mm x 46mm
- Compression ratio: 11.6:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC, 16 valves
- Fueling: EFI w/ 32mm throttle bodies
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Final drive: 525 chain
- Frame: Twin-spar steel
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable Showa SFF 41mm inverted fork; 4.3 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted, spring-preload adjustable Showa shock; 5.0 inches
- Wheels: Cast aluminum
- Tires: Metzeler Roadtec 01
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17 F
- Rear tire: 180/55 x 17
- Front brakes: 310mm floating discs w/ radially mounted 4-piston Nissin calipers
- Rear brake: 240mm disc w/ single-piston Nissin caliper
- ABS: Optional ($300)
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 57.0 inches
- Rake: 25.3 degrees
- Trail: 4.0 inches
- Seat height: 31.9 inches
- Fuel capacity: 4.1 gallons
- Curb weight: 445 pounds (ABS: 447 pounds)
- Color: Chromosphere Red
2019 Honda CB650R Price:
- $8899 MSRP
2019 Honda CB650R ABS Price:
- $9199 MSRP
2019 Honda CB650R Photo Gallery