When I first clapped eyes on the latest CBR650R from Honda at Motorcycle Live I casually walked past it, assuming it was the existing Fireblade model. Only a glance at the rear end caused me some confusion.
Fast forward a few months and Honda kindly invited me on the launch of the CBR650R, as well as its naked brother the CB650R (there's lots of Rs in the Honda lineup) in an unseasonably chilly southern Spain. Here's the best bits about the new CBR.
1: It's very Honda
For those who have owned or ridden a Honda motorcycle, no explanation is necessary. What "very Honda" equates to is a huge level of refinement and build quality. The power delivery in particular is always linear, with a buttery smooth throttle response that's difficult to find in the age of Euro 4 (and upcoming Euro 5) emissions regulations.
2: It's a great value beginner's machine and a big seller for Honda
The previous generation CBR650 actually outsold Honda's flagship 1000cc Fireblade last year, so you can see why they've taken real care in upgrading it for this year.
The CBR can also be bought in A2 spec for those who aren't yet allowed to ride full power bikes. This opens the Honda up to a large and growing market of new riders who may not want to shell out for a larger bike when they finally free themselves from their A2 shackles. The 650R does it all and with PCP deals at £99 a month, it starts to make real financial sense.
3: It's not a rev-hungry supersport bike
Even though our very own James May loves his CBR600RR, the model was silently killed off by Honda in late 2017 after a huge downturn in 600 supersport sales. Suzuki followed suit with the cessation of their GSX-R600 model and in a world of rider aids, nobody seems to have noticed.
The latest 650R is a very different machine from the screaming 600RR. Think of it more as big bore 600F of old rather than a razor sharp track weapon. The riding position is far more relaxed and suited for touring, although the 650R is certainly an adequate weapon in the right hands.
With the death of the 600RR, the Ron Haslam Race School has replaced their bikes with 650R models, showing their track capability is still there.
4: The OEM tyres are a bit naff
Let's not forget that profit margins are increasingly small on large capacity motorcycles these days. This sometimes means your new bike will come on cheap tyres produced in Thailand. The same goes for the Dunlop D214s that wrap around the Honda's 17 inch wheels. There's no other way of saying it - they're just rubbish. Impossible to heat up, zero feedback and if you're buying one of these new from a Honda dealership, we recommend wearing your haggling hat and getting them to fit something a bit stickier.
5: It has plenty of toys
Thankfully the duff tyres can be reined in by the traction control system. ABS is of course standard. The dash is now bang up to date and you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between the Fireblade TFT dash and this one.
If you like to wheelie now and again, Mr Honda has given you the ability to turn off the traction control whilst on the move, a nice touch. There's also an optional quickshifter and heated grips which are both excellent, as well as luggage options. See the Honda website for more details
Honda says it's mostly young riders buying the CBR650R, which brings some much-needed young blood into an industry where your average rider is now in their late 50s
The A2 compliance is no doubt a factor in the above figure and now with the looks of the Fireblade and a tempting PCP deal, it's sure to tempt more new riders over to the big H.
Price - £7729
Bore x Stroke - 67.0 x 46.0mm
Engine layout - inline four
Engine details - 16v dohc, l/c
Power - 93.9bhp @ 12,000rpm
Torque -47.2 lb.ft @ 8000rpm
Top speed -150mph (est)
Average fuel consumption - 45mpg
Tank size - 15.4 litres
Front suspension - 41mm Showa SFF usd forks (non adjustable)
Rear suspension - Showa monoshock (preload adjustment)
Front brake -2 x 310mm discs, four-pot caliper, ABS
Rear brake - 240mm disc, one-pot caliper, ABS
Seat height -810mm
Kerb weight - 207kg
Warranty -unlimited miles/2 years
Words: Shaun Pope Images : Honda UK
Gear : Arai Chaser X
Jacket - RST CPX-C Pro (custom badging available)
Jeans : Draggin'
Boots: TCX RT Race Pro Air