2019 Honda CBR650R First Ride-Honda's most practical sportbike for the casual sport rider


Sportbike-like styling and performance with everyday comfortí¬that's the type of experience Honda offers with its 2019 CBR650R. Big Red's latest sportbike borrows lines from the CBR1000RR with a punchy, but more easy-to-live-with inline-four engine. Its well suited to day-to-day life during work week commutes, or for apex strafing missions on the weekend.

Viewed from the front, it's easy to see the CBR family lines. The front end has a symmetrically shaped nose housing a pair of bold LED headlights and dual ram air intakes, just like its larger Supersport cousin, the CBR1000RR. Even though a lower fairing partially covers the header pipes, you can still see their clean, flowing tubed lines through the panel slits. The upper half of the engine remains exposed, and we appreciate is chiseled look and tasteful two-tone mix of bronze and black.

CBR650R front end styling

The front end styling of the CBR650R is a ringer for Hondaí»s top-dog CBR1000RR supersport.

The shape of the frame rails resemble that of a higher-end twin-spar setup, however instead of alloy, ití»s stamped from steel. All told, the frame weighs 4.2 pounds less than the previous iteration. A stout-looking aluminum swingarm and thin, low overhang tailsection appear equally as pleasing and is a fender-eliminator kit away from perfection. In typical Honda fashion, fit and finish is top-notch, and on a level that is every bit as premium as a Japanese-built Honda (the CB/CBR650Rs are both assembled at Honda's Thailand factory).

The CBR650R uses the same purpose-built inline-four that power's Honda's CB650R naked bike. Despite sharing identical cylinder bore measurements as Honda's CBR600RR supersport (67mm), the engine internals are completely different says Honda. It also features 3.5mm-longer piston stroke boosting displacement to 649cc. For 2019, it benefits from pistons with an updated crown shape. Valve timing and new camshaft profiles were also fitted. It breathes through a redesigned airbox with twin ram-air intakes, instead of one. The air filter is 1.7 times larger and tilted downward by 20 degrees to reduce turbulence. The engine revs 1,000-rpm higher with the limiter coming in at 12,800 rpm.

Dyno testing reveals that this updated I4 is good for 80.1 hp at 10,950 rpm and 41.73 pound-feat torque at 8,170 rpm. That's 1.05 hp more than the previous configuration, but 0.74 pound-feet torque less peak torque. To be fair, the new engine arrives at its torque peak 570 rpm earlier. During our ride, we noted an average of 39.5 mpg.

CBR650R riding position

The CBR650R has a sporty but not overly so riding position thatí»s well suited to day-to-day life on the street.

Around town the CBRí»s engine has a relatively punchy feel for a middleweight class inline-four. The engine feels snappier than we remember with the prior í░Fí▒ designation CBR, plus the intake roar sounds more throaty. It isní»t as rambunctious as other bikes in its class, yet exudes enough personality to be entertaining to ride. Engine vibration does creep through the control surfaces above 6,000 rpm.

The 2019 CBR650R is powered by a purpose-built 649cc inline-four that it shares with the CB650R.

A six-speed transmission and manual cable-actuated clutch complement the engineí»s broad powerband. The gear ratios help ensure that youí»re always in the meat of the power, allowing you to pass slower traffic with ease. Another plus is the clutch lever offers an easier squeeze (12 percent less effort according to Honda). The gearbox meshes between cogs well, with short lever throw. Occasionally, however, the transmission slipped into neutral when shifting between first and second gear at high rpm.

CBR650R rear suspension

The CBR650R sports tidy styling and we appreciate how well the rear suspension functions despite not employing a linkage.

There arení»t any adjustable engine power modes, but thatí»s okay as the engine delivers ample power thatí»s docile in the lower revs but willing through the midrange. Although it does not employ ride-by-wire, the cable connection between throttle and engine is well-calibrated and natural feeling, which makes this Honda even easier to ride.

A modest $300 upcharge adds ABS and Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC). The system functions either on or off; at a sane pace ití»s hard enough to feel the electronics at work. Still, ití»s nice to know ití»s there if youí»re riding in inclement conditions or unfamiliar surfaces.

CBR650R is a real-world sportbike

The CBR650R offers a pleasing balance between sport and comfort. Ití»s a functional real-world sportbike.

Seated at the controls this 458-pound CBR feels comfortable and well proportioned for a 6-foot tall rider. Seat height is listed at 31.9 inches to accommodate shorter folks. Both rider and passenger seats are wide and generously padded, plus the slim shape of the 4.1-gallon fuel tank makes it easier for the rider to place his feet on the asphalt at a stop.

The rider triangle (relationship between rider seat, clip-on-style handlebar, and footpegs) was sharpened for an every-so-slightly more sporty stance. Ití»s a subtle change, but one that pays dividends when hustling it around bends. A full fairing and windscreen do an acceptable job of shielding the rider from wind, but the windshield could be a tad taller to better block the rider from elements. Fortunately, Honda offers a taller version as an OE accessory.

CBR650R seat

The rider and passenger saddle are broad and well supported. Ití»s an ideal mount for logging miles.

All-digital monochrome instrumentation conveys motorcycle running vitals, and we like that it includes both a gear position indicator and fuel gauge. The sweeping digital tachometer is another nice touch. Our only gripe is the display is a tad small with overly compact fonts.

CBR650R wheelie

Yes, ití»s a sportbike, and the 2019 CBR650R is willing to play, when asked.

Suspension, wheels, and brakes are another upgrade both visually and in terms of performance. An inverted Showa SFF fork offers a happy medium between sporty road holding and everyday comfort. The shock continues to mount directly between frame and swingarm, sans linkage, yet it delivers a refined ride thatí»s much more composed than other non-linkage setups weí»ve sampled recently.

2019 CBR650R dash display

The rider triangle has been sharpened slightly for 2019. Ití»s a cozy mount, however the dash display could be larger.

Radial-mount Nissin front brakes have adequate bite for street use and are easy to get a feel for. We also appreciate the ability to adjust the brake lever based on rider hand size. Calibration of the ABS is equally pleasing, however we wish it could be manually disabledí¬a feature present on other European sport-oriented motorcycles. Cast aluminum-alloy five-spoke rims shed another 2.1 pounds from the CBR and they look great too, especially with staggered red pinstriping.

While ití»s no hard-core sportbike, those looking for a reasonable do-it-all sporty-ish CBR will gel well with this 2019 CBR650R. With its CBR1000RR-like styling, it certainly looks the part and elevates the general street riding experience with its mild manners and reasonable MSRP.

The 2019 Honda CB650R

The 2019 Honda CB650R rings in at $9,399. Combined ABS/HSTC is available for a $300 upcharge.