Honda CBR650F: Could it be the Best Sportbike for India?

Modified On Oct 25, 2018 By Sachin Sen for Honda CBR650F

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A Sportbike, typically, is a motorcycle designed and optimised more for speed, performance, braking and handling and less for comfort and fuel efficiency. Everything from the chassis and suspension to the engine and the exhaust note, are designed to provide an involving riding experience to the rider. It is a thrill, an adventure that few people experience and understand.

Yet, we need good infrastructure to enjoy Sportbikes – good smooth roads devoid of potholes and unusually high speed breakers, less traffic but good traffic sense and things like that. If we are lucky enough, we can have a race track as well where one can go and explore the limits of the motorcycle and of himself as well.

India has a mix of everything – good roads, bad roads, less to no traffic and bumper to bumper traffic too and especially in North India, we have the Budd International Circuit as well, a world class race track. Also, India has seen a rapid growth in the motorcycle market in the last decade, all thanks to the changing economic conditions around the world. There’s been a rise in all segments of motorcycles – commuters, beginner sportbikes, supersports and Superbikes.

Recently, Honda launched their CBR650F in India – a legendary motorcycle with a highly popular and reliable 650cc inline 4 engine. It is, in a way, a much sedate version of the CBR600RR Supersport, tuned more for low and mid-range torque delivery resulting in easier city riding. The power delivery is easy to control due to the engine’s soft state of tune which makes it a pleasant ride even in moderate city traffic. It is a better motorcycle for people who find the power in Supersports and Superbikes too aggressive to control.

The riding position is sporty, slightly forward leaning, but emphasis has been given on comfort. The rider triangle (handlebar, foot-pegs and seat) combination is such that the rider remains comfortable while he’s still getting the involvment of a sporty riding stance. The seat is a single unit for both the rider and the pillion, and wide enough to provide sufficient comfort. All this is possible due to the whole chassis designed to provide less aggressive riding stance. The rider sits more “in” the motorcycle than “over” it (typically like on Supersports and Superbikes). 

The engine is possibly the sweetest thing in the entire package. A good inline-4 engine is a dream for most Sportbike enthusiasts around the world and while the one in CBR650F is a pretty calm unit, it has been known to perform flawlessly. With around 87bhp on tap @ 11000rpm, there’s more than enough power for city riding and enough for extremely satisfying highway blasts across cities and states. The overall performance is enough to take care of maximum vehicles on the road, in the city or outsite of it.

The handling characteristic hovers between being neutral and sporty. In the city, the motorcycle is easy to ride providing predictable handling characteristics with the standard suspension being setup more for comfort. On the track, with some tweaks to the suspension, it has proven to be a very capable track tool. The proof of it is the fact that the CBR650F is extensively used in European Junior Cup championship.

However, there are other motorcycles as well that are more or less equally capable – Kawasaki Ninja 650F – with a 650cc parallel twin engine producing around 71bhp power. It is comfortable, sporty and pretty decent track tool as well. It is around 2 Lakhs cheaper too. But, as a whole, it is not as desirable as the CBR650F. The parallel twin engine of the Ninja feels even softer than the CBR’s inline 4 engine and doesn’t sound even half as good. It doesn’t have ABS either.

Then there’s another Kawasaki in the form of Z800 – an extremely good looking streetfighter with an exhilarating 800cc inline-4 engine producing around 112bhp of power. With a bigger engine, upside-down front forks, aggressive streetfighter looks and more power the Z800 is a better performer and provides more involving riding experience. It is even more desirable when you consider that it is only around 60,000 rupees more expensive than the CBR650F. There are lots of things going for the Kawasaki Z800. Still, it isn’t considered as comfortable for two-up riding and while there is more power to play with, the naked design doesn’t make it an equally good tourer that the CBR is.

The CBR650F comes across as a more complete package than anything we have right now at its price point in India. It is pretty good looking as well. A typical sportbike design adding sportiness and practicality (wind protection at high speeds) with the full fairing and the safety net of standard ABS. It is an extremely good motorcycle for people who find Supersports and Superbikes too aggressive to handle.

With an on-road price of almost 8 Lakhs in Delhi, the CBR650F is not really easy to get for many motorcycle enthusiasts around the country, but then we can argue that quality comes at a price. It is a comfortable sportbike that has been known to excel on the road while being pretty capable on a race track as well. It ticks the right check boxes.

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