It’s no secret that the Tuning Fork brand and the Green Team are eating up middleweight-plus sized street fighter market share. Now American Honda wants a slice of this motorcycle pie with the CB650F ($8249), imported from the bustling streets of Europe. Paired alongside the returning, full-fairing and road-based CBR650F sportbike, Honda now has two affable flavors for around town sport fun.

2018 Honda CB650F motorcycle review first ride
The full fairing of the CRR650F does hide the exhaust, but there’s still no shortage of style.

Both bikes use Honda’s long-stroke 649cc liquid-cooled Inline Four for propulsion. This isn’t the same 16-valve screamer that powers the high-revving CBR6000RR supersport. Instead it trades the CBR’s track focused, race grade performance for a broader powerband with real world appeal.

It’s a delicate sweet spot that these CB-F machines balance well. Peppy but not overly so, the fuel-injected DOHC motor delivers a broad and useable spread of acceleration power. Honda says it benefits from different intake funnel stacks as well as subtle changes to the muffler which nets a more exhilarating sound inside the cockpit.

It certainly sounds more appealing than we remember, but isn’t as rocking as a Triple-cylinder platform. Still, we can never knock the classic sound, touch and feel of an Inline Four— after all, it’s the most popular engine configuration in the modern era of street bikes.

2018 Honda CB650F
The four-into-one symmetrical pipes of the ‘70s-era CB bikes return. Photo: Adam Booth

Big Red also says its massaged the gear ratios inside the six-speed transmission for more get up and go. Final drive gearing remains unchanged. The engine is within its sweet spot at all but redline-approaching rpm, and the gearbox meshes between cogs without flaw. The manual clutch has a pleasing but not overly heavy lever pull that will be welcomed by any type of rider. There’s no slipper clutch, however to be fair, we couldn’t notice when riding the optional ABS-equipped model.

2018 Honda CB650F
We appreciate the aesthetic of the cast aluminum rims and one-piece Nissin calipers – it would be better however if they were a radial-mount setup. Photo: Adam Booth

The triple disc brake package responds with competence when either lever is pressed and either end gives enough feel to be useful, but not so much as to intimidate. The one-piece Nissin calipers appear high end— similar to their radial-mount counterparts, but mount conventionally to the fork. It certainly isn’t the end of the world, but a more rigid, race-bred setup would be preferred— especially when you consider its price point.

We do however appreciate the clean aesthetic appeal of the cross-drilled wave-type rotors and 12-spoke rims offering a more premium look. Another nice touch is the L-shaped valve stems making routine tire air pressure checks easier. Other notable styling details include the symmetrical four-into-one exhaust pipes — a nod to the original ‘70s era CB.

2018 Honda CBR650F
The CBR650F is a logical choice for those seeking added wind protection on the road. Photo: Adam Booth

The CB bares more eye candy showing off its high-tech looking cylinders and engine cases— partially hidden on the full-fairing equipped CBR-F model. The naked bike’s front end is equally more risqué with the LED headlight getting all of the attention rather than the more generic body panels and windscreen of its brother. Though if freeway commutes are forecasted, you’ll appreciate the extra wind protection.

Both bikes share all-digital instrumentation set inside a faux-carbon fiber bezel. The left face houses speed and a horizontal bar graph style tachometer. On the right side there’s a clock, fuel level meter, plus associated trip and MPG stats. All the info is easy to read but a gear position indicator would be a nice addition. The display itself is also showing its age and would benefit from a more modern looking setup.

2018 Honda CB650F
The instrumentation on the CB/R650F is functional but a tad dated looking. Photo: Adam Waheed

Aside from appearance, riding position is where these motorcycles stand apart. We appreciated the CB’s more upright aluminum handlebar as opposed to above the triple clamp clip-ons on the CBR-F. Either setup does a fair job of masking engine vibration but you can still feel some buzz at higher rpm.

The frame’s steel spars wrap over the Inline Four which facilitates a slim cockpit and a straighter shot for the rider’s legs. If you’re a shorter person then you’ll like sitting on this bike. Equally friendly for tall folks, the cockpit is proportioned well and the footpegs aren’t too high, nor too low with a pleasing overall riding position during our 160-mile test loop.

2018 Honda CB650F
Attention to detail – Honda men did an excellent job in the styling department. Photo: Adam Booth

The seat is also extra squishy and complements the dual-bending-valve equipped Showa fork. The technology is similar to what HD its 2018 Softail line-up and basically allows for improved fluid dynamics and control during compression and rebound stroke. There’s no damping adjustment but we didn’t ride hard enough to miss it. On grippy asphalt the OE-shod Dunlop D222 rubber performed admirably but considering its budget-oriented design its something we’d replace sooner rather than later.

Regardless of flavor, Honda has two capable steeds in its CB650 and CBR650F. We naturally gravitated toward the naked version, due in part to its tank top summer styling and upright ergos. As with many things in life, less is more, and the $500 savings isn’t bad either. However, if you need some additional wind protection and prefer sportbike style, then the CBR-F will be right up your alley.

CBR650F and CB650F Riding Kit

2018 Honda CB650F
As always, Shoei’s RF-1200 is one of the best all-around full-face helmet’s money can buy. They price tag ain’t bad either. Photo: Adam Waheed
2018 Honda CB650F
There’s nothing better than a good-fitting set of gloves. That’s what you get with warm-weather friendly Alpinestars SP-2 Air gloves. Photo: Adam Waheed
2018 Honda CB650F
It’s still hot out in many parts of the country – Stay cool while maintaining a casual look with TCX’s X-Wave Air riding shoe. Photo: Brody Cox

2018 Honda CB650F / CBR650F Highs & Lows

    Fantastic styling and careful attention to aesthetic details
    Fun four-cylinder engine
    Comfortable to ride
    Engine is a tad buzzy
    Lacks the flavor of others inside the class
    Instrumentation appears dated

2018 Honda CB650F / CBR650F Specifications

Engine: 649cc Inline Four, DOHC 16-valve
Bore and Stroke: 67 x 46mm
Compression Ratio: 11.4
Fuel Delivery: Digital Fuel Injection
Transmission: Six-speed
Clutch: Wet, multi-disc; cable actuation
Final Drive: Chain, 15/42 gearing
Frame: Steel
Front Suspension: Showa 41mm fork; 4.25 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Showa gas-charged shock with spring preload adjustment; 5.04 in. travel
Front Brakes: 320mm disc with Nissin twin-piston caliper, ABS
Rear Brake: 240mm disc with Nissin single-piston caliper, ABS
Wheels: Steel, 17 x 3.5 inch front and 17 x 5.0 inch rear
Tires: Dunlop Sportmax D222; 120/70-17, 180/55-17
Curb Weight: 452.2 pounds
Wheelbase: 57.1 in.
Rake: 25.3 deg. Trail: 3.98 in.
Seat Height: 31.9 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.6 gallon
MSRP: $8,249 CB650F; $8749 CBR650F; $500 upcharge for ABS
Warranty: 12-month Limited Warranty