Honda’s CBR650R became, deliberately, a rare breed: a four-cylinder sports bike that provides similar pleasure, enjoyment and adrenaline to an RR machine, yet with enough practicality — and sensible running costs — to make it a viable option as day-to-day transport in addition to weekend fun. It’s a direction that’s been well received.
In its 2019 debut year, the CBR650R was the second best-selling sports bike in Europe and, for 2021, the CBR650R continues its development curve with user-driven detail improvements as it gains Showa’s 41mm Separate Function Big Piston forks and EURO5 compliance for the high-revving four cylinder engine. Other updates include improved LCD dash, revised headlight reflectors, USB Type-C socket under the seat and updated graphic treatment. New side panels and number plate mount are minor cosmetic changes.
The CBR650R will be available in two revised colour options: the Candy Chromosphere Red version employs sharp black/white graphics as a much stronger visual counterpoint on the fairing sides and (additionally, compared to the previous design) fuel tank and rear seat unit; while the Matt Gunpowder Black Metallic now features discreet silver (rather than red) accent lines adding to the ‘stealth’ appeal.
The steel diamond frame uses pressed swingarm pivot plates and twin elliptical spars with a rigidity balance specifically tuned (stiffer around the headstock and more flexible in the spar sections) to deliver balanced handling characteristics, with high levels of rider feedback. Rake is set at 25.5° with trail of 101mm and wheelbase of 1,450mm. Kerb weight is 208kg.
Showa 41mm SFF-BP USD forks are a major upgrade; a pressure separation damper in one fork tube and spring mechanism in the other deliver high damping performance and lighter weight. Together with the use of a larger sized piston the result is increased feel, bump absorption and control. Adjustable for seven-stage spring preload, the single-tube monoshock operates directly on the curvaceous gravity die-cast aluminium swingarm.
Four-piston radial-mount front brake calipers work on 310mm wave-pattern floating discs, and are paired with a single-piston rear caliper and 240mm disc. The ABS is a two-channel system.
Cast aluminium wheels mount 120/70-ZR17 and 180/55-ZR17 front and rear tyres.
Styling and equipment
With its four-cylinder power unit clearly on display the CBR650R’s wrapping ramps up the pure sporting appeal; dual LED headlights emit a penetrating, uncompromising stare – with sharp new reflector profile for 2021 – and the upper and (extended) lower fairings blend muscularity with slim lines and angles.
The seat unit, too is compact and truncates the rear of the machine, adding to the hard-edged sense of purpose. New side panels accentuate the minimalism, as does the steel rear mudguard/number plate mount.
The aggressive riding position starts with clip-on handlebars that mount beneath the top yoke, matched to rear set footpegs. There’s also now a USB Type-C socket located under the seat, for easy charging of a mobile device. Seat height remains 810mm.
Stylish LCD instruments include Shift Up, Gear Position and Peak Hold indicators. For 2021 readability has been improved with a change of LED angle and font size.
The 649cc, DOHC 16-valve engine is tuned to create the purest, most enjoyable mid-sized four cylinder performance possible, with the classically fast ‘pick-up’ through the rev range and hard-hitting, high-revving top end for which Honda’s in-line’s fours are renowned. Peak power of 70kW arrives @ 12,000rpm with peak torque @ 63Nm delivered at 8,500 rpm. An easy 35kW conversion is available for A2 licence holders.
Through the 2021 update the only changes to engine specification are for EURO5 compliance; this has required revisions to the ECU, cam lobes, intake timing, exhaust pipe, catalyser and silencer, as well as the addition of a crank pulsar.
Direct cam actuation makes for a compact cylinder head; bore and stroke is set at 67mm x 46mm with compression ratio raised of 11.6:1. Iridium spark plugs are employed and twin air ducts — either side of the fuel tank — feed the airbox and produce a throaty intake roar.
Asymmetric piston skirts minimise bore contact and reduce friction. Ferrous spines on the outer surface of the cylinder sleeves reduce oil consumption (and friction) with improved heat transfer and a silent SV cam chain reduces frictional losses by using a Vanadium coating on its pins. Internal water channelling from cylinder head to cylinders does away with most of the exterior hoses.
The engine uses a compact internal architecture, stacked six-speed gearbox and starter layout with the cylinders canted forward 30°. An assist/slipper clutch eases upshifts while managing rear-wheel lock up under hard braking and rapid downshifts. Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) is fitted to manage rear wheel traction; it can be turned off should the rider choose.
Fuel consumption is expected to be 53mpg giving a range of over 180 miles from the 15.4L fuel tank.
A range of Genuine Honda Accessories are available for the CBR650R including: Front mudguard panels, side covers, seat cowl (aluminium parts or aluminium inserts); Wheel stripes; Tank bag and seat bag; Quick shifter; Tall screen – clear or smoked; and Heated grips.
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