CFMoto says: “The 650MT is for the rider who prefers to take the long way home.”
Motorcyclist says: “You've already got our attention—but will we see it in the states?”
It was going to happen sooner or later—a Chinese manufacturer was going to produce a mid-size, good-looking, crazy affordable motorcycle targeted at exports sales. CFMoto is that manufacturer, and the MT650 is that bike, though it’s not bound for the US just yet. CFMoto’s quads and side-by-sides are currently available here, however, so we can hope that the company will soon bring its motorcycles and scooters stateside, too.
CFMoto was already partnered with KTM, serving as the assembler for 390 Duke models sold in Asia. Now CFMoto has signed a contract with KTM’s design firm, Kiska Design, to oversee the creation of all future CFMoto models. The first fruits of this are now available to customers outside China, in the form of the revamped, sharply-styled 650NK roadster and all-new 650MT adventure tourer, which both debuted at the EICMA Milan Show last November, and are now in production.
The 650MT is the third model in CFMoto’s growing lineup of mid-sized motorcycles after the 650NK roadster and 650TK bagger, each powered by its self-developed 650cc parallel-twin eight-valve motor. To ride one, I travelled to Australia to throw a leg over a bike brought in by Melbourne-based Mojo Motorcycles.
The same 649cc, liquid-cooled parallel-twin motor that was used in the 650NK and 650TK models is fitted to the 650MT, complete with 180-degree crankshaft (so, one piston up/one down). Yes, this is essentially a Chinese ripoff of the Kawasaki Ninja 650 motor, even down to the dimensions. A claimed 70-ish horsepower at 8,500 rpm and 46 lb.-ft. at 7,000 revs makes this engine plenty powerful for everyday use, and mercifully there’s no annoying amount of vibration at any revs, right up to the hard-action 10,500-rpm rev limiter. This makes the 650MT both pleasant and practical in freeway use, as well as ultimately untiring to ride.
The 650MT is a model of rideability thanks to its flawless gearshift and light clutch action. This makes balancing the CFMoto at low speeds easy for riders of all levels of experience, with walking pace feet-up U-turns dead easy on a bike which has a very tight steering lock and is thus pretty manoeuverable, thanks also to the responsive but well-mapped fuelling. There’s no trace of an abrupt pickup from a closed throttle on the 650MT—just a smooth, liquid response which makes the bike seem so controllable. Though not particularly light for a 650 twin at 470 pounds without luggage (but with the 4.8-gallon tank fully fuelled), this will be an ideal mount for beginners provided they’re comfortable with the quite tall 33-inch seat height, though there’s a lower 32-inch option.
The 650MT’s Kiska-concocted riding position is super-comfortable, with the deeply stepped seat slotting you into the bike rather than sitting on top of it, while also providing relatively plush padding. There’s good lumbar support for the rider, and adequate though not exactly spacious room for a passenger, but the footrests are too high and a little too far forward. One thing Kiska nailed is the handlebar shape and placement—it’s perfect.
The mirrors are excellent and give a good view behind you without blurring at speed, and the switch clusters on the handlebars are a better quality than expected, though the light switches are curiously adjacent the right grip rather than the more commonplace left. The side stand seemed rather short (there’s no centre stand), but it turned out it had actually got bent by the previous rider, who went touring two-up with luggage and a passenger: Mojo boss Michael Poynton has requested that future production versions should be more substantial! The 650MT’s cockpit comes over as accommodating, in spite of the only naff-looking item on the entire motorcycle, the front brake master cylinder which is both massive and ugly. That sense of being welcomed aboard is partly thanks to the well-designed if slightly spartan dash.
The 650MT features Chinese-made Yuan suspension, with a 43mm fork that, oddly, is adjustable for compression damping but nothing else. The Yuan shock offers spring preload and rebound damping adjustments. I liked the front-end setup—it was sprung and damped well enough to iron out all but the worst bumps and pavement cracks. I wasn’t so happy with the rear shock, though, which didn’t seem very compliant and gave a rather choppy ride. It later turned out that the previous rider had ridden with a passenger and cranked up the preload up to suit, and without the necessary C-spanner I couldn’t experiment with adjustments. So the jury’s out on the 650MT’s rear suspension, though the fact that the front is so satisfactory gives you a head start in hoping that it’ll be reasonably effective.
Grip from the standard Metzeler RoadTec tires was good, and is a step up from the Chinese CST rubber that comes on CFMoto’s other bikes. (Mind you, ever since China’s state-owned chemical company ChemChina acquired Pirelli/Metzeler in 2015, I guess these tires are now seen as a local product that just happens to be made in Germany!)
Fitting the Spanish-developed J.Juan brakes—albeit made in the firm’s Chinese factory—gives the 650MT solid stopping power that’s backed by Continental-supplied ABS. Stainless brake lines are fitted as standard, and the two-piston calipers clamp down on large 300mm rotors. The ABS works well, albeit with crude intervention. Both levers on the handlebar are five-way adjustable for reach, which is always a nice feature and something that allows the bike to be tailored to fit a wide range or riders.
The fact that CFMoto has fitted the Metzeler tyres, Bosch ECU, Continental ABS, and J.Juan brakes indicates a welcome concern to deliver a bike fitted with name-brand components that will provide reassurance to export customers, all while maintaining an affordable price that we anticipate being around $6,500 if and when it comes to the US. The CFMoto 650MT is as capable and pleasing (as well as practical) a ride as any motorcycle costing thousands more, with half the looks. Anyone thinking about buying a secondhand Kawasaki Versys 650, let alone a new one, now has a hard decision to make. The prospect of an easily affordable commuter that’s directly comparable to similar, more expensive models sure has us interested—but will it in fact make it to the states? We remain hopeful.
|CFMoto's 650NK roadster and 650TK bagger meet in the middle in the form of the sleek 650MT, the third variation to the previous mid-range design.|
|BMW F 700 GS, Honda NC700X, Kawasaki Versys 650, Suzuki V-Strom 650|
|ENGINE||649cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin|
|CLAIMED HORSEPOWER||70bHp @ 8,750rpm (at crankshaft)|
|CLAIMED TORQUE||45.72 lb.-ft. 7,000 rpm|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||Yuan inverted 35mm fork adjustable for compression damping; 5.51 in. travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Yuan monoshock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 5.7 in. travel|
|FRONT BRAKE||Yuan dual-piston calipers, 300mm discs with Continental ABS|
|REAR BRAKE||Yuan single-piston caliper, 240mm disc with Continental ABS|
|SEAT HEIGHT||33.07 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY||4.75 gal.|
|CLAIMED WEIGHT||469.58 lb. wet|
|A good-looking, smooth-sailing, distance touring machine at an affordable price — one can only hope it'll make its way to the states!|