2019 Honda CB650R First Ride Review

We ride Honda’s new middleweight Neo-Sports Café naked bike in this review.

After debuting the fun and affordable CB300R and ultra-premium CB1000R last year, Honda releases the third and final Neo-Sports Café bike inside its 2019 US model lineup with the CB650R. This 649cc inline-four-powered Honda is designed for folks who desire a sporty, upright naked bike that's as capable around town as it is in the canyons.

Honda's certainly found the sweet spot with its CB650R. It's more versatile than the 300R, while also more applicable in the real world compared to the pricey and certainly bespoke 1000R. The engine has enough power and torque to keep more experienced riders entertained, yet it won't overwhelm the senses for a less experienced pilot.

2019 Honda CB650R in front of wall.
Honda’s got another fun and attractive naked bike with its 2019 CB650R.Kevin Wing

This makes for a machine that is forgiving and friendly to ride, despite not offering advanced rider features like adjustable power modes. Editor’s Note: Traction control, or Honda Selectable Torque Control in Big Red nomenclature, is included with ABS-equipped CB650Rs for a $300 upcharge, but the bike we rode did not have this feature.

2019 Honda CB650R with 649cc.
The 2019 CB650R’s purpose-built 649cc gets new pistons and valve timing. This engine squeaks out a tad more power on our dyno.Kevin Wing

Although it doesn’t benefit from ride by wire like many new motorcycles do, the calibration of the throttle response is as good as it gets for an analog bike—yet another plus for both novices and more experienced folks. Last time the dyno tested the F-specification CB650, the engine put out 79.05 hp at the rear tire.

The new spec engine, with its redesigned piston crowns, updated valve timing, and redesigned airbox with two intake ports, instead of one, boosts peak horsepower to 80.55 at 11,000 rpm. Even more impressive is the CB’s flat spread of torque—especially for an inline-four middleweight. It jumps off the corners well and the engine also sounds a tad beefier than we remember, with a more pleasing airbox note. The engine also revs to 12,900 rpm, 1,000 rpm higher than before.

2019 Honda CB650R headlight.
Honda designers got it right with its three-bike Neo-Sports Café lineup. The 2019 CB650R offers understated, yet attractive lines that are tasteful.Kevin Wing

This mill has a fair degree of engine vibration at higher rpm (above 6,000 rpm). But If you lug it at lower revs, it delivers a smooth and vibration-free ride. Although the engine shares the same cylinder bore as Honda’s CBR600RR engine, this long-stroke version is a purpose-built for road use (rather than competition with the RR mill) that Big Red released for the 2014 model year. The six-speed gearbox shifts between each gear well and we appreciate the lower final drive gearing further complementing acceleration.

An iPhone 4-sized monochrome display keeps tabs on this CB’s vitals. The dash is replete with pertinent information, including a handy gear position indicator and fuel level gauge. We also like the shape of the analog-shaped tachometer. Our only gripe are the individual fonts are compressed and hard to decipher at a glance.

2019 Honda CB650R dash display.
The CB650R sports more aggressive ergonomics, which we like. The dash display, on the other hand, while replete with information is a tad small and hard to read while riding.Kevin Wing

Like the rest of Big Red’s Neo-Sports Café bikes, the handling of this 650 version is one of the high points. Honda lopped off 10 pounds from the rolling weight of this bike with it now weighing 445 pounds with its 4.1-gallon tank topped off. Speaking of fuel, we netted an average of 39.5 mpg during mostly medium-speed highway riding.

2019 Honda CB650R riding on road.
All of Honda’s 2019 CB bikes are sweet-handling, but the CB650R strikes the best balance, in terms of weight, performance, and price.Kevin Wing

It hustles around corners well and is an easy motorcycle to place where you want on the road. Having ridden both the CB300R and CB1000R, I can say this middleweight version feels very similar, and that’s a good thing. The Showa suspension components offer a balanced ride, and the damping settings are a good compromise of around-town comfort and curvy road sport handling. And despite the rear suspension not offering a conventional linkage, the ride quality over rough pavement is excellent. The upgraded braking hardware makes it easy to keep your speed in check, plus the anchors have enough bite to slow it down in a hurry. Our testbike didn’t have ABS, which is a good thing as it makes the bike more enjoyable to ride in more experienced riders’ hands as you can manipulate either brakes with greater control.

2019 Honda CB650R riding on road.
The CB650R’s engine delivers a good spread of power, however the engine delivers considerable vibration over 6,000 rpm.Kevin Wing

Ergonomically, Honda sharpened the CB650R’s ergonomics. Its stance is a tad more aggressive. Specifically the handlebar is positioned lower and a little more forward. Conversely, the footpegs have shifted up- and rearward. It’s a more sporty ergo package than we recall with the previous model and will be a welcome update for folks who value a bit of sport performance when riding.

Once again, Honda’s proved the merit of its new Neo-Sports Café platform. Within this three-bike range the 650 inline-four achieves the magic sweet spot for everyday riding. It looks tasty and offers versatile performance. It’s the type of bike that would be at home as much during work week commutes as it would when strafing apexs on the weekend. Plus, you won’t outgrow it nearly as fast as you would on a smaller-displacement machine.

2019 Honda CB650R seat.
The 2019 Honda CB650R starts at $8,899. Combined ABS and HSTC (traction control) are avaliable at a $300 upcharge.Kevin Wing

Gear Box

2019 Honda CB650R radial-mount four-piston calipers.
Radial-mount four-piston calipers now grace the 2019 CB650R. It also rolls on Metzeler’s awesome Roadtec 01 tires—a first for a production Honda streetbike.Kevin Wing
2019 Honda CB650R Specifications
PRICE Starting at $8,899
ENGINE 649cc, liquid-cooled inline-four; DOHC; 16-valve
BORE x STROKE 67.0mm x 46.0mm
FUEL DELIVERY PGM-FI w/ 32mm throttle bodies
CLUTCH Wet multi-plate slipper clutch; cable actuation
FRAME Steel diamond
FRONT SUSPENSION 41mm Showa inverted fork; 4.25-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock adjustable for spring preload; 5.0-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Radial-mount four-piston calipers, 320mm discs
REAR BRAKE 1-piston caliper, 240mm disc
WHEELS Cast aluminum; 17 x 3.5-in. front, 17 x 5.5-in. rear
TIRES Metzeler Roadtec 01; 120/70-17 front, 180/55-17 rear
RAKE/TRAIL 32°/4.0 in.
WHEELBASE 57.0 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 31.9 in.
WARRANTY 1-year, unlimited mileage
CONTACT powersports.honda.com
2019 Honda CB650R riding on road.
Honda’s certainly found a sweet spot between performance, packaging, and price with its 2019 CB650R.Kevin Wing