The 2021 Honda CB650R ($9,199) rightfully places itself among Big Red’s sport standard lineup, placed between the entry-level and relatively affordable CB300R and the larger-displacement CB1000R. This middleweight certainly offers an engaging and entertaining experience for most experienced riders, while serving as an approachable platform for riders with fewer miles under their belts.
Editor’s note: We rode the CB650R during its US press introduction during the 2019 Honda CB650R First Ride Review and later in the 2019 Honda CB650R MC Commute Review. Peruse this content for added information about Big Red’s four-cylinder naked bike.
In this episode of MC Commute, we review the 2021 Honda CB650R as we ride to the <em>Motorcyclist</em> HQ. (Jeff Allen/)
Following a successful introduction to the US market in 2019, Big Red has made a number of revisions to the middleweight CB for increased practicality and performance. Honda addressed issues with the CB’s ergonomics, suspension, and engine performance with good, well-balanced results. This middleweight grows more attractive to all riders, while still elegantly dressed in Honda’s Neo-Sports Café styling.
Powering the CB650R is a 649cc inline-four engine. While the bore measurement is identical to the competition-inspired CBR600RR, Honda increased the stroke to achieve the displacement. (Jeff Allen/)
Honda chose a 649cc inline-four liquid-cooled powerplant for the CB650R, which sees a number of revisions aimed at improving emissions for the ’21 models year. Engineers made changes to the ECU mapping, camshaft lobes, and intake valve timing, as well as an all-new exhaust system with a new catalyst and muffler. An added benefit is an increase in peak output, which we recorded on our in-house Motorcyclist dyno. The CB650R produced a peak 81.9 hp at 10,900 rpm and 43.0 pound-feet of torque, which is a slight improvement to the 80.6 hp and 42.1 pound-feet that our last 2019 test unit recorded.
The CB650R sees a number of revisions in the 2021 model year. This LCD display has been repositioned to combat sun glare, while fonts have been changed to increase visibility of important information. (Jeff Allen/)
Opening the throttle on the CB650R offers approachable yet engaging acceleration, though an overly abrupt initial response is felt at slower speeds. The engine runs relatively vibration free and offers a comfortable highway ride settling in around 6,000 in top gear. The slick-shifting and well-spaced six-speed gearbox makes for easy work on both acceleration and deceleration. If I had one major gripe in the powerplant, the lack of clutch feel hinders the CB’s ability to efficiently accelerate away from a stop.
A pair of four-piston Nissin calipers clamping to 310mm discs bring the CB650R to a halt, even if lack of feel at the kever hinders their true stopping potential. (Jeff Allen/)
But the CB650R is an overall delightfully neutral ride, which benefits from a Showa Separate Function Big Piston fork (SFF-BP) for the ’21 model year. Although giving up some small-bump compliance over rough pavement for big-hit support needed in sporty scenarios, the suspension offers a likable balance. It’s light on its feet too. The CB tipped the Motorcyclist scales at a considerable 445 pounds with its 4.1-gallon fuel tank topped off, but corners effortlessly in a composed and confidence-inspiring manner. The OE-equipped Dunlop Sportmax D214 tires do an excellent job of connecting the Honda to the tarmac with great grip and feel.
The headlight on this CB650R is LED, as it is the same unit used on the larger-displacement CB1000R. (Jeff Allen/)
Braking performance is less inspiring, unfortunately. Brought to a halt by dual four-piston Nissin calipers up front, the Honda’s outright stopping power is adequate. Where the issue lies is in the brake lever’s lack of feel and unimpressive initial bite. It requires a lot of lever pull to unlock its braking potential, but also lacks the ability to communicate the amount of pressure being applied to the discs. An upgrade in an aftermarket brake pad may help. But if there is a positive, ABS is standard and offers seamless intervention when needed.
This Showa monoshock features a seven-step preload adjustability. It offers a great balance of small-bump compliance and big-hit support. (Jeff Allen/)
Honda also made revisions to the CB650R’s ergonomic setup, most notably rolling the handlebar position slightly forward for a more neutral position. Overall, it’s a comfortable ergonomic setup. The reach to the bar is relaxed, while the up-and-back footpeg placement adds a hint of aggression to the rider triangle, which helps in hustling the Honda through quick successions of corners. The measured 32.0-inch seat height allowed for an easy flat-foot contact for this 5-foot-7 tester and helps in low-speed maneuvers and navigating dense traffic. Finally, the LCD display perched in front of the handlebar has been re-angled to combat glare and given larger fonts so the rider can easily identify vital information at speed. A nice touch, Honda.
Dressed in Honda’s Neo-Sports Café styling, the CB650R is one of three sport standard models in the lineup. (Jeff Allen/)
The 2021 CB650R undeniably earns its spot in Honda’s lineup. Appropriately placed between the sport standard Honda models, this middleweight holds a place as a great all-around machine that strikes a balance of performance and versatility, while serving as an approachable steppingstone to the open-class market.
The 2021 CB650R is an approachable middleweight option for the Honda enthusiast. At $9,199, it may not exactly be a budget option, but is no stranger to Honda’s premium fit and finish. (Jeff Allen/)
Helmet: Shoei RF-SR
Jacket: Alpinestars Newman Overshirt
Pants: Alpinestars Victory Denim
Boots: Alpinestars Faster-3 Rideknit
2021 Honda CB650R Specifications
|Engine:||649cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled inline-four; 4 valves/cyl.|
|Bore x Stroke:||67.0mm x 46.0mm|
|Motorcyclist Measured Horsepower:||81.9 hp @ 10,900 rpm|
|Motorcyclist Measured Torque:||43.0 lb.-ft. @ 8,000 rpm|
|Fuel System:||PGM-FI w/ 32mm throttle bodies|
|Clutch:||Wet, multiplate assist/slipper clutch|
|Front Suspension:||41mm inverted Showa Separate Function Fork; 4.7 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension:||Showa shock, spring-preload adjustability; 5.0 in. travel|
|Front Brake:||Radial-mount 4-piston calipers, 310mm discs w/ ABS|
|Rear Brake:||1-piston caliper, 240mm disc w/ ABS|
|Wheels, Front/Rear:||Cast aluminum; 17 x 3.5 in. front, 17 x 5.5 in. rear|
|Tires, Front/Rear:||Dunlop Sportmax D214; 120/70-17 front, 180/55-17 rear|
|Motorcyclist Measured Seat Height:||32.0 in.|
|Fuel Capacity:||4.1 gal.|
|Motorcyclist Measured Wet Weight:||445 lb.|