First ride: 2019 Honda CB650R Neo Sports Café

It’s sure to turn heads and capture hearts wherever it goes
by Matthew Galang | Dec 26, 2018
PHOTO: Matthew Galang

When it comes to big bike trends, Honda is never far behind. We already witnessed the launch of the latest additions to Honda Philippines’ ‘heavyweight’ lineup. These were the Gold Wing DCT, and the Neo Sports Café edition of the CB1000R and the CB650R. The most affordable of these offerings (and arguably the most appealing) is the middleweight CB650R, which had us excited from the moment Honda mentioned the number 650. Here are our first impressions.


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The CB650R is an undisputedly gorgeous bike, with its timeless looks, high-end finish, ‘just right’ proportions, and apparent lack of any bad angles. It packs an updated version of the in-line four-cylinder engine, and the artistically designed sweeping exhaust headers found on the outgoing CB650F and CB650R models we’ve tested before. Aside from that, however, the CB650R barely looks related to its older siblings.

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The round headlight that’s all the rage these days stands in stark contrast with the pointy, angular units on other modern street bikes, and blends perfectly with the smooth, rounded lines of the bodywork. The tank is beautifully sculpted and painted in Honda’s now-signature Candy Chromosphere Red.

The gold inverted forks and silver accents distinguish the CB650R as a motorcycle of class and elegance, and not a bit of the bike looks out of place, save for the license-plate mounting that sticks a bit too far out for our tastes.

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The saddle

Those familiar with naked bikes will feel right at home on the CB650R’s saddle. Despite the bike’s minimalist design, the accommodations don’t feel spartan and are rather comfortable. The 31.9-inch seat height is welcoming as well, with both my feet reaching the ground (I’m 5’8)—definitely a plus point for daily use.

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The digital display offers a wealth of information that’s easy to read and styled with timelessness in mind. Honda seems to have taken a hint from our review of the CB650F, and has finally decided to add a gear-position indicator, removing the need for beginners to guess what gear they’re in.

Engine performance

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Hearing an in-line-four growl to life never fails to send a shiver down my spine, and this is the case with the CB650R. Riding it is a smooth, satisfying, and confidence-inspiring experience, with the bike’s 94hp just a twist of the wrist away. Paired with the six-speed manual transmission and the assist/slipper clutch, the CB650R’s powertrain proved to be user-friendly, but also powerful enough to get you into oodles of trouble.

The CB650R’s advantage over the other contenders in the Japanese middleweight segment is its in-line four-cylinder mill, whereas the competition uses twin-cylinder units. As such, both sound and power delivery are in a class of their own, giving this bike more than enough bite to go with its bark.

Ride and handling 

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Unlike many café-styled bikes out there, the CB650R doesn’t compromise comfort and ergonomics to favor aesthetics. The riding position is comfortable and mostly upright, albeit a bit more forward and aggressive as compared to the CB650F. The inverted 41mm Showa Separate Function Fork makes the bike a dream to corner, though comments can’t be made yet on how it handles bumps, as the portion of the Honda Safety Driving Center (HSDC) test track we rode on was devoid of any.

Extra features

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The 2019 CB650R features a lot of Honda’s new tech, including standard dual-channel ABS, Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC), and an assist/slipper clutch that makes the clutch lever almost scarily smooth and easy to pull.

Illumination is provided by stylish LED fixtures front and back, and peace of mind comes care of Honda’s Intelligent Security System (HISS).


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The Honda CB650R makes an undoubtedly strong first impression, with beautiful fit and finish, more-than-ample performance, and looks that many café-style customizers would give a kidney for.

Seeing as how we only had an afternoon with this gorgeous machine at the HSDC test track, a quick first-impressions review is about as much as we can give about Honda’s newest and perhaps most appealing middleweight to date. Hopefully, we can get some more time with the CB650R, so we can properly put it through its paces out on the streets and open roads.


SPECS: Honda CB650R

Engine: 649cc liquid-cooled, in-line four-cylinder
Power: 94hp at 12,000rpm
Torque: 63.7Nm at 8,500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Final drive: Chain
Seat height: 31.9 inches
Price: P501,000

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PHOTO: Matthew Galang
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