A ride along the A32
Naked biking is back to basics riding, and the new Honda CB 650 R delivers a truly exciting ride. It is a bikers’ bike with nothing superfluous, yet it is packed with modern technology. The CB 650 R launched earlier this year and fills the gap Honda had between the 500 and 1000cc bikes.
I took it around Hampshire, along a popular biking road, the A32. It offers great riding and beautiful scenery, as well as decent cafe and pub stops in the towns dotted along the route. Branch off the A32 and you have other equally great roads, west towards Winchester or east to Petersfield. The A32 is located in Hampshire, southern England. It links Gosport and Alton. Starting at Gosport, facing Portsmouth, it travels north via Fareham, Wickham, Droxford, before joining the A31 near Alton. Wickham really marks the beginning of the country section of the A32, featuring several shops and cafes. The road is 29.2 miles (47.0 km) long from the seafront at Gosport to the roundabout with the A31 near Alton. It has no dual carriageway section along its length, but the road offers many overtaking sections with lots of twisty parts too.
The A32 is a popular route for motorcyclists, with the cafe Loomies, located where the A272 crosses the A32 at West Meon, being a central meeting place for many groups of riders. The historic site of Fort Widley to the south is easily accessed from Wickham and is also a very well-liked route by bikers.
The Meon Valley is synonymous with the production of watercress due to the running water travelling through chalk, producing the cleanest conditions for growing this salad crop. Recently, wasabi has started to be grown too as it seems to love those particular conditions.
Racing down the road, I could feel the bike’s perfect rear-wheel traction, which is managed by Honda’s Selectable Torque Control (HSTC). When the wheel sensors detect a difference between the front and rear wheel speeds, the system smoothly reduces torque to the rear wheel, maintaining traction. The CB650 R’s inline four-cylinder, DOHC 16-valve engine produces 70kW with strong mid-range torque of 64Nm. It has a 12,000rpm redline and features Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) to maintain rear-wheel traction.
I found particularly interesting the bike’s Emergency Stop Signal technology, which helps keep you safe if you ever need to hit the brakes unexpectedly. The system detects sudden braking and automatically activates the front and rear hazard lights, which flash to warn any nearby vehicles.
From a design point of view, I like what Honda has done with this naked bike. The ignition switch has been moved to the front of the fuel tank cover to create a minimalist frontal area. Honda loves its history, so with the CB650 R, they have designed the four exhaust downpipes to sweep together around the front of the engine in a retro style. The rear of the muffler has been redesigned to channel the full impact of the exhaust sounds directly to the rider, delivering a thrilling growl as revs climb. This creates powerful engine reverberations, giving you an immersive experience that only an inline-four engine can produce.
The new Honda features rich digital LCD instruments that are easy to read. Now included in the display are a Gear Position and Shift Up indicator, a water thermometer, a peak hold meter of the engine RPM, and an upshift indicator linked with the engine RPM to let the driver know when to change gears. The tapered handlebars of the CB650R offer easy leverage for fast steering reaction.
The new CB650R is all about balance. The frame’s elliptical spars feature tuned rigidity balance for front and rear wheel feedback. The curved aluminium swingarm is designed to be both hardwearing and handsome. 120/70-17 and 180/55-17 front and rear tyres deliver superbike-sized grip levels. Ride in style.
The CB 650 R has a 15-litre fuel tank which, with realistic riding, delivers around 120 miles between stops; probably just enough to allow for a couple of hours continuous riding.
Opposition comes in the form of the KTM 790 Duke, Kawasaki’s Z900, Yamaha’s MT-09, and Suzuki’s GSX-S750. The Honda is less expensive than these bikes but less powerful so it is a Catch-22 situation, go after more horsepower and you have to pay more.
The basic Honda CB650 R starts at £6,999, which I think it’s reasonable for a middleweight bike. Agile, with crisp handling and fast performance, you will be very happy with the bike if you choose to get one.