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words - Mark Fattore
The Chinese manufacturer’s first foray into the ‘big bike’ market is nothing short of sensational, with its naked middleweight set to ruffle a few feathers

Sometimes it doesn’t take too long to realise you’re onto a good thing, and that a serious contender is in the wings. And so it was recently when I managed to swing a leg over the all-new middleweight naked bike from Chinese manufacturer CF Moto, the 650NK, for a first ‘visit’.

Set to go on sale in Australia in May, 2012 for $5990 – but only in LAMS configuration to kick things off -- the 650NK is a stunning first-up effort from CF Moto, melding a beautifully compliant 650cc parallel twin engine with a thoroughly well-mannered and accommodating braking and suspension packages. Oh, and did we tell you it bears a striking resemblance to the Kawasaki ER-6n, even down to the cantilever rear suspension?

But that aside, for a manufacturer whose business model is based on being a major exporter, the 650NK certainly presents one hell of a compelling case, both for experienced riders who still like a bit of fun in their two-wheel diet to those starting out in the caper. And there’s also a fully faired version of the NK on the way too (the 650TR), so the fun hasn’t has only just begun.

PLENTY OF GROUNDWORK
But first, some background. CF Moto is based out of Hangzhou in China, and currently produces around 600,000 motorcycles, ATVs, scooters and side-by-side vehicles per year in capacities ranging from 125-800cc, with a whopping 25 percent of its workforce dedicated to R & D.

The company’s key pillars are value for money – in contrast to “cheap” – as well as being reliable and innovative. Downstream of production, another key company platform is excellent service and warranty.

CF Moto was launched -- well, came to being as part of a rebadging exercise – locally in August, 2010, when the Melbourne-based motorcycle importer Mojo Motorcycles announced a revised collaboration with CF Moto, which saw all "Mojo" branding jettisoned in favour of "CF Moto".

The decision has been made under CF Moto's global branding strategy. Previously, Mojo Motorcycles had sold CF Moto scooters through the Mojo brand since December, 2008.

Since 2010, CF Moto has been on a seriously upward trajectory in Australia, and has clearly overtaken Kymco as the pacesetting manufacturer from Asia. So far this year, CF Moto ATV sales are up 405.6 percent (from 72 to 364) and motorcycles are up 47.1 percent (from 85 to 45).

But there’s no doubt the 650NK is the first ‘sexy’ model from CF Moto, and on the tail end of what must assume has been a concerted R & D effort. And it’s the first 650cc engine to come out of China, so could it be a game changer? Read on.

CLEAN LIVING

The engine on the 650NK is the standout, with the mapping and fuelling both on the money. There’s not one skerrick of hesitation throughout the rev range, irrespective of whether the fuel-injected engine (which meets Euro 3 specifications) is on a partial or full throttle. With no blips in the power delivery, the 70hp (59kW) and 62Nm engine is free to ply its trade without breaking stride, all with quite a raspy note.

In non-LAMS mode, which is the bike I rode, the work rate doesn’t really start to kick in until about 3000rpm, which isn’t really a problem as even the lightest of throttle actions will have the bike spinning at well over that mark. Maximum torque chimes in at 7000rpm, and the peak power at 8500rpm, but for those who like to keep things nice and calm – the majority of LAMS clientele for one – there’s still a fairly wide powerband to work with below those thresholds.

Those power and torque numbers are just about the industry ‘standard’, with bikes like the Suzuki SVF650 Gladius, Hyosung GT650 (both V-twins) and Kawasaki ER-6n all around the same ball park. Only Honda’s new NC700S, a parallel twin like the 650NK and ER-6n, breaks the mould, with Honda deliberately opting for a low-revving, low-friction mill -- for excellent mileage as much as anything else.

There’s certainly decent acceleration on the 650NK, enough to get more than footloose, but the fun is basically over by about 9000rpm, which is about the right time to shift up into another cog on the six-speed gearbox – which is another shining light by the way. The only real ‘clunk’ factor is in the move from neutral to first, and the rest is smooth and positive running.

I’m yet to sample an ER-6n, but I reckon the NK spins up nearly as fast as a Gladius, and feels just as lively.

Around town, and considering the anaemic feel below 3000rpm, fourth gear is the best bet for the most active drive and acceleration on the 650NK. If urban riding is your staple, then perhaps another tooth on the rear sprocket might be a handy move.

As for the LAMS model, from past experience the truncated power delivery isn’t really felt on a partial throttle; it’s when the throttle is pegged that the difference becomes quite pronounced. I would imagine the LAMS version of the 650NK would display such qualities.

I’ve already mentioned the engine’s smooth qualities, and another key contributor is how vibration is kept to a minimum in both urban and open settings. Rubber bushings tend to keep things in check on parallel twins, as well as internal balancers, while the NK also has fairly chunky handlebar grips, which probably also play their part – even though they feel just a little too weird.

Only the right-hand mirror suffers from any excessive vibes, while the left-hand one remains quite still. Can’t quite work that one out….

Elsewhere, the clutch grab is smooth and precise, while the throttle action is slightly on the heavy-ish side, but it’s something I simply noticed rather than being a bugbear.

ROCK SOLID
Kerb mass of the 650NK is a claimed 206kg, so again it’s in the same ballpark as the opposition.  You won’t have any problems flicking this bike around, as it changes direction with ease, has plenty of ground clearance, and soaks up everything in its path. And there’s no sacrificing stability either – it really feels rock solid. But I’d like the handlebars to be a little wider to gain ever more leverage. The bars actually look quite wide, but the huge bar ends provide the deception.

Another small piece of trickery is the tank, which is made to look bigger than it is because it melds with the giant shrouds that dominate the landscape at the front of the bike. But aesthetics aside, the shrouds are also perfect ‘junk’ cupboards, hiding everything from engine plumbing to coolant tanks.

The tank is actually quite narrow at the waist, which makes it had to tuck your knees into them – missing out on another potential leverage point.

Tyre sizes are 120/70 and 160/60 on 17-inch rubber.

The non-adjustable suspension is certainly basic, and the front end is definitely the strong suit, even if there’s a fair bit of initial dive to contend with – if indeed that’s a worry to you. In comparison, the cantilever rear end, with its side-mounted shock, is a little harsh on high-compression hits, and when pushed its lack of damping properties is evident – instead of squatting to get some drive it tends to get choppy and fight against itself.

But that’s something you won’t have to deal with too often on the NK and, if you’re after a naked sports bike, perhaps the Triumph Street Triple may be more your caper.

Ditto for the brakes – they also have plenty of initial bite and it’s a progressive scenario from there on in. Only under heavy duress do they feel the pinch.

The NK is roomy, with the pegs mounted quite low in the frame, and the seat is a pearler: you’ll travel in comfort as long as the 17-litre tank will hold out.

STRONG CHALLENGER
Naked bikes are not always the prettiest examples of two-wheel styling, but the NK can stand tall --- well for me anyway. And the chattels look good too, with the black wheels and red dominating elsewhere – on the rims, frame and swingarm.

There are vertically stacked headlights which look quite nifty, and the LED blinkers are built into the front shrouds. The brake light is also LED.

About the only real shortcoming on the 650NK is the LCD digital screen. The analogue tacho does its job, with simple white lettering on a black background, but the LCD screen on the right is a major letdown. It’s too small and the angle is all wrong – too vertical. That meant it was sometimes difficult to tell whether I was travelling at 111 or 117km/h, which could be the difference between seeing Mr Plod off or being handed a ticket for your troubles. For taller riders, it would be a nightmare.

But that aside, CF Moto should be applauded for crafting such a supreme product. The company has nailed the mechanics of middleweight biking, which is a nod to its R & D department. Sure, it’s not unique from head to toe, but this bike will definitely stamp itself as a legitimate middleweight contender.

SPECS: CF MOTO 650NK
ENGINE
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC parallel twin
Capacity: 649.3cc
Bore x stroke: 83mm x 60mm
Compression ratio: 11.3:1
Fuel system: Electronic fuel injection 
Emissions: Euro 3
Claimed maximum power: 69.73hp (50.9kW) at 8500rpm
Claimed maximum torque: 62Nm at 7000rpm

TRANSMISSION
Type: Six speed
Final drive: Chain
Clutch: Wet

CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame type: Truss
Front suspension: Telescopic fork
Rear suspension: Cantilever
Front brakes: Dual disc
Rear brake: Single disc
Tyres: Front 120/70-17, rear 120/60-17

DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Rake: Not given
Trail: Not given
Claimed dry weight: 193kg
Claimed wet weight: 206kg
Seat height: 795mm
Wheelbase: 1415mm
Fuel capacity: 17 litres

OTHER STUFF
Price: $5990
Availability: LAMs model May, 2012, full-power model December. 2012
Colours: Black/red or white/orange
Test bike supplied by: Mojo Motorcycles, www.cfmoto.com.au

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Published : Tuesday, 8 May 2012
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