CFMoto's new 650MT 'adventure-tourer' gets top marks as a LAMS legal sports-tourer. Test by Tony ‘Pommie’ Wilding, Photography by Graham Bain and Finn Wilding
It had been six years since I’d ridden a Chinese built bike, so when I was asked to test the new CFMoto 650MT I was not expecting much. However, from the moment I picked up the bike from Graeme Morris Motorcycles, I could tell this was a much better bike altogether.
The first thing you notice is the sharp modern styling – the bike was actually designed by Kiska Design, who are responsible for KTM styling. The build quality also looks pretty good, with neat welds on the steel tubular frame and a quality finish on the body panels, but obviously time will be the critic.
You also get super bright LED lights and indicators, an adjustable wind shield and a handy USB charging port, which would be handy for running a GPS on a bike like this. The MT also comes standard with ABS and surprisingly braided brake lines.
The suspension offers plenty of travel too, with 140mm at the front and although the front is only adjustable for compression, the rear can be adjusted for preload and rebound and has 145mm of travel. All this travel is handy for our crap Aussie roads, but does result in having a tall 840mm seat height, but a lower optional 820mm one is on offer.
Sitting on the bike the ride position is great for my 180cm dimensions and the seat feels really comfy too. The dash is fairly basic, but has a handy gear indicator, clock and fuel gauge and trip meter. The dash is easy to read, but for some reason the speedo is small, smaller in fact than the gear indicator.
My only other small gripe is it’s really hard to use the function buttons on the move with gloves on, or to adjust the wind shield on the move. You have two modes to choose from, Sport and Economy, but to be honest I struggled to tell the difference between them, so just left it in Sport.
Pressing the start button I was greeted to the quiet burble from the low slung two into one muffler and the customiser in me couldn’t help thinking that a nice aftermarket exhaust system would make this engine roar. In saying that, the noise police would have no complaints in stock form.
Selecting first gear I head off for some country roads to put the MT through its paces. As soon as I move I can tell instantly that I like the bike, it just feels well balanced, the clutch is light and the gearbox is slick, even with only 40km on the clock. There is quite a long throw movement between the gears on the lever, but you get used to it in minutes.
My MT is fitted with quality Shad panniers. The panniers are lockable and easy removable, you just lift the handle then lift the catch and they are off. I chose to keep them on as it was freezing in the morning but getting warmer, so I’d be removing a few layers, plus I had a load of camera gear to carry and they are certainly handy for that.
I love the engine on the MT, it’s really quite torquey for a 650, and moving through traffic is a breeze, especially leaving cars behind at the lights. The Bosch fuel injection system does a good job of feeding the twin 38mm throttle-bodies and results in smooth throttle acceleration.
On the freeway the bike is really happy, the mirrors offer good safe vision and the engine vibrations are minimal, the ride position is perfect for me and the seat is spot on, with a small scalloped hump behind my backside, which keeps me from sliding back. I could see myself being capable of doing some massive kilometres on the MT and relatively pain free thanks to the great ergonomics.
The MT is marketed as an adventure tourer, but with 17in mag alloy rims I’d say it was more focused on the touring side, although I did take it on some light gravel roads and it was fine, but with Adreno Sport road tyres, anything too off road my result in some unwanted body repairs or dented rims.
The roads that the MT does shine on are our typical rutted, bumpy pothole ridden country ones; the long travel suspension loves these. I was thinking that the bike would be too softly sprung, making it wallow in the corners, but nothing could be further from the truth. The MT handles really well, which was the biggest surprise for me.
I love tight twisty roads and the MT shines here, the MT is not overly light at 213kg, but feels nowhere near that and flicks from side to side with minimal rider input and fells well planted and stable, even when encountering some nasty raised tarmac sections mid corner the MT powers through.
The CFMoto’s engine has just enough grunt to make riding exciting, with 62Nm available at 7000rpm and driving out of corners you can pin the throttle without fear of high-siding, making use of every one of those 55 horses. In fact, the power is there from tick over and it’s not one of those engines that you really need to flog to get the most out of it.
In saying that, at 6000rpm the power really come into the meaty part of the rev-range and this is where the fun is at. It’s even possible to get a wheelie out of the mid-range parallel-twin, with the help of a few revs and a bit of clutch action.
Another positive on this budget bike are the brakes, you get two 300mm steel discs with twin-piston calipers, the brakes are made by Spanish J.Juan, which to be honest I’ve never heard of, but they work really well, they offer good power and feel at the lever, plus are fitted with a Continental ABS system. I grabbed a handful of brake on a gravel road and the ABS did what it was supposed to do so I ticked it off the list as tested.
After doing a day ride with my mate Graham on his Fireblade, I know who was fresher at the end and I was happy to not have the stiff neck. I think that this type adventure/touring style of bikes are getting more popular, especially with the riding conditions we are faced with in Australia and our heavily policed roads, you can have some fun on a bike like this without breaking the speed limits too much and feel a lot more relaxed doing it.
There is a fair bit of competition for a bike like this, with the main contenders being the Suzuki V-Strom 650 and the Kawasaki Versys 650, which the CFMoto engine is a good copy of, but these Japanese bike are around $3000 more expensive. I guess the main challenge for CFMoto dealers will be to get people to test ride these bikes and see how good they really are for such a budget price.
TECH TALK: 2017 CFMOTO 650MT
The CFMoto MT engine is basically a copy of the Kawasaki’s own 650cc parallel-twin, eight-valve engine, from their ER6 bike. This motor has been painstakingly copied even down to the same engine mount positions, which CFMoto seem quite happy to replicate down to amazing similarities.
The CFMoto is 649.3cc and has a 180-degree crankshaft, which puts out a handy 62Nm at 7000rpm. All Australian delivered bikes are LAMS-legal and produce 41.5kW at the crank at 9500rpm, but they may bring in a full powered version if there is demand. I’m told that the LAMS restrictor is only a stop on the butterfly valve so I can’t see it being a huge drama to remove, when you get a full licence that is…
The full power version adds an extra 4.5kw across the rev range so it’s not a massive difference anyway. The fuel is supplied by a Bosch ECU for its injection, which are matched to dual 36mm UAES throttle bodies, the older model had 38mm ITT items, which helps smooth out the power and provide more fuel economy, handy on a tour/adventure bike like this.
Specifications: 2017 CFMoto 650MT
Price: $6990 Ride-Away ($7500 as tested Ride-Away with panniers)
Warranty: Two years/unlimited kilometre
Colours: White / Blue
Claimed power: 41.5kw [55.6hp]@9,500rpm (LAMS Restricted)
Claimed torque: 62Nm [45.72ftlb]@7,000rpm
Dry weight: 213kg
Fuel capacity: 18L
Engine: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, eight-valve, parallel-twin four-stroke, 180-degree crankshaft, 649.3cc, Bosch Fuel injection, dual 38mm throttles bodies
Gearbox: Six speed
Clutch: Multiplate wet
Final drive: Sealed chain
Chassis: Tubular steel diamond frame employing engine as fully-stressed member
Suspension: USD fork (max travel 140mm) Extruded steel swingarm with tubular steel bracing, cantilever monoshock (max. travel 145mm)
Brakes: 2 x 300mm steel discs with twin-piston calipers with Continental ABS system, rear 1 x 240mm single disc with single-piston caliper
Wheels & Tyres: 120/70ZR17, 3.5 x 17 MT alloy (f) and 160/60ZR17, 4.5 x 17 MT alloy (r)
Seat height: 840mm
Instruments: Digital display