Review: 2017 CFMoto 650NK ABS
The CFMoto 650NK now comes with new styling and ABS. Here is our CFMoto 650NK Review... Test: Jeff Ware, Dave Earp Photography: Kris Hodgson
The CFMoto 650NK represents exceptional bang for buck. When a person decides to start riding a motorcycle on the road, whether they are already a seasoned off-road rider, racer or complete newbie, one item close to the top of the list is budget.
Back when I was an L plater, in 1992, there were no affordable options for new motorcycles at all for me. I bought a used blown-up RZ250FN and did it up. A few mates got new bikes, one bought a Suzuki Across, another a Honda Spada 250.
Both were out of reach for me, a HSC student very close to starting my motorcycle mechanic apprenticeship. Finance, too, was difficult and riding gear astronomically priced.
These days, learner riders have options thanks to more competitively priced motorcycles and manufacturing locations and processes and with Korean brand Hyosung vanishing from our shores, CFMoto have really filled an important gap, with better bikes to boot.
Yes, it is a Chinese motorcycle and some components are cheaply made. However, you can’t have top spec Japanese or European kit for this price and there are lots of good parts on this bike. It’s a good machine…
Mojo Motorcycles are the Victorian based company that import and distribute CFMoto. Mojo is run by a team of 25 passionate motorcyclists and have over 100 dealers now nationally and have sold a whopping 15,000 vehicles since 2007, 5500 of them bikes and the rest ATVs and UTVs. Over in China, CFMoto build a staggering 80,000 vehicles per year, 40,000 of which are bikes. Oh yeah, it’s a big operation…
CFMoto have a very strong working relationship with KTM and in fact, this CFMoto 650NK was designed by Kiska Design, who have designed almost all KTM models for the past 20-years. In China, CFMoto import and distribute KTM motorcycles and assemble their smaller capacity bikes.
There are four variants of the NK here, the 650NK and 650NK ABS and the 400NK and 400NK ABS priced at $5990 ride away, $6490 ride away, $5490 ride away and $5990 ride away respectively. All come with two-years unlimited kilometer warranty. Not bad at all…
Many of our long-term readers would remember our blue Long Term CFMoto 650NK from back when we were Rapid Bikes. Well, we loved that bike and could not wait to try the new one. We even invited our photographer Dave Earp along on his 2014 model so we could do a comparo.
CFMoto 650NK ABS Walk Around
Having spent many hours on the previous CFMoto 650NK, which I actually really came to like a lot (it was our office run around for a long time and everyone also enjoyed weekends away on it and even track days), I have to admit to having a soft spot for the 650NK.
I love that 180-degree parallel twin DOHC eight-valve engine, which is identical in geometry to the fabulous Kawasaki Z650L and Ninja650 engine, but running a little more compression and 2mm larger throttle-bodies, giving it a few more kW and Nm over the Kawasaki’s at 41.5kW and 62Nm.
It doesn’t have the finish of course or the slipper clutch and some other high end options but it is a pretty good copy and the EFI is by Bosch. I also like the geometry of the bike, which has a UJM feel, in this case UCM! Plus, one of the things I always liked about the old model was the riding position and comfortable seat, the big bike feel and plush suspension. So what about the new bike?
I asked Dave to come along and we swapped bikes for a big day loop, then for a week each for day-to-day riding. It was a comprehensive test, with all the weather and riding conditions an everyday owner would encounter over time.
Walking around the bike when it was delivered to us, the first thing I noticed of course was just how much more stylish it is in the flesh than the previous model. The Euro influence and the KTM genetics in the design stand out immediately.
This bike would be much more appealing to the younger newbie than the old bike, that’s for sure. The front brake reservoir is clear and that is cool. The bodywork is sweet, the new muffler, indicators, dash and low cut seat modernise the bike as does the headlight and also the taillight.
Chassis-wise the main frame is a tubular steel diamond frame and the engine is a fully stressed member. The forks are by Japanese firm KYB and the shock is a Kayaba unit adjustable for rebound and preload. The swingarm is made out of extruded steel and has just 45mm of travel.
The front brakes are upgraded, with J.Juan (Spanish) calipers biting 300mm rotors (f) and 240mm (r) with Continental (Germany) ABS. Tyres are upgraded to CST Adreno Sport radials at 120/70-17 and 160/60-17, with the rubber being surprisingly good and that is coming from me, the toughest tyre critic out there!
Quality is as expected for the price. No top-end perfect welds or casts but functional finish. If you look after these bikes, with plenty of WD40 and cleaning and maintenance they are fine. If you ignore them, leave them in the weather and neglect them, they will rust and corrode very rapidly. But again, price point says it all… The compromise between function, quality and price is bang on the money here.
The Ride – CFMoto 650NK ABS
I jump on the 650 and the first thing I notice is the low seat height. At just 795mm, it will suit shorter riders, which is good news. I was not cramped though, at 187cm. The new ‘bar bend and position is taller and more rolled forward, giving a very upright and commanding position that is more streetfighter than the more nakedbike touring position of the outgoing 650.
The switchgear is all as per standard and falls to hand well, the dash is neat and mirrors in a better position, as on the old one I always had to move my elbow to glance behind and now I don’t have to. With the scooped out reshaped seat the tank feels high and I feel I’m sitting in the bike more than on it.
I fire the bike up and head off to meet Dave and Kris…
It is a wet morning but clearing up, which gives me a chance to test the tyres and the ABS, plus get an intimate feel for the fuel mapping. The tyres surprise me immediately. They give good feel and wet weather grip and I could be fooled into thinking they are a more expensive Euro or Japanese brand.
This is odd, as normally cheaper tyres lack silica content and are terrible in the wet. These are great. The throttle is impressively smooth but I really notice the lack of a slipper clutch, particularly after spending time on the new Kwaka lately. The extra engine braking is fine, I just take a moment to adapt.
The seating position is quite different to the outgoing bike and the seat, although stylish, is rock hard.
The big ticket item, however, is the new ABS equipped braking system. I test it out by locking the front a few times (see video) and it works a treat. The feel at the lever, however, is a bit of a let down as is the amount of lever travel, which is excessive. This is an area that needs work I’m afraid.
Once out of town we hit the M1 freeway and that brilliant engine just motors along nicely at around the 5200rpm mark. There is plenty of go on tap to pass cars and the riding position isn’t too bad for a naked in terms of wind buffeting. I also noticed the mirrors stay clearer whereas on the old model they vibrate more at over 100km/h and become more blurry. The bike feels nice on the highway aside from the hard seat, which will stop even the toughest hard-arse from touring…
I try the Economy and Sports maps and honestly can’t feel anything at all between them.
Once we reach the twisties the roads start to dry out, giving me the chance to have more of a crack on the bike. This is where the new tyres come in handy, offering good feel, side grip and also predictability in the patchy areas.
The tyres are a triangular construction, meaning the CF has a more sporty character into turns than previously, however, the lower seat height and the new seating position tends to lock the rider in place and carry weight lower, so the bike does suffer from a bit of stand-up mid turn.
This is highlighted by a lack of rebound control from the rear shock, and a lack of rear travel, so the back tends to compress, bottom and rapidly rebound once in a turn, causing the bike to want to stand up. It is easy to control, however, the old model in the same situation would stay on its side and track through the turn.
Two very different bikes to corner, highlighting the importance of seating position over styling. I would not call the new bike bad handling, I would just say that it is not quite as good mid-turn as the outgoing model.
Braking into turns was tricky. As mentioned, the press bike had a lot of lever travel and an on or off feel so modulating pressure into the turns to adjust fork height and or wash speed off, such a critical part of road riding, was tricky. I use a lot of rear brake, though, and found it to be exceptionally good.
The steering is predictable and the suspension quite good on the smoother stuff. Of course, over the bumps you are not going to get Ohlins performance but it was adequate certainly for a learner and a more serious or experienced rider could easily upgrade the shock and revalve the front. No problem.
In the right conditions, on the smoother more flowing roads, the bike is a blast. I had a grin from ear to ear after a lap of my local Old Road in the southern end. The CF has ample ground clearance, loads of torque and power for a learner machine and once I got comfortable on the bike I enjoyed flowing from corner to corner, riding the torque curve and just enjoying the good geometry and grip.
That is the strong point of the CF, it has good bones, being mechanical grip and basic, forgiving confidence-inspiring geometry. Those ingredients are the absolute most important ones for any new rider. As you make mistakes, which you will, you need a bike that will help cover your arse and for that you need grip, responsive accurate steering and balance. All it needs is a bit of work on those front brakes, a bit more rear suspension travel, and the CFMoto 650NK will be absolutely spot on.
At $6490 on the road, the CFMoto 650NK is incredible value. If you are in the market for a learner bike that is big enough to see you through even when you are fully licenced, then get to your nearest dealership and test ride one of these. Check out the CFMoto 650NK microsite for more. There are some great finance options through CFMoto Finance too, which you can check out here.
SECOND OPINION – CFMoto owner, Dave Earp.
As an owner of a 2014 CF650 NKS, I was curious to see what changes had been made to the latest ride. I have been very happy with my bike since purchasing it back in 2015, having more than enough power for my riding, and the level of comfort and control mean every ride is enjoyable. Jeff and I both had some time to get familiar with the biggest brother of CFMoto’s latest LAMS range.
The first thing I noticed was the new styling. It is a nice aggressive looking nakedbike, with a few improvements in style when compared to my bike. The dash is more detailed and I was pleased to find the addition of a clock – something I hadn’t had on mine.
The handlebar layout and access to controls was familiar and easy to use. The seating position overall felt good, with the gear lever and brake pedal positions a comfortable reach for my 179cm frame. The seat was a little shallower than the 2014 model, which on a longer ride became a bit less comfortable over time. The sidestand has had some modification with a sturdier frame with a bigger footprint and larger area to find with your boot.
What I noticed on my first ride on the bike, was the weight difference. With a 13kg dry difference, the new CFMoto 650NK felt noticeably lighter than my bike. The turning circle on the bike is nice and tight and it handled well at slow speeds. Overall the ride was quite comfortable and the centre of gravity was low enough to throw the bike into corners well.
I found both the front and rear suspension performed well on both freeway and suburban riding, similar again to my NKS, just a little firmer. I found that there was minimal vibration at the handlebars and only over 100Km/h did the mirrors really become difficult to use.
On the day of my first ride, the roads were wet with patchy rain throughout the day. I did feel that the back-end felt a little skittish at times while cornering, but on the whole the tyres gripped well enough in the wet and on subsequent rides on dry roads, they held well allowing smooth cornering.
Braking was good, although I did notice a difference between mine and the 650NK ABS. The front lever had more travel before it engaged but stopped both quickly and smoothly. The rear braking was smooth and felt solid when using it to control the bike through the city.
I didn’t find myself in any situations where I needed the ABS but it’s a comfort to know that the bike has the technology on board to assist with any tricky situations out on the road. As with my bike, the engine braking was strong, but that is something that you can quickly get used to.
The CFMoto 650NK restricted throttle for its LAMS classification was honestly not noticed on any of my rides. There is plenty of punch when needed, like entering the freeway and overtaking and the bike felt smooth throughout the rev range.
The 650NK ABS is a very good value, high power LAMS bike, and for someone wanting to buy a bike that will have the power they want after they’ve moved off their Ps, this is a very affordable, and stylish nakedbike that will do that job. My 2014 model has been incredibly reliable, and on the occasion that cosmetic fixes were required (caused by me), the team at Mojo Motorcycles were easy to deal with and more than helpful in getting the parts I needed through one of their dealers locally.
The two-year unlimited km warranty gives peace of mind, and their after-sales support has been great to date, and as the CFMoto brand grows here in Australia, I would expect the service to continue to improve as well.
SPECIFICATIONS: CFMoto 650NK ABS
Price: $6,490 Ride Away.
Warranty: Two-year/unlimited kilometre
Colours: Midnight Black, Arctic White
Claimed power: 41.5kw[55hp]@9,500rpm
Claimed torque: 62Nm [45lb-ft]@7000rpm
Claimed weight: 193kg
Fuel capacity: 17L
Engine: DOHC, 180-degree eight-valve parallel twin liquid-cooled four-stroke, 38mm throttle-bodies, 11.3:1 compression, 83mm x 60mm bore x stroke, 649.3cc.
Gearbox: Six speed, constant mesh
Clutch: Wet, multiple-plate, cable actuation non-slipper
Chassis: Tubular steel diamond frame with engine as stressed member, extruded steel swingarm Wheelbase: 1415mm,
Rake: N/A Trail: N/A
Suspension: Front: Inverted 41m KYB forks, 120mm travel.
Rear: Kayaba Monoshock, preload and rebound adjustment, claimed 45mm travel.
Brakes: Front: Twin-piston calipers, 300mm stainless steel rotors. ABS.
Rear brake: Single-piston slide caliper, 240mm stainless steel rotor. ABS.
Wheels & Tyres: light alloy, 3.50 x 17in & 4.50 x 17in, CST Adreno Sport 120/70 – 17, 160/60 – 17.
Dimensions: Seat height: 795mm, Overall Height: 1100mm Overall Length: 2120mm
Instruments: Digital multi function central display