Review: 2018 CFMoto 650 MT (LAMS)
BikeReview puts the 2018 CFMoto 650MT adventure-sports offering to the test with a few weeks of on and off road riding. Here is our review...
Having seen how impressed Pommie was with the previous iteration of the CFMoto 650MT, I was super keen to get my hands on the new version, which while not a massive update, does boast some thoughtful additions. See his test here: Review: 2017 CFMoto 650MT
Probably the biggest point of note for this machine is the buy-in of $7,990 Ride-Away, yes you read that right – that’s a ride away price – and you’re getting a formidable little adventure sports tourer.
It’s also worth noting that build quality really seems to have risen since we first tested a CFMoto 650NK a number of years ago, and had a long termer for a year, with consistent improvement showing how serious CFMoto are about delivering super competitive machines. Remember, this is a company that apparently owns 51 per cent of the new KTM Chinese factory and builds parts for White Power, KTM and Kawasaki among other brands. The engine is basically an ER6 unit.
My first thoughts on the Kiska Designed 2018 650MT were that this is a pretty good looking machine, that massive crash bar assembly notwithstanding. The new adjustable screen has sharper lines and offers better cover than the last version, while the front fairing and headlight are very sportsbike inspired.
Everything flows, with great lines and good finish quality, and where the old version which came standard with panniers looked like a tourer, this crashbar/pannier rack version certainly leans more towards the rugged adventure-sports-touring segment.
Under $8K on the road delivers a liquid-cooled DOHC parallel-twin with a claimed LAMS legal 41.5kW and 45.72lb-fts, dual front disc brakes from Spanish firm J Juan including braided lines, a simple LCD dash, comfortable single-piece seat, adjustable suspension front and rear, and a mode button for Sport and Touring modes. Other already mentioned features are the pannier rack, crash bars and adjustable screen, with no standard panniers on this model.
The CFMoto 650MT is heavy, with the brand claiming 213kg, which I’d assume is dry and also relates to the bike’s touring posture and CoG. For my 180cm frame the 840mm seat height is also very manageable, while you really sit in the bike and comfort is a strong point. The relatively tall ‘bars were also just right for me, allowing a relaxed grip with a slight bend in my arms.
2018 CFMoto 650MT – Road
First impressions and spec’s on paper aside, the 650MT is a joy to ride. There’s good grunt from the LAMS legal 650 twin and power delivery is smooth, with light shifts through the six speed gearbox, however, this can get sloppy and at times the lever does not return without taking load off the gearbox. You might wonder what I’m comparing this too, as we’ve got our Long Term Leoncino (500cc twin) and Ninja 400, but I also rode the Multistrada 1260 during the same period.
Obviously this is no 150hp beast, but it’s got enough go to have some fun one-up, while the way that power is delivered ensures confidence when combined with light and relatively sharp handling. That long travel suspension will help with really rough off-road adventures, but overall the bike seems optimised for sport-touring.
This is backed up by fitment of the CST Adreno Sport tyres, which offered surprisingly good dry performance, as well as proving grippy on the wet roads I traversed during testing.
Those J Juan brakes are also commendable, there was more play in the lever than I’d like before proper brake application, but once there the brakes are linear with smooth disengagement, meaning trailing them deep into corners doesn’t unsettle the bike. Part of that is no doubt the well supported front end, but it makes for a fun machine to hustle along.
Overall, I have to say road performance was strong, and while the 650MT equipped with crash bars probably isn’t going to be the most ideal commuter if you lane split, the bike itself is a good all-rounder.
With the screen in the highest position the daily one-hour commute was handled with ease, with good comfort for reasonable stretches in the saddle, both from the seats and general ergonomics. The freeway was easily traversed despite the gearing being reasonably short, cruising at freeway speeds in top sees around 5500rpm, and at those revs on the warmer days the engine temp was high on the freeway, sitting up around 95ºC.
The twisties offer plenty of fun, with the taller stance of the bike helping magnify the perceptional that you’re getting good lean angles and having a go, with good stability on the sides of the tyres, and exceptionally easy mid-corner line changes.
2018 CFMoto 650MT – Off-Road
When it comes to the adventure side of the adventure-touring claim for this bike’s market segment I was a bit unsure of what to expect. The tyres are undeniably pure road rubber, and long travel suspension is 140/145mm front/rear, but for the more tame adventuring the 650MT is certainly capable in stock form.
The crash bars are of course a bit boon, and I did ‘feel the need’ to put them to the test while doing a U-turn off road. On the bright side they provide great protection, and make it exceptionally easy to pick the bike up. If you’ve got panniers fitted they’ll probably take some of the impact however.
I tested the bike through a couple of fire trail sections, with undulations and loose rocky sections, as well as heading down some rough mixed surfaced and unsurfaced sections, and my main criticism was the rear getting overwhelmed over the really rutted sections.
I’d also have to repeat Pommie’s observation from last year that the alloy wheels will be a limiting factor for those thinking to tackle anything too extreme off road, but the bike strikes me as an all rounder, and at this price, an extra set of rims won’t break the bank, while grabbing those and some more suitable dual-sport tyres would probably be your best bet if that’s your aim.
2018 CFMoto 650MT – Conclusion
Other points worthy of mention are the dash, which includes a gear indicator, and the previously mentioned mode button, which didn’t seem to yield any spectacular changes in performance, but may be more noticeable doing the long touring miles. Switchblocks are also basic but function well, and the screen is easy to adjust, but not on the move, requiring each side to be released separately.
Build quality is good, and the limited adjustability front and rear welcome on such a reasonably priced machine, while ABS is standard as you’d expect these days. As mentioned though that the bike ran quite hot, in the mid-90s on the freeway and when cruising on the open road, while the fan did bring that temperature down in traffic, with that heat felt at times, even at speed.
Overall the CFMoto 650MT’s real strength is just being an easy and fun bike to ride. There’s very limited bells and whistles, but that’s the point. It’s easy to look at these relatively new entrants to the market and not even consider them, but you’re only doing yourself a disservice with this attitude. They might not be the bike you end up buying, but they certainly are worth a look in.
2018 CFMoto 650MT Second Opinion – Jeff
I’ve been watching CFMoto progress over the years and each time I ride one, I can feel the improvements in design and build. This 650MT is the best I’ve sampled yet. I had the bike for a week and can confidently say I’d own one of these and I would happily have one as my daily ride. What would I change? I’d ditch the crash bars unless I was heading off on a tour of OZ, I’d fit a larger radiator with a radiator protector and I’d want panniers, a slip-on, taller final gearing and adventure tyres. That would sweeten the bike for me and make it even better, I reckon.
I did quite a few hundred highway miles on the 650MT. The bike is revving quite high at freeway speeds and thus it runs hot, above 90ºC on days where the ambient temp was above 26ºC. The hot air blowing on my legs, while wearing bike jeans, became uncomfortable also, so I think a larger radiator may help this situation, along with taller gearing. When speeds dropped to, say, 100km/h and below 5000rpm, engine temperature would fall back down to a more acceptable mid 70ºC, the heat would then be less of an issue on the legs.
Aside from the heat, the 650MT is comfy and a bike I could ride all day long. With a bit of trial and error I eventually found a screen height that stopped wind blast and gave good protection. Vibes are almost non-existent and the seat is broad and plush. The ride position is commanding and the ergonomics feel natural for me, at 185cm tall.
I felt the 650MT was overly heavy, which could be an issue for some learner riders, however once on the move of course the weight is not noticeable and at low speeds I could easily put both feet flat on the ground. I really enjoyed punting the MT through the twisties and I was impressed by the tyres, particularly in the wet, which was a surprise to me. The fork action on the MT felt a little on the sharp side in the high speed/sharp compression but the up side is plenty of support under hard braking and when punting the bike through the hills.
The rear is also firm and well supported but does have some limitations in rebound control when riding at or near the limit of the bike. The brakes never faded and although there is excess lever travel, I got used to them and was not wanting more.
Engine-wise that twin has always been a sweet unit, with a broad spread of torque. This version feels even more so and has a great momentum once on the roll, with top gear roll ons from low rpm no issue. Up top there is nothing to write home about but the mid and bottom are brilliant.
Gearbox ratios are well suited to the bike (that final gearing as mentioned could be taller), but shift action is not up to scratch. Clutch action is smooth, if a little heavy, but overall with the sweet fueling the powerplant is impressive. All up, I reckon the 650MT is a top bike, that does it all and the price is too good to be true. I suggest you at least give one a go before you judge the brand, you might be surprised. This particular bike belonged to Aussie racing legend Graeme Morris, a CF Moto dealer (Graeme Morris Motorcycles), who was so impressed that he bought it for himself. – Jeff.
2018 CFMoto 650MT Specifications
Price: $7990 Ride-Away
Warranty: Two years/unlimited kilometre
Colours: Matte Grey or 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, extruded steel swingarm with tubular steel bracing
Suspension: USD fork, adjustable, travel 140mm, cantilever monoshock, preload adjustable, travel 145mm
Brakes: Continental ABS, dual 300mm steel rotors, twin-piston calipers, 240mm rear rotor, 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: LCD display
2018 CFMoto 650MT Gallery
The Verdict | Review: 2018 CFMoto 650 MT (LAMS)
Some styling changes and refinements for 2018 see the CFMoto 650MT improve again, making this one of the best value motorcycles in our market today. The quality of finish, and ride, has come forward in leaps and bounds for CFMoto these past few years and after spending two weeks in all conditions living with the MT, we have to say we are surprised ourselves at just how good this bike is, especially for sub $8k ride-away in Australia.