If you have a $10k budget and are shopping for a LAMS sports-tourer, here's one to check out. You'll even have cash left for riding gear... Review: Jeff Ware Photography: Heather Ware
The CFMoto 650GT is a LAMS approved sports-touring motorcycle that sits in the middleweight category among the Ninja 650L, Tracer 700LA, MT-07LA, SV650 LAMS, CBR650R plus the CFMoto 650MT and NK. Siblings aside, the GT comes in significantly cheaper than the competition. We test the GT to find out if that saving is reflected in the ride…
CFMoto have stepped it up over recent years. The latest NK and MT models are finished well and this GT takes that a slight step further. The fit, fasteners and running gear is also as good as any make in the category now. Metzeler Roadtec tyres, Continental ABS, KYB suspension, Bosch EMS… the new partnership CFMoto have with KTM – CFMoto-KTMR2R (CFMoto 51%, KTM 49%), is already starting to pay off… We are going to see some great 990 and 790 powered models from the Chinese manufacturer in the future. CFMoto had previously been assembling the KTM 200 and 390 Duke’s for the Chinese market for a number of years. Now, CFMoto will build all of KTMs 790 engines (799cc RC8), and by next year complete production of all middleweight KTM models for the global market – estimated to be 50,000-plus units.
The GT is the first cab off the rank of what is to come and after testing over a broad range of roads and in varying conditions, I have to say that the future looks good for CFMoto based on the GT.
What caught my attention first and foremost is the price of $8,490 Ride Away, with a two-year unlimited kilometre warranty. That is two to four grand less than the competitors in category, leaving enough change from $10k to buy new riding gear. So what is the trade off for that cash saving?
Obviously the bike is built to a budget. The main standout differences between the GT and a Japanese or Euro competitor in the 650-700cc category is weight, torque and braking performance. The GT is the heaviest in the class at 226kg, around 25kg heavier on average than the rest of the field. It is also very slightly down on outright power and torque. The brakes are slightly under-spec for the job, so pulling up requires a good squeeze. Aside from those things, the GT is right up there…
I have to admit that as I arrive at Graeme Morris Motorcycles (ph: 02 4957 0674) to pick up the CFMoto 650GT, the Concept Blue finish and overall styling of the KISKA designed bike jump out at me. This GT really is easy on the eyes, with sharp modern lines, LED lights, highlighted rims and a neat finish on the engine and frame… I like the look of it.
I’m heading through the CBD of the gorgeous City of Newcastle, making my way to the foreshore for a quick coffee stop before heading south for a shoot. Working my way through lines of traffic and negotiating the roadworks and City upgrades, I am not completely at home on the GT yet. Even though I am an experienced rider, the weight of the bike is taking some time to get used to. The low seat height helps, both feet easily on the ground at the lights. But the combination of the low seat, tall ‘bars and generous steering lock means I’m not zipping through town as confidently as usual.
After my caffein fix I head for the M1 from the foreshore. After another 15-minutes of urban riding I’m at home on the GT and good to go but the weight and positioning of it, particularly with a full load of fuel, is something the new rider might take some time to get confident with. Definitely not a deal breaker though and once above 30km/h, there is no issue.
The engine temperature is regulated well and the fan is only coming on during the longest red light stops. Heat around my legs or upper body is not too bad in town, the mirrors are wide and vibe-free, offering a good view, the horn is loud enough as I find out and although the bike is no VMAX off the lights, clutch take-up is smooth, action light and the GT still leaves the traffic behind off the mark.
As I make my way through the outer suburbs on the GT I’m realising what a comfortable and easy going nature the bike has. The flat, linear torque curve of that proven 650 twin, a close copy of the Kawasaki ER6 motor, combined with the tall gearing, a smooth clutch, Bosch fuelling and basic layout of the switches and gear makes it just so easy to ride. The brakes are good in town and the suburbs, with gentle initial bite and enough stopping power, with more up the sleeve with an extra squeeze if needed. The TFT looks neat and is easy to read at a glance (I prefer Touring display). Only the low seat height is bothering me. I’m 185cm and my knees are already getting sore…
Heading out of town and onto the motorway allows me to stretch the legs of the 650 and settle in for a 100km slab to my hometown. At 5500rpm in top gear, the twin is ticking along smoothly with only the slightest vibes. The 650 is easily cruising at bang on 110km/h and the screen directing the airflow just over the top of my Shoei, which suits me as I catch some ventilation while remaining comfy.
There is no uncomfortable hot airflow from the motor going on my feet or legs, the mirrors are vibe free, all is well. Just a bit cramped myself but more than half the owners out there won’t be…
Arriving at a particularly steep section of the M1, I have to knock the 650 back a cog to keep it on the pace and need close to full throttle to spin it along at 110-120km/h up the long hill to safely stay in the traffic flow. That’s solo, so a pillion and or luggage might see the GT struggle in similar situations…
There is still plenty on tap, however, other bikes in this class pull top up there with no need for a downshift. On the flat, I easily pass a few cars ahead with the twist of the wrist, so overtaking rapidly and safely is not a problem at all on the GT.
Meeting up with the Pillion in a Million for the photoshoot sees me on the bike for bang on 90-minutes. A good stretch of the legs is needed, but for 90-minutes of basically straight highway, I feel pretty fresh. Then it is down to the business of riding up and down a set of twisties until I get a thumbs up… tough job but somebody has to do it…
With a good feel for the well up to temperature Metzeler hoops (the front Roadtec is made in China), I am into it straight away, grinding out a footpeg on my first pass. Ground clearance is not MotoGP-like but it is on par with most sports-tourers and touching down, the bike is well and truly cranked over enough for the roads, with plenty of tyre in reserve for an emergency.
The bike feels good on its side, loves to carry classic lines and corner speed, smooth inputs and slow turn-in. That keeps the soft KYB suspension settled and makes for surprisingly rapid pace, at least through the local twisties I know so well. Definitely fun in the turns if ridden within its limits and not treated like a sportsbike.
On the picks into corners the GT is a little spaghetti-like, so I revert to the old school classic style again of upright braking and smooth cornering. The brakes start to fade and the lever begins to get closer to the grip so I slow up for a while and let them cool. I’ve been braking hard, so it is a big test for the brakes, but they should be more powerful regardless.
In direction changes I can feel the weight of the bike of course but the wide ‘bars give plenty of leverage to heave the 650 from side-to-side. The Metzeler hoops are lacking in feel but there is still enough feel there to give the confidence I need to push and plenty of edge grip in the dry conditions.
Heading further south after the shoot, I settle in for another freeway stint, this time to Sydney, where I hit some of my favourite roads for a 250km loop back to Newcastle. Another trouble-free, comfy highway run gives me some chill time, then I hit my fave bit of smooth tarmac through the hills. The 650 is great, with the patchy conditions easy to navigate and great wet grip from the Metzelers in the sections where water is on the tarmac. With the smooth throttle, gearbox, brakes and the stable geometry – plus the tyres, the GT is a nice motorcycle in damp, patchy conditions. There are no surprises and it just feels easy to get on with. Very confidence inspiring and gentle.
Pointing north now I take on four fantastic and very different roads – the Old Road, Peats Ridge Road, Bumble Hill and Hue Hue Roads before slabbing it back to Newcastle. The CFMoto isn’t shining in any particular section, whether that be fast and flowing, tight and twisty, bumpy, smooth, wet, dry… What it is doing, however, is dealing with everything well.
As the clouds come in and the sky darkens, the TFT dash lights up and looks bright and clear. For most of the ride, I’ve been unable to read it clearly as sunlight effects it, dulling it down. There are two modes of display, Sport and Touring, but I prefer the Touring mode. It’s a nice touch and has all of the usual info you get these days, however, is not as high spec as some TFT units.
Switchgear is super basic so easy to use. The only extra button being the Mode button for the dash display. There is no change in power or delivery between the two that I feel as I flick between them. I don’t have the opportunity to test the headlights, so will leave that to reader comments…. I also only have a small backpack, so no luggage, however based on experience I would say fully loaded, with a passenger, the GT will be a little cramped and the engine, suspension and brakes a tad overwhelmed…
As I arrive back in town I stop to fuel up. The bike hit almost 400km before the fuel light came on, then I pushed that a fair way further. Decent economy… under 4.5L/100km, a big big range from 19L.
Versatility is the strongest point of the GT, from an engine and from a chassis perspective. It is a true all-rounder. A fuss free bike that is simple enough to get along with all day yet has the tech and creature comforts to keep it well and truly on par with the medium sports-touring competition. How the long-term finish and quality pans out is yet to come, however, during my test the bike impressed me.
So is the cash saving against the rivals reflected in the ride? Yes and no. There’s always a trade off when it comes to pricing. The GT is on the heavy side of the scales and the brakes are not quite up to that weight, however, pads and lines could be enough there. The weight is not an issue once you are used to it and the bike does everything nicely. My personal opinion is that the bike is great value and it should not be overlooked at all. I say go and ride one, as $8,490 Ride Away is a bargain…
2020 CFMoto 650GT ABS SPECIFICATIONS
Price: $8,490 RRP Ride Away
Colours: Concept Blue or Nebula Black
Claimed Power: 41.5kW[55hp]@9500rpm
Claimed Torque: 62Nm[45lbs-ft]@7000rpm
Dry Weight: 226kg
Fuel capacity: 19L
Engine: DOHC four-stroke parallel twin-cylinder, liquid-cooled, eight-valve, EFI
Gearbox: Six-speed constant mesh
Clutch: Wet clutch, cable actuation
Chassis: Tubular steel backbone frame, engine is stressed member, steel swingarm
Suspension: 38mm KYB conventional forks, non adjustable, 120mm travel, single KYB shock with preload adjustability, 45mm travel
Brakes: 300mm rotors (f), JJusn twin-piston sliding calipers and conventional master-cylinder, 240mm rotor (r), single-piston caliper
Wheels & Tyres: Cast alloy, 3.5 x 17in – 4.5 x 17in, Metzeler Roadtec Z8 Interact 120/70 – 17in, 160/60 – 17in tyres.
Seat height: 795mm
Ground clearance: 150mm
Overall width: 784mm
Overall Length: 2100mm
Overall height: 1340mm
Instruments: TFT multifunction display.
2020 CFMoto 650GT GALLERY
The Verdict | Review: 2020 CFMoto 650GT ABS
We review the 2020 CFMoto 650GT, a bike that sits in a category of LAMS approved full sized faired or semi-faired models such as the Ninja 650L, the old Versys 650L, the Tracer 700LA, MT-07LA, SV650 LAMS and the CBR650R. It comes in significantly cheaper than all of those models yet matches them closely on specification. So, what’s it like on the road?