Simon spends a few weeks living with the CFMOTO 700 CL-X Sport, check out what he thought of the changes made to add a sporty appeal over the Heritage model... Pics: Heather Ware
After itching for months to have a ride on the CFMOTO 700CL-X Sport, I was finally able to satisfy my urges and scratch long, hard and deep. My previous experience reviewing the Heritage model left me feeling unanimously that this was going to be a good thing…
The brilliance of KISKA design again shines bright with the Sport. For these wizened eyes, the lines hark back to a simpler universe, but lines that also express an unmistakable intent. A bit blunt and brutish up front and a bit stubby and staunch in profile, with a wonderfully selfish solo seat. Understated, with plenty of engine and metal on display. Proportioned nicely. Hot. Whatever you do, do not lock eyes on the rear axle nut as once seen, you can’t unsee it. Everything else considered, how that got into production is mystifying.
The CL-X Sport platform is improved most noticeably in the braking department. Brembo M4.30 radial mount calipers chomp on dual 320mm wave discs up front, with the fluid being pushed out of a Brembo master-cylinder. Continental provides the ABS module, which I made good use of during the photo shoot. I did find that the amount of pressure at the lever required more than two fingers most of the time, but that did not really affect overall sensation or modulation to the point of any concern.
“The Sport setup is measurably superior to the single disc J.Juan configuration on the Heritage and is much better suited to the available performance.”
Wheels are changed on the Sport to a 10 spoke design that offers more visual space than those on the Heritage. Tick. The bike is pretty squat, and this is enhanced by the lower profile of the clip-on style ‘bars and bar-end mirrors. You simply can’t beat bar-ends as they actually work. Woohoo! The stretch over the slightly humped tank is easy, as the seat remains comfortably low altitude, causing you to more settle into the bike than perch on top of it.
The ‘pegs are mid-ships and are definitely too low for the quality of the handling. Interestingly, the stock bike comes with a solo seat, but includes pillion pegs. Rearsets are available, as is a pillion friendly seat, from the aftermarket catalogue. A bit head scratching, really. Rearsets standard, please!
The drivetrain is the same as the Heritage, with a lively 693cc parallel twin making the horses. Now here’s an oddity – it would seem that the factory have played around with the engine mapping to provide the sensation of being a more peaky engine than other CL-X models. It certainly has a feeling of popping a cork up around the +7k mark, as if really getting on the cam. The thing is, it produces identical power and torque as the other models, which creates a conundrum as there has to be some mid-range loss to create the more noticeable top-end, right?
That said, it is still one bloody good fun bike to ride, no doubt about it. Even though the engine characteristics appear slightly altered, it remains an absolute sweetheart in the lower registers, too. Pretty much any gear, any rpm is no issue. The fuelling and feel from the ride-by-wire throttle is entirely natural – no lash or jerk, just clean transitions between throttle butterflies opening and closing.
The test bike had a fair few kilometres on it and this showed in the gearbox action. From the get go, engaging first was pretty smooth and quite silent compared to the often gut wrenching clamour of some bikes. Subsequent changes up and down the gears were clean and reliable and light to the touch.
What would really light the wick on the Sport would be a quick-shifter option. After riding a few bikes recently with slick quick-shifters, it becomes apparent that there is a lot of enjoyment value in keeping the engine cooking whilst snicking up through the ‘box. With the pace that the Sport engine can reach its 9.5ish redline, this would be a tremendous feature. Zing-zing-zing. Makes you faster, too. The factory slipper clutch is a great value and safety addition at an already high value proposition price point. Its action is also unobtrusive; that is, if I managed to actually kick it into action.
The Sport weighs in at 9kg heavier than the Heritage. This is a bit of a shame, but can be realised in the additional brake components and perhaps the seat unit, but where else I am not certain. All the same, the weight distribution and geometry combine to make a motorcycle that is exceptionally easy to turn, whilst remaining stable at lean.
Sliding one’s derriere across the seat a little and placing more weight on the inside ‘peg in the bends produces a good feeling in the way the bike tracks – certainly more keen to hold a consistent line and predictable, with plenty of scope for easily altering line if needed.
This allows you to be far more relaxed in the arms and upper body and enables your brain to focus more on the future that your eyes are seeing. The Sport is not fatiguing to ride at all and is a very well balanced unit all up that is certainly no slouch, particularly in tight cornering conditions. In highway scenarios, the tiny cowl in front of the dash seemed to work amazingly well in distracting the wind from lashing me. Combine this with the reasonably plush seat, pleasing ergonomics and cruise control, the Sport makes for a surprisingly good mile muncher.
“The Sport is not fatiguing to ride at all and is a very well balanced unit all up that is certainly no slouch, particularly in tight cornering conditions.”
The Sport is appropriately equipped with more sport-biased Maxxis tyres. I found them quick to warm up and although not providing massive sensations of traction at the contact patch, they gave the impression of being entirely dependable. Repeated thrashings seemed to have little effect on the rubber, a little to my chagrin to be honest.
On my very last local twisties run, I felt the rear step out a little under power, exiting a third gear right-hander at as much lean as I could muster, but it was absolutely smooth and totally non-alarming. I may have imagined it entirely, but there was a level of confidence inspired by the overall package that had me feeling oddly relaxed at the thought of “power sliding” it.
Like the Heritage, the KYB suspension provides 150mm travel at both ends and a range of preload and damping adjustment. The immediate sensation of comfortable riding negated any thought in me to play around with the suspension just for the hell of it. For the use I had in mind for the Sport and what it delivered, it was pretty much on the money straight out of the box.
As per the Heritage, the Sport has a fistfull of niceties, like the light-sensing headlight, full LED illumination, cruise control, rain mode map, self-cancelling indicators (most of the time), span adjustable levers and easy to read dash. Nothing perhaps too flash or techie, but definitely useful, with many of features a tier above the asking price.
The Sport is, hands down, a fantastic bike that again represents tremendous value for money. It and its Heritage brother are showcasing CFMOTO as a real contender for the mid-weight twin-cylinder crown in terms of style, performance and several degrees of sophistication.
There are a few things I would personally like to see changed, like the pegs and quick-shift, but for the outlay, I may be being slightly cheeky. I thoroughly blame my wistful optimism as a euphoric aftermath to riding the little 700CL-X Sport.
Compared to the 700CL-X Heritage, the 700CL-X Sport takes on a decidedly more aggressive stance: sticky 17-inch rubber, petal discs and twin Brembo Stylema monobloc calipers, while other unique features include a solo seat, clip-on handlebars, windshield and round bar-end mirrors.
The 700CL-X’s performance amounts to an increase of 18hp (13kW) and 6Nm over CFMOTO’s existing 649cc LAMS-based parallel twin found in the two 650NK variants as well as the 650MT and 650GT. The hike in capacity for the 693cc engine over the 649cc unit has been achieved by a 3mm increase in stroke, and other technical highlights for the updated powerplant include Bosch fuel-injection, split connecting rods, a slipper clutch, and forged pistons for strength and reduced weight and inertia. This in turn lifts the power output to 73hp@8500rpm and 68Nm@6500rpm.
The 700CL-X Sport tracks on Maxxis tyres compared to the Pirelli MT60 dual-purpose tyres on the Heritage model and the suspension is by KYB including a fully adjustable upside-down 41mm fork as well as a monoshock rear with rebound and preload adjustment. Travel front and rear is 150mm. The seat height is 795mm (5mm less than the Heritage) and, even with the clip-on handlebars, CFMoto say the 700CL-X Sport’s seating position was made to not be too aggressive.
The newly designed split frame weighs just 16.5kg while a 6.7kg aluminium alloy swingarm give the 700CL-X Sport a wet weight of just 205kg. This ensures a high power-to-weight ratio, responsive handling and precise control.
Brakes are now sorted by two 320mm petal discs with radial-mount Brembo Stylema M4.30 four-piston calipers at the front and a 260mm disc with Brembo twin-piston caliper, Continental ABS at the rear. Improving the brak performance of the 700CL-X over the Heritage model.
When it comes to styling, CFMOTO seem to of hit the nail on the head with the entire 700CL-X range, each have their own theme but they all fall into the retro category. The smooth body lines come together for a fresh take on classic style. The 700CL-X is marked by the retro-inspired round headlight, fuel tank aluminium side panels and leather feel seat…
The LED headlight of the 700CL-X features a self-adaptive assist system, which can be automatically turned on or off according to the ambient brightness. It also features a daytime-running light and auto-cancelling turn signals. The retro-style round headlight and embedded tail-light proudly display the recognisable features of the 700CL-X.
Something the CFMOTO isn’t short of and something that Chinese manufacturers seem to have an advantage over other bikes in the price range is electronics. The 700CL-X features a round 75mm retro classic-style LCD dash which provides simple and real riding information. The on-board computer has two on-the-fly riding modes: Economy and Sport. In addition, the 700CL-X is equipped with cruise control – a segment first – as well as a USB charging input.
The ride by wire system ensures that the 700CL-X has an accurate and safe cruise control system, it also ensures the rider can choose their assists profiles to suit their liking.
The 700CL-X Sport is available in a choice of two liveries: livery: Nebula White or Velocity Grey. The model comes with a three-year unlimited-kilometre warranty. Head to the CFMOTO website here to stay up to date with all the latest information.
2021 CFMOTO 700CL-X Sport Specifications
Price: From $10,490 R/A
Colours: Nebula White or Velocity Grey
Warranty: Three year warranty
Claimed Power: 55kW@8500rpm
Claimed Torque: 67Nm@6500rpm
Wet/Dry Weight: 205kg
Fuel capacity: 13L
Engine: Liquid-cooled DOHC four-valves-per-cylinder four-stroke parallel twin, 692cc, 11.6:11 compression ratio, 83 mm x 64 mm bore x stroke, Bosch EFI with Ride by wire system, six-speed gearbox, wet multi-plate slipper clutch, RbW throttle, EFI.
Chassis:Tubular steel frame with aluminium alloy swingarm
Front suspension: 41mm KYB upside-down fork, fully adjustable, 150mm travel
Rear suspension: KYB shock with preload and rebound adjustment, 150mm travel
Brakes: Front: 320mm petal discs with radial-mount Brembo Stylema M4.30 four-piston calipers, Continental ABS Rear: 260mm disc with Brembo twin-piston caliper, Continental ABS
Front tyre: 120/70-17 Maxxis MA-ST2 Rear tyre: 180/55-17 Maxxis MA-ST2
Seat height: 795mm
Ground clearance: 160mm
Overall width: 795mm
Overall Length: 2090mm
Overall height: 1080mm
Electronics: Round 75mm retro classic-style LCD, Economy and Sport modes, cruise control, USB charging input, TCS and ABS