When a Middleweight Motorcycle is a Good First Motorcycle and Why The Honda CB650R is a Great Option

When a Middleweight Motorcycle is a Good First Motorcycle and Why The Honda CB650R is a Great Option

There is a common myth that comes up time and time again with new motorcyclists when purchasing their first motorcycle. Someone utters the phrase ‘I need a powerful motorcycle’ or ‘If I get a 300 or 400cc motorcycle I’ll get bored too soon after buying it.’ Each of those arguments have become tired cliches and are semi-riddled with fallacies.

There is no hard definition of what IS a small displacement motorcycle, however the consensus amongst motorcycle industry experts, racers, and seasoned riders are modern motorcycles with engines 500cc and under. Now, if you get bored with a small displacement or not very powerful motorcycle, you’re not bored from riding, you’re bored because you want the thrill of speed.  

And “needing a powerful motorcycle” becomes more of a “want” than an absolute necessity.   

We can make a ton of arguments as to why a small motorcycle is the correct first step when starting out in motorcycling….In fact, we did in a previous blog post which you can read here.

There are times, however, when a middleweight motorcycle might be a great first choice for a new rider who excelled through the motorcycle licensing course, is extremely comfortable riding a bicycle, and displays good hand eye coordination on a bike.

Sure, buying a motorcycle can be an investment for some, and the idea of selling a first bike within a year after purchase can be troublesome or unwanted so here is a strong solution to bridge those concerns. Buy a motorcycle that you can grow with while retaining characteristics that will compliment your learning ability to control the bike. That’s where the wonderful world of middleweight motorcycles come in. These motorcycles can be both exhilarating to ride and approachable for newer riders. 

Almost every manufacturer makes a great naked (a motorcycle with very few plastic fairings surrounding or covering the engine or cockpit) middleweight and though it’s a competitive market, there are no bad modern bikes in this segment. From the approachable and venerable Suzuki SV650 to the Yamaha MT-07 or more performance oriented Triumph Street Triple or KTM 790/890, there is something for everyone in this class. For the past month, we’ve been riding the 2019 Honda CB650R and of all the bikes in the class, we discovered it to be an excellent option for newer riders who are looking to continue their skill development. 

Honda CB650R - @livemotofoto - 20.JPG

First, the CB650R approachability lies in its engine. Unlike more punchy and competition focused twins, the 649cc in-line 4 cylinder engine provides an easy ride on the street. Its power delivery is exceptionally smooth and predictable and it revs to 12,800 RPM allowing the rider to wring out the throttle in each gear if they feel inclined to do so without a gut punch of torque. Coupled with a Showa suspension that’s a tad on the softer side, the CB650R lends itself to a plush city ride, and the occasional flogging in the canyons. 

Moderate, top end power and smooth torque that revs out just short of 13,000 rpm allows riders to get on the gas for longer between shifts but also experience the full range of gear shifts as compared to a massive liter bike where you’ll be lucky to get above third gear around town. Additionally, new riders will appreciate minimal vibration from the engine and comfortable cruising on the highway in 5th or 6th gear. 

Convenient for new riders---and even returning or skilled riders---is the CB650R fairly neutral standard riding position with mid-mount foot controls, upright torso position stacked over the hips, and easy to reach handlebars. The CB650R does add a touch of an aggressive riding position which allows the rider to shift into that style of riding when the roads tighten up. Overall, new riders will appreciate the CB650R for granting them control and leverage over the bike at any speed.  

Turn in and nimbleness is not as sharp as say a Triumph Street Triple R or a KTM 790/890 but the 650R is no slouch. It finds it’s line very quickly, holds it, and provides good feedback thanks to it’s refined chassis and Showa suspension.    


Styling is unique to say the least; Honda has blended old world classic features with a Neo-Tokyo Anime aesthetic/theme which also spans the whole CB range. Honda calls this styling Neo-Sports cafe, but I cannot help to think of the angular lines from Akira or Bubblegum Crisis playing a part in the evolution of the CB line. So whether you decide on Honda’s CB300 or go ham and opt for the CB1000R, the aesthetics remain similar and amidst the class.    

Naked middleweights are, in my opinion, some of the most fun motorcycles on the market today. Out of all the ones I’ve ridden below, I’d say the CB650R is a great option for new riders. Middleweights offer a great bang for the buck and you can be confident owning one for a couple years. In addition, they work delightfully well for an everyday rider who will see a lot of commuting, hitting the canyons on the weekends, or the occasional track day in their future.


Alternative Middleweight motorcycles to consider

Suzuki SV650

Yamaha XSR700 / MT-07

Kawasaki Z650

Triumph Street Triple 

Ducati Scrambler

KTM 790