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CF Moto has released their brand, spanking new 650s, bringing in two serious contenders to the middleweight market. Two 650s, two bargain prices – oh to be a learner again.
On Any Sunday is an absolutely classic film. If you’re only just getting in to motorcycles, you should try watch it as it’s a bit of a laugh and there are some insightful scenes as well. It’s a movie which covers about four decades of motorcycling and the changing of the guard. What I mean by that is the extinction of the British motorcycle companies by a small country called Japan that entered their Yamaha in the Catalina beach races back in 1958. They made a bit of a joke about the little Japanese manufacturer coming over, doing the race and failing. Yamaha didn’t finish the race as they weren’t reliable at that stage. As the years passed of course, the big four Japanese manufacturers did end up killing off all the classic British manufacturers and the motorcycling manufacturing era of Britain was dead. Why am I talking about all of this you might be thinking, well I see the same thing happening in the future from another big manufacturing giant, and of course that’s China.
The last bike I tested was in Imola, Italy and it was the new 899 Ducati Panigale, so it was quite a contrast to be at the forecourt of Mototecnic Performance Bikes in Knoxfield on a warm spring day in Melbourne. Mototecnic is of course a dealer for the CFMOTO brand so it was the perfect location for Michael Poynton and his crew to show off the new 2014 650 NK and TK Lams-approved models from CFMOTO out of China. Hallelujah for Lams is the first thing I have to say, as it certainly brings a lot more sensible motorcycles in to the hands of the learning public who aren’t all pimply teens who need small bikes. Ihave already ridden the Honda CBR500R and the Kawasaki 300 Ninja this year and enjoyed them immensely, so I was actually really interested to see what the Chinese could bring to the table in this ever-growing market.
The CFMoto crew had a decent 250km blast planned, up through Healsville with lunch at Marysville. From there, we were headed back through Reefton, Warburton and back to the shop in Knoxfield. It was a fun little loop and very popular with many of the road riding fraternity in and about Melbourne. The biggest thing about the loop was the great diversity of road conditions, which varied from heavy traffic to tight mountain roads above the snowline and that was really going to test the two 650s thoroughly. On test were the unfaired 650 NK and the 650 TK, both Lams approved and they were in a multitude of colours which was good to see. I was lucky to get to ride all the bikes and both models on the day, which was good as it gave me the opportunity to make sure the feel of a bike wasn’t just a one-off but that all the bikes were built to the same high standard.
Before we took off, I had a good look around the bikes as I wanted to check the manufacturing quality, something that Chinese products aren’t renowned for. I was actually pretty impressed with the build overall though, with nothing major, just a few niggly things that weren’t serious. I thought the clutch lever had too much lateral play and the quality of the switch blocks was acceptable but could do with some improvement. To be honest, apart from these few things you could have told me the bike was Japanese and I would have believed you.
I headed off on our journey on the naked NK first and was impressed by the gearbox and clutch action. The bike certainly has a 650 feel about it with a nice reach to the bars and good vision from the mirrors. My 175cm frame had no trouble mounting or dismounting the bike, but it didn’t have the lowest of seat heights, which is something to be considered on a Lams approved bike. My initial impression was the bike had a feel of substance to it. It felt solid and smooth from the time I set off with no fueling glitches and in fact, a very nice feel to the throttle. Apart from the wobbly clutch lever and the indicator switch which seems a little on the weak side, I could have been on a Japanese bike and I wouldn’t have known. The handling is quite light and the suspension is more than capable of dealing with the conditions we encountered on the day. The turn in on the naked bike was more suited to nipping in and out of traffic than hills riding at pace, but it’s to be expected as that was what it was designed for. I tried to ride the bike in a variety of ways, from commuting to scratching through the hills and the little NK did everything I asked.
By the time I got to Marysville my butt was starting to wish the seat was a bit more plush but we had covered over hundred and fifty kilometers by that point. The dash is new for 2014 and there’s all the information you could wish for at the push of a button. You can flick between a clock, fuel level, engine temp, battery volts or trip meter and believe me, its more than enough to keep you entertained. I liked the digital speedo too as it was easy to read in glary conditions.
Both the Lams approved NK and TK are limited to 41.5Kw and 62Nm of torque, which equates to enough horsepower to have fun, even for a guy that’s used to 200HP-plus superbikes like me. At seven grand ride-away, the NK has definitely made itself a contender in the middleweight naked bike class in my eyes.
After lunch, we did some photoshoots and I had my first taste of the TK. The TK has the same base as the naked version but a full fairing and panniers are added. That’s not all though, a very nice dash, rubber topped foot pegs and a less aggressive riding stance make this bike really easy to chew up the kilometers on. Riding it through the Yarra Ranges, I felt like I was on a pucker tourer with its nice upright bars and big screen keeping me out of the wind and comfortable. There were no vibrations either making it a very comfortable ride. I had ridden the FJR1300 Yamaha a lot on the Bike of the Year shoot-out earlier in the year and found myself comparing the TK 650 to it, which is a big compliment to CFMoto.
The TK just makes so much sense with its panniers and handy little storage compartments built in to the fairing. The handling was very neutral and I actually preferred it compared to the naked, giving the rider a lot more confidence and feel from the machine allowing the opportunity to get on with having some fun knowing the machine is predictable. Part of the reason for this feel is the addition to both the NK and the TK of some nice sticky Continental tyres. They’re not the only non-Chinese parts fitted to the bike I might add - the fuel injection system is the same one used by Ducati on its twins which explains why the power delivery and engine feel so good. The mirrors on the TK provide excellent rear vision and are very stylish, adding to the TK’s good looks. The dash on the tourer has the traditional style electronic dial gauges rather than the digital speedo of the naked bike and there is no need on the tourer to flick a switch to see the info on the dash as it’s all there.
We did 250 kilometers on the one tank of gas which is also a bonus of having a mid-size tourer. I reckon you could squeeze more out of the tank too but let’s just say we weren’t on an economy run that day. The brakes are new for 2014 and come from Spain. The front wave discs and brake combination worked brilliantly although to be honest the wave discs on a bike like this are more of a gimmick than a performance enhancement.
We did have a small issue with a couple of the bikes on the test with the adjustment set up wrong on the rear brake which caused some dragging issues but as soon as Glen Granger, the head tech, adjusted the free play correctly, the problems were fixed. Eight grand ride-away for a bike with panniers, sharp looks and a nice big screen seems like pretty good value to me. I’d even forgot by the time that we got in to the twisties that I was on a Lams-approved bike as I had enough power to do all that I wanted, which was have fun and keep my license. The Naked and the tourer come with a two year, unlimited kilometer warranty and I reckon that’s putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to reliability. As I said at the start, watch out Japan, the next generation of bikes are arriving and stealing your market away.
CFMoto is one of the brands imported by Mojo Motorcycles. If you haven’t heard of them before, they are actually quite a big importer of Chinese bikes and ATVs that employ about 25 people here in Australia to prepare and pump out just over two thousand units a year. The whole project came to fruition when Michael was still at university and started importing mini bikes just to get some pocket money. Other products sold by Michael and the team are Daelim, TGB scooters, KTM Bike Industries and Mojo Bike.