Pictured: Craig Harcombe and Karl Pirshmoser with their 650TK's
It’s not very often long distance riders get an opportunity to ride an extreme ride on someone else’s bike. So when the guys at CFMoto Australia offered two of their new 650TK’s to Karl and I to test out, we jumped at the chance.
The ride chosen for the test was one of the most difficult long distance rides in Australia, the Transcontinental Insanity. The ride was 10,200kms from Byron Bay, NSW to Denham, WA and back in six days. This ride has only been successfully completed once before on a GTR1400 by long distance riding legend “Davo” Jones.
Clearly, CFMoto have a lot of confidence in their lightweight LAMS tourer and were ready to back their product. Frankly, the long distance community and I did not share that level of confidence in the newish brand but that only added fuel to the challenge for Karl and I. The ride was to be done with no support other than a third rider, Lionel Haynes who joined us, riding his own bike, to take photos.
The CFMotos 650TK’s were to complete the task on their own merits or not, whatever the case may be.
We left Byron Bay shortly after 4am on day one, mild temperatures and winding roads through Casino to Tenterfield testing the lights which weren’t great but exacerbated by the fact that we were used to substantial auxiliary lighting that did not form part of the bike setup for this trip. This section also highlighted one of the things I really like about the bike, riding it around corners.
Even loaded up with luggage and 10 litres of extra fuel, the bike was tight and willing to be pushed in the twisties. We made it to the edges of the tyres without dragging the foot pegs.
We rode past Armidale, Gilgandra out into goat and emu country heading to Broken Hill where the brakes got a workout and the temperatures began to soar into the 40’s. As we crossed into South Australia the dark did not bring lower temperatures. After a quick break at Yunta, Karl was unfortunate enough to strike a kangaroo head on.
We checked right over the bike convinced that there’d be substantial damage but despite a plethora of “fluff and bits” on the forks and plastic the tough 650TK was completely unscathed and we were collectively impressed.
We ended the day in Port Augusta, sweating but feeling good. The bikes were comfortable enough, even for my 195cm frame.
It was a tight squeeze but the addition of an Airhawk gave my shins a touch more clearance from the fairing. The suspension was a little harsh when the bike is not loaded but with full panniers and some additional fuel it soaked up the bumps and undulations and I only bottomed it out once in the whole trip.
Following Karl through bends and over undulations there were very few signs of the bike wallowing around under the load. In terms of luggage, the fixed panniers accommodate the same amount of luggage I put in my ST1300, I even used my ST1300 liners.
Thankfully the second day through Ceduna, across the Nullarbor, Norseman finishing in Coolgardie brought milder temperatures. The strong hot winds usually experienced there at that time of year were, thankfully cooler and coming from the sea.
We really settled into the bike on day two, munching kilometers at 110kph with ease, overtaking road trains without the need to change down and enjoying the sweet spot in the rev range of the bike.
There’s no cruise control on the 650TK but the handgrips are wide and I fitted an Omni-Cruise which worked really well when the right hand needed a rest.
Day three consisted of back roads heading north-east in Western Australia to Moora and then to Geraldton where we swapped the OEM tyres on the bikes for something more suitable to the touring we were undertaking. After the tyre stop, we continued north turning at the Overlander Roadhouse to Shark Bay Heritage area where Denham and Monkey Mia are located.
We arrived just on sunset, took a few pics and bedded down early getting ready to start the trip back! Sadly there was no time on this trip to look at the dolphins.
We left Denham at 1am local time and the warnings from the locals about the Roo’s in the area were spot on. They clearly don’t see much traffic at night here and we rode into about 140k’s of red jumping chaos requiring much care and lower speeds.
That improved as we headed south to retrace our route arriving in Geraldton close to sunup. At Moora we decided to take a different route through to Northam and have a bit of fun. The fun was to choose to ignore a GPS direction and see how we went.
Lionel took a different route to us and the long distance riding community that were watching our SPOT tracks were apparently having some difficulty understanding what was going on. The detour however provided us the opportunity to ride some amazing, winding back roads that proliferate in that area and again test out the handling of the TK’s which went like a dream. We arrived at Northam smiling ear to ear.
Back on track heading east through Southern Cross and Norseman the sun went down and we finished the night riding the 90 Mile Straight in the dark and stopped at Caiguna for the night.
Once again we left in the dark, rode back across the WA/SA border and took some time to enjoy the views of the Great Australian Bight before heading past the Nullarbor and back into relative civilization.
By this time we’d become very familiar with the fuel range of the 650TK in lots of conditions. The specs suggest 17.5litres capacity in the tank, and it may well be, but filling the bike on the rather short side stand will reduce that to around 15litres from empty. However you can expect 300kms from a tank and up to 350kms or so if you aren’t pushing hard or riding into the wind.
We used our 10litre jerry cans often to save the time of getting receipts etc so we were operating on around 500kms.
Between Ceduna and Port Augusta heavy showers replaced the ever present dust and wind of the previous days and we enjoyed getting damp, not bothering to close jacket vents or putting liners in. The protection provided by the fixed screen and fairing from the elements is more than adequate. The screen delivered clean air to my chest and shoulders leaving my helmet without buffeting (remember I’m very tall).
In terms of comfort the only thing I noticed was heat coming up from the engine between the tank and seat which became uncomfortable when the temperature of the day was really hot. This is not the only bike I’ve ridden with this issue.
We caught sight of the hills south of Horrocks Pass just before sunset and then rode through Peterborough, Yunta to Broken Hill in the dark. Fortunately the roos were well behaved this time. Unloading the panniers that night revealed that the rain, like the dust had not found its way into the panniers, which was great news.
We left Broken Hill about 6am on the last day. The ride back to Byron Bay was uneventful but it is worth noting that another long distance rider came out to meet us and provided us some glorious lighting to follow back in the twisties around Casino and an express run back into Byron Bay shortly after 10pm giving us a six hour margin.
In summary, the CFMoto 650TK proved itself as a capable tourer. The overall average speeds we were able to maintain would make it suitable for any ‘Iron Butt’ ride and more than capable for general touring. Above 4000rpm the motor spins along and has plenty of torque and power to do whatever you need to do to negotiate the road.
On this highly compacted trip nothing fell off, nothing started to rattle and we developed significant confidence in the bike to the point where I was happily standing my 90+kgs on the footpegs without wondering if they were going to break off, and I don’t say that lightly.
Based on my experience of this bike if I only had 8k to spend and wanted to go touring I’d buy one in a heartbeat.
This ride was fully documented to IBA standards. Independent witness statements were obtained, at the start, in Denham and at the end. All fuel receipts were kept with a detailed ride log and satellite tracking. The documentation will be submitted to the IBA for verification and certification. Bikes were provided by CFMoto Australia.