AMCN review of the 650MT

It was bound to happen sooner or later, but now one of the many Chinese manufacturers is finally producing an expanding range of European-designed but still affordably priced mid-size motorcycles targeted at export sales. This is in stark contrast to the many smaller-capacity sub-400cc models aimed at customers closer to home in what is still the world’s largest market – 17.8 million bikes were sold in China last year.

Shanghai-based CFMoto has taken a major step forward in the quality and appeal to overseas customers of its own products. It has forged an alliance with Europe’s largest manufacturer, KTM, and has cemented an R&D deal with Kiska Design in Austria, which has overseen the creation of each new KTM since 1992, and will be responsible for the overall design of all future CFMoto models.

The first fruits of Kiska’s involvement are now available to global customers in the form of a revamped, sharply styled 650NK roadster (Vol 66 No 15) and the new 650MT adventure tourer – mid-size motorcycles powered by the Chinese company’s selfdeveloped 650cc parallel-twin eight-valve engine. The chance to be the first journalist to ride the 650MT came courtesy of Australian importer Mojo Motorcycles, which received one of the first bikes off the assembly line – sent here for ADR homologation because Australia is a key export market for CFMoto.

After being impressed with the performance and especially the value for money delivered by its 650NK naked sister bike when I rode it in 2012 – and being equally taken by seeing the level of quality control at its Chinese factory first hand – I was looking forward to finding out how much the twin-cylinder platform had progressed in five years.

The 650MT is still affordably priced, being available Down Under for $6990 ride away (though our test bike included Spanish-made 32-litre panniers that cost an extra $500 a pair). That’s a killer price for an entry-level adventure tourer, especially compared to an obvious competitor such as the Kawasaki 650 Versys which retails for $10,599 (+ORC), without luggage. That’s a massive saving for the Chinese model.

A full 320km day aboard the 650MT riding out into the Victorian Goldfields delivered typical Melbourne Above. The 650MT is the first CFMoto bike to be Euro 4 compliant and therefore to include ABS as standard CFMoto 650MT 56 amcn.c 57 weather, with all four seasons in one day. I got seriously drenched riding out along the Western Freeway towards Ballarat, thanks to an icy rainstorm that had me bemoaning the lack of heated grips (they’re not even an option yet). Protection was better than I expected thanks to an adjustable screen with a range of 60mm, though my shoulders inevitably got very damp, and...