SPORTS-TOURING FOR THE REST OF US
There’s a perception out there that “baby-boomers” are cashed-up, retired or semi-retired, and ready to throw bucket-loads of cash at the latest and greatest two-wheeled toy. It’s true that many baby-boomers do fit that description, but there are others out there (like me!), who are more “debted-up” than “cashed-up”. While the cashed-up are shelling out 25 to 30 big ones on a BMW RT, Yamaha FJR1300, Kawasaki 1400GTR, Triumph Trophy or even a Harley bagger, the rest of us are shaking the piggy-bank and wondering what we can get without going into five figures. The answer would normally be a very 2nd-hand example of one of the above; or maybe something totally different. We could shift our sights a bit lower, to something like the Honda VFR800, Triumph Sprint, or Suzuki Bandit; although they are still way out of budget if we’re going to keep it under 10 grand. Even a mid-size bike set up for touring (if you can find one) would strain that 10-grand budget. Well, now there is an alternative. The CF Moto 650TK not only looks like a proper sportstourer, but you could probably do a lap of the country for the change you’d get out of that 10 grand budget. (Incidentally, it is also available, for $1,000 less, as a naked, called the 650NK). The main reason for this bargain-basement price is, of course, that it is made in China. Now we’ve all seen, or heard of, those cheap-and-nasty Chinese bikes that are poorly engineered and even more poorly put together: basically, they’re junk. But there is good stuff coming out of China too! When the likes of BMW use engines made in China (by a Chinese manufacturer, not a BMW factory located in China), then a new level of respect is demanded. Also, I’ve read that the CF Moto has some good bits from high-profile manufacturers included in its make-up; including a Ducati ECU, Marelli fuel-injection and Continental Road Attack 2 tyres. Coming with compulsory LAMS restrictions (you can’t buy an unrestricted version in Australia), it is obviously aimed at the cash-poor youngster getting into their first sportstourer, but I see it as also being a good choice for cash-poor oldies. And, as if to confirm this view, Jason, the manager at Scootaholic who provided the bike for test, said that the last one he’d sold was to a guy in his late 50s who wanted a new bike but didn’t have a lot of money to spend. So let’s see how it holds up in that role.
IN THE DRIVEWAY
I was impressed with the look of these bikes when the first pre-production models hit our shores in early 2013. And now seeing one in the metal (and plastic), I think they look great! There are hints of Honda’s old ST1300 in the styling, especially with the rubber “fairing-sliders” on the side. I suppose they could be useful for those inexperienced youngsters who have, to use Casey Stoner’s famous line, ambitions that exceed their abilities; but they could also be useful for wobbly old blokes who over-balance the thing and drop it in the driveway. (See – I said it could also be aimed at us oldies!). The panniers are well integrated into the design, and there are a row of cool-looking running lights underneath the headlights. The panniers are lockable and have extra latches to keep the lids closed tightly to keep any water out. They're quite big: the right one will hold a full-face helmet. (The left one won’t because of a knob inside that operates a cable-release for the seat). There are two “glovebox” type compartments, one each side on the top of the fairing. The left one is lockable: ideal for stowing a wallet, camera, etc. The right one, shown in the photo, holds the coolant reservoir, as you can see. Despite looking a bit like a Honda, I was told that the running-gear is based on the Kawasaki ER6; and checking the specs seems to confirm this. The engine has exactly the same capacity as the Kawasaki, the same bore-and-stroke, the same compression-ratio, and in unrestricted form, the same power. That’s a good heritage, and regular readers might recall that I rate the ER6 very highly! When you go to sit on it, you immediately encounter a problem: it takes a fair old heave to lift it off the side-stand. There are two reasons for this: firstly, this thing is heavy; and secondly, the side-stand is much too short, resulting in the bike leaning over at a fair angle. When I stopped out on the road to take some photos, I went looking for a section of road that sloped away to the right, rather than sloping to the left – such was my concern at being able to comfortably lift it off the stand! (Look at the angle of lean in the “On The Road” photo below and realise that the road is sloping to the left of the photo). I said the bike was heavy, and at 220kg it is surprisingly so for a mid-range bike – even with all the kit it has. Adding to this, the weight seems to be positioned fairly high (even without a full tank of fuel), resulting in it having a high centre-of-gravity. This was to be an issue out on the road too. The riding-position is upright, and feels comfortable and natural. The only complaint I had (not really a complaint) was that the foot-pegs felt a bit high. If they were lower that would also solve another small problem – that of my knees hitting the fairing. I noticed this in the driveway, but also out on the road. I thought that might just be me, with my lanky old legs, but I did read the same complaint in another road-test too. The handlebar risers are tall and raise the bars quite a distance above the steering-head, resulting in the upright riding position I mentioned. The instruments consist of two analogue dials, and the usual LCD panel containing various bits of information. (I didn’t check what was there – other than odo, fuel and temperature). The dials are easy to read, even though the numbers are fairly small. All the controls are light and easy to use. The seat is comfortable. The pillion seat doesn’t look as good (I didn’t try it), but the rider is well catered for. Even after spending some time in the saddle it still felt remarkably comfortable; especially for a bike of this price. The mirrors are integrated into the fairing and require a definite downward look to find them. That seems a bit unnatural. But even worse, when you do look down there, the ends of the handlebars partially obscure your vision. Finally, the bike is available in a range of colours, including black, white, silver and red. Red looks pretty snazzy, but I reckon the silver of the test-bike looked classy.
OUT ON THE ROAD
Hitting the starter brings a sound and sensation that initially surprises: there is the unmistakable sound and characteristics of a vertical twin. I already knew the engine configuration, but sub-consciously, I think that when you see something that appears to be a “big tourer”, you expect the sound and smoothness of a 4-cylinder, not a twin. Anyway, you soon get used to it, and once you do, the engine is actually quite smooth. The vibes are there, but they are quite subdued. CF Moto claims that the bike has “Class-leading power” and quote figures that put it about 7kW up on the Kawasaki ER6, 4kW up on the CB500F, and about 2kW over the Hyosung GT650R (based on the LAMS versions of these, where applicable). What they don’t say though, is that it is heavier than all of those, so its advantage in power is negated by the extra weight. In practice though, there’s enough power there. You can feel the effect of the weight on the performance – 220kg is a lot of weight for a LAMS-restricted 650 to haul around! – but it does go well. The brochure claims that it has a “linear build-up of power”, and it does: it’s quite tractable, and you don’t have to worry about being in the wrong gear – mostly anyway – because it will pull away easily from under 3,000rpm. From about 4,000rpm it starts to feel totally happy. Even on the highway, if you give the throttle a big twist there’s enough acceleration to overtake without having to change back a gear (unless you’re really in a hurry!). Power does increase as the revs rise, but I didn’t rev it out much. That was partly due to the bike being very new, and I didn’t want to be a hard on a new motor, but you don’t really need to anyway. When I did give it a bit of a squirt into higher revs – although still well short of its 11,000rpm red-line – it didn’t seem entirely happy to be there. Gearing is just about perfect! 1st is low enough to make take-offs easy, but high enough that you’re not looking for another gear before you get going properly. Top gear runs about 23kph per 1,000rpm, which is perfect for the bike. One advantage twins have over 4-cylinder donks is that they don’t sound as busy at higher revs: so at around 5,000rpm it feels relaxed and eager for more. That sees you cruising at 110kph – 120kph and at those speeds it feels, well, as I said, relaxed and eager for more. With the comfortable seat and upright riding-position, it feels like it could happily cruise all day at those speeds. The only draw-back to open-road cruising is that the screen is a bit short, so your head cops quite a bit of wind. Well mine did, anyway. When I first pulled away and rode off into suburbia it felt, well ... it felt weird! In corners it felt top-heavy and unstable: so much so that I actually stopped to make sure there wasn’t an under-inflated tyre! It’s that high centre-of-gravity thing I mentioned before. I think that the bars being so high above the steering-head contributes to this somewhat awkward feel too. I only had a short ride, and when I got back I was still feeling a bit nervous at slow speeds. I guess it’s something you’d get used to if you owned it, but for me, well, I’d be worried I might end up using those rubber fairing-sliders! Out on the open road it was fine: it handled well and was totally stable. I didn’t get to punt it through any real twisties, but it felt fine on the gentle curves I encountered on my ride. This is where the bike is in its element – touring highways and smooth-flowing secondary roads. Now, when I mention the issue of weight, and how it affects the bike, bear in mind that my own bike is heavier than this (albeit by only a couple of kilos), so I’m certainly not unfamiliar with bikes of this weight! So that’s not where this is coming from! The problem, as I’ve mentioned, is more one of centre-of-gravity and, I think, steering geometry. (And a ridiculously short side-stand!). The ride is surprisingly good! From what I could tell only the rear unit is adjustable (and that only basic pre-load), but despite that, the suspension feels remarkably compliant – especially so for a bike of this price! I didn’t get to try it on rough roads, but I’ve ridden a lot of bikes that bounce you around even on the highway. With this I was looking for rough patches and bumps to confirm my impression that the suspension was doing a very good job. And it didn’t disappoint! It’s just another thing that adds to its capabilities as a fine tourer. The brakes are fine. With 220kg (plus fluids and rider) to pull up, an emergency stop might take a strong pull (and push) on the levers, but during my ride they felt fine. You don’t want too much initial bite on a bike intended for learners anyway, and these felt progressive and more than ample for the job. SNAPSHOT The CF Moto650TK is a bargain-priced mid-size sports-tourer, with the emphasis on the “tourer” bit. With standard panniers, and a good level of comfort, it’s just waiting for a weekend (or more) away. It is quite heavy, and this weight makes it a bit awkward at slow speeds, but when cruising the highway it feels like it could go all day; and deliver quite reasonable performance as it does so.
Engine: 2-cylinder, 649cc. Power: 41.5kW at 8,500rpm. Torque: 56Nm at 7,000rpm.
Suspension: Front: Conventional fork. Rear: Single unit, cantilever.
Fuel capacity: 17.5litres.
Seat height: 795mm.
Wheels / Tyres: Front: 120 X 17, Rear: 160 X 17.
Brakes: Front: Twin 300mm discs, Rear: Single 242mm disc
Price: $6,990 (+ORC).
UP-DATE 2014: A very recent up-date (actually current at the time I did the test) has seen a longer side-stand fitted, along with a significantly taller screen. That should answer a couple of my niggles with it!
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