Coz sometimes it’s what’s missing that can reveal the most
Bike manufacturers will go to extreme lengths to keep their upcoming models secret. But sometimes a gaping hole in a range becomes so blatantly obvious it’s clear what’s going to fill it, and that is precisely the case with Honda’s ever-popular CB500F and CB650F.
Honda’s new CB125R, CB300R and CB1000R all share a common neo-retro design theme. In comparison, the CB650F and CB500F look blandly modern despite both having been updated in 2017 and 2016 respectively.
Of the two models, an updated CB650R is the easiest to envisage.
The styling direction taken by the 2018 CB1000R, CB300R and CB125R was previewed on Honda’s 2015 concept bike, the CB4. Under the skin of the CB4 was a near-stock CB650F. In short, the work to create a neo-retro version of the CB650F has already been done.
Don’t expect big changes under the skin. The CB650F has carved out a useful niche as a practical, sensibly priced nakedbike, and it’s unlikely Honda will make sweeping mods to its diamond-framed steel chassis or the 647cc four-cylinder 66kW engine.
Honda is likely to follow a similar pattern with the CB500F, concentrating on altering the bodywork rather than the mechanical components to turn it into a CB500R with the same modern-but-retro styling.
Adding a big dose of style to the CB500F and CB650F’s successors, along with the ‘R’ designation, could be a masterstroke from Honda. Both are already popular despite their bland styling.
We’ve already seen how Yamaha has managed to create a whole line of desirable, affordable machines in its MT range and the various spin-offs, from the Tracer to the XSR models. With the retro styling of the CB4 concept, Honda could be in a position to use its worthy CB range as the basis for new-look machines.
What about the CBR500R and CBR650F?
The prospect that the naked middleweight CB models will adopt the neo-retro looks of the CB1000R brings an even more tempting possibility; their faired equivalents could become clones of the CB4 Interceptor concept. The CB4 Interceptor concept came from a European R&D department that has already seen several of its previous concepts reach production.
Just like their naked CB500F and CB650F sisters, the CBR500R and CBR650F are slightly shackled by styling that’s intentionally a step below Honda’s full-on sportsbikes, the CBR600RR and CBR1000RR. But with the CBR600RR now gone from European markets, there’s a gaping hole for something sexy-looking, and more practical, to fill its boots.
By Ben Purvis