CFMoto 650GT solid sports-touring

Stephen Edwards, foto: Jan Altner 10.10.2020


CFMOTO are an unknown name to many, and can still be thought of as a late arrival to the European motorcycle market. Their core business is that of quads, ATV, side by sides, and in this segment they are well established players everywhere, enjoying significantly large market shares in a number of countries around the globe.

I tested their 650MT model in 2018, and was pleasantly surprised by that first encounter with the brand. Clearly, heavily, influenced by cooperation with Kawasaki the 650 twin engine, at the bikes heart, was all but visually identical to the motor used in the Versys 650. The MT is still in the model range though now joined by a few others, including the naked NK650, and the 650GT as reviewed here.

I admit that in the intervening two years I had forgotten some of the details of my time on the MT but had retained the overall impressions. Sitting on the GT immediately revealed the first difference between the two, as on the new bike I could immediately get both feet flat on to the ground. I am somewhere in the region of 175 cm tall, so average height, and I found the GT to be a perfect size. Its stable mate is that little bit taller and while it was never a problem, this bike fits better, and gives that little added bit of mental security, knowing solid ground is easily within reach. The rider is greeted by a cleanly laid out cockpit featuring a centred TFT display, wide set mirrors, mounted on to what looks like a well put together fairing. The eye is also caught by the transparent, front brake fluid reservoir, set beside the right hand grip. Nearly everyone would comment on that feature with most liking it, and reacting to how cool it was. Another thing I quickly noticed was that the switch gear had a much more solid look, and feel, over the MT which was one of the very few small criticisms from two years previously.

On either side of the fairing sits an electrical outlet with waterproof rubber cap. The one to the left reveals two USB ports and the right a standard 12V power take off point. A nice practical touch that should aid the adding of GPS, telephone mounts etc. Everything else is a fairly common layout, with the usual controls in standard positions. The levers for clutch, and front brake are both span adjustable. Turning the centrally located ignition key switches on the TFT display which cycles through the usual company logo display to reveal a clear, bright layout. The daytime version is primarily black characters on a vivid white background showing speed as a digit, a large graphical rev counter, smaller character displays for the time and trip meter along with sliding bar fuel and temperature gauges.

A very minor niggle is that I found some of the text sizes to be a little small and on occasion would find myself hunting the display for information. Throughout the test the display was always clear and coped with a wide variety of ambient light conditions to still be easily visible. The only exception to this was when the sun was quite high and directly behind the rider, thus shining squarely on to the screen. It was still easily readable but just not quite as good as all other times. In the event of failing light the display automatically changes to night time configuration of black background, with contrasting blue and white characters. I personally would have liked this combination for the day time but did not find a way to configure it.

The engine springs into life easily on the button and settles down into quite a pleasant burble from the short exhaust and air induction. The gearbox was absolutely faultless throughout our week together with not a single false neutral to be found. More importantly when looking for real neutral it never once posed any issue to select quickly and reliably. Gear changes did happen with a little bit of a clunk but then again most boxes do that. Leaving the importers premises quickly took me onto a highway, and one of the first things I did was to select the Mode button on the left switch gear. Two engine maps are offered ‘Sport’, and ‘Touring’. If I am completely honest I felt very little difference between them, and having played with it a couple of times I left it in Sport. Actually there is one real noticeable difference, in that the display layout totally changes between them. Going into Touring mode the rev-counter changes from the traditional radial style to a larger horizontal bar, as well as flipping the fuel and temperature bars from horizontal to vertical. I actually much preferred that layout. Modes can easily be switched on the move with no need to shut off the throttle to activate once selected.

As with all bikes in this class, it is no sports machine. Those looking for an extreme adrenalin buzz as the main selection criteria for a bike, should look elsewhere. That said it can move along quite nicely when asked to and is far from boring. I never attempted a top speed test but I can say from experience that should the rider wish to hit the autobahn in Germany then there is no reason not to do it on the GT and I imagine it will reach up to the 185km/h mark before running out of steam. It shall more than keep up with normal highway traffic all day along, being comfortably able to cruise well above the Czech speed limit of 130km/h. I experienced some quite noisy buffeting around my head when sitting at these higher speeds, which I eliminated the majority of by adjusting the screen height. That can not, however, be done safely whilst on the move as there is no electric facility to do so. Once it was adjusted then it is not something that I felt the need to change again, so I don’t see the lack of electrical adjustment as a huge inconvenience.

Power delivery is easy and gentle below 4000 rpm. That is not to say it is inhibiting, so around town the machine will easily zip through traffic without delivering any nasty surprises. Above this point things start to liven up by pulling deceptively well, as it never really felt like it was accelerating as hard it did. Definitely enough to be fun when wanted, responsive when needed to get out of situations but at no point did it try to pull my arms out of their sockets. It would thus be a suitable machine for new riders as well as the more experienced. The brakes are well up to the job asked of them with a pair of twin discs at the front and the usual single disc at the rear, all utilising braided steel hoses as standard. The bike is, of course, equipped with ABS but I had to grab things pretty hard to test it. It never once activated, or intruded, during my normal riding.

Handling too is predictable, and stable in all the conditions that I put it through, including some excellent twisty, back roads that I can use on the daily commute. The test bike had more than 4000km on the clock, and has been used by a number of journos in its life, clearly one or two have really tried to push its handling to the limit, judging by the grinding down of the ‘hero blobs’ under the foot rests. There is definitely fun potential in this bike should you choose to look for it. The only small criticism I can level in this department is that I did find the suspension a bit spongy at the rear, and when the spring came into operation it would make the bike wallow a little. The rear shock has preload adjustment, which may well help sort this out, but it was such a small concern that I never got round to doing it. The front forks are non-adjustable but again I never felt the need to do so.

Overall comfort was pretty good on the bike, with the saddle allowing for a couple of hours riding before I found myself starting to move around to relieve a bit of pressure. The 19litre fuel tank would easily allow for longer stretches of riding than this, before the need to refuel, and I can see no reason at all why it should be a problem. Riding in failing light, for the first time, revealed a rather impressive headlamp set up. The low beam is one of the widest that I have seen, or at least the way it is configured gave that impression. As the evening turned to night the full effect of high beam also became evident as country roads were illuminated well off into the distance. I found this reassuring as good lighting is a genuine safety feature for night time travel.

The build quality on the GT650 is impressive all round, and in spite of CFMOTO not yet being a mainstream name in our part of the world, the way they put their bikes together stands up alongside any other brand on the local market. The fit and finish of body panels, frame and so on was near faultless, as was structural fabrication with welding and fastening. I am personally a bit obsessive of this factor due to my experience of many years working closely with the automotive, quality control sector around the world. The level of components is reflected in the name of some of the suppliers such as Bosch, Continental, J Juan, KYB and Metzler and all topped off with the design cooperation for the entire brand from KISKA, the outfit driving styling at the likes of KTM.

It is my opinion that nearly all modern motorcycles are pretty good, and it is not so often that glaring flaws are immediately obvious. The 650GT is no exception. There are a few small negative things evident on the machine. The previously mentioned rear suspension, small characters on the display, I would have appreciated an ambient temperature sensor as well as some obvious way to reconfigure the colour scheme of the TFT. The wind screen vibrated a bit at high speed in its top position. On one occasion I left the machine parked pointing slightly downhill, for a few hours, and it took a few seconds for the engine to catch when I tried to start it. The fuelling is also very slightly rough for the first twenty seconds or so when the engine is cold. The thing is that these points are all so small, as to be almost irrelevant, and I certainly have to be looking for the flaws and quite hard. There is very simply, little about this machine to not like. In many ways it is very similar to its competition, as far as the riding experience is concerned but yet, just like the MT650, it somehow leaves a much better, and lasting impression on me. It almost has a bit more character than the others.

At this point I am, somewhat reluctantly, going to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Not because I think it is relevant but because everyone else who I have spoken to about the bike has, without fail, mentioned it. This machine is Chinese and to many people that still seems to be a relevance, and generally of a negative perception. My opinions of, and judgements made about, this motorcycle are in no way swayed or influenced by where it is made nor its price point. I went in to the test with exactly the same objectivity, holding it to the same scrutiny, as I do for any other motorcycle. I have neither justified or excused anything based on its country of origin or sales price.

This is a good, solid, sports-touring machine in its own right which deserves to be compared against its competition from anywhere in the world. It does retail at an attractive price which is an added bonus, not a sign that it is somehow significantly lacking in features or ability. If I were in the market for a mid sized, all round road motorcycle then I would very seriously be considering laying my money down for a 650GT, because I genuinely like it, and when stacked up against the other offerings it is one hell of a good deal, for a good motorcycle.

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