(CF Moto) WK650TR review

Yes, you’re right, the WK650TR bears an uncanny resemblance to Honda’s ST1300, but this isn’t a shaft-driven V4 über-tourer.

It’s a 650 water-cooled parallel twin and one of the first middle-weight tourers to arrive from China. Now it would be easy to start this review with some disparaging remark about poorly executed copies, but that would be rather pointless. No-one with even the slightest foresight has failed to acknowledge that Chinese bikes are improving in quality on a daily basis. And it would be someone with their head well and truly buried who would ignore the parallels with the arrival of Japanese in the 1960s. Copy, learn, make good, expand.

The WK650TR is only labelled thus in the UK. In the rest of the world it’s known as a CF Moto 650TR and CF Moto are notable as a Chinese manufacturer, in that 25% of their not inconsiderable workforce concentrates on R&D. For that reason they have now produced a total of 51 engine types and 98 models of vehicle. The majority of these are ATVs which they sell in over 60 countries, but this bike and its naked sister model is a serious development for them. They just proved what the 650NK naked model could achieve this spring, when they raced one at the Isle of Man TT, so we thought it would be wise to see if their tourer had any credibility. It’s based on the same platform and although there isn’t an adventure model yet, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time and the 650 twin would be a fine base.

Styling and bodywork

But I’ll start with that bodywork, which so clearly pays homage to the Pan. Because everything has been unashamedly copied, the TR (no doubt designating TOUR as opposed to the NK or NAKED model) has absolutely brilliant fairing-mounted mirrors. They are large, easy to adjust and completely vibration free. I only wish that the pillion footpegs were lower, because carrying a pillion highlights a strange oversight; the rider is presented with a great view of the pillion’s knees and not a lot else.

The ‘Pan’s shape has been honoured to such a degree that even the same footpeg to fairing measurement seems to have been adopted, which means those who are long in thigh have their knees forced uncomfortably against the bodywork. This is strange, because the rest of the riding position is so very good.

Ergonomics

That bodywork that may rub your knees, will also provide great protection from the weather and enable all-day cruising. This is a medium weight tourer that accommodates 2 comfortably and the rider’s seat height is 795mm. That is low by adventure standards, but this is a tarmac tourer (even though I did go off-road with it) and what’s important is the footpeg to seat distance which they’ve managed to ensure is still very roomy so knees aren’t unduly bent.

Riding ergonomics are little short of perfect and the high ‘cast’ individual ‘bars fall perfectly to hand, if you’ll excuse the pun. The levers are an example of the attention to detail that is now going into some Chinese bikes, as they are span adjustable and feel lovely, especially the light-weight cable-operated clutch, but the lack of a trip meter demonstrates that there are still improvements to be made. There is an 8-bar digital fuel gauge, but the first of these vanishes after about 5 miles and there’s no low warning light, so a trip meter really is important. Being fuel injected, there’s no reserve tap and the tank is only 17.5 litres, more on which later.

Electrics and lighting

The analogue style speedo and rev counter are wonderfully traditional to look at and the warning/idiot lights are stacked on either side of the unit. I was using a pre-production model so the speedometer was reading in kph and all speeds above 200kph were in red to match the rev counter (10,500rpm), which is novel. One of the warning lights looked like it should be a side-light warning (should such a thing be necessary), but was in fact to indicate the side-stand was down. Given the existence of a side-stand cut-out switch, this is a little superfluous, so perhaps it is again because I was using a pre-production machine and the light may be planned for some much more useful function in future. Generally the clocks are a very pleasing display to sit behind and at night the screen glows blue.

The headlights themselves are adequate, one bulb on dip and another which supplements for full-beam. The sidelight is a row of LEDs beneath the headlight which you could use as daytime running light should you choose, as this bike still has a light switch! Imagine that, a manufacturer that trusts you to turn on your own lights. The switchgear itself is perfectly pleasant to use and seems to be made out of good quality plastic, but as with many machines, the hazard warning lights only work when the ignition is switched on, which isn’t ideal as you have to leave the key in. The tail-light and the indicators (flush in the mirrors at the front) are also LEDs and work well.

Handling and ride

The simplicity offered by the light switch is carried over to many parts of the bike: the frame and braced swinging arm are steel, and therefore strong and repairable if you were to go overland, but do contribute to the 220kgs overall weight. There’s no ABS which is one less thing to go wrong and the suspension is only adjustable at the rear. It is however, very good suspension, for what is a budget bike. The stability and planted feel that is apparent immediately you’re on the move, only really gets upset on fast corners if there’s a bump or a depression. Conscious that white lines seemed to be traversed with alacrity, I decided on a few long fast sweeping corners with good visibility, that I should ride the whole curve on the catseyes and central markers just to see what happened. The bike was completely unaffected.

In fact it is a stable bike in almost all scenarios and cruises happily at and above motorway speeds without any weaves or wobbles. Although almost all this 650 twin is made is China, the suspension is not. It’s quality German KYB kit, from Düsseldorf and it shows. This manufacturer is one that does seem to be going the extra mile, caring about the end product and acknowledging that perhaps some components are best sourced in Europe. Other European bits include the Marelli injection system.

Part of that ‘planted’ feel on the road is due to the tyres. If you are on a big trip and have left Europe you will probably just be happy to find tyres that are round and black, but the standard equipment is CST (Cheng Shin Tire). They’ve come a very long way from the days when they appeared to make tyres out of Teflon and they certainly made me feel comfortable enough to find out what maximum lean angle is. If it interests you, the footpegs are first down, because the stubby exhaust end can is so neatly tucked away. In the 2,300kms I rode the bike to and around Ireland, I did not, perhaps unbelievably, get the opportunity to ride in heavy rain, so who knows, maybe they are Jekyll and Hyde.

The brakes are also Chinese, no name brand, though they do have more than a passing resemblance to twin pot Nissin calipers. There are two of them up front, gripping 320mm wavy discs and they are as good as the brakes on any middleweight on the market. In association with the 240mm disc on the back, they offer plenty of feel and the CSTs offer plenty of bite. The only slightly concerning element, is the way that the cast handlebars seem to flex under extremely heavy braking… If CF Moto do produce an adventure bike the handlebars will be more conventional, as they are on the NK model.

The luggage

But attempting to perform ‘stoppies’ is not what this bike is about. It’s a tourer, (or a daily commuter) and it’s capable of this with ease. It is clearly a direct competitor to the Honda Deauville, with its built-in luggage and handy glove-boxes up front, one of which is lockable. I may even be so bold as to say it’s better. Certainly it doesn’t vibrate nearly as much as a Deauville and is much more fun to ride, but the general finish doesn’t match the Honda. Then again, it is £3,400 cheaper. That’s quite a saving and the cost of a very grand tour of Europe even if you didn’t want to pack a tent.

The factory-fit, colour-matched, side-opening luggage offers 60litres of space which is certainly good for a solo trip, and you could always strap something on the seat, but be warned – rather like with a pillion’s knees, something strapped across the seat and the top of the panniers, will obscure the rearward view in the mirrors.

The closing mechanism on the panniers isn’t very sophisticated and I can’t vouch for how weatherproof they are as I didn’t experience persistent rain, but they do suffer the usual side-opening luggage problems; awkward to load and a styled shape. I understand there will soon be a factory inner bag option, which will make them much more convenient as the boxes are bolted on and not easy to remove.

The engine

But what of the engine and how does it perform? Well it’s an over-square 650cc parallel twin making just shy of 70hp at the crank if pushed to 8,500rpm. I found the power very linear and although there’s a little more urgency from 5-7,000 rpm above that there’s really just an increase in noise as everything becomes a bit more frantic. Six grand equates to a very comfortable 75mph, which for this type of machine, means you can very easily just roll off and on the throttle in the top, sixth gear. This twin doesn’t begin to get snatchy until you let the revs fall below 2,500 rpm and even pootling through a village in what most would class as too high a gear, there was only a little transmission lash, most of that caused by a chain I really should have tensioned. The ECU, another European part, certainly seems to be very well mapped and the fuelling is smooth throughout. The very first time you let the clutch out in first, you may think it’s all a bit lumpy, but that’s more the nature of a parallel twin and you soon don’t notice, especially as the revs build.

The twin is an engine built in-house by CF Moto, but it’s rather obviously modelled on Kawasaki’s very successful ER6. The gear shift has quite a long throw, but upshifts are smooth and always engage well. Downshifts however, especially when you may be going down a few at a junction, seem to be affected by oil temperature, becoming much better as the oil thins.

Real world use

Fuel economy that I managed in real and varied use, some of it two-up and even a bit on forestry tracks, was 53.8mpg. That should equate to almost 200 miles from the 17.5l tank, but I never got close to that, because the fuel gauge was always on its last bar by 120 and as there’s no reserve and no flashing light, I didn’t trust it and always filled up. Perhaps I should have carried a can and run it dry in the interest of dismissing conjecture, but I found it easier to use my receipts and a calculator. The joy of the fuel tank is that it’s steel and therefore my magnetic tankbag and map pocket could be used.

If this bike had a centre-stand I’d have got more fuel in, but alas that’s another omission. The shape of the ER6 inspired stainless steel exhaust system precludes one, which is a real shame on a practical tourer. I would have got around to adjusting and lubing the chain too if there been one! That and the missing trip-meter, are real oversights which I would hope the factory will rectify.

I am in no doubt that CF Moto will take every criticism on board and keep developing this bike. It’s in the nature of the Chinese motorcycle industry that has survived that first crazy period of growth. In June 2012 there was a large conference in China where individuals involved in the motorcycle industry were invited from all over the world to discuss developments, offer advice and criticism of all the products and how the whole bike industry in China should proceed. That’s a lot of bother to go to if you just want to keep cloning other machines.

Whether this bike will hold together after thirty thousand miles is as yet unproven of course and like many people I’ve talked to, I may be hesitant to open my wallet until I see how it copes, but I’m waiting expectantly for the adventure model. If they can retail that for £4,195, I just may take the plunge.

Paddy Tyson

WK650TR specifications

List price on the road in the UK is £5,195 (and the 650NK is only £4,195).

Engine type: Liquid Cooled DOHC 8 Valve parallel-twin. Four stroke with 180 deg crankshaft. Chain-driven camshaft and single gear-driven counter balancer. Nickel-based Silicon Carbide plated ceramic cylinder

Displacement: 649.3cc

Bore and stroke: 83 x 60mm

Peak power: 69.73BHP @ 8500 RPM (at crank)

Torque: 45.72lb-ft @ 7000RPM

Compression ratio: 11.3:1

Carburetion: EFI with Ducati Energia ECU. 2 x 38mm ITT Throttle bodies and single Magneti Marelli injector per cylinder

Transmission: Six speed manual gearbox with chain final drive

Fuel tank: 17.5 litres

Tested : 53.5mpg

Frame: Tubular steel diamond frame employing engine as fully-stressed member

Front suspension : 41mm KYB/Kayaba telescopic fork

Rear suspension: Extruded steel swingarm with tubular bracing and KYB/Kayaba cantilever adjustable monoshock

Tyres

F : 2 x 300mm steel discs with twin piston calipers

R : 1 x 225mm single disc with single piston caliper

Wheelbase: 1415mm

Wet weight: 220kg

Front tyre : 120/70ZR17 CST radial on 3.50in cast aluminium wheel

Rear tyre : 160/60ZR17 CST radial on 4.50in cast aluminium wheel

Seat height : 795mm

Colours: Matt grey, Black, Blue, Burgundy and a promise of White soon.