Test Honda SLR 650

Test Honda SLR 650

Straight through?

Are there bikes that cope with the city better than others? Is Honda promoting illegality because the SLR 650 is called a city bike? A city bike is also good for country roads?

Of course, it is highly illegal, which my dear colleague is demonstrating: meandering through a traffic light during rush hour in a congested city.

But the motorcycle literally compels its driver to do so. Isn’t it just any machine, but Honda’s new city bike called the SLR 650. And wasn’t it Honda who presented the model with a clearly ambiguous advertising film at IFMA? A wild chase through Tokyo with two blends of Blues Brothers chasing a poor SLR driver? Of course, his nasty pursuers ultimately depend.
But what does such a motorcycle really have to do, apart from all advertising messages? A machine that is not only used for good weather trips to the ice cream parlor, but perhaps even has to serve as a year-round vehicle, and should therefore be robust, uncomplicated and manoeuvrable.
In the case of the SLR, this turned out to be a reality, not a hollow phrase, on the first city trip. Yes, it actually looks pretty handy, this mixture of Dominator and the scrambler motorcycles of the 70s. The relaxed seating position on an almost cross-like, tightly padded, narrow bench certainly contributes to this. 176 kilograms is an acceptable driving weight, and with a seat height of 84 centimeters, stop-and-go traffic is not a tightrope act, even for smaller drivers.
In this supposedly new type of city bike, which Honda manufactures at Montesa in Spain, only the 650 cm³ single comes from Japan. Otherwise, Honda relies entirely on European suppliers. The front wheel rim, which has shrunk from 21 to 19 inches compared to the Dominator, comes from Akront, the brakes from Brembo, the fork and the shock absorber from Showa Europe.
Honda should finally set a monument to the Japanese heart of the SLR 650, as the four-valve engine did its job in 1983 in the XL 600 R and, with more displacement, in the Dominator. The character of the single cylinder changed over the years. While he was still quite reluctant to ride the secret mother of all Honda city bikes, the XL 600 R, in the lower speed ranges, he got used to all-round good manners in the Dominator. Due to a modified camshaft, the SLR engine lacks five horsepower compared to the Dominator counterpart, which has hardly any effect, at least in the lower speed range. The engine kicks off vigorously from the low revs, pleasing when sprinting from the traffic lights, but also positive when trial runs off-road. In addition, there is no annoying jerking, poor throttle response or unwilling cold start behavior. In contrast to the Dominator, the 39 hp SLR engine looks pretty tough at the top.
So it’s better to quickly pull the easy-to-use clutch and engage the next, smoothly engaging gear. Shifting is purely a matter of feeling, because a tachometer fell victim to the red pen. At 8990 marks (including ancillary costs) the SLR is at least 1275 marks below the Dominator. So it is not surprising that some details do not reach the usual Honda standard. One can certainly argue about the appearance of the tubular steel frame, dubbed the “mono-backbone”, which also serves as a dry sump oil tank. It is a little reminiscent of painted structural steel. But the SLR shines with other strengths, such as the well-known double exhaust system of the Dominator. It’s nice that a pleasant single-cylinder sound can be heard from the stainless steel pots, despite the sharp noise definition. The SLR also shines in a positive light with its 180 millimeter headlights, which literally overshadow the puny lights of many other enduros.
But what happens when the city biker leaves the place-name sign and drives out on country roads? No problem: the SLR is convincing here too. It can be cheekily and accurately circled around curves, which is not at the expense of straight-line stability on motorway stretches. The engine, which reacts spontaneously to low engine speeds, and the gearbox set-up are ideal for accelerating out of tight turns. The pressure point of the front brake deserves the predicate “somewhat doughy”, but the double piston system decelerates effectively and does not let up even after sharp, winding downhill sections.
The suspension set-up was tight, and while the front fork worked perfectly, the dampened shock absorber was reluctant to do its job, especially on bumpy asphalt.
B.After a short time, a far bigger obstacle stands in the way of earlier highway robbery: the small 13-liter tank. With a brisk driving style, the air-cooled single occasionally treats itself to the iron fuel reserve after 140 kilometers. City bike or not, pushing it to the next gas station is certainly not fun.

My conclusion

Not a special offer, the SLR, because the Dominator NX 650 costs only 1275 marks more. But not a cheap motorcycle either. Sure, savings measures are noticeable in some details such as the rear shock absorber or the assembled frame. Nevertheless, with the SLR, Honda has put a rock-solid, honest motorcycle on its wheels. Not more but also not less. This not only pleases newcomers, but also people who are looking for a replacement for their old XT, KLX, DR or XL. A sturdy motorcycle with a well-engineered engine that doesn’t take the high curb in the city as much as it does light off-road in the gravel pit and is also inexpensive to maintain. The only drawback: the much too short maintenance intervals. Every 3000 kilometers to change the oil, that’s absolutely out of date.

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