With more than a decade of motorcycle testing experience under my belt, it’s rare to get a first ride on a motorcycle built by a company I have no prior experience with. When CFMOTO invited Rider to Minneapolis to ride its 2022 lineup of motorcycles – a total of seven models (plus an eighth model that’s under embargo) – I was all-in.
CFMOTO’s motorcycles range from small to middleweight in size, and they’re attractively priced. The lineup includes the 126cc Papio minibike ($2,999), 300NK naked bike ($3,999), 300SS fully faired sportbike ($4,299), 650NK naked bike ($6,499), 650 ADVentura street-adventure bike ($6,799), 700CL-X street scrambler ($6,499), and 700CL-X Sport modern café racer ($6,999). The Papio comes with a one-year warranty while the others are covered for two years.
For my first ride on each model, I worked my way through the lineup from smallest to largest, from the Papio to the 700CL-X Sport. After logging several laps on each bike, I rode them again and again in random order throughout the day.
Our test riding was done at the Minnesota Highway Safety & Research Center (MHSRC), a training facility that includes a 1.2-mile paved road course with a half-dozen nicely radiused corners, a one-third-mile front straight that leads into a slightly banked left-hand sweeper, and an ultra-tight, winding half-mile infield course. Like real-world roads, the pavement was rough and littered with tar snakes that got greasy in the midday sun, and it was damp in the morning after overnight rains and again after an afternoon cloudburst. The track allowed us to test multiple bikes in succession and pursue top speeds without running afoul of local law enforcement.
After a full day of at least 100 laps on eight different models, we had an opportunity to spend the next day testing the model of our choice on public roads. I picked the 650 ADVentura and logged another 350 miles on it.
Unless you’re familiar with ATVs and side-by-sides, CFMOTO might be new to you too. Established in Hangzhou, China, in 1989, the company grew quickly to become a supplier of engines, parts, and components for some of the biggest brands in powersports. By 2000 CFMOTO had begun manufacturing motorcycles, scooters, and off-road vehicles.
According to Alan Cathcart, in a company profile published in 2015 on Rider’s website, “CFMOTO emphasizes quality of manufacture rather than low cost, so while its bikes are well priced, they’re also well-made and durable.” In 2014, Austrian manufacturer KTM established a partnership with CFMOTO, and the company began producing KTM 200/390 Dukes for the Chinese market.
Stefan Pierer, CEO of KTM, told Cathcart, “We built up a very good trust level with CFMOTO – they are a very serious Chinese company. We’ve now arranged to do a 50/50 joint venture on KTM products made in China for sale worldwide. … I’m happy to attach the KTM name to something made by them.”
CFMOTO has been selling off-road vehicles in the U.S. since 2002, and it established its American headquarters in Plymouth, Minnesota, in 2007. In 2012, CFMOTO began importing motorcycles, including the 650NK naked bike and the 650TK sport-tourer, both powered by a liquid-cooled 649cc parallel-Twin.
Cathcart reviewed the 650TK in 2015, which retailed for $6,999, and gave it high marks. Other than a few fit-and-finish complaints, he concluded that the “CFMOTO 650TK is as capable, practical, and pleasing as any motorcycle costing twice the price” and “an awful lot of motorcycle for the money.”
After a couple of years, CFMOTO pulled out of the U.S. motorcycle market because its offerings didn’t resonate with American buyers. It went back to the drawing board, developed a full lineup of bikes, introduced them in Europe and other markets where they were well-received, and decided to try again in the U.S. CFMOTO has 550 dealers in the U.S., with nearly 200 of them selling motorcycles. All 2022 models have been available since April.
2022 CFMOTO Papio
Since the Honda Grom was introduced in 2014 and became a runaway best-seller, the small-bore segment has expanded rapidly. These days, the Grom will set you back $3,499, the Kawasaki Z125 Pro goes for $3,399, and the Benelli TNT135 is $3,199. The Papio, which takes its name from the genus that includes baboons, slides in below the others at $2,999.
Weighing weighs just 251 lb and rolling on 12-inch wheels, the Papio has a 126cc air-cooled fuel-injected Single that kicks out 9.3 hp at 8,500 rpm and 6.1 lb-ft of torque at 6,500 rpm. Unique in this segment is the Papio’s 6-speed gearbox, which helps it achieve a respectable top speed – even with my 215 lb in the saddle, I saw an indicated 62 mph by the end of MHRSC’s front straight.
The Papio is aptly named. The Minnesota-nice guys from CFMOTO, who used cones to create two chicanes on the MHRSC track to slow things down, asked us not to race each other. One bike is a ride, two bikes is a race, and three Papios is a barrel of baboons. We couldn’t help ourselves.
Small and affordable the Papio may be, but it’s nicely featured, with LED lighting all around and a digital instrument panel. It has a telescopic fork with 4.3 inches of travel, a rear shock that has five-click preload adjustability, and single-disc brakes front and rear. Seat height is 30.5 inches, fuel capacity is 1.9 gallons and color options are Lemon Green and Galaxy Grey with red accents.
2022 CFMOTO 300NK / 300SS
The next rung on CFMOTO’s moto-ladder is a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valve 292cc Single with Bosch EFI that makes a claimed 28.7 hp at 8,750 rpm and 18.7 lb-ft of torque at 7,250 rpm. You can choose the naked 300NK ($3,999) in Athens Blue or Nebula Black, or the fully faired 300SS ($4,299) in Nebula White or Nebula Black.
Both feature a steel trellis frame, a 6-speed transmission with a slip/assist clutch, an inverted fork with a progressive-rate spring, and a preload-adjustable rear shock. Ten-spoke 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels are slowed by a 4-piston radial-mount front caliper with a 300mm disc, a 1-piston rear caliper with a 245mm disc, and Continental dual-channel ABS.
With its tubular handlebar and slightly taller seat (31.7 inches), the 300NK has a more upright seating position and weighs 333 lb. The 300SS has sporty clip-ons, a 30.7-inch seat height, and a 364-lb curb weight. Both are fun and flickable with linear but modest power delivery, and the counterbalanced Single is remarkably smooth. The brakes, however, felt wooden, a problem that would likely be solved by more aggressive pads.
These are stylish, well-equipped bikes, with LED lighting and a 5.5-inch TFT display with Bluetooth that pairs to the CFMOTO Ride smartphone app, which provides vehicle info and navigation (the app is also compatible with the Papio, 650NK, 650 ADVentura, and 700CL-X Sport, but not the 700CL-X).
2022 CFMOTO 650NK / 650 ADVentura
Moving up from the 300s to the 650s gains 357cc and an extra cylinder. The liquid-cooled, DOHC, 8-valve 649cc parallel-Twin in the 650NK and 650 ADVentura is said to churn out 60 hp at 8,750 rpm and 41.3 lb-ft of torque at 7,000 rpm. Like the 300s, the 6-speed transmission is equipped with a slip/assist clutch.
Ratcheting up the price – $6,499 for the NK (Nebula White or Nebula Black) and $6,799 for the ADVentura (Athens Blue or Nebula White) – brings higher specification. Both have brakes made by J. Juan, a Spanish supplier owned by Brembo, with dual 300mm discs up front with 2-piston calipers and a single 240mm disc out back with a 1-piston caliper. Continental dual-channel ABS is standard, and 17-inch cast wheels are shod with premium Pirelli Angel GT sport-touring tires.
The 650NK, which weighs 454 lb, carries 4.5 gallons of fuel, and has a 30.7-inch seat height, is equipped with KYB suspension, with a non-adjustable fork and a preload-adjustable rear shock. The 650 ADVentura has an inverted fork with 12 clicks of rebound adjustment and a rear shock with adjustable preload and rebound (eight clicks). Both models have full LED lighting and a 5-inch TFT display.
Standard equipment on the ADVentura includes Shad hard saddlebags, a windscreen with 1.5 inches of toolless height adjustment, and a USB charging port on the dash. It weighs 481 lb (add 17 lb for the saddlebags), carries 4.75 gallons of fuel, and has a 32.3-inch seat height.
Both 650s have upright seating positions, and thanks to its taller seat, the ADVentura offers more legroom than the NK. Both are very approachable and fun to ride. Twisting the right grip delivers rheostat-like power with barely a hint of vibration from the counterbalanced Twin. They are light enough to be tossed into turns, their Pirelli tires provide good grip, and their brakes shed speed quite well. They felt stable at speed too – I maxxed out at an indicated 106 mph on the NK and 107 mph on the ADV. (Read more 650 ADVentura impressions below.)
2022 CFMOTO 700CL-X / 700 CL-X Sport
Though gaining just 44cc in displacement over the 650s, the 700s represent a big step up in specification and performance. Their shared liquid-cooled, DOHC, 8-valve 693cc parallel-Twin makes a claimed 74 hp at 8,500 rpm and 50.2 lb-ft of torque at 7,000 rpm, and both have a 6-speed transmission with a slipper clutch and chain final drive.
The 700s are also equipped with throttle-by-wire, which enables two ride modes (Sport and Eco) and one-touch cruise control. They have a stylish, throaty exhaust can on the right side, self-canceling turnsignals, and all-round LED lighting with a daytime running light.
Wrapped around the engine is a tubular chromoly steel frame connected to a steel trellis subframe and a lightweight gravity-cast aluminum swingarm. KYB suspension includes a 41mm inverted fully adjustable fork and a linkage-mounted rear shock that’s adjustable for preload and rebound. Seat height is 31.5 inches and fuel capacity is 3.4 gallons.
The 700CL-X street scrambler ($6,499) is available in Coal Grey with bronze wheels or Twilight Blue with black wheels, and it has a tubular handlebar and Pirelli MT-60 dirt track-style semi-knobby tires. J. Juan brakes include a 320mm front disc with a radial-mount 4-piston caliper and a 260mm rear disc with a 2-piston caliper, and Continental ABS is standard. Curb weight is 426 lb.
The 700CL-X Sport ($6,799), available in Nebula White or Velocity Grey, takes a more aggressive café racer approach to styling and ergonomics, with clip-on handlebars, bar-end mirrors, a removable rear cowling (passenger pegs are standard but a passenger seat is sold as an accessory), and faux carbon fiber accents. Top-shelf Brembo brakes include a radial front master cylinder, radial-mount monoblock Stylema 4-piston calipers squeezing 320mm discs, and a 2-piston rear caliper squeezing at 260mm disc. Five-spoke cast aluminum wheels are shod with Maxxis SuperMaxx ST sport tires. Curb weight is 451 lb.
These bikes are a helluva lot of fun, with engine response that feels like a bigger step up from the 650s than the small displacement bump would suggest. With its wider handlebar, more upright seating position, more comfortable seat, and lower weight, the 700CL-X was my favorite of the two. Other than the 650 ADVentura, it’s the bike I spent the most time on, chasing down – but by no means racing – other journalists on the track.
Editor’s Note: When this story was published in late July 2022, the 2023 CFMOTO 800 ADVentura (now the Ibex 800 T) was still under embargo. We got to ride it at this event, and you can read our impressions via the link below.
A Day in the Life of the 2022 CFMOTO 650 ADVentura
CFMOTO’s 650 ADVentura has the Kawasaki Versys 650 LT in its crosshairs. Both are street-adventure bikes with 649cc parallel-Twins, upright seating positions, small upper fairings with height-adjustable windscreens, and removable hard saddlebags. There are some differences too – the Kawasaki has traction control but the CFMOTO doesn’t, for example, and the CFMOTO has a longer warranty – but they’re similar enough to be kissing cousins.
The biggest delta between the two is price. The Kawasaki’s MSRP is $9,999, but the CFMOTO’s is only $6,799. You can buy a lot of overpriced gas for $3,200.
Since a middleweight street-adventure bike is right in Rider’s wheelhouse, the 650 ADVentura is the bike I chose to spend the day with. On a hot, muggy morning in late June, I threw a leg over a blue one in a hotel parking lot in Maple Grove, Minnesota. My visits to the North Star State are few and far between, so I headed north to Duluth on the southern shore of Lake Superior to visit the Aerostich store and factory and have lunch with Andy Goldfine.
Work obligations consumed part of my morning, so I left late and slabbed it on Interstate 35 to make time. Boring yes, but also a good way to get to know how a bike runs at sustained high speeds. Keeping up with traffic, the speedometer hovered around 80 mph the whole way. For 160 miles I passed lots of trees as well as billboards for fishing boats, fishing lakes, fish camps, and marinas. The 650 ADVentura hummed along beneath me, giving off a bit of engine heat but hardly any vibration.
Two hand knobs can be loosened to adjust the height of the ADVentura’s windscreen. With it fully raised and supplemented by deflectors on either side of the dash, wind protection was good with no buffeting. As I got closer to Duluth, I caught the edges of two rainstorms and got a little damp in my mesh jacket and riding jeans. As I-35 descended a steep hill toward downtown, the temperature dropped into the mid-50s due to the cooling effect of Lake Superior. By the time I dropped the kickstand in Aerostich’s parking lot, my teeth were chattering.
After touring Aerostich’s headquarters and warming up with coffee and a warm bowl of soup during lunch with Andy, I rode up one of Duluth’s steep streets and cruised along Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway, which follows a ridgeline just west of the city and offers panoramic views of Duluth, the harbor, and Lake Superior. The byway offered up some fun curves, plenty of frost-damaged asphalt, and even some gravel on the north end near Hawk Ridge. The final 4 miles of the byway follows Seven Bridges Road, which cuts back and forth over the cascading course of Amity Creek on a series of arched stone bridges.
The 650 ADVentura has the qualities I love most about middleweights – modest curb weight, light steering, and enough power for a lively riding experience. Its suspension and brakes are dutifully competent, and its slip/assist clutch helps it shift with ease. Its wind protection, ergonomics, and smoothness made my 350-mile day enjoyable, though its soft seat foam crushed down and didn’t offer adequate support. Fuel economy during my all-day test ride was 45.5 mpg, good for 216 miles from the 4.75-gallon tank.
Overall, I was impressed with the 650 ADVentura as well as CFMOTO’s other models. They are stylish, well-built with quality components, and spec’d with desirable features. And at a time where value is increasingly important, they offer incredible bang for the buck.
2022 CFMOTO 650 ADVentura Specs
Base Price: $6,799
Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel-Twin, DOHC w/ 4 valve per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 83 x 60mm
Horsepower: 60.3 hp @ 8,750 rpm (claimed, at the crank)
Torque: 41.3 lb-ft @ 7,000 rpm (claimed, at the crank)
Final Drive: Chain
Wheelbase: 56 in.
Rake/Trail: 24.5 degrees/4.1 in.
Seat Height: 32.3 in.
Wet Weight: 498 lb (w/ saddlebags)
Fuel Capacity: 4.75 gals.
Fuel Consumption: 45.5 mpg
Estimated Range: 216 miles
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