We first saw what the CFMOTO 700CL-X would become in a crowded bar at the 2019 EICMA show. At the time, the bike was being promoted as a concept, so the final specs and design may not have been that way. what we thought. d see on the production bike.
Standing next to the production version outside of North Lincolnshire Motorcycles, I have to pull out my phone and search footage from the event to see what’s changed, and it’s not much!
There are two real tests of a bike like this before you ride it; the 10-yard test and the close-up test. From ten meters, the CFMOTO 700CL-X looks great. It has a nice thick silhouette, with no holes behind the engine to draw attention to. It’s hard to define what style it really is… I decide Neo retro flat track roadster† It’s a bit of a mouthful, but should catch up.
Zooming in on the bike, we get to the point where most China-made bikes start to reveal their secrets. Poor quality welds, parts box commutator and ugly finishes are all too often what lets down bikes that, on the face of it, should be pretty good. This is certainly not the case with the CFMOTO 700CL-X. The rear brake and gear lever are lovely little castings that look very well finished and with care. The switchgear is from BMW and has a stylish look and all cables are neatly rooted. Tests one and two passed with flying colors.
CFMOTO 700CL-X price and colors
Admittedly we don’t have much to tell you in this regard as CFMOTO has not confirmed a UK price for the machine. However, our Italian counterparts have the price of bikes on the continent, and it makes for interesting reading. Our European friends pay just €6,400 (about £5,500) for the original machine, making the CFMOTO a really tempting alternative to bikes like the Yamaha XSR 700 (£7,702) and Honda CB650R (£7,299). And just as a disclaimer, we’re not suggesting £5.5k is the number for UK buyers. We’re assuming the machine will be just over £6k, including OTR costs.
The bike is expected to officially land in the UK in September this year and will be available in two colours, Twilight Blue (as fitted) and the Coal Gray option which you can see above.
CFMOTO 700CL-X Engine
The 700 CL-X engine began life as the venerable Kawasaki Z650/ER650 unit. In this latest guise, the engine has had enough updates and changes for CFMOTO to really (and probably legally) call it its own. It’s a spirited little unit, producing 74 horsepower at 8,500 rpm and 50 Nm of torque at 6,500 rpm. Those numbers alone throw the sleek CL-X right into the mix with the Yamaha CP2 (72bhp) and Kawasaki Z650 (68bhp) powered bikes.
On the roads around and around Cadwell Park, the 700CL-X feels like the bike I need. The weather is good and the roads are impressive; 74 horsepower seems to be the magic number. The oversized can gives the impression that it will have a huge offensive exhaust note, but it is quite the opposite. Dripping through towns and villages, even the vicar’s mother-in-law wouldn’t bat an eyelid. However, give it a try as soon as speed limits allow and you’ll be rewarded with a rich, throaty induction roar and baritone bark from the low pipe.
Fueling is handled by a Bosch ECU and fuel injection system. That brings an electronic throttle, two driving modes (Eco and Sport) and cruise control. The benefits of the Bosch system are immediately felt, with just a small flat spot between 4,000 and 5,000 rpm giving an indication of the lubricating emissions.
The conventional 180° crank gives the bike the kind of firm low-end delivery that makes these A2-compatible bikes so much fun to ride. It’s compliant and easygoing on the one hand, with enough top-end energy to conjure up a smile and even the front wheel on the other.
Since the bike I was riding was fairly new, an MPG test would have been a little unfair on the CFMOTO 700CL-X. After a full day and a hundred miles of trying (in vain) to keep up with Gary Johnson (who was riding a smaller and much less powerful bike than mine), the 13-gallon fuel tank showed two fuel rods left. A finger in the air reminds me that about 150 miles of normal driving should be done.
CFMOTO 700CL-X handling suspension and brakes
It’s really no surprise that the county of Lincolnshire produces so many talented cyclists. It has some of the best roads and possibly one of the best tracks in the country. It was also a perfect test for the CFMOTO, which surprised me with a stylish set-up. It’s smooth and not overly cushioned, although in the base configuration it felt sporty, but not uncomfortable. The front end is a delight, with a great feel through the bars that allow you to brake in the middle of the corner. For riders taller or shorter than me, the forks come with preload, rebound and compression damping. The rear shock was well adjusted, smoothing out bumps and bumps without feeling like it was wallowing. If I had one for the long haul, I’d probably put a little more preload on the shock just to get the bike a little more on its nose than anything else.
J.Juan brakes were a rarity in the motorcycle world a few years ago, although their credibility was never really questioned by those who used them. The system on the CFMOTO has a single disc up front with a Brembo-type four-piston caliper and two-channel ABS. A two-disc setup would always be welcome, although it actually has a lightweight lever that lets you brake with one or two fingers, plenty of power to get the job done and discreet ABS. Personally, a little more initial bite would be nice, although that may not be the best idea when you consider who the bike is aimed at.
At 196kg curb weight, the CFMOTO 700C-X isn’t the lightest machine of the bunch, but at 10kg covering pretty much all the competition, you’ll have a hard time packing the extra pounds. It even comes with a well-configured slipper clutch as standard, an item that some of its ilk in the category just can’t match. Overall, the chassis feels well balanced and, more importantly, to me it retains the fun factor that is so essential in a category designed to grab gamblers and get them hooked on two wheels.
CFMOTO 700CL-X equipment and comfort
The medium naked men in this sub-100 horsepower segment can sometimes be too simple for their own good. Refreshingly, the CL-X comes with a handful of conveniences to spice up your whistle. The dashboard is a neat looking LCD screen that is nice and clear and easy to read. Sure, they could have put a TFT on it, although I feel like it would come at the expense of another part of the machine. The shift hub on the left houses your riding modes and cruise control. Switching between modes can be done in an instant, and there’s a noticeable step up and down in delivery when you switch. The cruise control was largely redundant given the roads we were driving on, but since the switch is a BMW derivative, you connect to the vertical part and change the speed with the rocker arm. All lighting on the new CL-X is LED from nose to tail, and there’s a sleek-looking DRL that acts like a ring around the sprawling headlight.
Apart from electronics, CFMOTO turned to a well-known brand to provide the rims of the bike. It is shod with elements similar to the Pirelli MT60 RS flat track. They look like they have about as much grip as a jellyfish on a bouncy castle, but they’re actually pretty good. With no rain on the road I can only give my thoughts as such, but the bike revs quickly, feels lively and seems to have plenty of grip.
Obviously 100 miles in the saddle isn’t enough to get a good sense of comfort; we are waiting for an extended loan for that. What I can tell you is that it feels quite roomy, both in the upper and lower body. The pegs are quite low and although you can cover them up, they leave you in a calm and relaxed position. The bars also put you in a relaxed upper body position. The ergonomics in combination with the 800 mm saddle make the bike a perfectly accessible machine for tall and short riders.
Highlights of the CFMOTO 700CL-X:
- The fit and finish are impeccable.
- The chassis as a whole is excellent – the front end is a standout
- A four-year warranty gives you peace of mind
Verdict CFMOTO 700CL-X
Jumping headlong into one of the most competitive market segments on two wheels is no easy feat. It’s not a move to be taken lightly and I like the way the company has approached this bike. It doesn’t feel like it’s rushed in any way. We first saw it at EICMA 2019, and even then it was clear that the project had been in development for a while. Rather than force the CL-X onto the market, the team behind it generated excitement, kept the story going and basically turned its elegant nose to the world at just the right time.
CFMOTO bikes have long been the most credible China-made alternative to the Japanese giants, and the new CFMOTO 700CL-X feels like the most compelling machine of all yet. It may have been built in the land of the Red Dragon, but it has a distinctly European heart and soul.