Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Honda Nighthawk 650

Fri, February 12th, 2010

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1983–85 Honda CB650SC Nighthawk
The DOHC 650 could run with 750s when it was introduced. It might feel buzzy, there's some driveline snatch, and like most fours, it needs to be rev'd—but a well-preserved example would still make you smile.
It handles very well for a twin-shock machine with shaft drive. Some were even roadraced.
The smaller 550 Nighthawk was all cruiser. The larger 700 Nighthawk S was strictly a cafe-styled sporter. The 650 managed to be a little of both, and very few crossovers have ever hit the mark as well.
The alternator output is weak and the cam chain tensioner eventually gets noisy. Other than that, they are bulletproof.
More practical than either a cruiser or a race replica sportbike, the DOHC 650 is very easy to live with. A reasonably comfortable seat meant many have even been fitted with a windshield and soft bags for longer trips (as long as the rider is willing to stop and fill up the smallish tank). Hydraulic lash adjusters mean no need for valve adjustments, either.
An underrated bike, the CB650SC is one of the better air-cooled fours of any era.
The '83 revision of the 650 Nighthawk replaced one of the worst bikes around at the time (the ancient SOHC 650, which was still basically a CB500K from 1971) and wowed everyone with a sorta-sport, sorta-cruiser style that went fast, worked really well and still looks good.