There are so many great motorcycles on the market right now that it’s difficult to find major glaring issues about most of them. And one could argue that this isn’t a major issue as it has a relatively simple fix, but it bothered me enough that I couldn’t sit idly by and let Honda get away with this egregious design flaw. The 2020 Honda CB650R whistles. Like, really loudly. Honestly, Bubb Rubb would be proud.
This seems to me to be on par with the Supra’s turbulent buffetting inside the cabin with both windows down. In this year of our lord 2020, it should not be happening.
Earlier this week I went for a long and enjoyable ride on the CB650R around the Reno-Tahoe area, hitting up some of my favorite roads. Honda’s mid-range neo-sports café bike is a pretty great companion for the back mountain and canyon roads most moto enthusiasts enjoy, and I found myself comfortably up to speed in rapid fashion.
Noise isn’t abnormal for me, as I traditionally ride without a visor, preferring a nice pair of sunglasses instead. It was pretty warm down on the desert floor, so it was nice to have the wind rushing across my face. Because of the extra wind noise it took me a little while to notice this big whistle issue, but about 50 miles into a 115 mile ride it caught my attention and from then on I couldn’t miss it.
It took me at least another 20 miles to figure out where the whistle was coming from. I found myself trying to conduct experiments of aerodynamic science at speed. I was redirecting air with my gloved hands while riding, which I don’t recommend. Especially on a bike without cruise control. The sound of the whistle changed pitch and volume with a twist of the throttle, appearing at around 45 miles per hour, and getting progressively louder as speed increased.
I knew it had to be aerodynamically related, either something on the bike or on my person. My riding gear doesn’t really change, and I’ve never had issues with that before, but I checked my helmet, glasses, pocket zippers, etc. To no avail. I found out quickly that the noise also wasn’t caused by the radiator inlets or the turn signals or the mirrors.
It was by accident that I discovered it was related to the bike’s display screen. Because the sun was high in the sky and northern Nevada is a particularly dusty place, I reached up to wipe the day’s accumulated detritus from the screen and the sound... changed. ‘Eureka!’
I curled my left hand over the front of the display and felt for the styling ridges connecting the display to the headlight surround. Holy smokes, the noise disappeared immediately. I was able to disturb the air in that strangely pressurized area to get it to stop whistling. Once I got back to the house I popped a little piece of electrical tape over the ridges and the noise is now gone for good.
Thank god, because I really didn’t want to find a reason to keep my butt out of that particular saddle. Now, I think I’ll go for another ride.