Honda goes for the youth market with the supermoto-styled FMX650. But is it just a re-hashed Dominator for a new generation, and will today's youngsters shell out this much cash when less can buy more?
Honda is keen to stress one thing about the FMX: it is not a supermoto. Which is confusing, as the styling cues suggest it is. So if it isn't a supermoto, what the hell is it?
Well, according to Honda people, the FMX is a 'Funmoto.' Now I know what you're thinking: crap name. Which is right, but then again this bike quite possibly isn't aimed at you, and not at me. It's aimed at the younger generation. Although somehow I don't think they'll find the name cool either.
So why create a bike aimed purely at younger riders? The problem currently surrounding the UK bike industry is the rising average age of riders. In 1993 the average age was 31-33, last year it was 46-50. So to counteract this Honda has launched a few key models aimed at attracting the 'yoof'. First up was the race styled CBR125R, which hit the mark bang-on last year and ended up the second best selling bike in the UK. And now the FMX aims to be the next step on.
So why not create a true supermoto? Simple. True, competition bike-based supermotos are anything but easy to live with. While they can be great fun to ride they aren't practical as day-to-day bikes, especially for youngsters. The average 20-year-old has neither the tools nor the inclination to spend time fiddling with their bike when they could simply get on it and ride to their mates.
And all this has to be considered when riding the FMX, because it's easy to write it off before it has even turned a wheel. Look at the specs. The 644cc, air-cooled single pre-dates dinosaurs, only chugs out 36bhp and 37lb.ft of torque and hasn't really been changed since it powered the Dominator way back in 1988. And while the frame may be new it is a fairly basic steel backbone design. Not really very inspiring.
But it rides surprisingly well. Experienced riders will find themselves treating the throttle as an on/off switch but for new riders the FMX's engine is easy to use and unintimidating. It doesn't have a rev counter but I can't believe it spins up over 7000rpm and the torque seems fairly linear throughout the range.
For new riders this means they can hold a gear rather than have to change up and down the whole time and once in fifth (top) gear the FMX will pull it cleanly from around 40mph. Once it gets near its maximum speed, which I reckon won't be much over 80mph, it does have a fair bit of a vibration, although this is to be expected with any big single. It certainly isn't the fastest, but it's a friendly engine with no hidden surprises.
But what really impresses with the FMX is the handling. We tested the bike on some tight and twisty roads as well as through town, and it was remarkably good. Once the typical supermoto dive under braking from the long-travel forks is over, the rest of the suspension is very well balanced. Through corners the Honda feels secure and the suspension reacts well to bumps without unsettling the bike, while the Pirelli tyres are sticky enough to cope with everything even an experienced rider can dish out.
And the rest of the basics work well. The brakes are sharp, seat comfortable, riding position good and the seat has fold-out bungee hooks, all important points for a new rider who wants to use their bike daily.So will the FMX hit the mark like the CBR125R? Here's the problem. Honda has priced the FMX at £4500, which is SV650, Bandit 650 and even Hornet 600 and Fazer territory. Okay, the FMX is a totally different style of bike, but for a new rider saving up to spend such a large amount of cash the bigger bikes are more tempting. You couldn't go touring on the FMX, or even cover a long motorway journey for that matter - but you could on the others.
While the FMX is a good bike for younger riders, for me it needs to be under £4000 and come with an attractive, affordable finance package. I can't see many late-teen to early 20-year-olds having a few spare grand to blow on a bike, so finance will be the only way to get their hands on one.
I was genuinely surprised by the FMX. It offers more than a first impression suggests. As a good looking, fun bike for young riders its lack of power isn't a huge problem, but the price could well be.
A good city bike for new riders. The price could hamper sales to youngsters but the FMX is surprisingly competent, if slow.
TYPE - SUPERMOTO PRODUCTION DATE - 2005 PRICE NEW - £5149 ENGINE CAPACITY - 644cc POWER - 33.7bhp@5400rpm TORQUE - 33.9lb.ft@4700rpm WEIGHT - 163kg SEAT HEIGHT - 875mm FUEL CAPACITY - 11 TOP SPEED - 98.2mph 0-60 - n/a TANK RANGE - 117
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