Bikes > Ride

The CFMoto 450SR is a legit contender for the entry-level sport-bike class

The Chinese company has got many things right

Looks good, rides very well, too. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Twisting the throttle of the 450SR, working my way through the gears, and relishing the authoritative bark of the parallel-twin engine, it’s obvious that CFMoto has the competition squarely in its crosshairs.

For many years now, if you wanted an entry-level, expressway-legal sport bike, you were down to a KTM RC390 or a Kawasaki Ninja 400. Both are great little bikes to cut your teeth, but CFMoto clearly saw an opening.

The KTM is an intense track machine with a very committed riding position, sharp handling, plenty of performance upgrades, and the latest driving aids. The Kwak, on the other hand, has a slightly more comfortable position with a more road-oriented suspension tune. Both ring the cash register in the low-P300,000 mark.

The 449.5cc parallel-twin is punchy and sounds great even with the stock exhaust. PHOTOS BY ANDY LEUTERIO

CFMoto has struck the middle ground with what might be the Goldilocks formula: a 449.5cc parallel-twin with an endearing exhaust note (very important), a Ninja-esque riding position, and quality components that can handle a track day with some minor modifications. And at only P299,900.

By the looks alone, the 450SR looks the part. Full body fairing, winglets, clear polycarbonate windscreen with zero distortion…everything looks neat and sporty, although they could have held back on the “Play to Win” and #morefun graphics, though.

We can't think of any other bike in this price point that has winglets. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

CFMoto has made great strides in fit and finish these days, and the 450SR doesn’t disappoint. The plastics in the cockpit don’t feel chintzy, the TFT dash is highly legible (if a bit crowded with info) under bright sunlight, and the levers and the switches all have a quality look and feel.

It has Bluetooth connectivity, though I didn’t bother syncing my phone for the duration of the test ride.

The USD fork is nonadjustable. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO
Brembo supply the front stopper, but not for the back. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

So far so good, and apart from the sheen on the pillion pad that looks cheap, the bike will hold its own among pricier bikes on tambike night. But you won’t be doing too much of that, because it’s helluva fun to ride for hours.

Start up the motor and it comes to life with a soft growl, with linear power delivery that’s easy to modulate. The 270° crank’s syncopated beat is a big reason for the 450’s character, rumbling and popping at low to midrange, then giving way to a satisfying snarl at the 9,500rpm redline.

A slipper clutch and a smooth six-speed gearbox complete the “Go!” part of the equation handily, while a front Brembo caliper and a rear Hangte provide reliable “whoa!” A 49hp peak output rating gives the budding sport rider enough horses to play with without getting in way over his head.

The saddle has decent cushioning, but is better suited for smaller riders. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

My first encounter with the bike was actually late last year at Motostrada’s track day at Batangas Racing Circuit. While I only had a few laps with it, I could tell it was more for sporty riding in the real world than on the track. At least in stock form, the seat-to-peg distance is better for riders smaller than my 5’8” height.

My right leg was feeling pinched, and covering the rear brake isn’t as intuitive as in an RC390. The 450SR feels a tad soft on a track, side-to-side movements take a little more effort, and the rear shock can stutter under hard braking into a corner.

Taller riders will feel cramped. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Setting a fast time needs a brute force approach, scrubbing off speed in the turns and whacking the throttle wide open, relying on the motor’s healthy torque spread to push you forward even at a relatively low engine speed.

Then I got several days of road time with the bike, and it really got a chance to shine. Since you’re not super hunched over the cockpit like with the KTM, it’s much more bearable for long slogs on the Skyway or when you just want to sit up and enjoy the view. My back and wrists weren’t screaming for relief every 30 minutes; in fact, I did 1-to 2-hour stints with the bike before I needed to stretch. The seat is still too low for me, though. Stepping on the rear brake needs a deliberate pivot of my ankle, and then I need to shift my foot out again to avoid cramping up.

The best part of the bike is the motor. Working it through the gears and relishing the exhaust note is a real pleasure as that 270° crank gives so much character to the bike. By comparison, the 180° of the Ninja 400 sounds unrefined, while the RC390 sounds like a tin pot. If you buy bikes on the sound, the CF should be on your short list.

The fairing's built-in sliders are a nice touch. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Playing with the bike in the hills of Cavite and Batangas was a rewarding experience. The suspension that felt soft on the track has just the right amount of suppleness on normal roads to smoothen out random road ripples and bumps that would otherwise upset your line.

Whenever my riding buddy Ritche on his SV650 and I felt like ramping up the pace, the bike was more than up to the task with strong, predictable brakes, smooth transitions, and good front-rear balance.

The fuel tank holds 14L. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Low seat aside, the shape of the tank is perfect for hugging your thighs when it’s time to get sporty. Who knows if those MotoGP-style winglets really work, but at high speeds the bike feels stable and confidence-inspiring. Top speed is a claimed 190km/h, of which I was able to reach 170km/h-plus at the BRC straight before it was time to brake for Turn 1.

My longest single-day ride with the 450SR was nearly 200km of highways and back roads, a truly enjoyable experience especially when considering how affordable it is to own and maintain. Engine heat was bearable so long as you kept moving, although I just shut off the engine at stoplights to spare myself the discomfort. It started quickly every time, anyway. With fuel consumption in the 2325km/L range, you’re going to have a lot of fun for not a lot of money.

The front fairing is a work of art. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Mechanically and dynamically, CFMoto has made an affordable sport bike that can go toe-to-toe with industry stalwarts. It doesn’t feel as single-minded of purpose like the KTM, but it’s definitely meatier than the aging Kawasaki. Beginners new to sport bikes will find the 450SR easy to ‘grow into’ while honing their skills, while more experienced riders won’t be left wanting for more.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.