Watch out for this one. The CFMoto 450 NK is a bike that deserves hot anticipation, especially in the lightweight sport-naked category.
Going up against the likes of the Kawasaki Z400, KTM 390 Duke, Honda CB500F, and plenty more, CFMoto’s entry isn’t going to be just another fish in the small pond, it’ll probably be the biggest fish that its rivals want to fry.
My first ride with the 450 NK involved a good number of highway miles, a short gymkhana run, and a wheelie or three (just to test it out, I promise). Saddling up on this bike even with a good amount of experience on bigger machines proved to be quite the experience, and I wasn’t left disappointed or too short-changed when I had to return it after about a day and a half of riding. Before anything, however, this bike isn’t out yet in the United States, but its cousin the 450 SS is currently making the rounds there. I’m assuming that this CFMoto will eventually reach the US, but for now, our review takes place in the Philippines: the first territory outside of China to receive the model.
Honey, I Shrunk The 800 NK
Jokes aside, the overall look of the 450 NK is still quite substantial. It does look a little thin at the rear, where the 150-width rear tire gives its displacement away. The front has a single disc, par for the course in its class, and the overall look of the bike is more closely matched to the KTM 390 Duke, slim, sharp, and with a very brand-specific style.
On that note, it’s nice to see that CFMoto working with a unique style for the 450 NK. I haven’t quite spotted a bike that looks similar to it at the moment, so hats off to CFMoto for making it as one-off as it is. In the pictures, the bike looks bigger than it is. In person, it’s a small and approachable machine. The slim seat coupled with the 31.2-inch seat height makes it a great bike for beginners to swing a leg over.
Quality in all the places that matter is on point. I was able to experience the 300 SR/300 SS in the past, and those bikes had a plasticky feel that is thankfully absent on the 450 NK. All the panels and the key touchpoints feel solid, the buttons feel tactile, and the tank is substantial and solid.
However, a few less-liked aspects of the bike include the driver and passenger seats, with the driver seat feeling a little thin and the passenger seat feeling very thin. On both the bikes that I tried (the Zephyr Blue and the Nebula White variants) the cover wasn’t stretched out properly resulting in a bit of a crease close to the tank. Oh, and while I’m not a fan of the text “Riding Machine,” I cannot fault CFMoto for it because they’re not wrong. This is a machine that’s meant to be ridden.
Small Capacity, Big Capability
The 450 NK comes with a 449 cc parallel-twin engine with a 270-degree firing order. With that being said, the motor feels like a smaller MT-07 if that is anything to go by, so that also makes it a wheelie machine. In fact, during the test event, CFMoto Philippines organized a stunt show with the 450 NK, with nothing more than a crash cage added.
In practice, the bike does like to pop its front wheel up. Torque may be granted early in the RPM range, but horsepower can still be had up top. With about 47 horses to play with, and 39 Nm or about 28.76 pound-feet of torque from the parallel twin, you can expect an appropriate amount of punch and excitement, but with power to spare for highway mile-munching.
As for its top speed (CFMoto Philippines lists a top speed of 170 kilometers per hour or 105 miles per hour), it’s more than enough for most highways. While I have been told that it can reach greater speeds than its brochure suggests, it’s enough for most highways. It has to be said that it will eventually reach its top speed and it’ll take some time, but the engine is willing and it’s no slouch. I don’t see this bike going on big tours, but it can be done as many Filipino riders already do with their 400s.
Stability at speed, however, needs a bit of work. While the KYB suspension looks good on paper with an upside-down telescopic fork, and a mono-shock rear, the bike is more tuned for comfort, and the suspension can be considered "budget.” While it is not bad by any means, I did experience quite a bit of bounciness when the roads got a little rough at speed. That being said, I have no speed wobbles to report, and the bike handled crosswinds well. I just wish that CFMoto used springs that are a little stiffer and perhaps a firmer damping setup. If I owned this motorcycle, I’d probably look for thicker fork oil and click through the pre-load settings.
Being such a light bike, braking is just okay. The J.Juan brakes got the job done, and it feels just about par for the course compared to something like the KTM 390 Duke with about the same setup. The 320-millimeter disc is good, and so is the radially-mounted four-piston brake caliper. The rear brake also allowed for a lot of modulation just like the front.
Going Fast, Slowly
It’s a light bike coming in at 165 kilograms or 363.76 pounds, and with the low seat height, it was almost too easy to ride around the parking lot and the slalom course that CFMoto fixed up for us at the ride event. Through the cones, the bike handled well enough, though the lightness of this “riding machine” coupled with the bouncy suspension did leave a few impressions. Flicking left to right the 450 NK made quick work of the course, but felt a little unsettled with me behind the bars. With that being said, the suspension might prefer a less-aggressive riding style.
That engine, however, seemed perfect for the low-speed stuff. With torque being low down in the RPM range, the bike was peppy and easily excitable. It’s also nice to see that CFMoto was able to fit a simple traction control system to this bike. The system is a little slow to respond, however, and you could be sliding for a split second more compared to other bikes with traction on.
Still, with time and practice the 450 NK makes for an excellent low-speed machine. As a technical low-speed riding machine, the model seems perfect for beginners looking to hone their parking lot skills.
The tech and safety features are quite notable. The 450 NK comes with traction control and anti-lock brakes, though as mentioned the system is a little slow to respond. Other than that, the fanciness continues with this bike’s gauge cluster which is a TFT screen with multiple display modes. The text came off clear, and the buttons were nice to use, but the interface was a little slow. As a full package, the bike offers nice safety nets for beginner riders. However, a bit of refinement would be well appreciated.
LEDs dominate the front and rear of this bike. The projector LED headlight is strong and the switch for the passing function responds well with the lights. The bike also plays a nice animation when turned on, a neat party trick at the very least. In practice, it's a nice set of LEDs on this bike and it doesn't feel budget.
I really liked the engine on this bike. While the suspension did feel budget and the safety systems could use some additional immediacy, the overall package is quite sorted. I am totally biased towards the engine, however, as it really was the biggest highlight of this bike. Light, capable, and very peppy with power to spare, the 450 NK might be one of the most exciting motorcycles for beginners or even advanced riders to swing a leg over.
The only cons that I see will be the suspension, though I will argue that most beginners won’t notice at first. The bike will start to show a little push-back once riders start to earn their stripes on it. It wasn’t a wallowing mess, but it could be better. It’s nowhere near as sorted as KTM’s WP suspension setups, and I say that as a former 390 Duke owner.
Overall, however, it seems that CFMoto likely has a winner on its hands in the near future. It’s a bike that would-be beginners should watch out for and veteran riders should consider playing around with. The engine feels a lot bigger than it actually is, leaving a lot of room for riders to grow into, but not so much that it feels like a compromise compared to bigger motorcycles.
In the Philippines, the bike is priced at 262,800 PHP or about $4,800 USD at the time of writing. That price may be the best deal in the segment, at least in the Philippine context. It’ll be interesting to see how this bike will compete in other countries, such as those in Europe, as well.