When we first reported on the trio of new Honda 500s, we were excited about a bargain priced machine that had potential to work well for beginners, commuters, and even experienced riders. Now that we have tested one of those new 500s, the CBR500R (pictured), we are even more enthusiastic.
At $5,999 for the non-ABS model tested (the ABS version retails for $6,499), Honda promises good value from its modern, liquid-cooled 471cc, fuel-injected, parallel twin machine. This is a DOHC engine with four-valve heads sending power through a six-speed transmission. Nothing budget about these specs in the engine department.
The suspension is budget, however, with non-adjustable 41mm forks and a shock with only stepped preload adjustability. A single 320mm front disc brake is squeezed by a two piston caliper, while a single piston caliper works on a 240mm disc out back. Tires are size 120/70-17 in front and 160/60-17 in back. With the 4.1 gallon tank topped off, Honda claims a curb weight of 425 pounds … reasonable, but certainly not light for a 500 class machine.
Like most Hondas, the CBR500R is extremely easy to ride. The engine is surprisingly smooth, and the fuel injection is just about perfect as it delivers power predictably with a broad swath of torque that provides good pull as low as 2,800 rpm. Not surprisingly, this engine provides a big step up in power from the 250cc singles, and even the Kawasaki Ninja 300 twin. It has dramatically more torque than the Ninja 300 down low, in particular, and roughly 11 more horsepower at the rear wheel.
The engine makes freeway commuting a piece of cake, with plenty of power to merge with, and even pass other traffic. Commuters will be happy with gas mileage in the high 50s to low 60s.
Instrumentation provides abundant information in a legible manner, aside from a bar graph tachometer that is more difficult to read at a glance than a more traditional unit. The headlights are very bright, as well. The suspension on the CBR500 is balanced, but the spring rates and damping are very soft. Together with relatively conservative steering geometry, while the CBR500R handles well, it is not quite as flickable as you might expect. Stability, on the other hand, is outstanding. Ergonomically, it is hard to fault this Honda. The bars are in a comfortable position that leaves the rider relatively upright, and the pegs are low enough to offer reasonable leg room. We even found the stock Honda seat reasonably comfortable on longer rides.
Despite having only a single disc up front, braking is more than adequate. There is not a lot of initial bite, but good power is available from a strong squeeze of the lever.
The 2013 Honda CBR500R is a fun bike with a high quality feel and comfortable ergonomics. The soft suspension cossets the rider, but results in some handling limitations when the bike is ridden aggressively in the twisties. With excellent fuel mileage, and a reasonable price, the CBR500R would be a good choice for many riders, including inexperienced riders who want more engine performance than is offered by the 250s and 300s.
For additional details and specifications, visit Honda’s web site.