Spy Photos: Honda CBR500 and CB500

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Honda-CBR500R

What you’re looking at here could utterly transform the face of motorcycling. “Redline,” a member of CBR250.net claims to have taken these photos at a presentation at Honda’s manufacturing facility in Thailand, saying they show the 2013 Honda CBR500 and 2013 Honda CB500, faired and naked versions of the same bike.

“I have not yet been informed of the markets it will be sold in,” continues Redline. “It will be cheap and released to steal sales from the Ninja 300, Er-6n and f. It will be a bigger brother to the 250 and not a smaller brother to the 600. See it as double the 250, and not 5/6ths of the 600.”

It’s hard to divine any mechanical details from these images. Any details about engine arrangement or frame configuration or whatever would be pure conjecture. But, we can see components like the right way up forks, non radial brake calipers and the CBR250-alike tail. All that points at a low price and broad practicality over race-like performance. Don’t expect this to be a successor to high-revving, high-price bikes like the NC30 and CBR400RR, rather a nice looking, fun, affordable, practical, do-it-all motorcycle.

Styling on the faired version appears to riff off the 1st gen CBR600RR, which is no bad thing, while the naked looks very similar to the CB1000R, again, that’s awesome. Strong styling like this combined with decent performance, a comfortable riding position and a low price could be a killer app in broadening the appeal of motorcycling, while also encouraging new riders to start on machine they can handle over too-much, too-soon, too-fast race replicas like the CBR600RR.

Currently, the US motorcycle market is experiencing a boom in small capacity, cheap bikes — CBR250R, the CCWs, the Ninja 300 — and high zoot 600s and liter bikes continue to have a strong presence. Giant, heavy, intimidating ADV bikes are also popular. But, there’s really nothing in the middle. Nowhere for riders who did the right thing and started on a CBR250 to go next. Bikes like the Kawasaki Ninja 650 or even the Honda NC700X are wonderful, practical machines, but at $7,600 and $7,000 respectively, they create a large price gap over the $4,000 CBR. A $5-6,000 CBR500 could nicely bridge that gap, while being more appealing to young riders than either.

  • protomech

    “could utterly transform the face of motorcycling”

    Ah, how exactly? A 500cc Honda would be neat, go well with the existing (and badly dated) Kawasaki and Suzuki bikes.

    • John2

      That is a bit hyperbolic, but what Honda does seem to be doing is introducing new capable and fun bikes for pretty reasonable prices, like the CBR250R, CRF250L, the NC700X (base version), and maybe these 500s.

    • je

      We are in a down MC market with not a lot of interest in “Race” styled bikes. All the sub 300cc bikes fall into that image. I believe a lot of commuters today want a bike but dont want that riding style or image. In the end they end up going with scooters.

      The missing CC space and the right image for today.. I think that CB500 could steal a lot of scooter sales and increase the likely hood of upgrading to a larger CC bike in the future.

      CB750 transformation like in the late 60s and early 70s? Probably not but very possible a nice long term turn around the MC industry needs.

    • KP

      I think what Wes meant to say was “Could utterly transform my pants into a tent thanks to my raging Hondaboner.”

      My first bike was a 2006 GS500F. I’m not sure how this would be much different aside from looking better and being less expensive. I would still have ended up on a 600 one year later.

      If this makes it to the US, I doubt this will be the killer app as much as we all would like it to be. Not unless it’s in the next Transformers movie.

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        I was totally going to say that, but didn’t know you were ok with being outed as a bikeosexual.

      • http://www.TroyRank.com Troy R

        It’s a good size…the bike… and the tent

      • Glenngineer

        My 2004 GS500F sucked, so hopefully this doesn’t suck, for one thing. Shitty ergos, horrible suspension, hated the cold.

    • http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=305107 stickfigure

      I’m with Wes on this one. It could be the new UJM starter bike that _everyone_ buys. A 250 is just too hard for the Y-chromosome to take seriously. A light, cheap 500 could strike the right chord.

  • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

    Perhaps he meant, “this Honda with its Holstein-cow-inspired color scheme, could udderly transform the face of moootorcycling.”

    • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

      LOL!

      • protomech

        cud udderly

    • http://www.TroyRank.com Troy R

      my hero.

  • JR

    If this is a single… dream come true. I’ve been drooling over the NC700 with it’s helmet compartment, but a 500 single with a bit of sporting capability, a good price, comfort, and probably amazing fuel mileage, a little more grunt than the tiny 250, but with the fuel injection. This could be the sweet spot that would get me to buy a new bike.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      I have literally no evidence, but would expect this to be a parallel-twin.

      • JR

        Don’t crush my dreams Wes; someone, someday will make a somewhat sporty single with fuel injection that’s bigger than a 250cc… I think KTM was the best candidate until now… but $$$$$

        A man can dream. I’m just hard for singles.

        • Mike in NYC

          I like my G650GS a lot, although yeah, it was a bit of a splurge.

        • Dani Peral

          KTM is preparing a 350cc duke…and maybe a moto3 street replica with that engine :)

          This hondas 500cc will probably be parallel twins, and will have a bit less than 50hp. I suspect they are mostly made for the European tiered licensing so at least here in Europe they should have no more than 47hp, which is a bit low for a 500 but means more reliability.

          BTW look at that front brake disk, same design as in the NC700X, where both front and rear discs are machined from a single piece of metal. Clever and cheap. I wouldnt be surprised if it had NC700 brakes directly fit.

        • Mitch

          They make your bike JR – it’s the Yamaha MT-03. Really wish they sold it here.

          • JR

            Holy mother of awesome Mitch! That MT-03 is awesome. It’s even got a weirdly placed shock (another one of my favorites). I would seriously put my money where my mouth is if they brought that over. You could hold me to it.

      • Kevin

        If it were an I4 the headers would probably be more obvious in the second photo. So I guess this is not going to be an upgrade of the CB400 Super Four.

        Still, a good looking bike.

      • smoke4ndmears

        look how wide the engine case is in the second photo. definitely a parallel-twin.

        on another note, can we get a comments notification system?

  • Holden and Annette

    I started out on a Ninja 500. What a wonderful starter bike. It’s a shame that Kawasaki withdrew the EX500 from the U.S. market.

    Imagine Honda selling fuel-injected, good-looking 500s in the States. My first reaction is: This is what this market needs.

    My second reaction is: If the market needs a good-looking, fuel-injected, parallel-twin 500, why didn’t Kawasaki revamp the EX500 and fill that need?

    Conclusion: If Honda does sell these 500cc bikes — the sportbike standard and the naked — it won’t be in the US of A. I hope I’m wrong.

    • aristurtle

      Kawasaki did revamp the EX500 twin, and released a newer version in both faired and psuedo-naked variants. They just also went ahead and increased the displacement by 150cc while they were at it.

      There’s lots of bikes in this general genre, where you want more engine than a 250 but still want a reasonable riding posture and aren’t looking for a high-strung 600cc supersport with three or more “R”s in the name. People are getting too worked up over small differences in engine displacement.

      • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

        If this is on par with the 650 Kaw platform, Honda may have something. I think we’ll only see the CBR version if we get either of these in the U.S. The ER-6n proved that no-one wants a naked Japanese standard. Maybe the FZs fare better, but I don’t see those very often either.

        • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben W

          Nakeds in general, Japanese or otherwise, are a relative rarity on US roads.

  • Devin

    Wes,

    You said there will be a naked version, the bike in the second picture is not naked. When it drops that godawful plastic wrap around it can call itself naked.

    Now the Honda 599, that girl was a proper naked and super sexy.

    • Campisi

      Indeed, this comment accurately reflects my opinion on the matter.

    • http://www.facebook.com/beastincarnate Ben W

      And yet it still didn’t sell. I loved my 599 in spite of its fussy quirks.

      For the time being, all naked bikes have a lot of plastic. Hopefully, that trend changes soon.

  • Dennis

    Yet another 450+ pound bike isn’t going to transform anything, at any price point, at any engine displacement, at any power level. Everybody sells 450+ pound bikes with varying horsepower and price. The reason the CBR250R is different is not that Honda invented the 25 hp single. It’s that they made one that doesn’t weigh 450 pounds.

    A 500cc bike that could be called “light” with a straight face would kind of transform things a little. But I’m not holding my breath.

    • isambard

      I learned on an unfaired Suzuki GS500 that weighed around 380 pounds. Not exactly featherlight but light enough to inspire confidence in a new rider.

      380 seems like a reasonable expectation for these Hondas, which are likely much better built.

      • Dennis

        You mean 380 lbs without useless farkles like gas, oil and a battery. I guess I’m a “bagger” type because I never ride without loading my ride down with all that luxury bling. Fuel, lubricant. I’m talking wet. Ready to ride. For us girly men who expect the engine to push the bike around, not our feet.

        Does anybody know why “dry weight” includes wheels? Seems like if they could throw gas, oil, and battery overboard, why not wheels too? Or at least tires.

        • aristurtle

          Fun fact: “Dry weight” includes tires, but does not include the air in those tires.

        • isambard

          Admittedly I didn’t weigh it myself! But it WAS noticeably lighter than my Monster 800, which is itself a reasonably light bike for its class.

          Anyway, batteries and oil are for bagger pussies.

        • rohorn

          Like the difference between a 380 lb woman and a 450 lb woman, I doubt many could tell any difference between a 380 lb bike and a 450 lb bike.

          No, I’m not talking from experience regarding the former.

          Honda’s “really light” CBR250 weighs…what again?

          • isambard

            I have to push my bike up out of the basement every time I ride, so trust me, 70 pounds makes a difference.

            Women have always left my home under their own propulsion, so it would be hard to compare, even if I did have experience of a 400 pounder.

            • rohorn

              Makes sense to me.

  • BigRooster

    CBR500 – No interest.
    CB500 – I like it, well, aside from that enormous can on the right side and stupid race bike-esque seating. Did they steal that muffler from a MG Griso?

    I’d prefer a Shiver or baby Monster, but I could go for the Honda on price alone.

  • Jan Wrobel

    Hey, I just bought a used CBF500 as a first bike. And doing so, I was wondering why this class is almost nonexistent in the current offering of most manufacturers.

    • Dani Peral

      Due to each country licensing…20 years ago licensing was by displacement, something like 250cc then 500cc then whatever.

      In the recent years it was by final power, but you could install a limiter to your bike to ride it with your license. It was to 34hp (similar to a 250cc) then full power. And you could limit any bike. So 500cc stopped having sense, you could just limit a 600cc and in a couple of years unlimit it and have its full power.

      And from next year on…it will be power but 47hp, and a max weight/power ratio of 0,2kw/kg (which with 47hp excludes any bike of less than 175kg), and the original bike cannot have more than 95hp originally. Basically they want us not to buy limited RRRR’s and then remove limiters and crash onto things at high speeds…

      This is in Europe,which i think is the most indicative market, as asian market is another full world and japanese market has its own awesome mid displacement bikes due to ultra-high taxes on bikes over 500cc

      The rest of the markets just take what will sell more from here and there :)

  • Slartibartfast

    Even though I already own my “practical dream bike” (admittedly an oxymoron) in the street triple, I can’t help but get excited at the prospect of a solid, easy to maintain, lightweight 500cc bike. I think the auto/motorcycle manufacturers are finally catching on that they’ve been underestimating the American market; that we don’t all want bigger (and therefore heavier) things. Maybe no one buys the GS500 because it hasn’t been updated in over a decade. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, no?

    And I really can’t imagine anything other than a parallel twin… I kind of want to be wrong though, am I missing out on parallel twins?

    • filly-fuzz

      I’m not too sure about ‘lighter’

      Lighter=expensive, still a nice looking bike though.

  • circuitsports

    finally Honda has a place for the thousands of overpriced replacement body parts for the 2005 cbr 1000′s that no one bought..

  • John

    Awesome!!!!! I’m getting tired of “bigger is better”

  • zero

    Ya know, I think there’s a good chance that this might actually be an inexpensive bike. Sometimes these smaller bikes do things to look like the big boys that really aren’t necessary and drive up cost, but this one doesn’t seem to be.

    One thing that jumps out at me is brakes. Having a single front brake is a good way to lower production costs. I’ve ridden heavier bikes with smaller single front brakes and as long as they were in good shape and had decent pads, they were always sufficient. The ninja 650R is a great bike, but the CBR is about the same weight and makes due with a single brake. As long as you’re not tracking it or doing serious canyon carving, I suspect you’d never notice.

    It’s good when manufacturers start ignoring the features they think we want and just build good, competitively priced bikes.

    • roccopeterbilt

      I’m with you on that, but will take it one step further, why not put mounts on the bike to allow the addition of more performance oriented features like dual disks. My specialized mountain bike frame has bosses built in for disc and cantilever brakes, since it comes in both varieties.

  • Slartibartfast

    I’ve noticed that some manufacturers are listing weight with all fluids to run (wet) but not including gas. I think this makes the most sense because it doesn’t penalize bigger gas tanks . If the 500cc bike was less than 370 without gas, I’d be happy.

    Ooh, can I unrealistically dream of a small capacity V4? Just for a second…

  • Ed

    Return of the parallel twin? I only sold my Hawk a year ago and already I miss it. I’d buy the CBR250 if there was enough pillion for anyone over the age of 13.

  • roccopeterbilt

    I feel like if they wanted to, they could make a naked version of the bike that you could easily add supports and fairing to. Follow the concept Toyota did with scion allowing a vehicle that is cheap but can be customized and upgraded into whatever you like. People really seem to have a desire to put their own mark on everything.

    Hell give them a packet of stickers too. My Little CB500

  • Julian

    Lots of good thoughts on here already, but one thing forgotten…not all low cc buyers are newbies…but the price of entry on a new 250R bike makes a good used bike a better $$$ option for many.

    I was tempted by the 250R, but it really is too small to keep for a few years and use the pillion on(and i’m only 170 lbs).

    But an ultralight fuel sipper, with 50hp and some torque puts it right around perfect for my commuter duty and if it is priced reasonably…i think it can develop a really nice lowCC war. It could be the new ‘Sv650′(remember when that bike was a revelation?!)

    It sounds like the specs on the BMW Airhead or GSF400 I owned and loved them around town.

    Roccoperterbilt makes a point about the transformer plastics and stays. it’d be nice to make them non-integral and removable…partly because i think a classic round headlight would be far nicer.