Everything you ever wanted to know about the Honda CBR500

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Honda-CBR500R-599x4221

For the majority of today’s riders, supersport 600s are now too hot. But for American roads, four-stroke 250s like the little CBR are just too cold. What if there was a third way, something in the middle that was both accessible and economical, but also fast and fun to ride? And not just fast and fun on a race track, but on your commute, in town, on a highway, in traffic, in every kind of weather, every day? What if that bike got great gas mileage, was cheap to buy, cheap to insure and cost just pennies to run? What if it was styled well enough that it could do all that and still turn heads? Well, we’ve gotten our hands on exclusive, leaked specs of the new Honda CBR500 and it looks like it could be just right.

Last month, pictures leaked from Thailand of both a CBR and Honda CB500, the former aping the look of the 2012 Honda CBR1000RR and the latter looking like a CB1000R. Both appear to share and engine, frame and seat unit, meaning the CBR500 won’t be some impractical race rep, but appears to feature a spacious, low seat, plenty of room for a pillion and/or luggage and even generous grab handles.

Earlier today, Honda announced the new European Junior Cup, which will be an SBK support class exclusively using an as-yet-unnamed “exciting new Honda sports machine.”

In fact, that seat unit looks very similar to the one used by the Honda CBR250. Released last year, that bike’s been punching far above its middling specs would suggest, being faster, easier and more fun to ride than anything making 26bhp and weight 357lbs (wet) has a right to. It’s one of those complete packages where every component might not look like much on paper, but in practice just clicks into place to achieve a greater sum. It costs just $4,200, but feels immensely special. You can think of the CBR500 as its big brother.

Exclusive to HFL, here’s a run down of the CBR500’s specs:

- 470cc liquid-cooled, parallel-twin
- Six-speed manual
- 46.9bhp
- 30lb/ft of torque
- 401lbs (dry)/430lbs (wet)
- 105mph top speed
- 31-inch seat height
- 120/70-17 (front)/160-60-17 (rear)

Those figures come from a trusted contact inside Honda Europe. While we can’t reveal their identity or the reasons why we’re so sure they’re correct, we stand behind their veracity.

That power figure may seem oddly precise, but it’s spot on for Europe’s new A2 license tier, which will allow 19-year olds to ride bikes with up to 35kw of power. Or 46.9 of your good old-fashioned horses.

It’s also close to double the power of the CBR250 without doubling the weight. Where that bike makes .073bhp per wet pound, the CBR500 makes .109. That puts it into the middle of a performance gap in the market. Kawasaki’s Ninja 650 weighs 460lbs (wet) and makes 71bhp, giving it a power-to-weight ratio of .154, while the new Ninja 300 makes 39bhp and weighs 379lbs, giving it .103 horses to pounds.

With that 470cc twin, the CBR500 also makes decent torque. Where the Ninja 300 sits at 20lb/ft, the CBR250 makes 17lb/ft and the Ninja 650 47, the CBR500 is again in a class of its own at 30lb/ft.

So why not just buy that Ninja 650 or other, similar, bikes? Hopefully that’s going to be about money. Where the Honda CBR250 is just $4,200, the Ninja 650 is $7,599. If the CBR500 can split the difference, Honda could be onto a winner. The spy photos of the bike were snapped at the same factory in Thailand in which Honda produces the CBR250, suggesting an affordable price. A modular approach, which sees the CBR an CB500 sharing pretty much every component but fairing and handlebars, also points towards affordability.

Of course, targeting European learners, Southeast Asian and South American riders and broke Americans means that Honda is chasing one other metric for the CBR500: fuel-economy. The single-cylinder CBR250 returns 77mpg, but the new, parallel-twin NC700x manages 64mpg thanks to a variety of new technologies drawn from Honda’s auto division. Our source wasn’t able to provide a fuel economy figure, but did say the new motor should draw on that technology too. The Ninja 650 returns 50mpg and the outgoing Ninja 250 61mpg.

But the big news? In Honda’s internal system, the codes “AC” and “CM” are listed next to the model’s name. “AC” = America (California/50 State) and CM means “Canada.” Expect the CBR500 to arrive in both early next year.

  • Glenngineer

    Could be an awesome compliment to my heavy bike, while still having enough guts to motivate my fat ass. Very excite.

  • Dylan

    Looks like it apes the 2005 cbr1000 more than the new one

  • cdeforrest
  • John

    Are bikes getting heavier or what? The Honda Hawk was as light as this 20 years ago.

    I like the idea a lot, but I’d like it more if it shaved about 25-50lbs.

    • Roman

      I’m a big fan of the Hawk GT, but you have to remember that it cost more than the CBR600 at the time. Aluminum frame, single-sided swingarm, etc… It was very much a premium product. The CBR500 is going is aimed at a very different market segment and should be compared with the likes of Ninja 500 and GS500. If it can improve on those two, it definitely moves the segment forward.

  • robotribe

    The claimed dry weight of the 2005 Honda CB600F is 404 lbs. Where is this 470cc Honda hiding it’s pork?

    This Honda makes the Ninja 300 look even better.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Steel frame, cheaper components. They gain ground back by nailing engine tuning and chassis geometry and stuff like that.

      • zero

        The 599/600f was steel as well but around 450lbs wet. That said, comparable alu bikes like the SV were ~415-430# wet so there’s no real reason to expect this to be substantially lighter, especially given the steel frame and emissions stuff.

        Frankly, given the very similar FZ6 was 15lbs heavier with an aluminum frame, the 599 jumps out as surprisingly light given its 4 cyl and steel frame.

        • robotribe

          Point taken on the actual wet weight of the 599, but even so, assuming the numbers for this new CBR500 are equally fudged, the delta in fat between the 2013 470cc and 2005 era 599cc is counter intuitive. It seems like we’re going “backwards” in motorcycle evolution.

  • JR

    I’m also very excited about this segment opening up. I’d like to see this go more standard and less race-replica. I am bummed that they didn’t go with a ~470cc single but you can’t have everything right. If they went with a single, this would’ve been my next bike. Can’t argue with lightweight, decent power, and the ease of fuel-injection. Pretty cool.

  • M

    i’m a big fan of the specs and price point of both the ninja 300 and this new bike, but, to be honest, i want to like the looks of my bike — and the looks of me on my bike. i don’t fit with the plastic robot looks.

    so, back to reworking something like a savage/s40 with a kit (nearly doubling its price tag), buying a heavy, expensive retro bike like a v7, or something rather style-over-substance in the vein of a tu250 or misfit.

    or rocking an old shit bucket, which i’m thoroughly tired of.

    i know they didn’t sell in the late 80′s, but it’s time we got a modern equivalent of the gb500. this could easily be that bike if honda had the will to build it. style, class, and a modicum of performance at an affordable price.

    yes, i’m a high maintenance bitch.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Id look at the weight on that V7 again. It’s as light as this Honda.

      • M

        you’ve got me, there. it’s still about ten grand after taxes in its most basic form, though. that’s steep — and with, what, two more horses?

        i just want a better looking motorcycle to go with all the luscious practicality of the 500, here.

        • David Dawson

          msrp on the V7 stone is only $8390. Still not honda cheap, but sometimes its worth paying for good looks and pedigree. And the big gas tank, shaft drive, screw type valve adjusters…

          • M

            + 6% sales tax and what i’m sure’s a pretty stiff destination fee from italy. but, they are very, very nice-looking bikes.

            also, just to make myself look like even more of an asshole, i went and looked at a misfit at our local dealer, today. it’s even sexier in person. in fact, it’s honestly as good looking a bike as i’ve seen recently, even with eyes that know they’re looking at a lifan engine’d motorcycle.

            i asked the girl i was with what she estimated the cost to be. her answer was “definitely over 10k, new.” i nearly bought it on the spot.

    • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

      I’d prefer the naked version be a modern bike influenced by the CB550 rather than Polygon Heroes like all the Japanese brands have been doing since KTM started the trend so long ago.

      • Martin

        +1 to this, and to the comment below wishing for something akin to the CB1100, only smaller.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          For western markets, a retro-style bike would likely work better right now, but to get the price down, they’re trying to make true world products with global appeal. The biggest markets for this will be Southeast Asia and South America, where this styling rules.

          • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

            I get it. You design for your customer base. Oh the compromises I’ve made for that, or the perception of it anyhow. I don’t mean a retro bike so much as an evolution of the minimalist, organic formula. That is the antithesis of the culture of their market, but if they’d keep the mechanicals clean (as opposed to a plumber’s nightmare) it should be simple enough to de-skin (tm C Davis Designs) it into something more pure, which could kill in the EU, US, AUS.

    • Kyle T

      I didn’t see myself as a Power Ranger either, to quote Jezza, so I didn’t go for the plastic sportbike look for my first bike. I got a great deal on a Savage. It’s definitely not the coolest bike but it’s small, light, and basic – great for a new rider. That big thumper is something else too!

      Ryca now makes several kits and sells some components separately that really helps you piece together your bike. There’s also a great forum for Savage owners where you’ll find a lot of inspiration.

      I do wish that Honda would sell a smaller displacement version of the recently announced CB1100.

      • Kevin

        That CB400 Super Four looks like fun.

  • GoFasterPB

    It seems about the same as the Ninja 500 (440lbs / 48whp) -which was an amazingly versatile first bike. Guessing that fuel economy and Honda chassis/suspension mojo will be make this bike feel like a step forward.

  • Corey

    I’ve never owned a hawk, but I feel the SV650S did everything in the first paragraph and was quite affordable. Also weighed ~430lbs wet.

    • smoke4ndmears

      Concur! And as far as a cheap/entry level race bike (for an adult) the SV650 is still going to be the sweet spot.

  • Dani Peral

    Its 18-year olds for A2 license, but still im glad that you have a wider field of vision now and take into account european market and its licenses when analysing bikes!

    Since Suzuki’s GS500 stopped being sold, there is a huge gap for an affordable, reliable, and economical to run bike. This will sell in thousands.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Thanks. Remember I grew up in Europe, so we’ve always had a bit of a bent in that direction.

      Don’t discount the efficacy of modern brakes and tires and other components. Even from the late ’90s to now, those parts have gotten so much better that it’s a night and day difference in riding experience. A modern bike designed around modern tires and brakes and suspension is going to ride very differently from some janky old GS500.

      • http://www.BrewSmith.com.au dux [87 CBR600, 95 XR600R]

        I suspect this bike won’t get anything better than damping rod forks and 10 year old Nissin brakes…

  • David Dawson

    Very interested to see what this thing costs… hopefully by spring so I know what I’m saving for all winter.

  • Keith

    This looks like it will fit a perfect open segment in the market.
    I own a 650 Hawk and it’s good around town and not bad on the highway as well.
    Wouldn’t tour to Alaska on it but it’s a blast to ride something a bit lighter than my ST1100. I’m a bit too heavy for a 250.
    If I didn’t have the Hawk, I would consider buying this bike.

  • RandyS

    About 40 years ago, Honda made a CB450 Twin. It made about 45 horsepower and weighed 410 pounds. It got about 55mpg. I don’t remember what one cost new, but I doubt that it was even as much as $1,000. (I remember purchasing a brand new ’69 CL350 back then for only $625.)

    I can’t help but suspect that I might rather have a new version of the Honda from 40 years ago than a new 2013 CB500.

    Things have come around full circle, and modern technology doesn’t seem to be much better in this instance.

    • Scott-jay

      +1, Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club
      Modern technology = better suspensions, brakes & electrics, plus more durable drive-trains.

      • GoFasterPB

        Awesome, I’ll have to check that out. My gf’s daily ride is an ’85 CB450 -the bike rocks but the brakes are frighteningly bad. Been kicking around the idea of retrofitting a more modern setup.

  • Patrick from Astoria

    A new Ninja 500 with Honda build quality for around $6000? I think we’ve got a winner here.

    • Rob

      When the time came for Kawi to finally replace the Ninja 500 (the old girl no longer met emissions requirements in a lot of markets), they went with a 650 twin. That made a lot of sense as the only middle-weight twin that outsold the EX was SV650. The motor on the new one was dimensionally smaller than the old 500 and though it didn’t make a lot more horsepower with the additional cc’s, it did make about 45% more torque and got there 2000 rpm sooner. The result was a bike that was dynamically better than the the old 500. Anyone who tells you different hasn’t ridden them both. They priced it at $6300, a hundred less than SV650S.

      • Patrick from Astoria

        All of which probably made product planners giving presentations happy on some level – see? more displacement! more power! more like that success at Brand S! – but which turned out to be a machine completely removed from what was technically its predecessor. It’s also tangibly a lot less desirable, especially for newbs (like me) who don’t want something that large and comparatively powerful to start, or maybe at all. (Doesn’t help that it’s not the best-looking thing on the market.)

        Yes, the EX500/Ninja 500 that was last on sale here in ’09 was a dreadfully old machine, introduced in 1987 (!) and mildly updated in 1994, but then left to grow long in tooth. Of course it could have used – in fact, really needed – significant improvements. But I really wish they’d given it a serious renewal as it was, with a new engine and upgraded components, while keeping it at the existing displacement and price points instead of falling victim to bigger-is-better and trying to move it up against the SV.

        Even if it wasn’t as new as it could have been, the revised Ninja 250 serves as a really good template for this – and the success of that move is indisputable. Yes, they’re bumping the displacement up now, but that’s mostly Honda’s fault for doing the same thing a bit better.

        The absence of good bikes in the 400-500cc range has been one of the great problems in American motorcycling for a while. The Ninja 500 was one of the few options in that place until Kawasaki abdicated and chased upmarket.

        If they’re as good as the CBR250R, the CB500 and CBR500 will be a severely overdue breath of fresh air in that range.

  • roccopeterbilt

    I think a key ingredient will be how it is marketed. A lot of ‘kids’ aren’t interested in bikes like the Ninja 650 because of the stigma associated with them. The should market this like a Scion with a focus on personalization and aftermarket hop ups. I hope it sells, I want to see a true middle weight class emerge.

    • Corey

      You say that, but, at least in my area, it seems that 3 out of 5 bikes I see (that aren’t HD) are Ninja 250 or 650. It’s actually pretty cool to see so many new riders out, and I think this 500 will add more to our roads pending it comes here.

  • http://rider49er.blogspot.com Mark D [EX500]

    Looks like a super fun bike at that price point. If real-world MPGs approaches 60, and its got the same build quality as the 250, seems hard to beat.