RideApart Review: 2013 Honda CBR500R ABS

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There’s a lot of things this new 2013 Honda CBR500R isn’t. It’s not very fast and it’s not very light. Riding it from Los Angeles to Laguna Seca to watch MotoGP this weekend, it didn’t draw a lot of admiring looks. But, it’s also very fuel-efficient, very cheap and very fun to ride. Is that enough to make you want one?

What’s New
The CBR500R is an all-new motorcycle and the sportiest model in Honda’s new 500 range. It was made to meet Europe’s new A2 license tier for new riders, which specifies both a maximum power output (47bhp) and a power-to-weight ratio. It was also designed to be extremely affordable, both to buy and own.

It’s no coincidence then that the 471cc, liquid-cooled parallel-twin develops precisely 47bhp. That motor only revs to a relatively low redline of 8,500rpm, where it develops that peak power. Max torque of 32lb-ft arrives at 7,000rpm. On paper, that may not sound like the most flexible motor ever, but it’ll actually pull fairly strongly from 1,500rpm or so, all the way up to the limiter.

That engine is housed in a fairly basic, tubular steel frame, suspended by non-adjustable, 41mm, right-way up forks and a preload adjustable, Pro-Link monoshock.

So far, so humble. The kerb weight (including a full tank) isn’t particularly light, either, at 425lbs.

Aside from the ABS (a $500 option), there’s no new tech features or surprises. It’s a motorcycle, plain and simple. But a brilliant one. Why?

The Ride
Every year since I moved to America in 2006, I’ve made riding from LA to Laguna Seca an annual ritual. Sure, the race is fun to watch and it’s a good place to catch up with old friends, but really, it’s just an excuse to take in some of the best riding roads in the world alongside a few buddies. Typically, I try and take something that fits a conventional idea of fun — an Aprilia RSV4 last year, a GSX-R1000 before that.

The route typically remains the same too. Cruise up to Ojai on the 33, take that to the 58. By the time that dumps you back out on the 101, we’re usually tired and hot, so we cruise up the 101 to Carmel Valley Road and arrive in Monterey exhausted and sore. But also satisfied, because those are three of the most scenic and challenging riding roads around. 33 is all high-speed sweepers, 58 is 2nd gear hairpins. Carmel Valley doesn’t have lane markers, but it does have bumps and blind corners; lots of them.

The Monday after the race, I like to head down the PCH through Big Sur, passing hoards of poorly-ridden sportsbikes while enjoying the view and, this year, headed over Nacimiento Fergusson road for the first time. That’s more single-lane hairpins, these covered in sand and loose rocks.

All in, it’s one of my favorite motorcycle trips of the year and a chance to let my hair down and go fast on fast bikes. Believe it or not, but I actually had more fun riding this little CBR than I have on any other bike yet.

33’s high speed sweepers should have proved a major challenge for a slow, basic bike. Climbing up the TopaTopa mountains, they’re typically one of the rare opportunities to use a liter bike’s full power on the road. Could 47bhp enough to make them fun? Well, that limited power output is complimented by fairly limited suspension, so it was fun. Full throttle, peg scraping, knee down fun, all at about half the speed I’d normally be travelling.

58? More of the same. Turning onto it, I’d hoped to hang with a group of fast guys on powerful sport tourers a Hayabusa and even an old Yamaha GTS1000, but they left me for dead on the road’s long, straight beginning. In 6th, the little Honda redlines at 102mph.

By the time I’d reached the corners, I was on my own and, again, spent most of the ride grabbing huge handfuls of throttle, then trying to take enough lean out in corners that hard parts wouldn’t drag. The CBR’s ground clearance is fairly limited, displaying a centimeter or so of unused rubber on both edges of the rear tire, even after removing the peg feelers, then dragging the pegs through almost every corner.

Stopping to grab knee down shots, a group on a 2013 Honda CBR600RR, Ducati 848 Evo and 900SS passed. The girl on the CBR was a friend who’d been asking about the 500, so I pulled on my helmet, hopped on my bike and chased all three of them down, passing each through subsequent corners. I was flat out with a huge smile on my face, they were a long, long, long ways from their bike’s limits.

And that difference — to and beyond the CBR500R’s full capability compared to maybe a third of the CBR600RR’s — is what makes riding the smaller, cheaper bike so much more fun. The 500 makes 71bhp less, the 500 is 15lbs heavier, the 500’s suspension is far less capable. But riding it on the street, that simply means you get to use full throttle, you get to use full lean, you get to ride the bike absolutely as hard as it will go, in safety, often while staying under the speed limit.

Then there’s the 500’s other benefits. All in, this trip totaled 780 miles. All in, I spent $46.18 on fuel, averaging 54mpg. That’s pretty good considering the type of riding described above.

Also unlike previous years, I also arrived in Monterey without any numb limbs and without back spasms. The little CBR is also the most comfortable CBR, with low pegs, a large, flat seat and a spacious cockpit. It’s also the only CBR with enough space for large luggage.

Yesterday’s ride back down Big Sur wasn’t the flat-out, high speed blast it’s been in previous years. It was cold and foggy, so we just cruised along at a reasonable pace. The CBR’s upright riding position afforded excellent views and it remained calm and confident, even in sketchy conditions. Turning up through Nacimiento Fergusson, the extreme agility created by the narrow, 160/60-17 rear tire made the tight road and limited traction easy, too. A larger, faster bike would have been ponderous there.

But perhaps the best illustration of the diverse capability of the CBR500R came at the very end of the trip. A tractor trailer had flipped on the 101 near Topanga Canyon Blvd, blocking all four lanes and halting traffic completely. Even after riding all the way back from Monterey, I was sharp and mentally acute enough to navigate 20 miles or more of totally stalled freeway traffic with the same ease as I’d had anywhere else on the trip. The CBR500R is as good in tight traffic as it is dragging knee as it is cruising down the highway.

And it would have been just as easy and fun in any of those places or on the entire trip for a new rider as it was for me. Taking that into account, this is the most diversely capable, fun bike that Honda makes.

The Good
All-day comfortable, even for tall riders like me.

Crazy fun, even at safe, legal speeds.

Extremely fuel efficient.

Flexible, responsive motor. The top speed is governed by gearing, not a limiter, so it pulls strongly up to 100mph.

Extreme agility makes navigating snarled traffic or very tight back roads super easy.

The ABS brakes are so unobtrusive, you won’t know they’re there until you come to a sharp, confident halt in bad conditions. They remain sensitive enough to trail to an apex, with your knee on the ground.

Heavy on paper, but you’ll swear it weighs 75lbs less as soon as you swing a leg over it; that weight is totally hidden.

Very confidence inspiring, encouraging you to push as hard as possible.

Looks like a much more expensive bike than it is.

Powerful highbeam works well at night on back roads.

Clear instruments instantaneously convey speed and revs.

A helmet lock positioned so your helmet rests upright, on the center of the rider seat.

The Bad
A little extra ground clearance wouldn’t go amiss.

A taller screen will add comfort on long journeys.

No external temperature gauge.

Stock tool kit includes only an allen wrench and fuse puller.

Preload collar impossible to reach without specialized tool (not included).

The Price
$5,999 without ABS, 6,499 with. That’s $1,600 less than the less-refined Kawasaki Ninja 650, $2,000 less than the boring Gladius and $1,900 less than the ugly FZ6R. Crucially, it’s also cheaper than you’ll find most low-mile 600s in the used market. It’s much easier to ride than any of those bikes, the CBR500R is truly a bike you could start on, but not grow bored with.

This is an exceptionally affordable motorcycle, something aided by the 71mpg fuel economy rating; you can basically drop fuel bills from your budget.

The Verdict
What do you want out of this whole motorcycle riding thing? Bragging rights? Flashy graphics and fancy components? Speeding tickets? A literal pain in the butt? Instead of that, what about a bike that’s insanely good fun at legal speeds? One that’s all-day comfortable, one that you can afford to buy and afford to run? One that’s as good in traffic as it is on a mountain road?

And here’s the thing about motorcycle riding: it’s a sport, not a purchase. It’s something you have to work hard at getting good at. The CBR500R is the perfect tool to develop the skills that you’ll need to ride something faster. It’ll help you learn about brakes, handling and power, all while providing you with a comfortable, confident, practical, economical form of transportation.

But as my trip proves, it’s not just n00bs who’ll find something to love in the CBR500R. Experienced riders will appreciate the cost and the fuel economy, of course, but will be surprised by the handling and performance and fun, too. It’d make a great commuter or just a great economical all-rounder for when the fancy bike needs to stay in the garage.

The CBR500R isn’t the fastest bike out there, it isn’t the sharpest and it’s probably not the sexiest. What it is is one of the most accessible, friendliest, practical, most fun motorcycles you’ve ever been able to buy.

RideApart Rating: 10/10 (the buyer’s guide will update to reflect this shortly)

Gear:
Helmet: Icon Airmada ($180, Highly Recommended)
Gloves: Racer Sicuro ($240, Highly Recommended)
Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R ($450, Highly Recommended)
Suit: Custom Icon One-Piece (N/A)
Hydration Pack: Kriega Hydro-3 ($140, Highly Recommended)
Luggage: Maxpedition Fliegerduffel ($157, Highly Recommended)

  • Shea O’Connell

    Only thing is the first service at 600 miles includes an expensive valve clearance check.

    • AdvApe

      I have 4 of 8 valves adjusted on cb500x and the total cost of the first service was $250.00 I dont think it is that expensive compared to some other first services I have had to pay for.

      • runnermatt

        That isn’t that much. I skipped the 600 mile valve clearance check on my CBR250R. I just changed the oil & filter and checked the other things then manual lists. I imagine it would have cost even less since it is a single.

        • Guy

          When I had the CBR250RA in Canada, my dealer informed me that it would void the warranty without the first service and valve adjustment. It’s a bit of a hot topic among CBR250 buyers in my area and now CB500-series owners too as most dealers charge an extortionate amount of coin for the service. Considering the target audience for the bikes, a $300-500 bill for a first service is a little absurd.

          • runnermatt

            Glad I didn’t buy any of the extend warranty packages then.

            • Justin McNair

              A little late to the party, but in the US, as long as you can show receipts from where you had it done (even if it was at a mom n pop shop), law states they cant void your warranty just because you didn’t do it at a dealership.

          • Trist

            My first service cost $180.

    • Campisi

      It’s unlikely the engines in these things will need attention after 600 miles. I skipped the valve check portion of the first service on the CBR250 I used to have (whose engine is basically one half of the CBR500′s engine). Right around ~6,500 miles in, I decided to have them checked. The exhaust valves were barely out of specification, whereas the intake valves were still fine.

  • C.Stevens

    How did you get the Maxpedition Fliegerduffel to mount on the back?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Bungees. There’s a ton of mounting points and that bag makes it easy.

  • Toly

    Great review; it’s a terrific bike and is a perfect match for the skill set of 80% of riders out there. An aftermarket pipe and a few odds and ends make it even better.

  • di0genes

    No external temperature gage? That’s hilarious, ah, terrible, what an oversight, how would you know how cold or hot it was..

    • CruisingTroll

      I used to poo-poo the idea of the external temp gauge as silly and unnecessary, until I moved someplace that can experience black ice. As a rider, my personal temp gauge is “hot”, “nice”, “cold”. That’s it. Somewhere down in “cold” there’s a point where black ice forms. An external temp gauge let’s me know when my riding and that point coincide.

    • James

      Um? by being outside?

      All you need on a bike is revs, speed and oil temp. Digital dash sure give you whatever, but not if it means adding random sensors for stuff thats not really all that important, that just adds cost and weight to a cheap bike.

      • di0genes

        Not to defend temperature gages, but if the bike has EFI, and most now do, the CPU-ECM already knows what the outside air temp is, and all it needs is another display in the digital dash, that it already has, to communicate it, so no extra weight and not much cost. I agree that it is totally unnecessary. (Feature creep killed windows 8 :-)

  • Randy Singer

    Since the bike is sold to meet a government mandated maximum horsepower level, I’m wondering if it would be easy/cost effective, to drastically increase this bike’s power output. Could it be that with the addition of a Power Commander and a new cam that this bike might make close to 60HP? *That* would make an interesting article!

    • Robert Horn

      The engine is more or less half a CBR600 engine that’s been stroked to get it to 471cc. That’s why it has such a low redline – unless you could find a whole new ECU to raise the redline to 10,300 +/- 200 (and go through pistons & rings like crazy), you aren’t going to get much more power no matter what else you do to it.

      • Randy Singer

        There are plenty of examples of motorcycle engines with roughly 9,000 rpm limits that offer more horsepower per CC than the new Honda 500. Higher rpm isn’t the only path to more power.

        • Robert Horn

          True – somewhat.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if different cam timing (By playing with the stock cam timing or a new grind) would pick up a few at the top 700 RPM while losing a lot below that.
          This engine also has a rather low compression ratio – bumping it up 2 points or so wouldn’t hurt it at all, although I have no idea what that would do to the combustion chamber shape, valve clearances, squish, etc… on this one. I don’t know if you can to that with just decking the head and/or cylinders (And minor piston work), or if you write big checks for custom pistons, or some combination of all the above.

          If you like to do that sort of thing for fun (Don’t we all?), hey, great. But there is no bolt-on or plug-in drastic power there to be had – Honda made sure of that when they designed it.

          • Randy Singer

            Except that, once again, there are plenty of examples of motorcycles where adding nothing more than a Power Commander and a pipe has unleashed several horsepower, without the need for head work, etc. This is a bike that Honda has designed to meet a certain [low] horsepower point. It is in a very mild state of tune. The potential might be there to make a few more horsepower without the need for a lot of modification. I’m simply saying that I’d like to see an article that explored that. I’m not asking for your opinion on what it would take to turn this bike into a race bike.

            • Robert Horn

              You originally wrote: “I’m wondering if it would be easy/cost effective, to drastically increase this bike’s power output.” All of my replies to you were a long way of saying THE ANSWER IS NO!!!!!!! I explained why the “Mild state of tune” is designed into the engine’s architecture and can’t be changed without an awful lot of race level machine and prep work, and even then, won’t gain much. This isn’t one of those “other bikes” with easily found power – no, the potential isn’t there. That’s why you aren’t going to see an exploritory article, or at least not with the results you are looking for. Sorry that interferes with your wishful thinking, AKA “Wondering”.

              But keep wondering – I’m sure you’ll find someone somewhere to tell/sell you what you want to hear. At this point, it is obvious that you don’t work on bikes anyway. This was only posted in case anyone else here cares.

              • Randy Singer

                Okay. We get it. You’d like to fancy yourself as an engineer. Now that you’ve gotten to pretend on the Internet, do you feel better about yourself?

  • Joosty

    CBR500R owner checking in. Love the review. Makes me more happy to own one.

  • webbiker

    The CBR just oozes mediocrity in everything. Nothing about it makes me even the slightest bit excited. I bet it could of been just as practical, fun and accessible if it gave the impression it’s designers had just a little bit of passion for motorcycles. I bet it ticks all the boxes for reliability, power, handling etc. but it gives such a “Toyota” vibe that it makes me cringe.

    • Toly

      Did you ride one? This “mediocrity” would put many riders skills to shame, including possibly yours

      • webbiker

        I’m not dissing the performance, just the design. I’m absolutely certain that the bike would outperform my skills.

        • Piglet2010

          While I have not had a chance to ride them, the CB500F would likely be my choice, as it has no sportbike pretense. (Not getting the CB500F, simply because it duplicates the function of my Bonnie.)

          If I replace my Ninjette, it will likely be when KTM imports the upcoming RC390, which will weigh much less than either the Ninja 300 or CBR500R, and with better suspension and brakes.

          • alex

            The bike is garbage designed to lure in people who thrive in the world of “good enough” – Sochiro would punch everyone in his company to death if he saw this kind of crap. It’s not an entry level bike – its the harbinger of doom for 600cc machines.

            • Toly

              The problem is not with good enough bikes but with good enough riders

              • alex

                omg so I should totally devolve my aspirations about everything because I will never “need” to shoot 41 mp pictures on my phone, never “need” to make 1 million dollars, never “need” to send my kids to private school, never “need” rental properties, a hot wife, anything luxury or technically advanced. We should ban all sports cars, yatchs, mansions, boob jobs, expensive anything and free will – because we also don’t “need” those.

                hold on I need to find a couple of cans and some string to finish this conversation.

                • Piglet2010

                  Yes, we should ban all fruits of nepotism, favoritism, cronyism, and other ways people born to the upper classes make it through life. Tribalism in all its forms it outdated and immoral.

                  Besides, 99% of the people who buy super-sport and super-bike race replicas cannot ride them to their limits.

                • alex

                  99% of people can’t use there cars to there limits, or there mountain bikes, firearms, cell phones, computers or any measure of physical strength or endurance.

                  So.

                • Piglet2010

                  HRC wants you to call them – they are looking to add a 3rd factory bike and need a rider.

                • alex

                  Obviously they would speak through a picture of a hand puppet….

                • Piglet2010
            • Glenn

              Bullshit, Soichiro applauded excellence but he also knew practicality is a quality in it’s own right.

              • alex

                You know nothing of Sochiro, even the utilitarian civic was always a culmination of Honda technology, skill and pride at a production level price for it’s segment. It was no accident that the CRX had double wishbones and came with a motor making 100hp per liter at a time when only Ferrari was capable of such things and with nowhere near the reliability. Or that they built the NSX at a loss and in doing so set a new bar in super car design, performance and reliability.

                Sochiro was an engineer at heart and every vehicle under him was an evolution of the previous models, the 500 like so many choices made after he died does in no way reflect this. Instead it’s been replaced by good enough engineering on some levels driven by bean counters.

                Your argument about riding slow machines is bs and says more about your lack of self control than anything else.

                *pours out a little drank for the production ready 2008 NSX that’s probably still rotting in storage right now, and a little more for the Type R nameplate and the Civic in Japan .

                • criminalenterprise

                  “Sochiro would punch everyone in his company to death if he saw this kind of crap. Sochiro was an engineer at heart and every vehicle under him was an evolution of the previous models, the 500 like so many choices made after he died does in no way reflect this. You know nothing of Sochiro…”

                  You don’t even know how to spell his name.

                  To insist every motorcycle and car that came out of his company during his tenure was sprinkled with magic engineering genius sparkle-dust is ahistorical nostalgia.

                  The Dream was a knock-off of the NSU bikes Honda had seen in Europe. For every instance of an RC166, there were plenty of cheap, lackluster mass-market bikes like the CB350 single released during his tenure.

                • alex

                  interesting that you cite the cb350 – lets see what a 3rd party source has to say about that very motorcycle.

                  “Its reliable motor, coupled with dual Keihin carburetors, proved to be a popular design, becoming Honda’s best-selling model. More than 250,000 were sold in five years, with 67,180 sold in 1972 alone.[3] In 1968 it was the best-selling motorcycle worldwide.[4] The machine evolved cosmetically over the course of its production with incremental engineering improvements to the suspension and brakes.”

                  You seriously picked the single worst example to promote your argument.

                • criminalenterprise

                  You have to use Google to research your “argument”.

                  Honda still makes the 600 and they now make the 500.
                  Soichiro made the CB350 and 250 singles alongside marvels like the CB350F.
                  More people by far bought the single, just like more people will buy the 500.
                  I’m not sure what you’re raging against; if Honda has lost its way it’s in its automobile division. I don’t care about the NSX and CRX having no modern descendants. This is a motorcycle site. Are you lost?

                • alex

                  OMG not google research!!!! – the horror of using the collective power of the internet to explain things…nooooo OMG I should have to explain to you the modern definition of the truth noooo!!!!! Any other lame you can throw my way except spelling corrections I don’t care about or why anyone should believe your opinion in lieu of stated and verifiable fact?

                  Or to explain why every single reviewer has explicated stated that Honda has failed to keep up with the times since there almost 7 and 6 year old 600 and 1000 still don’t have traction control, slipper clutches or gear indicators not to mention comparable power. Instead of which they decided to create a new niche of 1/3 as powerful motorcycles with generic frames instead…

                  Use more opinion to debate fact please….

                • criminalenterprise

                  So your problem with Honda is that they’re making a whole bunch of everyday bikes instead of turning the 600 and 1000 into Panigales? Gear indicators? What bike are you riding that you need a gear indicator?

                  The 500 and 250 bikes Honda makes are world bikes for the world market. Supersports are very niche vehicles for wealthy industrialized markets, and attract tattooed squid meatheads more than true enthusiasts and gearheads. Futhermore, Honda cannot develop and build those machines for the trackday flaneur without the money it earns selling generic, simple bikes.

                  Sport standards are affordable bikes for people with families and working stiffs who need a practical mount. Anything with two wheels enticing someone out of their car is okay with me.

                • alex

                  Everything you say is based in marginalizing the needs, wants and desire of motorcyclists for superior motorcycles by framing it in good enough references.

                  I find your efforts to be sad.

                  - peace out

                • criminalenterprise

                  I need, want and desire a motorcycle with superior affordability, and so do most riders.

                  Buying a motorcycle is a luxury for most of us, an emotional purchase we must justify to ourselves and sometimes our families. It’s hard enough rationalizing the safety risks and dropping several thousand dollars on a bike without also having to try to explain to your coworkers or wife how you just needed to blow the price of a Honda Accord on a weekend toy.

                  Speed costs money, but the good news is a slow bike is still a million times more fun than a quick car, and the market for slow, cheap bikes is just now getting interesting.

    • Joosty

      I as a owner did not expect anything over the top for $5,999 MSRP.

      I feel like I got more than my moneys worth. *shrug*

      This bike is equivalent to the Toyaburu 86/BRZ of the car world.

      Cheap, fun, practical, and economic with looks thatll make a normal person do a double take.

    • Stuki

      All the same can be said for the Miata. And yet, for many, that thing is about as much fun as you can have on four wheels on most public roads.

  • Piglet2010

    Bragging rights is the worst reason to buy a bike, especially since it usually means too much bike for the rider skill level. I had a super-sport (traded down to a old Ninja 250R) and do not miss it; the riding position and power-band were unsuitable for most riding, and there is nowhere within hundreds of miles where one can sustain 3-digit (imperial) speeds without soon going to jail.

    That said I can see two very good reasons to skip over the CBR500R: the CB500F and CB500X – less to buy, less to insure, less to damage in a crash, and probably less attractive to traffic cops, thieves and vandals.

  • Justin McClintock

    I’m sure it’s a fine bike. But if I want something with limited cornering clearance and limited power, why do I want to look like I’m on a supersport? Like Piglet said, I’d opt for the F instead. Or better still, a slightly used Bonneville. At least then I’d have some style to go with that limited clearance and acceleration.

    • roma258

      I look at it as a mini-VFR800. A sporty all-rounder with a comfortable seating position and fairing for bad weather riding/touring. I’d miss the power though (tried the underpowered route with the Hawk GT). Something like this with maybe 65 hp and a nicer suspension would be the bee’s knees!

      • Lourens Smak

        I agree… I think one of the reasons for this glowing review is that the CBR600F isn’t available in the US… very similar all-day comfort, some space for bags, suitable for a beginner because of the “first mild, then wild” powerband. It just adds extra power, brakes, and suspension for a very reasonable extra amount of money. (the CBR600F is about €10k, but the CBR500R w ABS is already €7000 overhere…yep, over $9200.) Of course, for years CBR600F was the sweet-spot of what people wanted, and Honda sold thousands of them…

        • roma258

          Yeah, I remember reading good things about the CBR600F in the Euro rags. I just think we’re so starved for nice, practical bikes here in the States (though it’s getting better), that when something does come along, some scribes get a bit gushy.

          • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

            It’s simply a ton of bike for not a ton of money. I’m sure the CBR600F is just fine, but it’s also more expensive.

            • Lourens Smak

              I should have added: I actually like the CBR500R ;-) and i think it’s a great direction for the manufacturers to go in… A welcome change from the ever more/faster/bigger/stronger new bikes. I also own a ±50hp bike myself (1972 CB500-four) and I know that’s enough to have good fun and even be reasonably fast. The benefit of the oldtimer is that 60mph feels more like 80… :-)

            • roma258

              It’s not a knock on the bike, it sounds really nice. But there is almost no competition in that segment to judge it against, so the judgement kind of exists in a vacuum.

        • Justin McClintock

          See, I’d opt for that far sooner than I’d settle for something like the 500F. If I want something that looks sporty, I’d prefer it BE sporty. And to me, the 500 just isn’t that sporty.

    • Piglet2010

      Well, you are not going to be dragging pegs on a Bonnie all that often unless you are at a track day, or riding faster than is sensible on most roads (at least around here, very few roads are in as good condition as even a poor track). And the acceleration is as Rolls-Royce used to say, “adequate”.

      • Justin McClintock

        Based on what they’ve said, I’d actually expect the Bonneville to out-handle this CBR. And given the Bonneville’s significantly better power to weight ratio (it’s under 500 lbs. with 67 horsepower, meaning it hauls around a pound and a half less for every horsepower), I’d be willing to bet it would straight up walk away from any of the CBR500′s.

        • Piglet2010

          Well, the Bonnie out-pretties the Honda 500s – although at times I will ride something else if I do not want to talk about the bike every time I stop.

        • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

          CBR way out handles the Bonnie.

    • thegreyman

      For the price of one of the 500 models- you can purchase a used low mileage FZ8 or Ninja 650. Complete with mods. So thus the question- why the 500? Just doesn’t make too much sense. Craigslist has some great deals- heck I just saw a FZ8 with the fender elmin kit, exhaust, sliders with some other goodies for 6K obo. I think it had like 2K miles. The used bike market is where the good deals are. That’s my 2 cents.

    • Stuki

      It’s about more than looks. The R riding position feels quite different from the F. Narrower bars and more forward lean. The F is upright enough that you have to consciously lean forward, bending elbows, during even moderate acceleration, in order not to feel like you are falling off the back. On the R, you can just sit there like a catatonic log. In addition, there is more wind protection on the R. Conversely, the wider bars, more upright seating and lack of fairing makes the F feel lighter and quicker turning. More like hooligan bike without the power to effortlessly wheelie.

      Personally, I’m tall (and old and, sorta, rich…. and more concerned about hauling capacity than quickness) enough that I’d go full hog and get a Vstrom 650 over an F, but the R is different enough that I cold see picking it over either.

  • Matt C

    Are you guys lining up a ride on a Ninja 300? I’d be interested in your thoughts compared to the CBR500R. Also, it looks like the US will see the KTM RC390 and Duke 390. Looks like there will be a few great options in the ride a light, slow, bike fast category.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Kawasaki isn’t interested in reaching a young, mainstream audience. Sorry.

      • Matt C

        Because? My local Kawi dealers are reporting the 300 is sold out for 2013.

      • alex

        Kawasaki isnt interested in reaching people with creepy manicured facial hair and no scars aka hipsters – who believe this nonsense that a bike is only fun when you can ride it within an inch of it’s life all the time. They have the 300, people race it and love it. But to go to a 500 you’d have to answer one simple question – why bitch out on the 600?

        • Robert Horn

          Honda is paying out contingency money to RACERS on this bike. And the local racers here are lapping faster on this than the Ninja 300.

          • alex

            Exactly – Honda is paying people to buy a bike with higher profit margins that’s in a class of it’s own – unless you know of a race class that pits 300cc ninjas vs 500cc Honda lap times are irrelevant.

            • Robert Horn

              We run our 250/400/500 Production Cup classes at the same time (MRA in Colorado). The first to cross the line lately has been the 500 Honda (Funny how winning and fast lap times have a lot in common). As you say, people race the Honda and love it. There are far more Kawasakis on the grid than Hondas right now, but the number of Hondas grows with each event.

              Bikes like the Ninja 500R (aka EX500) and GS 500 are eligible, but none have been entered (I know at least one that’s getting prepped), even though there are lots of them out there for dirt cheap. What Honda is paying out doesn’t make up the difference.

              • alex

                Just because they fill the track with 3 different classes doesn’t lend itself even 1 inch to comparing disparate models. If you want a newbie bike and can’t handle the ridiculousness of 40 lb ft of tq get a 300 series scooter missle – but a 500cc newbie bike? It better have only 2 strokes and 4 crazy looking stainless steel whale penis exhausts coming off it like the head of medusa to even be in the same zip code as manly.

                Continue sirs on your noble quests to justify the suck, I care doth not!!!!

                • VagrantCoyote

                  If you don’t care, why bother filling the comments with your negativity on an article about a bike that you clearly hate? Shouldn’t you be out riding your more capable motorcycle?

                • alex

                  For the same reason we have a two party system of governance in America, because not everybody likes the same thing.

                  And to put a finer point on it the only thing I despise more than diet beer, overly manicured beards and tattoos in place of scars is this new America idea of “good enough engineering” which somewhat unsurprisingly is often championed by people of reduced physical or mental capacity who often use words like hater rather than engage in any two sided dialogue.

                  It’s not all good bro. Sorry if your existence hasn’t prepared you for that.

                  And I will go out riding once I can take a break from almost single handedly fighting off the coming reality that motorcycles are just a subset of society ranked below modified Ruckus’s by people who either were scared away from motorcycles by there helicopter parents or who themselves have given up trying because of apathy.

                • VagrantCoyote

                  I didn’t say anything about the debate one way or another, just suggesting your time might be better used on another enterprise. Good luck with your one man crusade, please go gentle on the hipsters, their existences probably haven’t prepared themselves for you. Also, spell check.

                • alex

                  why would I waste time spell checking when I can use my grammatical errors to expose the weakest members of society – simultaneously infuriating them and reminding them of there place as indentured servants.

                • Mark D

                  Yes, understanding how to use great engineering to give people what they need at a significantly lower price is SOOO Unamerican!
                  http://www.hfmgv.org/exhibits/showroom/1908/tbig.jpg

                • alex

                  “great engineering”? lol wtf – and the example you used is ironic because they basically took the finest hand assembly techniques of the day and brought them to production scale. The 500 is in no way built with the finest assembly techniques nor is it likely to last anywhere beyond a museum longer than 20 years given the switch from steel and glass to plastic and more plastic. Also what does the 500 have to do with America anymore than it’s sold here?

                  Hitler ordered a car for the people, it was cheaper, less advanced and were it not built in huge numbers would likely have been relegated to history as a utilitarian vehicle and nothing more…but for his own aspirations he built rockets, flying saucers and nuclear weapons and an endless number of other state of the art things, no expense spared.

                  The VW Bug didnt conquer nations, it placated it’s people.

                  Which really speaks to the divide between those on top and those on the bottom – seems like you’ve chosen your place.

                • Mark D

                  You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen; the CBR500 is a communist plot for fascist domination. Time for everybody to get their Galt on. Because if you don’t want it, they shouldn’t make it!

                • alex

                  Just keep telling yourself that cheap is the key to advancing the human race….until it comes to something you actually care about, like medical care for your family or jobs for you in an industry that is outsourced to Indonesia…..

                • CruisingTroll

                  Hitler, interesting that you’d bring him in. You really should do some research on the German Panther and Tiger tanks in contrast to the Russian T-34 and American Sherman tanks. You’ll discover exactly what “good enough engineering” means in the real world, and the cost of over-engineering. Pay particular attention to the Porsche turret on the Tiger II, aka “King Tiger”

                • alex

                  no, Hitlers Germany invaded and repelled the eurasia continent gangbang all by itself – had the us not thrown bullets and bodies at them when we did and not 1 year later we’d be speaking German – pay special attention to where we farmed materials for our nuclear weapons program from.

                • CruisingTroll

                  You missed the point completely. The Tiger and Panther were excellent tanks, designed, engineered and manufactured to last for years. The T-34 and Sherman weren’t as good (the T-34 was close) individually as the Tigers and Panthers, but they were a LOT cheaper to make. The Germans simply couldn’t produce anywhere near enough of their best tanks. Mind you, it’s not that they didn’t produce as many as the Allies, it’s that they didn’t produce as many as either the USA or USSR. This, even though Germany’s manufacturing abilities were far superior to the Soviet’s.

                  Value. It depends on what you need. The “best” isn’t always the best for the purpose.

                • alex

                  I understand good enough engineering just fine – the problem with your argument is Hitler wasn’t running the tank durability department like Honda was running the don’t brand dilute department of Honda – It would be like if Barret suddenly decided to build a bunch of ak47 models just to sell more guns that were good enough.

                • CruisingTroll

                  The problem with your argument is you’re making an argument against HONDA, not AMERICAN HONDA. This bike, as noted in numerous articles about it, is a “world bike.” It is designed specifically to satisfy the requirements of the new EU 3rd Drivers Licensing Directives. Max of 47bhp/35kw. Max power/weight ratio of 0.2kw/kg.

                  Here in the US we are fortunate to not have the boot of 3DLD on our necks, but it still plays a role in the design/engineering of products we get. Honda CAN’T make this bike more powerful, or they will move it right out of it’s target market. Since Honda is pretty sure they’ll sell a LOT more of these bikes in the EU (and other markets that adopt the EU licensing tiers) than they will here (or to you), they’ll meet those requirements rather than Alex’s.

                  Expect to see more new 35KW/47hp category bikes in the near future… from all of the makes that have a strong European presence.

                • alex

                  The problem with my argument is nothing – Kawasaki was smart enough to increase the displacement of the minja from 250 to 300cc’s rather that cut into the 636 development with a 500cc model – which is exactly the opposite of what Honda did.

                • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

                  You have to be the least informed person commenting on our site right now. Add some brain cells, or you wont’ be participating anymore.

                • alex

                  hmm well you seem to be in the minority of people that haven’t taken my comments seriously – but then again what is audience engagement, besides exposure and revenue to a site like this :P

                • CruisingTroll

                  it’s called “value”, not “good enough engineering”, and there’s NOTHING uniquely American about it. It’s an assessment that every person spending money makes: will this purchase provide what I want for how much I’m willing to spend? Every bike manufacturer builds with this in mind. Heck, EVERY maker does it, because the people who buy their stuff always look with value as a consideration.

                  WHAT different people value is the trick. I’m something of a moto-fan. Trains, ships, trucks, cars, motorcycles, planes, I like ‘em all. A good friend of mine dislikes driving. He’s going to be first in line for a robo-car. We have very different ideas of “value”.

    • Phoneix_Ikki

      Motorcyclist magazine already did a comparison between the 300 and CBR500R about 2 months ago. 300 came out ahead.

      • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

        Written from the perspective of failed racers for wannabe racers. So long as you’re not aspiring to be one of the above, the Honda is a far superior motorcycle in every single way.

        I couldn’t have ridden a Ninja 300 on this trip. It’s too small and uncomfortable.

        • alex

          Street Kabuki battle vol 1 – Wes “Golden Mane” Siler vs Ari “Razor locks” Henning. – I can see it!

          The Honda while a superior motorcycle finds itself smack dab in the middle of too expensive in the newbie range and too blue light special for a second bike. It’s right at the edge of monster street price and way over late model used ceeber pricing.

          Of course theres alwasy the “mugen” 500 ahahhahahaha 1700 dollar exhaust and wheel tape ahahahahaha 40hp – lolz

          • Stuart Bogue

            Are you STILL here….surely there are some Boy Scout campgrounds somewhere that need denigrating….

            • alex

              Does it hurt when you swallow?

              Comments made about defiling boy scouts sure makes you suspect…

        • Piglet2010

          Well, I have a 33-inch inseam, weigh ~17-stone, and am comfortable on long rides on a pre-gen Ninjette. Heck, I have done several hundred mile rides on a Honda NHX110 (80+ mpg at WOT) without issue.

  • markbvt

    I’m so glad that Honda has gotten back to building good, practical bikes like this instead of answers to questions no one asked like the DN-01. It’s about frigging time.

  • alex

    I try to have as little contact with people who advocate diet beer and less capable motorcycles, it pollutes the gene pool.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      that’s half our staff!

      • alex

        OK jalopnik :p

  • Davidabl2

    Interesting to see what you can get for the money when the bike is designed with real-world considerations,
    as well as to a price point.
    The thing sounds like it’s a sportsbike-styled standard motorcycle. “Not that that’s a bad thing’ -Seinfeld
    Think today’s CB350? Except for the CB’s classic beauty.

    In current bikes what’s a “standard” anyway?
    Base level Duc Monster? Whatever Sportster it is that comes with a almost-fullsize gas tank? Cheapest available retro Triumph? Versys? Suzi Weestrom?

  • Stephen Butt

    Completely undrelated to the bike Wes but you said you moved to ‘Merica in 2006, where are you from originaly?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      I’m American, but I grew up in England.

  • Yellowjacket

    Hey Wes, I got a CBR250R a little over a year ago before this came out. I am now having some bike envy. Is the 500R radically better feeling around town/backroads that it would be worth trading up, or is it not a big enough bump up on the funometer to justify the cost.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      When you’re ready, it’d be a great upgrade. But you don’t need to rush out and swap bikes.

  • alex

    I have yet to meet a reasonable can-am rider on the road in CA – I know they exist but I havent yet seen one – It’s possible that I will stumble across a wild Yetti first on the 5fwy

  • Marc

    You really need to see this bike in person to appreciate it. Haven’t ridden it yet, but I have faith that it’s as fun or moreso than the EX500 was. The fit and finish is really spectacular for a bike at this pricepoint. Or any pricepoint. I laugh when folks get so angry that each new product wasn’t designed for precisely their individual desires. This bike is about economical, reliable fun, from a bike that looks a whole lot fancier than it’s price tag. If your aspirations are more sporting, buy the less comfortable Ninja 300, or the less well mannered Duke 390. The Duke would be my personal choice in this category, but KTM clearly chose a different set of tradeoffs than Honda. Pretty nice to actually, finally have some differentiated options in the US in the 300-500cc range.

    • Piglet2010

      Are you in Europe or Asia? We will not see the Duke 390 until well into 2014 here in the US.

      I think Kawasaki went the wrong way with the Ninjette by making it bigger and heavier. A more refined pre-gen 250 is the bike I would spend money on.

      • Marc

        Got to play with the 390 at EICMA last year. Cheating, I know. From what you describe, the Duke, or better the RC390, are what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait awhile, but “awhile” is better than “forever,” which is what I would have said 2 years ago.

  • Capt Evil

    Hey, Wes. That was fun. Spoke at the gas station about chain lube… But what about the VFR in that group? We make that run every year. Leave early like you do. If you got the HP, come ride with the old Fat guys on the Busa, GTS and the 5th gen VFR. A great road and ride. Enjoy.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      You guys were riding well. Wish I coulda kept up on the straights so I could have ridden with you guys in the corners.

      Would you please, please tell GTS1000 dude about Scottoiler?

      Scottoiler.com/USA

      Automatic chain lubricator. Stopping every 50 miles to soak your chain in lube is just crazytown.

  • thegreyman

    So here is my take. First of all, much respect to the cast of RIDEAPART- you gents know your bikes and from viewing your vids I know you got skills too. That said, I dont get this bike. I mean, I do for a beginner only a beginner. I tested it today, while I was waiting for service on my current ride. I was, hmm, let’s say it left me “wanting more” and unsatisfied. Afterwards, I craved a real motorcycle and I glad I got back on mine. Additionally, why not a Ninja 650 or a used a FZ8? They go for about 6K on craigslist, You can pick up a nice FZ8 with mods and low miles for less that one of these things stock. Sure the MSRP is low, then you add in tax/license/fees, sometime a dealer prep fee as well, and it’s suddenly not that cheap.I recommend a used FZ8 or Ninja650- you get more power, and a better bike for a better price. Not trying to be a jerk, but I can’t see anyone but a beginner on this bike. You guys made a strong pitch to all us riders, to check this thing out. I dunno, I guess Honda pays you well- cause this rider just didnt get it.

  • thegreyman

    So today while I was waiting for my bike to be serviced, I took the 500 out for a demo ride. Now, I only did this because the folks at RIDEAPART gave it such a good review. I am big fan of RIDEAPART and my hats goes off to them, They know their bikes and they have the riding skills to back it up. Now that said, umm I dunno, am I missing something? I dont see how any decent rider or experienced rider can find joy in this thing. I took the CBR500 non abs for a 30mile demo. It left me with a craving, a desire, a need- to ride a REAL bike that is. I mean this is great for a beginner, or someone who is getting back into riding after a long time. But for anyone else, I don’t see how anyone would pay for it and find it fun. Why not a used FZ8 or Ninja 650. You pick up a used one of those for the same price, with the basic needed mods most likely done free of charge my last owner! Once you add tax/license/freight/doc and sometimes dealer prep- this bike suddenly isnt so appealing. I recommend a used FZ8 or Ninja650, you get more bike for the same money or even less money depending on where you get. After reading this GLOWING review, I was like, wow let me try this thing. My conclusion is that honda must have paid Wes and company some good $$ for them to recommend this to bike as an option for non beginners. Just my 2 cents.

  • thegreyman

    Not so sure about this bike for non beginners. I rode this yesterday and walked away “wanting” and “needing” more. Not a bad a choice for a newbie though.

  • grindz145

    I wasn’t alive for it, but there was a time when the 500 was the BIG bike, and they weren’t good by any metric. This is exciting for motorcycling.

  • Dane[ger]

    Wes,

    Would you have been able to make the trip on a CBR250? I know it’s much smaller, but just curious. I’m looking to upgrade from my Sym Wolf, which I love, but I don’t quite have the budget for a Triumph. Just wondering if a Honda CBR250 can make it up and back down the CA coast, maybe not at speeds your used to.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Sure. It would have gotten tiring on the highway is all and it’d obviously be quite a bit slower. As long as you’re prepared to accept that and just ride you’re own ride, it’d be a blast.

  • alex

    Yes there is a certainty, but it’s not what your claiming it to be – to quote teh wiki “Godwin’s law itself can be abused as a distraction, diversion or even as censorship, fallaciously miscasting an opponent’s argument as hyperbole when the comparisons made by the argument are actually appropriate.”

    Hitler was king of the mantra “do as I say not as I do” when it came to engineering. therefore wholly appropriate to reference.

  • Jasiek Wrobel

    “RideApart Rating: 10/10 (the buyer’s guide will update to reflect this shortly)”
    How short is shortly? I am still seeing 9/10 on all three of the new CB500′s.

  • HardLookAtReality

    “And that difference — to and beyond the CBR500R’s full capability
    compared to maybe a third of the CBR600RR’s — is what makes riding the
    smaller, cheaper bike so much more fun. The 500 makes 71bhp less, the
    500 is 15lbs heavier, the 500’s suspension is far less capable. But
    riding it on the street, that simply means you get to use full throttle,
    you get to use full lean, you get to ride the bike absolutely as hard
    as it will go, in safety, often while staying under the speed limit.”

    That only makes sense if you enjoy riding a bike more because you have the throttle pinned and leaned over as far as it can go, vs having the throttle say halfway and leaned over to say 80% of its maximum lean angle. But all that directly contradicts this: “Even after riding all the way back from Monterey, I was sharp and
    mentally acute enough to navigate 20 miles or more of totally stalled
    freeway traffic with the same ease as I’d had anywhere else on the trip.”

    and this:
    “And it would have been just as easy and fun in any of those places or on the entire trip for a new rider as it was for me. Taking that into
    account, this is the most diversely capable, fun bike that Honda makes.”

    …and what it really says is that you enjoyed riding the bike more because it couldn’t take you to your limits therefore the ride was easier for you.

    But to think that a noob would feel the same way….that doesn’t make any sense at all.

    The big thing that you aren’t seeing here is that a very-fast bike does not need to be ridden to either its limits or yours either and that perhaps you would enjoy riding such bikes more if you did not ride them to your limits so often. The comfort issue of low handlebars and high pegs is a different story and that says that perhaps you would enjoy riding standards and streetfighters more than supersports. In any case arguing that the CB500F is more capable and fun than a VFR800 is just ridiculous, even the 1200. Neither of which get 55mpg but still. And a bar-change will get you plenty far on their sportbikes, tell me if you could get a comfortable rider-triangle on a CBR1000 you wouldn’t take it over a CB500F.