Everything you ever wanted to know about the Honda CBR500

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Category: Dailies

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.

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