If your dreams include parking a brand new Honda RC213V-S or CBR1000RR SP in the garage someday but not just now, it’s nice to know a little of that Championship-winning Honda sportbike DNA is easier to spot than ever in the 2017 CBR500R, and parking one of them in your garage is doable right now. The CBR500R has quite a few things going on for it that bigger sportbikes just can’t match: The ability to travel more than 58 miles on a gallon (25 kilometers on a liter) of fuel is one of them, and greatly reduced maintenance in an incredibly user-friendly package that weighs just 421 lbs. (191.9 Kg). is another. You sit in a semi-racy crouch on this one, in a comfortably aerodynamic swagger that encourages you to ride, sporty as you want, every day – sometimes all day.

ONE: AGGRESSIVE DESIGN

2016 CBR500R

A full fairing with supersport styling provides a sharp look that’s unmistakably CBR, along with aerodynamic lines that slice cleanly through the air while helping to shield the rider from the worst of the elements. A sporty riding position places the rider in a comfortable, dynamic seating stance that’s ideal for mastering curves without being overly cramped when it’s time to commute across town or out on a weekend journey.

There’s something to be said for experience: Honda built its first CBR 25 years ago, and constant refinement has resulted in a modern motorcycle with near-perfect chassis geometry and balance: 25.5 degrees of rake and 102mm of trail atop a 1410mm wheelbase provide a sweet-handling platform that lets the CBR500R take advantage of its light weight to hang with larger motorcycles when the road goes all curvy. It’s also perfectly stable, yet light-steering and agile, when it’s time to take on traffic and hoof it homeward down the highway.

A seat height of just 785mm, along with the bike’s narrow waistline means you don’t have to be tall to feel comfortably in control, and an ergonomically correct passenger seat means you’ll still be friends after you take your friend for a spin.

Lightweight cast aluminum wheels, packing 120/70-17 front and 160/60-17 rear radial tires, a 320mm front and a 240mm rear brake rotor complete the high-performance package as complement the high-performance look. Equipped with optional ABS, those brakes provide plenty of safe braking power in a wide range of conditions.

TWO: ENHANCED AIRFLOW

2017 Honda CBR500R

From the leading edge of its aggressive nose fairing to the tip of its aero-sculpted tail, the highly evolved profile of the CBR is designed to allow rider and machine to cleave as cleanly through the atmosphere as possible. The opening at the bottom of the windscreen relieves the low-pressure area inside the cockpit, reducing turbulence and creating a large still-air pocket for the rider’s torso. Meanwhile, the widest part of the front fairing pushes airflow around the sides of the rider’s hands while the lower section directs air around the legs.

The aerodynamic front fender and nose direct air into the liquid-cooled engine’s radiator, and from there that heated airflow is directed outward through the fairing’s side cutouts and along its trailing edge, away from the rider.
Ergonomics are an integral part of creating comfortable airflow, and the CBR500R’s semi-crouch leans the rider just forward enough to offset air pressure once the bike’s achieved cruising speed. That results in a neutral riding position that unweights the wrists, and lets the rider go on for many fatigue-free miles, backstopped also by a comfortable seat and a near complete lack of vibration from the counterbalanced Twin-cylinder engine.

THREE: OPTIMUM POWER

16YM CB500X, CBR500R and CB500F Engine

The CBR500R’s 471cc parallel-twin is a marvel of modern engineering taken in a slightly different direction, one which stresses high efficiency as well as high performance. Even though it’s ridiculously fuel efficient and economical to run, this engine still provides exhilarating performance for just about anyone who’s not already a professional racer or astronaut. In the everyday world, even if you’re a highly experienced rider, it’s really hard to argue with a lightweight yet full-sized motorcycle that has no problem at all cruising smoothly along on the fastest highways and open roads, especially when that performance is accompanied by a huge gain in fuel economy – approaching 63.5 mpg (27 kpl). It’s also far easier on consumables like tires, drive chains, and maybe even insurance premiums.

The Twin’s tuning provides solid torque in the low- and mid-rpm ranges where most riders spend most of their time, which makes the bike easy to launch and accelerate quickly. And its smooth-shifting six-speed gearbox and light clutch action work with a precision you wouldn’t expect to find on a bike it its price range. Serious sportbike riders already know the real secret anyway: On curvy roads, it is great suspension, light weight, and smooth power delivery that carry the day. The 2017 CBR500R has all three.

Honda’s PGM-FI fuel injection ensures this one “injects” cleanly and linearly from idle right up to its 9,000-rpm redline, providing effortless, controllable propulsion whether you’re hard on the gas chasing your pals to breakfast on winding backroads or picking your way through rush-hour traffic after a dull day in the cubicle.

Top that off with a shim-type valve-adjustment system that not only reduces friction but also means greatly simplified (cheaper) maintenance. Oil changes are only needed every 8,000 miles (12,800 km).

FOUR: LED HEAD AND TAIL LIGHTS, ETC…

2016 CBR500R

High efficiency, bright LED head and tail lights consume less juice, last longer and most importantly, light up the night and the CBR – increasing your margin of safety. They’re but one of many features you wouldn’t expect on a bike that sells for $6,699 CDN. Other things include an adjustable front brake lever, a hinged fuel cap, and a level of paint quality and overall fit and finish that Honda is famous for. A scissors-type primary drive gear (as found on earlier Honda icons such as the RC30 and RC45 superbikes), and a scissors-type counterbalancer drive help to eliminate driveline lash and gear whine.

2016 CBR500R

In the cockpit you’ll also find a sophisticated instrument panel with a speedo, easy-to-read bar graph tachometer, two tripmeters, a fuel gauge, clock, and real-time and average fuel consumption readouts. (At around 63.5 mpg or 27 kpl consumption plus a 4.4 gallon or 16.7-liter fuel tank equals a range of 280 miles or 450 km.) Vital components are tucked away behind carbon-fiber look trim panels.

The CBR’s suspension, drawing upon five decades of international competition, consists of a preload-adjustable 41mm front fork with 108mm of travel, and a Pro-Link mounted single-shock at the rear with nine-stage spring preload adjustability and 119mm of controlled travel – so riders of all sizes can dial the CBR in for precise handling. In fact, the CBR’s excellent, compliant-yet-controlled suspension is another area where it’s difficult to find any evidence of cost-cutting on Honda’s part.

FIVE: NEW EXHAUST DESIGN FOR A CRISPER, SPORTIER SOUND

2016 Honda CBR500R

Beginning with the 2016 model year, Honda graced the CBR with its current swoopy angular bodywork and a bigger, 4.4 gallon (16.7 litre) fuel tank: Along with those came a revised stainless steel exhaust system that gives the bike a throatier growl and a menacing presence that nearly belies its super-approachable nature. It’s not loud enough to upset the neighbors, but it does let them know this is a real CBR.

Practical and economical though this one may be, it’s still packing a pair of 67mm pistons that squeeze the intake charge from a pair of 34mm throttle bodies up to a compression ratio of 10.7:1. Double-overhead cams control four valves per cylinder, just as Soichiro Honda intended when his little motorcycle factory first went Grand Prix racing at the Isle of Man TT in 1959. The motorcycle it developed for that race was the RC142, with a DOHC parallel Twin much like the CBR500R’s, but with only 125cc engine displacement. Compared to that first effort, which won Honda the Constructor’s Prize in its first year, the new CBR is a fire-breathing monster. Size is relative. In more ways than one, the CBR500R rides way “bigger” than its engine displacement and price tag might lead you to believe.

  • Donald Silvernail

    “approaching 27 kpl.”
    Now I know I’ve hung around too long.

    • Ted

      Anyone know how high 785 mm is in american? (Also dinosaur).

      • Born to Ride

        Quickie conversion to memorize. 25.4mm is one inch. I just always guesstimate 4 inches per 100mm

      • Larry Kahn

        You’re sitting at you computer. Just enter 785 mm or whatever dimension you’re looking to convert. Wa-la.

      • Brett Lewis

        I found it handy when looking at metric seat heights to know that 30 inches is 762mm, and 1in = 25.4mm (as was already mentioned) and work it out from there. So 785mm is just shy of 31in.

  • JMDGT

    This would have been my bike in college

  • Jon Jones

    Great-looking bikes.

  • kenneth_moore

    I always look forward to Sponsored’s articles. This is pure prose: “it’s still packing a pair of 67mm pistons that squeeze the intake charge.”

    I wonder what his background is…and where he got that weird name.

    • Michael White

      Funny.

    • Den135711

      I did not spot the ‘sponsored’ tag. Nealy had the credit card out!

      • sgray44444

        I didn’t either. At least they did mark it as sponsored, unlike the other Honda article *cough* *ad* *cough* a couple years ago. I like what Honda is doing with the 500 series. Fun, accessible bikes for everyone. And they didn’t even pay me to say that!

    • Kenneth

      The real story here is that the publisher is now getting sneakier about influencing readers to click on what looks, more than ever, to be a true review, rather than ad copy. Sure, this is being done elsewhere/everywhere, but I had higher expectations as a long-term reader of MO. This, to me, signals the inevitable end of those higher expectations and respect.

  • Michael White

    too bad it’s not a 750 twin

    • Born to Ride

      Considering how much it weighs it should be.

      • Jason M.

        Had to look it up, good grief it weighs more than my Street Triple 675 R!

        • Born to Ride

          Yeah I don’t know how they managed it considering how svelt the bike is. They must’ve used depleted uranium for all the fasteners or something.

        • Mohammed M. Saleh

          My 2013 CBR600RR weighs less than this bike at 410lbs with full tank of gas and still gets amazing gas milage of at least 55mpg or more

    • Making it lighter and/or more powerful would put it out of reach for the A2 license holders in the UK, which is the primary demographic to whom the bike is marketed. That said, given that it’s sold in the US, which isn’t (yet) subjected to that sort of silliness, I am a little surprised that there isn’t a more powerful version sold here.

  • john phyyt

    Looks great . Very similar to new Ducati S.S. It really has everything “YOU NEED”. Absolutely adequate in all respects and affordable as well.
    To most; Motorcycling is more subjective and myriad Harleys on the road show that Your heart actually dominates the decision. Evans has an article saying “paraphrase” everyone should be riding this bike. Yeah Right ! .. We crave much much more . Excitement; passion call it what you will.

  • ZeroCold

    Had one a few years ago. Nice beginner bike. But unstable at speeds above 70 mph and very short geared first gear.

    • Glen Anderson

      I’ve one of the current 2016 CBR500Rs. It’s definitely very stable at speed; and capable of well over 70.

    • Joe Smith

      Something must have been wrong with yours. Ive taken my 2014 all the way to the 9,100rpm fuel cut at 109 real mph, and it’s nothing but stable. I’m still amazed that with such light steering it feels like it’s on a trailer. I’ll do my 4th track day on it April 2nd, with nothing more than Q3’s and the ’16’s adjustable brake lever, where we will again pass all sorts of much faster cycles. Oh yeah it is a little short geared, especially with the 8600rpm redline, but with 50hp it kind of needs it. I think Honda nailed the ratio.

  • TwistedKestrel

    “a shim-type valve-adjustment system”

    As opposed to whatever 95% of other motorcycles on the road are using. Oh well, at least it says “Sponsored” and not “First Ride Review” like all the other press releases here

  • James D. Becker

    Do we really need an advert for Honda in Motorcycle.Com? NO!

    • kenneth_moore

      My joke aside, I don’t see anything wrong with the article. It’s informative and entertaining. As long as MO clearly identifies the source, “Sponsored” articles are OK with me. Everything we read here is “sponsored” one way or another.

      • James D. Becker

        I think that I reacted the way I did because, the article reads like the way they write in motorcycle magazines. It reads like an ad. No product is “perfect”. When Cycle World states that the bike “has improved ________”, that is a Sponsored statement. However, if the article is labeled Sponsored, then at least it is honest.

      • Kenneth

        But the publisher here is now getting sneakier about influencing readers to open what looks, more than ever, to be a true review, rather than ad copy. Sure, this is being done elsewhere/everywhere, but I had higher expectations as a long-term visiter to MO. This, to me, signals the inevitable end of those higher expectations – and respect.

    • Kevin Duke

      If you want the best and largest staff at a moto pub, we need adverts!

      • James D. Becker

        That is quite true and I welcome ads. The issue for me is whether the adverts, in any way, contribute to the opinions of the reporting. An example would be using the same language in a review, which reads like ad copy, would be the phrase “New and improved”. Just my thoughts.

  • Dootin

    “Five decades of international competition” gets you preload adjustable forks. Wow!

  • D. Paul League

    I absolutely think the bike looks like a bike should, but 421 lb. is not what you want on an under powered bike. The 300cc twins have also the same performance, at 365-375 lbs. Honda should learn that Americans and Europeans aren’t stupid and most of us can count. It’s just too heavy for the power.

    • The bike is built for A2 license holders in the UK, who are limited to bikes making no more than 47 horsepower. In addition to the power limitation, there’s also a power-to-weight ratio limitation. I’m not sure what that is off the top of my head, but I believe that if the bike were meaningfully lighter, it would be out of reach for riders holding an A2 license.

  • ProDigit

    It’s lightweight, but not lightweight enough.
    The exhaust could have been a bellypan exhaust.
    They still could have shaved a good 20lbs off of the bike, like Kawasaki did with its Z650 (150cc more), and Yamaha with it’s FZ-07 (200cc more)

    • Keith Whitten

      The weight is another thing dictated by the European A2 licence restriction. In addition to maximum power there is a maximum power to weight ratio.
      I agree that if Honda could cut the weight down to R3 level the 500 would be a very fine bike indeed.

  • StreetHawk

    Sounds like Honda is embarrassed about the hp output with their choice to keep it learner friendly in some locales. I seem to recall the Kawie Ex500 did bigger numbers decades ago.

    • denchung

      It’s not so much Honda’s choice as it is government-imposed regulations. Europe’s got an entire license tier restricted to 46.9 hp so producing too much power would put it out of its intended demographic.

    • The horsepower limit is a marketing decision, not an engineering oversight. This bike is built specifically for A2 license holders in the UK.