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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
One platform; two personalities
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