When last we left the CB500F, we were all not exactly amazed but at least pleasantly surprised at what a very nice little inexpensive motorcycle Honda had sprung from its new Thailand factory. When it was new in 2013, the 471cc parallel-Twin CB won MO’s coveted Best Value Motorcycle for that year.

Best Motorcycles of 2013

In our Middleweight Mash-Up Six-Way Shootout! two years ago, the CB didn’t win, but the cheapest bike with the smallest displacement of the bunch by far didn’t lose either, and in fact a few of us were surprised at just how well the little Honda worked in a range of roles from miserly commuter to curvy-road assault vehicle, under a range of riders from 150 pounds to nearly double that. It may be inexpensive, but it seldom felt cheap.

Honda says the new exhaust gives better mass centralization and a crisper exhaust note. It’s still a super-quiet non-obnoxious little bike, except when you honk the horn instead of the turnsignal button because they’re reversed. Why? Photo by JB.

Honda says the new exhaust gives better mass centralization and a crisper exhaust note. It’s still a super-quiet non-obnoxious little bike, except when you honk the horn instead of the turnsignal button because they’re reversed. Why? Photo by JB.

When it came time to come up with the three obligatory all-important Sighs, in fact, all I could come up with was “An adjustable brake lever would be nice,” and “Not much fun to ogle afterhours in the garage.”

Well, friends, corporations are people too and great minds think alike: For 2016, the CB500F gets an adjustable front brake lever and a thorough reskinning that takes its looks from bargain bike to haven’t we met before, sister? Silver stealth fighter strakes meet matte black paint and molded plastic panels on our bike to surprisingly expensive-looking effect, which is nicely integrated with the new upswept muffler. A raffish racing stripe down the middle of the gas tank, which now holds 4.4 gallons instead of 4.1, does not suck. You don’t get a real tapered aluminum handlebar, but the spangly paint on the steel one looks close. Just ahead of it are colorful blue anodized fork caps with new preload adjusters poking through, and just ahead of that a bright new LED headlight shows the way forward while a bright LED taillight makes you a more visible target. Hope not.

042916-2016-honda-cb500f-overhead

Honda says there’s nothing new to see in the engine department, but does speak of gearbox changes that improve shifting feel. We don’t know what those changes are exactly, but danged if the new six-speed doesn’t shift a bit snick-snickier: It’s no CBR1000RR gearbox, but it’s better than you’d expect on a bike built to a price.

Wait! Yes we do know what’s new in the trans! The shift drum stopper spring load was adjusted and the shape of the shift drum center was changed. These mods reduced the shift operation load of the gear shift pedal, achieving a smoother shift feel.

Wait! Yes we do know what’s new in the trans! The shift drum stopper spring load was adjusted and the shape of the shift drum center was changed. These mods reduced the shift operation load of the gear shift pedal, achieving a smoother shift feel.

That price is up $200 for the base model CB500F to $5999. But the ABS model, our test unit, retails for the same $6299 as the previous ABS model. Dunno why you wouldn’t take the ABS option, really.

Any manufacturer wishing to build a “standard” motorcycle should take their measurements from this one.

Any manufacturer wishing to build a “standard” motorcycle should take their measurements from this one.

We have not yet had time to take the CB out for a proper mountain road beating, but around town we can tell you it’s sweeter than ever, with some of the best ergonomics going, at any price point, if you’re 5’8” like me with 30-inch legs. The specs say the fork is still a 41mm unit with 4.3-in. of travel, with only the addition of preload adjustability – but it feels like there’s better damping than before, and smoother action.

Meanwhile, Honda’s specs say the lithe and compact CB has lost 5.6 pounds, down to 414.4 lbs wet, which puts the bike at about 8 pounds heavier than a Ducati Panigale R. I for one can tell you which of those I’d rather zot around on every day…

Since the Honda got beat up by bigger, more expensive sportbikes in its last comparison, this time we’re going to throw it in the octagon against a smaller-displacement less expensive bike – the KTM 390 Duke, which retails for $1,300 less, has one less cylinder and 98cc less displacement but has 70 fewer pounds to propel. Could be fun. Stay tuned.

2016 Honda CB500F
+ Highs

  • Looks more expensive than its price tag (which is same as last year)
  • Transparent ergos and surprisingly good suspenders
  • 55+ mpg easy if you don’t ride like MOrons
– Sighs

  • Where’s the NC700X-style trunk?
  • Where’s the cruise control?
  • Where’s the turbo version?
2016 Honda CB500F Specifications
Engine Type 471cc Liquid-Cooled Parallel-Twin
Bore And Stroke 67.0mm x 66.8mm
Compression Ratio 10.7:1
Induction PGM-FI with 34mm throttle bodies
Ignition Computer-controlled digital transistorized with electronic advance
Valve Train DOHC; four valves per cylinder
Transmission Six-speed
Final Drive O-ring-sealed chain
Front Suspension 41mm fork; 4.3 inches travel
Rear Suspension Pro-Link single shock with nine-position spring preload adjustability; 4.7 inches travel
Front Brake Twin-piston caliper with single 320mm wave disc
Rear Brake Single-caliper 240mm wave disc
Front Tire 120/70-17
Rear Tire 160/60-17
Rake 25.5 degrees (caster angle)
Trail 102mm (4.01 inches)
Wheelbase 55.5 inches
Seat Height 30.7 inches
Fuel Capacity 4.4 gallons
Curb Weight 414.4 pounds (Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and full tank of fuel – ready to ride)
Emissions Meets current EPA standards. Models sold in California meet current CARB standards and may differ slightly due to emissions equipment.
Available Colors Matte Black Metallic/Silver

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  • Gabriel Owens

    No 3 pros/cons widget. These are peculiar times we are living in indeed.

    • DickRuble

      pros:
      – It’s a Honda
      – It ain’t a Victory
      – Your grandchildren will be able to ride it to work, even if you don’t change the oil between now and then

      cons:
      – Victory octane it ain’t
      – No translucent body work
      – No heated seats
      – No cruise control

      • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

        Did you know Buell’s translucent bodywork is actually made of Jolly Rancher candy? You can get peach, cherry or grape. Harley-Davidson shut them down before they could make watermelon, which, we all know, is the best flavor.

        • DickRuble

          Do tell Burns. What flavors are you smoking?

  • Old MOron

    There’s a genuine appreciation coming through here. No gushing. No hyperbole. But I can sense the appreciation. I’m sure the bike deserves it.

  • Born to Ride

    Wow, that facelift really made this bike easier on the eyes. I wonder how much it would have raised the MSRP to slap a cheap inverted fork on it with bronze/gold anodizing to match the valve/stator covers and complete the aesthetic upgrade. Great option for someone looking for solid two wheel transport that is reliable and economical.

    • Andre Capitao Melo

      unfortunately that’s not how manufacturers think. Instead of adding features, they think of what they can take out of the bike while keeping the price as is.

  • Kenneth

    ‘Same price as last year with reasonably-priced ABS, improved styling, better shifting (a number of reviews had complained about shift quality), larger tank, and a new LED headlight. This is something to be respected.

  • Sentinel

    I wish Honda made a larger displacement version of this bike.

    • Gruf Rude

      CB1000R?

      • Sentinel

        Yes, but an updated version.

        • Gruf Rude

          The CB1000R is a pretty sweet motorcycle as it is; it does surprisingly well in comparos against the other Japanese liter nakeds. No hooligan power but smooth, refined, excellent handling and comfort – sort of like this 500 . . .

          • Sentinel

            I do like it, but it’s been around in it’s current form for so many years, I’d hate to buy one now and the new improved comes out a few months later! >:( lol

    • Kenneth

      As soon as I read that, I thought: Yeah, a 700cc version would be very interesting. But then, someone will surely say, “If only it was an 800 – or 600 – or 900cc, etc., I’d buy one (- that’s 2 or 3 years old, of course).”
      Product planning while limiting costs has to be tough.

  • major tom

    Why no centerstand? It could be a useful light tourer like the old days. Practical too. I don’t get it.

  • SRMark

    To the young riders out there: when you buy the bike, then have kids and stop riding for a while, don’t sell the bike. You’ll want this later on and it will look amazing.

    • TheSeaward

      No no no. You’re supposed to buy the kids motorcycles too.

  • http://www.motou.info Gabe Ets-Hokin

    Shift drum stopper spring. Shift drum stopper spring. Shift drum stopper spring. Shift drum stopper spring. I just can’t stop saying it! Shift drum stopper spring. Shift drum stopper spring…

  • Chris

    I (almost) always enjoy Mr. Burns’ writing, and I’ve been reading him for a long time. We seem to be travelling much the same path: I’ve enjoyed all the hi-performance bikes for years, having to have the “latest and greatest” for decades. I rode ’em hard and had a blast. I completed the “down-size” a couple of years ago and really enjoy the simple, efficient, fun, and EASY bikes. Yeh, I still ride bigger bikes, but very rarely now. And, even then, I rarely ride them aggressively; certainly nothing like I used to. It’s kinda’ nice. And this bike is a tremendously good one to do it on, especially if you ride every day, in the real world (I have the X model, but much is the same). BTW, in ref. to the horn and turn signal locations swap: It’s a better set-up. I’ve heard this complaint repeatedly, and I get it: it’s different. However, if you get used to it, and if you look at it logically or scientifically, it makes sense. One uses the turn signal much more than the horn, and placing it at the bottom gives a shorter reach for the thumb, w/nothing in the way to it. It’s discrete detail: a Honda strong point. Anyway, nice write-up, w/, as someone said below, a genuine appreciation. Great bike!

  • Mark

    Which would be better? This little gem or the NC700?

    • john burns

      well, I am world’s biggest fan of the NC, which got a similar makeover for `16 including a larger trunk… we need one asap.

  • JMDonald

    I have been looking to buy a smaller bike that I can take with me via a carrier on the back of my Xterra. Something similar to this would fit the bill. This bike reminds me of my old CB350 I had in high school only better. Being an old Honda guy I am a sucker for these bikes. All this and ABS. It really is all about me.

  • Ducati Kid

    JB,
    Conceptualized, labeled (exhaust) then displayed a TURBOCHARGED version (CB500FT) Two (2) seasons ago – NICE CYCLE!

  • Fuj

    I upgraded by 2014 with a 17 tooth front sprocket which you must have pulling out into traffic. The 16 has you pulling into traffic much too slowly. It is also too slow on the highway with high rpms.
    I upgraded the seat to a Corbin because the stock seat is much too thin. It costs about five cents to make that old seat.
    I added rental ultra low bars since the stock bars are some chinese junk that also costs about ten cents to make and has no wrist bend. The ultra lows are great.
    Next I added a Penske rear shock since the stock shock was about 200 bucks retail and was laughable to a true suspension mechanic like the folks at GMD Computrack Boston. What a difference! Money very well spent!

  • E Brown

    It’s still got that bird/insect look everyone seems to be going for. The headlight and signals would look nice on my old CB600F, though!