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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ||– Sighs |
|2016 Honda CB500F Specifications|
|Engine Type||471cc Liquid-Cooled Parallel-Twin|
|Bore And Stroke||67.0mm x 66.8mm|
|Induction||PGM-FI with 34mm throttle bodies|
|Ignition||Computer-controlled digital transistorized with electronic advance|
|Valve Train||DOHC; four valves per cylinder|
|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|
|Rake||25.5 degrees (caster angle)|
|Trail||102mm (4.01 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|