Honda CB500F

Motorcycle.com  650 comparison photo shoot

Well, your original Honda CB550F from the ’70s has become a sought-after cult classic lo these 40 years later. According to my internet sources, its key numbers were: 26 degrees rake/ 105mm trail; wheelbase 55.5 inches; 423 pounds with a full tank of fuel. For our new 2014 CB500F, Honda says 25.5/103mm rake and trail, 55.5-in. wheelbase and a wet weight of 420 pounds (our scales say 418). Why mess with success?

Forty-three horsepower are not many, but on our favorite roads they mostly seemed to be enough, even under our heaviest pilots. Like with the NC, the overall CB package is so balanced and all systems work so well together, the CB encourages you to keep its two little 34mm maws inhaling air and fuel nearly constantly, maintaining momentum. Dirty Sean did indeed look like a gorilla in love with a football on the way up Highway 39, but he seemed to be opening a gap in spite of it. Hmmm …

Even Big Dirty Sean couldn’t crush the little CB500F’s spirits.

Even Big Dirty Sean couldn’t crush the little CB500F’s spirits.

“The other bikes should have left it in the dust,” says Sportbike Troy, “but that wasn’t the case. It’s way more athletic than I expected. I started to feel guilty at how much I was pinging it off the rev limiter to keep up with the rest of the group, but it was the surprise of the test. I was expecting it to be outgunned in every category, to the point I wouldn’t want to ride it. Not the case. I really enjoyed riding this bike and hustling it for all it’s worth.”

Basic but comprehensive and easy-reading. A 4.1-gallon fuel capacity yields a 200-mile range.

Basic but comprehensive and easy-reading. A 4.1-gallon fuel capacity yields a 200-mile range.

Once down off the mountain, the skinny little CB is also surprisingly comfortable, commendably fuel-efficient and a great dissecter of congested traffic patterns. Kudos to Honda for bringing this thing to market for a mere $5799.

“The CB500’s motor is a playful little thing that doesn’t feel egregiously underpowered against the significantly bigger rivals in this group. Use the light-action tranny to good effect, and the CB is able to keep within sniffing distance. It’s torquey yet revvy, unlike its NC brother, which is only torquey. The CB’s peak horsepower is only a few ponies short of the NC’s, and its midrange is impressive for such a small motor, pulling off 80-mph highway passes without a downshift.” – EIC Duke

2013 CB500F and CBR500R Review

+ Highs

  • Way more fun and competent than the spec chart suggests
  • Way more comfortable than it looks for long hauls
  • Suffer no guilt treating it like the cheap, over-eager tramp it so desperately wishes to be
– Sighs

  • Not much fun to ogle after hours in the garage
  • We have no garage
  • An adjustable brake lever would be nice

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  • IslandTosh

    I know the title says “Naked Twins”, but seeing that there’s an outlier for each word in the title, I’d have liked to see how the Honda CBR650F would do against these bikes.

    • I agree Tosh, but we went the democratic route and I was out-voted. (I also thought the Versys 650 shoulda been in there.

      • dustysquito .

        The Versys definitely would have fit the group here. Same engine but with more comfort makes it damn near a no brainer – especially with the new versions not being butt ugly.

        • IslandTosh

          Right on about the Versys too guys. Those new models shown at Intermot are definitely way better to my eyes than the current model too.

  • ChainsawCharlie

    This ad will close in 26 seconds
    I guess I am not watching that then.

    • Andrew

      god forbid you give advertising dollars to the company that gives you a motorcycle magazine with videos for free.

      • ChainsawCharlie

        Ads are fine, but not 30 sec videos that you can’t skip.

        • Because you can’t spare 30 seconds out of your unbelievably busy and obviously ultra-important life to see the free content? What do you do when an ad comes on TV? Blow up the television?

        • Chris_in_Kalifornia

          Simple enough, do something else for 30 seconds. I fixed myself a hamburger (already cooked but hey).

      • Crickets

        Actually the ad revenue for video triggers on starts, so MO gets the cut either way. The lame part is that the advertiser is allowed a 30 second play for the money and people are either forced to watch it, or pause it.

        The user experience in most new forms (see: video) advertising is quite poor and will eventually adapt to user feedback as time goes on, but much like commercials on TV, we’re going to have to watch them if we want the programming for awhile longer.

        BTW, the FZ was an easy pick without even reading the article. Surprised the buzziness of the highstrung KTM wasn’t talked about more. It’s a fantastic bike, but is obnoxious droning on a freeway.

    • jerry mander

      Perfect time to go grab some Doritos!

  • Auphliam

    Pet Peave Alert: Why does the Ninja dash have to say “Clock” right above the time display? There’s not some other kind of moto-related data displayed in hours/minutes, amirite?

    • dustysquito .

      While the Ninja’s dash doesn’t have anything else that would look like a clock but not be one, my bike has Ride Time, Accumulated Ride Time, and Lap Timer functions built into the dash as well as a clock, so having it remind you which one you’re on is handy.

      • Auphliam

        Ah, good point.

  • ‘Mike Smith

    Great comparison guys. The only thing I wish y’all would do is some drag racing on these things. Quarter mile times, 0-60, 0-100 times would be as appreciated as any other stats already listed.

  • sundogmtn

    I like your format on the videos of open discussion which help cover almost every possible aspect. It will help sell bikes. What I find missing to help the individual buyer is what consumer groups have provided for decades, reliability ratings. If you are a new rider you likely won’t be doing your own mechanical work and that would be very expensive these days.

  • George Herbert

    Its to bad the US gets screwed on the NC700/750 platform. even here in Canada we get the X and S versions, ABS standard without the auto trans.

    • denchung

      Honda Canada also introduced the 750 engine with the 2014 model year while the US is still using the 700.

      • Goose

        And you can get the NC750 with ABS without the DCT and without the stupid linked ABS found on the 700. The NC750 would still have finished last in this test but Honda has lost a sure NC750 sale (me) with this idiotic embargo on the improved NC.

        • denchung

          If new documents from the California Air Resources Board are any indication, it looks like American Honda will stay with the 700 engine for 2015:
          http://blog.motorcycle.com/2014/10/07/manufacturers/honda/carb-certifies-2015-honda-nc700x-still-750-engine-sight/

          • Goose

            Honda marketing slogan “Preventing sales since 1963”.

            One other thing, the 750 isn’t just a bigger engine, the new bike is better in nearly every way. Besides the bigger motor and ABS without the DCT you also get an improved transmission, better instruments, improved seat, second balance shaft, etc. for a few hundred dollars more. I’ve read Honda’s logic is the 750 will cost more. That didn’t seem to bother them when they raised the price of the 700 by $800 without making any improvements. They’ve about driven this customer away.

          • American Honda is a little bit stupid sometimes. And then sometimes they do the right thing, like bringing the VFR800/Interceptor to the US. How well did that sell?

          • Goose

            Honda marketing slogan “Preventing sales since 1963”.

            One other thing, the 750 isn’t just a bigger engine, the new bike is better in nearly every way. Besides the bigger motor and ABS without the DCT you also get an improved transmission, better instruments, improved seat, second balance shaft, etc. for a few hundred dollars more. I’ve read Honda’s logic is the 750 will cost more. That didn’t seem to bother them when they raised the price of the 700 by $800 without making any improvements. They’ve about driven this customer away.

  • DickRuble

    Who in the riding group weighs 270lbs? Needs to trade the motorcycle for a bicycle and the doritos for some soy beans.

    • Yea he does!

      • john burns

        250 of it is heart though. Other 19 lbs 12 oz of brains. Rest reproductive organs.

        • Still a good three ounces more than your own bitter little man.

    • Chris_in_Kalifornia

      So I don’t see your picture up there. I was 360 pounds for a long time but I rode anyway. Reasons aren’t important, Your bigotry is not acceptable. Tried everything to lose weight. Gastric Bypass finally allowed me to lose 130 pounds and keep it off but some can’t even do that. It’s not always the person’s fault. Depression era parents who force you to eat everything on your plate gives you a pretty permanent eating habit. I’m GLAD they have someone on there who can give a perspective from a heavier person.

  • Kenneth

    Thanks for the thoughtful and comprehensive review, MO, of widely-appealing bikes for the cost-conscious (I will be new bike shopping next spring). The only missing ingredient for me is — not here yet: The new Versys 650. ‘Anxiously awaiting that coming review. By the way, I appreciate a straight-on, side-view photo of each tested bike with a normally-sized rider mounted, to see its ergonomics.

    • DickRuble

      Normally-sized? Where? I didn’t see any of those..

  • Old MOron

    After all the excitement of Intermot, I was kind of having withdrawals.
    MO comes through in MO style! – fluttering mutton chops, tender buttocks, and all.
    Highly informative and very entertaining at the same time. Well done, MO.
    I can’t wait to see these bikes at the Long Beach show.

  • Reid

    The FZ-07 is unquestionably the best bike in the test, given the price. The Duke is just too expensive. If its pricing were in-line with the FZ (even FZ-09, for that matter), I strongly believe it would win this test.

    • DickRuble

      though the Duke is what I’d rather ride in town…

      • Reid

        The Duke is an exceptionally good bike. I bought one. It wasn’t cheap though lol

        • DickRuble

          Post a picture..

  • BTRDAYZ

    Congrats to the Duke 690 for it’s runner up finish. It’s my favorite bike of the group because KTM extracted maximum power from a single cylinder. Also, it’s the most expensive, but it has the most attractive frame. So much so that KTM doesn’t resort to the cheesy trick of trying to hide the frame beneath plastic molded to look like an alloy frame (God, I hate that!!!).

    Hope you bring back the Duke and FZ to test alongside the Ducati Scrambler when it arrives!

  • Andrew Capone

    I really want a lusty thumper in the fleet, and the Duke is the obvious choice. I’d have to repaint the thing, KTM psychedelia doesn’t do it for me. But I really dig that thing.

  • Luke

    Even thought I’m not as heavy, I appreciate the comments from the bigger guy in the field. It might be a good idea to list the height weight of all the reviewers. I’m 200lbs, and 6’1″ and I sometimes feel like most motorcycle reviewers are a good 5 inches shorter and 50lbs. lighter.

    • Ditto. I’m 6′, 240lbs WITHOUT gear. Seems like many reviewers are light/thin and height-challenged? Is that the right way to say that? I dunno.

      • Chris_in_Kalifornia

        I wish I was 6′ and 240. I’m 5’6″ 240 also without gear. And I lost a bunch too. Loved my 04 Vstrom. I’d rather have a brand new 04 Vstrom than any of these.

  • Old MOron

    Okay, I finally watched the video. Well done, gents.

  • Backroad Bob

    “even the losers are winners”. Sounds like the New America. JB, you’re a classic. More, please.

  • Paul Cypert

    As an aside dealerships were practically giving last year’s Dukes away. Around 6K OTD was not unheard of….

  • Chris_in_Kalifornia

    What the NC700 needs is a supercharger. Hmm. I wonder if a big smog pump off a late 70’s luxury barge would work…

    I saw a supercharged GL1200 Honda a long time ago, built by a machinist. Looked stock, wickedly fast.

  • DCGULL01

    This just validates my theory that the FZ-07 is the everything bike for everyman (and woman!). I love the comparison though- it really shows how choppy this market segment is- proving that every manufacturer is aiming for a slice-rather than the whole pie! Like Suzuki’s SV- Yamaha’s FZ-07 will still be in the hunt in over 10 years, when the current crop is tested again. Middle-aged buyers (silent majority that have/spend money) have been ignored until the “lil’ Yamaha that could”, but, now we can do what we do: do our own services, and- tinker with accessories, like we love too. This will change, highlight- elevate this segment- and, all manufacturers will want some- so, our world is going to get better and better for the next few years!