2016 Honda CB500F ABS Review

John Burns
by John Burns

When it comes to practical bikes that are a blast to ride anyway, Honda is on a tear

Action Photography by Kevin Duke

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.

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.

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.

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 Type471cc Liquid-Cooled Parallel-Twin
Bore And Stroke67.0mm x 66.8mm
Compression Ratio10.7:1
InductionPGM-FI with 34mm throttle bodies
IgnitionComputer-controlled digital transistorized with electronic advance
Valve TrainDOHC; four valves per cylinder
Final DriveO-ring-sealed chain
Front Suspension41mm fork; 4.3 inches travel
Rear SuspensionPro-Link single shock with nine-position spring preload adjustability; 4.7 inches travel
Front BrakeTwin-piston caliper with single 320mm wave disc
Rear BrakeSingle-caliper 240mm wave disc
Front Tire120/70-17
Rear Tire160/60-17
Rake25.5 degrees (caster angle)
Trail102mm (4.01 inches)
Wheelbase55.5 inches
Seat Height30.7 inches
Fuel Capacity4.4 gallons
Curb Weight414.4 pounds (Includes all standard equipment, required fluids and full tank of fuel – ready to ride)
EmissionsMeets current EPA standards. Models sold in California meet current CARB standards and may differ slightly due to emissions equipment.
Available ColorsMatte Black Metallic/Silver
John Burns
John Burns

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  • Neil Devine Neil Devine on Dec 07, 2016

    I have a '14 and it's been the perfect 0-100 mile bike. Feels smaller as the miles add up. 17 tooth front sprocket change (easier pulling into traffic and on the freeway). Michelin Pilot 2 tires when the rear wore out. Penske rear shock (New England roads are like dirt roads!), Rental Ultra Low bar (more pull back than stock). Corbin seat (much better after 25 miles!). Just finished summer number two and I still have it. 90 degree turn? No brakes? Nope! :-) Down one, see ya! It was a fine bike stock but I liked making it just a bit more enjoyable. My shifting got better as the miles piled up but I notice it shifts best about 4000 rpm. It does hate being down shifted at nearly closed throttle.

  • Coinneach Fitzpatrick Coinneach Fitzpatrick on Oct 26, 2017

    I have 4000 miles on my '16 CB500FA that I bought in July of last year and I love it. Bone stock, it's an entirely competent little beast. Give it some PR4s and an Akra slip-on and it becomes something truly next-level. Honda knocked it out of the park with this bike.