Queensland, my first visit. CBR500R, also a first visit. This is a surprisingly comprehensive rejuvenation of a long established line for Honda, and the R version has donned its best clothes because it wants to be noticed.
For too long the industry has ignored both new riders as well as those realistic enough to know eleventy-million horsepower is occasionally counterproductive. Having realised this, Honda has developed a package of exceptionally targeted all-round quality. The official spokesbloke reckons the bike is “set to ignite and dominate the entry-level to the midrange market” and after seeing the bike, you’d be brave to bet against it.
There are three models and they all use a common frame and engine platform (the adventure-based 500X arrives in June). The engine not only looks the part, with a corrosion-resistant dark finish covering its compact design, it also has inner refinements. A balancer shaft system that throws weight away from the piston, cancelling forces you normally feel as vibration, makes the engine nicer to ride. The new compact fuel injection improves feel and contributes to some very frugal running – well under 4L/100km.
Honda has been busy installing a host of clever engineering tricks inside. There’s plenty enough zip if you ask for it with some revs. But it will never betray an indecisive throttle hand with snappy reactions, and the motor has a service interval of every 24,000km.
Under its clothes is another neat Honda trick, but one less obvious. The frame is steel, 35mm diameter, and now comes with spate subframes which ought to keep insurance costs down. The blurb recounts tuned degrees of yield that give plenty of feedback to the rider as road surfaces change – the real-world translation is a chassis that is predictable and calmly informs you of any cheekiness. Keep pushing and it raises its game; you get steadily firmer rebukes but you are going to need to ignore several stern warnings before the 41mm forks and Pro Link rear end finally call time on impudent actions. Granted the true racer will find them soft and mutter about weak rebound damping, but everything is set to cultivate confidence – exactly what the target market needs in a bike.
The CB500 was the ugly sister with a decent right hook but no posh frock; the new bike has styling echoes from several successful models. The bodywork joins rock and neat touches abound – even on the underneath bits where only the lonely and nosey venture – and you get wheel sizes that ensure your bike stays up with tyre development.
If you’re on the way up in motorcycling this thing is a damn fine foundation level. It may turn out that only when you look back will you realise just how exceptionally good Honda’s 2013 generic platform is.
Cylinder head DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Bore/stroke 67 x 66.8mm
Compression ratio 10.7:1
Fueling EFI, 2 x 34mm throttle bodies
Power 35kW @ 8500rpm (claimed)
Torque 43Nm @ 5000rpm (claimed)
Final drive Chain
Frame material Steel
Frame layout Diamond
Front: 41mm fork, non-adjustable,
Rear: Monoshock, preload adjustable,
Wheels Multi-spoke, cast alloy
Front: 17 x 3.5 Rear: 17 x 4.5
Tyres Metzeler Interact Roadtec Z8
Front: 320mm disc, two-piston caliper
Rear: 240mm disc, single-piston caliper
Weight 194kg (kerb, claimed)
Seat height 790mm
Max width 740mm
Max height 1145mm
Fuel capacity 15.7L
Fuel consumption 3.5L/100km (claimed)
Top speed 185km/h (est)
Long service intervals
Rear preload only
No gear indicator
Protect your Honda. Call Shannons Insurance on 13 46 46 to get a quote today.