Fast, frugal, affordable and fun, Honda’s CBR500R – on sale since 2013 – has helped redefine and re-energise the middleweight class and brings sporting energy, plus engineering DNA of larger CBRs, to Honda’s twin-cylinder line-up. Dozens of young riders from around the world developed their racecraft on CBR500Rs in the first two seasons of Honda’s one-make European Junior Cup race series.
Suitable for riders looking to move up from a 125 (or holding an A2 licence) it injects the excitement of sports bike ownership into every ride, yet also delivers real-world comfort with sensible running costs, making it a great bike to commute through the working week – and cut loose at the weekend on.
And with its giant-killing capacity, the CBR500R has also found favour with experienced riders looking to downsize their machinery, while preserving the essence of enjoyable motorcycling.
The 16YM CBR500R is a considered and thorough evolution that elevates the machine further to offer the maximum sporty performance, style and presence from a genuine A2 licence-compliant motorcycle.
Styling, Equipment & Colours
The CBR500R has found popularity among owners because of its manageable size for riding in and around town, and sports performance out on the open, twisty roads. For the next stage of the machine’s development, the target for Honda’s engineers was to maintain its compact form, but give it a unique and hard-edged look. The styling concept is simply headed ‘Aggressive Speed Shape.’
It starts at the front of the sharply angled fairing, and each curve and angle flows through to the sporty upswept tail unit. The sharply-angled dual LED headlights are compact but bright, and – combined with twin position lights – contribute to the CBR500R’s assertive forward stance.
Narrow slits feature above each headlight, guiding air inside the fairing, reducing frontal pressure; a duct in the lower part of the screen reduces turbulence and promotes smooth flow around the rider’s helmet.
There’s a sense of continuity in the design theme with the angular contour surface of the fairing cowls – which also feature ducting to help aerodynamics and air flow to the airbox – plus heavy side slits, tying in with the ’character’ line and shaping of the side cowls and fuel tank. Each line interlocks and complements the next, and partially blacked-out fairing lowers and side cowls underscore the whole design.
Detail upgrades for rider benefit include a hinged fuel cap and 5-step adjustable span brake lever. The new ‘wave’ key also has a smoother, more premium feel in use. Both rider and pillion footpeg hangers have been reduced in size, with die-cast aluminium footpegs and integrated grab rails for the passenger adding further touches of class and quality. The rear seat unit is eye-catchingly small, and finished with a clear-lensed rear LED light unit and sharply-designed (and easily removable) steel fender mount.
The comprehensive dash features a digital speedometer, digital bar graph tachometer, odometer, dual trip meters, clock, plus digital fuel level gauge and fuel consumption. HISS (Honda Intelligent Security System) is built in to the ignition; there’s space under the seat to store a U-lock.
The CBR500R’s 8-valve liquid-cooled parallel twin layout offers a great balance of physical size and flexible output. The ‘triangle’ proportion of crankshaft, main shaft and countershaft is very similar to that of Honda’s four-cylinder RR engines and much of the internal structure and engineering is taken directly from both the CBR600RR and CBR1000RR.
Bore and stroke is set at 67mm x 66.8mm; the crankshaft pins are phased at 180° and a primary couple-balancer sits behind the cylinders, close to the bike’s centre of gravity. The primary and balancer gears use scissor gears, reducing noise. The crank counterweight is specifically shaped for couple-balance and its light weight allows the engine to spin freely, with reduced inertia.
PGM-FI fuel injection provides superb throttle response and peak power of 35kW arrives at 8,500rpm, with 43Nm torque delivered at 7,000rpm.
The engine acts as a stressed member, reinforcing the frame’s rigidity with four frame hangers on the cylinder head. Internally the cylinder head uses roller rocker arms; shim-type valve adjustment allows them to be light, for lower valve-spring load and reduced friction. A silent (SV Chain) cam chain has the surface of its pins treated with Vanadium, reducing friction with increased protection against dust. Inlet valve diameter is 26.0mm with exhaust valve diameter of 21.5mm.
Bore size of 67mm is identical to that of the CBR600RR. The piston shape is based upon those used in the CBR1000RR to reduce piston ‘noise’ at high rpm. Friction is reduced by the addition of striations on the piston skirt (a finish that increases surface area, introducing gaps in which oil can flow for better lubrication). As with the CBR600RR and CBR1000RR, an AB 1 salt bath process, used after isonite nitriding, forms a protective oxidisation membrane.
The crankcase uses centrifugally cast thin-walled sleeves, and the same bore interval as the CBR600RR helps them be as compact and light as possible. Their internal design reduces the ‘pumping’ losses that can occur with a 180° phased firing order. Using the same internal relief structure as that of the CBR1000RR, the oil pump features improved aeration performance, with reduced friction; a deep sump reduces oil movement under hard cornering and braking. Oil capacity is 3.2L.
A six-speed gearbox mirrors that of its RR siblings using the same gear change arm structure and link mechanism. In an update for 2016, for easier urban riding, the shift drum stopper spring load has been revised, along with the shape of the shift drum centre. The result is smoother, easier gear changing.
The gasflow route from airbox to exhaust is as straight as possible and a plate in the airbox separates the airflow to each cylinder. A new exhaust muffler design uses two internal chambers, joined by a punched link pipe; it’s physically shorter (aiding mass centralisation), 2 kilograms lighter and delivers a crisp exhaust note as rpm rises..
The CBR500R’s 35mm diameter steel diamond-tube mainframe is light and strong, with a tuned degree of yield that gives plenty of feedback to the rider as road surfaces change. The shape and position of the engine mounts, plus the frame’s rigidity balance, reduces vibration.
Wheelbase is 1410mm and rake and trail are set at 25.5°/102mm giving nimble, yet reassuring steering. Mass centralisation, with the engine in very close proximity to the swingarm pivot point, delivers turning agility and optimum front/rear weight distribution ensures stability. Kerb weight is 194kg.
Seat height is low at 785mm, making the CBR500R very easy to manage and its sporty riding position will comfortably accommodate riders of varying heights thanks to a relatively high handlebar position.
Overall dimensions are 2080mm x 750mm x 1145mm, with 140mm ground clearance. The fuel tank now holds 16.7L, including reserve, and combined with the engine’s excellent fuel economy gives a range of 470km.
The 41mm telescopic front fork, with 120mm stroke, delivers a compliant yet controlled ride; for 2016 the CBR500R gains spring preload adjustment and the fork legs are topped with Blue Alumite. Pro-Link monoshock rear suspension features 9-stage preload adjustment and works through a rigid box-section steel swingarm. Final drive is via 520 sealed chain.
Lightweight, 17-inch cast aluminium wheels employ hollow cross-section Y-shaped spokes. Front wheel width is 3.5inch with a 120/70-ZR17 tyre, the rear 4.5inch and 160/60-ZR17 tyre. A single front 320mm wavy disc and two-piston brake caliper is matched to a 240mm rear disc and single-piston caliper. ABS is fitted as standard.