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2013 Honda CB500F/CBR500R Road Test

Greg Drevenstedt, Photos by Kevin Wing
September 4, 2013
Filed under Honda Motorcycle Road Tests: Reviews on Honda Motorcycles, Road Tests, Sport Standard + Standard Motorcycle Reviews

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After several years of downturn-induced dormancy, Honda has released 22 new or significantly updated models since 2012—more bikes than some manufacturers have in their entire lineup. Honda builds and sells millions of two-wheelers every year, the vast majority of which are small-displacement runabouts sold in places like India and China. What enables Honda to bring a bumper crop of new bikes into the U.S. is its recent focus on “global” models—motorcycles that are designed not for specific markets but for the entire world. Whenever possible, they share components and are built in Thailand where labor costs are low.

Naked Honda CB500F

The naked CB500F is one of three low-priced entry-level 500s Honda is introducing for 2013.
Stylish, fun to ride, fuel-efficient…what’s not to like?

Perhaps the best example of a global model—or models—is Honda’s trio of all-new 2013 CB500s, which share the same engine, transmission, chassis and many other components—and yes, they’re made in Thailand. With prices starting below $6,000, the naked CB500F, sporty CBR500R and adventuresome CB500X give budget-conscious riders three styles to choose from. And it is no accident that, when a CB500 owner is ready to trade up, there are larger counterpart models already in Honda’s lineup: the CB1000R, CBR600RR/CBR1000RR and NC700X, respectively.

Two of the three—the CB500F and CBR500R—are identical except for the fairing and the handlebar. The CB500F has small fairing shrouds in front of the tank, a minimalist headlight fairing and a tubular handlebar, whereas the CBR500R has full bodywork and clip-ons. I rode both models at Honda’s press launch, and we’ve been putting miles on a CB500F in the weeks since. The rugged-looking CB500X, which has a wider handlebar, more front suspension travel, a taller seat height, a manually adjustable windscreen and more fuel capacity, will be released later this year.

Beyond affordability, the CB500s are designed to be lightweight, comfortable and easy to ride. With its 4.1-gallon tank full, the CB500F tips the scales at just 419 pounds (claimed wet weight for the CBR500R is 425 pounds), and the CB500F and CBR500R have the same firm, 30.9-inch-high seat. The CBR500R’s lower clip-ons put a bit more weight on your wrists and bend in your back, yet both models are roomy enough for all but the tallest riders. The footpegs are at a sensible height and the bikes have a slim, compact feel. Of course, in this price range, you’ll have to forego adjustable levers and seat height, and the only suspension adjustment is rear preload.

2014 Honda CBR500R

The CBR500R tucks in nicely between the CBR250R and CBR600RR in Honda’s lineup, and it provides more wind protection than the CB500F.

There’s nothing threatening about the CB’s liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 471cc parallel twin, but I wouldn’t go so far as calling it dull. With a nearly square bore and stroke (67.0 x 66.8mm), a 180-degree crank and DOHC with four valves per cylinder, the engine was designed for efficiency and smooth power delivery. Like clockwork, horsepower climbs steadily upwards from 15 at 3,000 rpm to a peak of 45.5 at 8,500 rpm, while the torque curve is nearly flat, ranging from 25-31 lb-ft over the rev range. Honda’s tried-and-true Programmed Fuel Injection provides crisp fueling and throttle response is spot-on. A counterbalancer quells most unwanted vibration, though some high-frequency buzz can be felt through the grips and tank. The cable-actuated clutch has a light pull, the 6-speed transmission shifts easily and the 2-into-1 stainless steel muffler emits a friendly burble. No rough edges, no unnecessary complexity.

What makes small, lightweight bikes like the CB500F and CBR500R so fun to ride is their gazelle-like agility. Short 55.5-inch wheelbases, quick-steering geometry and narrow, grippy Dunlop Sportmax tires help them negotiate tight corners with ease yet they don’t feel twitchy—a characteristic that would make new riders nervous. Though smaller than most bikes on the road, they feel solid, thanks in part to a rigid tubular-steel frame that uses the engine as a stressed member. The biggest weakness, at least from a performance standpoint, is the suspension and brakes. Though adequate given the price and intent of these bikes, these are the components where the greatest cost savings can be realized and therefore are very basic. At moderate speeds and on smooth roads, all is well, but when pushed hard or the pavement gets rough, not so much. The suspension is undersprung and underdamped (at least with my 200-pound sack of potatoes in the saddle), and the dual-disc brakes with pin-slide calipers offer limited stopping power. Honda says that the petal-type discs improve heat dissipation and reduce unsprung weight, but they also allow Honda to further reduce costs: the rear 240mm disc fits inside the front 320mm disc and both were stamped from the same metal plate. For only $500, ABS can be added to any of the three CB500 models.

Honda CB500F

Though aimed at newer riders, the CB500F makes a great second (or third) bike in the garage—a sub-$6,000 time machine that takes you back to a more carefree, playful age.

Although frills are few, the Honda CB500F and CBR500R have the basics covered. A blue-tinted digital instrument panel includes a speedometer, tachometer, odometer, dual tripmeters, fuel gauge, clock, and real-time and average fuel consumption. The two-piece seat includes a decent-sized pillion with large grab handles, the metal fuel tank accommodates a magnetic tankbag and a wire-cable helmet lock is included under the seat.

Of the two, the CB500F is the way to go. It costs $500 less than the CBR500R, has less plastic to damage in a tipover and the taller handlebar allows a more head-up riding position. Spend that $500 on ABS for a larger safety margin. With its tiny headlight fairing, the CB500F offers almost no wind protection, and a windscreen isn’t on Honda’s accessory list (but saddlebags, a top trunk, a luggage rack, cowlings and other items are). But it sips gas and is a total blast to ride.

the CB500F’s tubular handlebar provides a more upright seating position

Both are light and slim, but the CB500F’s tubular handlebar provides a more upright seating position than the CBR500R’s clip-ons. The only other difference between the two is bodywork, and price.

2013 Honda CB500F (CBR500R)

Engine
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin
Displacement: 471cc
Bore x Stroke: 67.0 x 66.8mm
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Adj. Interval: 16,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: PGM-FI, 34mm throttle bodies
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 2.9-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain

Electrical
Ignition: Digital transistorized w/ electronic advance
Charging Output: 500 watts @ 5,000 rpm
Battery: 12V 8.6Ah

Chassis
Frame: Diamond-shaped tubular-steel w/ engine as stressed member, box-section steel swingarm
Wheelbase: 55.5 in.
Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/4.0 in.
Seat Height: 30.9 in.
Suspension, Front: 41mm stanchions, no adj., 4.3-in. travel
Rear: Pro-Link single shock, adj. for spring preload, 4.7-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Single 320mm disc w/ 2-piston pin-slider caliper
Rear: Single 240mm disc w/ 1-piston pin-slider caliper
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 17
Rear: Cast, 4.50 x 17
Tires, Front: 120/70ZR-17
Rear: 160/60ZR-17
Wet Weight: 419 lbs. (425 lbs., claimed)
Load Capacity: 372 lbs. (366 lbs., claimed)
GVWR: 791 lbs.

Performance
Fuel Capacity: 4.1 gals., last 0.7 gal. warning light on
MPG: 86 PON min. (high/avg/low) 75.0/65.8/58.0
Estimated Range: 270 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 4,800

(This article Worldy Wheels was published in the September 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)

2014 Honda CB500F Instrumentation

Fully digital instrumentation is quite comprehensive, and it is easy to read day or night.

2014 Honda CB500F Brakes

Single front disc with 2-piston pin-slide
caliper provides adequate stopping power.

2014 Honda CB500F Headlight

Minimalist headlight fairing with small flyscreen doesn’t provide much protection from wind.

Honda CB’s 471cc parallel twin

Weighing just 116 pounds and incorporating technology from Honda’s CBR-RR sportbikes, the CB’s 471cc parallel twin is a model of efficiency and user-friendliness.

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Comments

10 Responses to “2013 Honda CB500F/CBR500R Road Test”

  1. Peter Harris on January 4th, 2014 2:05 pm

    Great machines. As far as upgrade machines – it’s a shame the new cb650s aren’t coming to the states – that would be more of a direct upgrade path.

    [Reply]

  2. Ted on January 12th, 2014 8:19 pm

    Yes, Peter. Perhaps Honda thinks the next step from the 500’s is the nc700, or the 600rr, but each of those are at rather eXtreme ends of the scale. A 600 (650) “F” & “X” txpe model would probably be the choice in the US for those desiring a bike with more “normal” motorcycle engine characteristics. At least that’s the way it looks from the nut house window. :-)

    [Reply]

  3. Ted on January 12th, 2014 8:25 pm

    I do understand and commend Honda on both the 500 and nc700 lines, and do hope they accomplish Honda’s goal’s as I am all for them.

    [Reply]

  4. Ted on January 12th, 2014 8:31 pm

    Ever wonder what a Honda 3 cylinder 8 or 900 would be like? Just a fan of both the Honda and the 3. HELLO! AREN’T YOU PAYING SOMEBODY TO READ THIS KINDA BABBLE, HONDA! (I’d rather have a Honda)

    [Reply]

  5. Dave Hammond on March 10th, 2014 1:41 am

    The CB500F would make the perfect commuter bike for ANY motorcyclist; and this is coming from a MAJOR BMW fan that uses a Harley for sunny rides with the wife. Such a great daily rider truly deserves the safety/convenience of optional TPM and outside air temp display. I want it anyway. It’s the CB 450 that my dad would never let me have.

    [Reply]

    Ted Reply:

    I just hope the buyers are there to get all these great bikes. Would hate to see the market go no where and them all be dropped. In case you have not heard we are getting the 650f also. The only thing that might take the 650’s place for me would be Yamaha’s MT-07, assuming it also will come shortly. More fab bikes! Martha! Where is that extra 100,000 dollars we had thrown in the corner. I need it BAD!!! :-)

    [Reply]

  6. Paul Gilman on March 11th, 2014 2:39 pm

    I currently ride a 650..but the new Cb500.s look super. I am ready to go for a test ride right away..and to bring the checkbook..PBG

    [Reply]

    Ted Reply:

    I know what you mean Paul. BUT, if you are riding a 650 street twin, and you can only afford one ride right now, after the new wears off, you may not be happy with the power, or comparitive lack there of. A lot depends on what you use your bike for, you might even like it better, but that is not likely if you do much interstate traveling. I really need three bikes AT LEAST ! But only can afford one right now, and I like to travel.

    [Reply]

  7. Mark on July 5th, 2014 2:40 am

    Had an CBR1100XX (2001) in the States, great bike, but now that I am living on a tropical Island, Cebu Philippines. A 500cc motorcycle is as big as I would want to go. Looking at the CB500F it seems like it would fit in well here. Since it came out as a 2013 model I will need to wait till the 2015 model before I can get one here. Hoping to be riding this bike soon.

    [Reply]

  8. manoj gaonkar on September 13th, 2014 7:49 am

    I’m waiting for u here in India. great looks

    [Reply]

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