I’m not going to lie, I was expecting the CBR500R to be overrated. Like the Suzuki “Gixer”, everyone likes it so it has to be a bandwagon thing. Then I hopped on it and I understood all the hype. For the 2016 model year, Honda has sent this CBR back to the drawing board for a few well-deserved upgrades, including a sexier fairing with fierce-looking LED headlights. That new fairing not only looks good, but it also improves the airflow so that you feel less like a bobble head at higher speeds. The model also receives a new, sleek-looking muffler with a modified sound note that should allow it to be taken a little more seriously in the realm of other sport bikes and their riders. Also added this year are the adjustable brake lever and the improved shifting mechanism.
The riding position is a lot better than I had anticipated and that’s despite my 5’8″ frame. Honda takes pride in their easily accessible 785 mm high seat and without getting into a sales pitch, I’ll have to agree that the height is actually quite versatile. It will not meet the needs of every single rider, but it will surely meet the needs of most. The forward inclination isn’t too steep, meaning less weight on the elbows and on the wrists – resulting in not having to go through all the usual tired-joint gymnastics after a while. The motorcycle has also shed a few pounds thanks to narrower engine cylinders, which is both a good and a bad thing. It makes the motorcycle extremely agile and easy to maneuver without the help of the throttle, but also subjects it to easy in-lane waltzing caused either by the wind, a passing freight truck, or simply by someone sneezing.
The CBR’s biggest advantage? The 471cc engine. This power plant makes it a great middle-ground ride that is easy to warm up to for the first-time rider and easily enjoyed by a seasoned one – just like a guilty pleasure of a Nickelback song or a Mazda Miata. Manufacturers have come up with smaller motorcycles to help new riders ease into the experience of ownership, hence the flight of 300s currently on the market. However, after a season out in the wild, the beginner tends to outgrow his 300 and dream for something “more”. The listings on the classified ads don’t lie. The advantage offered by the CBR500R is that it will easily transition from a first bike to a forever bike – it’s really that versatile. Plus, it’s also one of the only middle-ground sports-bikes currently offered with less than 600cc – something of which comes a steeper price that’s a little harder to swallow. Just a little.
Power-wise, the CBR500R does a good job – nothing more. Although there is plenty of torque at the bottom end of the rev counter, it lacks power on the top end above 5,000 rpm. Sudden accelerations will feel a little underwhelming. On the plus side, the engine runs very smoothly; no harsh vibration in the handles which after a while can get annoying, especially if you’re sitting in traffic. I was given the version equipped with ABS, a feature I have yet to understand on a motorcycle, but this iteration of the CBR also comes in a standard and therefore cheaper version. The model also comes with Honda Pro-Link suspensions that ensure both good stability in the twisties and reasonable comfort on the city roads.
Bottom line, the all new 2016 Honda CBR500R does a number of things well and some really well. It plays the part of the non-pretentious middle-grounder and since it has virtually no competition in the 500 sports bike realm, I’d call it a proud representative of the category. With a price tag well below the $7,000 mark, the CBR500R is a great compromise between power, price, versatility, and riding comfort.
Base MSRP: $6,699
Price As Tested: $7,199
- Great price point for a mid-range motorcycle, without jumping into a 600cc.
- Extremely agile and comfortable riding position.
- Aggressive looks with new aero fairings and LED headlights.
- Quick accelerations feel underwhelming, lacking torque at higher rpms.
For more information, please visit Honda Motorcycles Canada
Photos: Honda Motorcycles Canada