The 2016 Honda CBR500R is budget-friendly on both counts of purchase price.
Several new improvements to the 2016 Honda CBR500R set it apart from last year’s model. These are at first seemingly subtle, but became more apparent the more the bike is ridden. The aggressive body styling is inspired from its older siblings, the CBR600RR (reviewed here) and CBR1000RR. This gives the bike a sharp look, but it has a little more bark than bite. With an MSRP of $7,199 in Canada for the ABS model, the 500R is a good entry-level bike that won’t break the bank.
My first impression when I sat on the bike was that it is light and comfortable, having a wet weight of 423.3 pounds and a riding position that isn’t overly aggressive. On a bike that’s nimble for maneuvering through city streets and around traffic, it makes for a comfortable ride that won’t leave you with sore wrists. The seat height is 30.7” so it’s not too tall for the average person. At 5’8, I was able to comfortably keep both feet flat on the pavement and still maintain a slight bend in my knees.
Right out of the gate, the first thing that caught my attention was the positioning of the turn indicator switch – it’s positioned a little too low. I found myself hitting the horn when I was trying to signal, a small issue that can be easily avoided after getting used to the bike. I cannot emphasize enough the lightness of this CBR500R. Coming from a bike that weighs over 800 pounds, I went from having to make more calculated and cautious maneuvers, to an immediate boost in confidence for being able to whip around city streets with agility and ease. This bike likes corners, and stands up after a turn just as easily as it likes to lean.
I was weary of the CBR500R’s braking ability, being it only has one twin piston 320mm front disc brake, and a single piston 240mm rear disc. However, having such a light curb weight and ABS, the brakes were more than adequate for a bike of this size. I tried locking up both tires on a gravel road and the ABS kicked in and worked just as it should. Additionally, when locking up the rear tire on pavement, the bike tracked straight without skidding. A 160mm rear tire is a good size choice by Honda, allowing a decent amount of surface area for road contact, without looking like a bicycle tire (like the 250cc and 125cc models).
The shifts from the six-speed transmission felt great. No matter how high I got the RPMs before shifting, I didn’t experience missed shifts or false neutrals. As it turns out, an improved gearshift feel was one of the improvements made to the 2016 model. Other new 2016 features include a new muffler which helps bring the center of gravity lower, hinged fuel cap for added convenience, adjustable fork preload with new shock settings, and the ABS model features an adjustable brake lever.
The new Honda CBR500R does not really fare well on highways. Thanks to its light weight combined with prevailing cross winds, I found myself getting pushed around more than I’d like. The windscreen seemed to channel the air right at my head, so investing in a double bubble windscreen would go a long way. Additionally, the transmission was revving a little higher than I would’ve expected, highway speeds had the bike hovering around the 6000RPM range in sixth gear.
Being a bike with passenger capabilities, I took my significant other out for a tour to give this 471cc parallel-twin a true test of its abilities. The CBR500R handled well – starts from a full stop took a little bit of extra clutch work to make a smooth take off. Passenger comfort wasn’t great, with no truly functional grab handles. With a seat no bigger than a dinner plate, it leaves your passenger feeling vulnerable, and renders the rider unable to really roll into the throttle at the risk of catching the rear passenger off guard. Moderate to heavy braking caused the passenger to slide right into my back fairly easily. The bike gets the job done carrying a passenger, but not designed for optimal comfort by any means. The added weight really showed this bike’s size when accelerating and at low speeds.
Just for kicks, I called my insurance company and had them compare the CBR500R vs the CBR600RR. The 500 was a whopping 200% cheaper than the 600. My first motorcycle was a Kawasaki ZX-6R (reviewed here). Coming from a dirt biking background, I had to be cautious while learning street riding from the amount of power that you have so readily available at the turn of a wrist. Those looking to get into motorcycling, I would suggest this bike as it won’t scare you into turning your pants brown.
Overall, the 2016 Honda CBR500R is budget-friendly on both counts of purchase price, as well as insurance, compared to the all-common 600cc supersports. The bike is very smooth and nimble, which is great for whipping around the city to chase after Pokémon. That being said, the CBR500R is a far cry from a true 600cc supersport. It’s a comfortable entry-level bike that looks good, and has enough pep to get you from A-to-B, while having some fun in between.