By now, it’s no secret that Honda has released a family of three new 500cc twins in the Canadian market. A couple weeks ago, I rode the CB500X, so it was only fitting for me to get on a 2013 Honda CBR500R to ride the sportiest motorcycle of the new family. Honda has meticulously designed the CBR500R for riders who want the styling of a sport bike, but have restrictions or preferences that render them unwilling or unable to deal with the ergonomics of a crotch rocket. Being a 500, this CBR also lacks the performance of a true sport bike, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a poor choice.
I personally liked the CBR500R much more than the CB500X. While the CB500X was great in its own way, I couldn’t get used to the tall seat height or the completely upright riding position. The only time I’m personally willing to sacrifice comfort is when riding a supersport, and the CB500X isn’t one. The 2013 Honda CBR500R is powered by the fuel-injected, liquid-cooled 471cc twin, and this engine is seriously butter smooth. The engine at no point felt as though it was too much for the bike. In fact, as someone who is used to higher-performance motorcycles, it felt a bit wimpy. Acceleration is always within a controllable range and braking is comfortable and adequate.
The six-speed transmission is incredibly smooth. My test car of the week while I had the CBR500R was the 2013 Honda Civic Si, and I actually found the clutch on the motorcycle not unlike the one on the car. Light and predictable, making both upshifts and downshifts quick and seamless. I quickly got the hang of rev-matching my downshifts – it’s not difficult to master riding this motorcycle spiritedly. Cruising on the highway is effortless on the CBR too – it doesn’t have as much upper range power as its looks would expect you to believe, but it moves quite nicely with the regular flow of traffic.
One thing to keep in mind is that this CBR is a twin, so do not expect it to rev overly high. It’s a good daily motorcycle, and not exactly one I would be taking to the track. It does everything very well and with confidence, just a bit softer than I’d like. The suspension has a lot of travel, which makes bumps and rough roads easier on the rider’s back. It’s actually pretty good through the hilly Niagara Escarpment too, and the Dunlop tires have a wonderful amount of grip. However, when riding aggressively, I just didn’t get the feedback that I would expect.
In fact, whenever friends or Internet fans would ask me about the CBR500R during my test week, the one word I found myself always circling back to is “comfortable”. I found this motorcycle to be one of my all-time favourite commuter bikes. The brakes have a very soft bite, and the ABS helps it stop on a dime if you require a panic stop. Riding around the ridiculous garbage that is Toronto traffic, I found the CBR500 very, very maneuverable. I was able to pull off moves to escape the stupidity of taxis and bicyclists that I never foresaw possible on the supersports I adore so much.
For a fresh rider who has his or her heart set on a sportbike, I would actually say this is a great starter bike. While 250cc motorcycles such the Ninja 250 are popular, I think this CBR’s compromise in seating position and lack of 1000cc-level power makes it an undeniably good buy. At $6,299, Honda actually prices the sport model $500 cheaper than its sibling, the CB500X. It does, however, have the identical MSRP as the more naked CB500F.
Even though I typically only ride for fun and use a car and/or the train on my daily commute, I found myself using the 2013 Honda CBR500R to get nearly everywhere I needed to go during my test week. It takes away a lot of the stress involved with riding a motorcycle, and it inspires confidence. I didn’t really like the 500’s engine sound at first, but I feel like a proper aftermarket exhaust would quickly fix that. If I lived in a climate where a motorcycle can be used year-round without the seasonal restrictions we have in Toronto, I could definitely see myself owning one of these as daily transportation. It’s fun, it’s reasonably quick, and it’s incredibly comfortable. Most of all, it’s efficient. I saw a combined average of 3.4L/100km over my test period. The CBR500R is definitely my favourite of the new trio from Honda, it’s just that much better.
2013 Honda CBR500R Gallery