Honda CBR500R

Fast Bikes - - TEST -

B eing the most pre­mium, pow­er­ful and ma­ture look­ing of the three, the only thing the Honda seemed to have go­ing against it was its sheer size. Lined up with its ri­vals ahead of a big old blast on some spec­tac­u­lar roads, the CBR500R looked a right whale, not much smaller than the brand’s iconic Gold­wing. In fact, I bet that’s what they based it on. Maybe I’m just be­ing cruel, but I couldn’t fig­ure why you’d work so hard to build a poky mo­tor, only to go and sti­fle the bloody thing with a lardy old pack­age to power. See, that’s the worst bit; the bike didn’t just look big, it smashed the hell out of the scales too with its kerb weight of 194kg – just 2kg lighter than a Fireblade. How the hell did that hap­pen? Any­way, it was way too early to go judg­ing this book by its cover, but it didn’t take too long for dis­ap­point­ment to start creep­ing in… whole­sale.

Hav­ing hopped on it and fired its sewing ma­chine-sound­ing 471cc mo­tor into life, I soon clocked it was about as docile as an an­cient Labrador. The bike didn’t feel par­tic­u­larly racy, ei­ther. It was big, bul­bous and tall-barred; more like a naked with a fair­ing thrown onto it. Still, at least I couldn’t grum­ble about wrist ache or any such gripes. Even Boothy would’ve slot­ted in on it, com­plete with his ap­palling beer belly. Whether it had the oomph to power him around though was an­other ques­tion. Out on the street, the bike was feel­ing plenty steady with me on it. Here’s the thing, it only makes 47bhp and with such a high kerb weight, it was al­ways go­ing to feel like this.

On a chirpier note, at least the de­liv­ery felt smooth in a way most Hon­das seem to, be­ing pleas­antly punchy in the ini­tial stages of its revs, be­fore ev­ery­thing went sour. Oh well. At least I had no gripes with the gear­box, con­trols or much else for that mat­ter. The clocks could have been a bit sex­ier, but this is no £15k sports­bike. If it’d had an ex­tra 15bhp hid­den in the pow­er­plant things would’ve been dif­fer­ent, but the fact is even though the en­gine is bul­let­proof, it is no rocket. Think Rich Tea bis­cuits when you ac­tu­ally fancy a co­caine-laced cookie.

That lack­lus­tre feel­ing car­ried through into the twisties, where the bike’s sup­ple sus­pen­sion made the whole feel thing a bit wal­lowy and un­der-sup­ported. Just like a fat bird, the Honda was def­i­nitely the eas­i­est to ride but it just wasn’t as re­ward­ing once you’d got your leg over, feel­ing fairly lethar­gic as I wres­tled it from side to side, which took far more ef­fort than I was ex­pect­ing. And it was all much of the same when we got it on track, as the added weight re­ally did show when it tried to keep up with its A2 com­pan­ions. Even though it was the most pow­er­ful, the Honda gen­uinely felt quite slug­gish get­ting out of cor­ners as those 47 ponies did their very best to pull the big ’ol 500 onto the straights.

Un­for­tu­nately, it wasn’t just the straights the Honda strug­gled with ei­ther, as it had as about much ground clear­ance as a Har­ley with three fat blokes sat on it, which re­ally de­stroyed any hope of car­ry­ing the cor­ner speed vi­tal for a quick lap time. Go­ing fast might have been an is­sue, but the Nissin stop­pers did a pretty crack­ing job at haul­ing the old girl up. In all hon­esty, with the weight and the rid­ing po­si­tion be­ing com­ple­mented by the con­stant sound­track of scrap­ing foot­pegs, the CBR500R felt more sports-tourer than Su­per­sports.

When I think of 500s, I think about fire-breath­ing two-stroke mon­sters. Un­for­tu­nately, this couldn’t be any more dif­fer­ent to that vi­sion. The old­est of this trio, the CBR500R strug­gled to keep up with the com­pe­ti­tion, much like it has ono theth world ld racing stage. It’s th he most docile and com­fort­able ofo the lot, but as a sports­bike it leav ves much to be de­sired. Let’s hop e the up­dated job­bie (ru­moured for next year) has been put on a diet.


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