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2013 Honda CBR500R Review: Don't Call it a Beginner Bike

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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2013 Honda CBR500R Review

The CBR500R in profile.

Photo © Basem Wasef
Honda's $7,000 NC700X made a big impact when it debuted as a practical, economical middleweight, and its CTX700 stablemate offered a cruiser-focused alternative for the feet-forward crowd.

Honda has since spun off a milder, smaller-engine powered "CB" family of bikes, among them the naked CB500F, the adventurous CB500X, and the subject of this review, the sporty CBR500R. With a starting price of $5,999 (or $6,499 with ABS), the CBR500R has little brother styling compared to the fierce $11,490 CBR600RR, slotting between it and the $4,199 CBR250R.

The Goods: 471cc, 425 lbs, 71 mpg

The 2013 Honda CBR500R doesn't boast exotic race-sourced parts or high-end materials, but that's exactly the point: unlike the race-bred CBR600RR which houses an aluminum frame and a high-revving four-cylinder engine, the CBR500R incorporates back-to-basics components like a steel tube frame and an all-new fuel-injected, 471cc parallel twin powerplant. As such, the CBR500R weighs in at 425 pounds (ready to ride), which is only 15 more pounds than the CBR600RR. A six-speed transmission directs power to the rear wheel via chain drive, and anti-lock brakes add $500 to the $5,999 starting price.

Non-adjustable front suspension uses a 41mm fork with a generous 4.3 inches inches of travel, while the rear Pro-Link single shock setup offers 4.7 inches of travel and spring preload adjustability. A twin piston, single 320mm wave disc brake is offered up front, while a single 240mm wave disc is setup at the rear. The ABS-equipped bike comes with the same disc size.

The CBR500R achieves an estimated 71 mpg which, along with its 4.1 gallon fuel tank, yields an impressive average cruising range of 291 miles. Seat height measures 30.9 inches, and the CBR500R comes with a transferable one year, unlimited mileage warranty.

The Ride: Friendly, Fun, and Fast Enough

2013 Honda CBR500R Review

The CBR500R in action.

Photo © Honda
The CBR500R feels sporty from its 30.9 inch saddle-- a reasonable altitude for most body types-- with the entirely digital instrument cluster delivering a bar-style LCD tachometer and big speedo. Also offered is a handy fuel economy readout on the trip computer, operated via a not-so-handy button on the cluster.

A healthy but not overly loud exhaust note accompanies engine startup, and clicking into first gear reveals an easy clutch with intuitive feedback as you pull away from a standstill. The parallel twin powerplant pulls easily through the rev band, delivering easy, predictable power. Low end oomph is a bit on the thin side, but still considerably gutsier than the CBR250R. Lay into the throttle, and the engine revs eagerly and smoothly into the upper registers, delivering enough power for passing or law breaking.

The CBR500R feels planted and stable in straight line riding, and higher speeds convey more of the same feeling-- though you're reminded of the engine's modest 471cc displacement when rpms rise to the top third of the nearly 9,000 rpm powerband at higher speeds. Hit the canyons, and the bike is easy to toss into corners, handling with quick turn-in and a willingness to lean. The suspension is on the softer side, so hardcore riders will unlikely feel compelled (or comfortable) riding it at its limits, but thanks to a relatively lightweight setup and communicative feedback, it's still easy to ride the CBR500R aggressively. When it's time to go back to regular roads, you'll be reminded of the bike's tractability and tame underpinnings. Thanks to its relatively plush suspension and forward tilted but comfortable ergonomics, the CBR500R proves to be as suitable for commuting as it is for casual jaunts across twisty roads. My ABS-equipped tester also stopped nicely, with good initial bite and the confidence to grab a whole bunch of front lever during panic braking exercises.

Bottom Line + Who Should Buy the 2013 Honda CBR500R?

Bottom Line

The Honda CBR500R is an easy to ride bike with enough power to keep riders of virtually all skill level entertained. With comfortable ergonomics and nimble handling, the CBR500R is versatile enough tick virtually all the boxes a new or re-entry rider might have on their list if they're looking for something two-wheeled and sporty; it's quick but manageable, nimble but not edgy, and competent enough to leave room for growth when your riding skills grow.

Those ingredients make it a supremely likable bike, surefire hit for Honda, and one of our 10 Great Intermediate Beginner Motorcycles.

Who Should Buy the 2013 Honda CBR500R?

Riders looking for an approachable, sporty, easy to ride motorcycle for six grand with more power and legroom than the CBR205R, but none of the edginess found in all-out sportbikes. The CBR500R is a great choice for anybody who likes sportbikes, with a broad enough skill set to discourage folks from calling it an outright beginner bike-- though it's friendly enough for new riders with the confidence to handle a more powerful machine.
2013 Honda CBR500R Review

The CBR500R, head on.

Photo © Honda
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