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2021 Honda CBR 500 PC62 Review

Review Date - 26 September 2022

By nab301

The first  6 months...

Honda CBR500R 2021 in white on the driveway

Since road testing a CB500X at  a local dealers back in early March 2020 I reckoned I might enjoy a long term relationship with one at some time in the future... fast forward to 2022. I was in and out of dealers, second hand ones were thin on the ground and supply chain issues meant new ones weren’t available (although I didn't particularly want  the twin disc USD forks new model). 

While kicking tyres I sat on a low mileage 2013 CBR500 and suddenly, something I hadn't considered was also in the running. I have form in this regard, back in 2004 I was looking at Deauvilles and Hornets then ended up with a BMW R1100S which I still have today.

I viewed the CBR500 on two separate occasions but for various reasons decided against purchasing. I widened my search online and in person, ending up in a shop about a 60 mile road trip away. I wandered around the three floors unaccompanied and on making enquiries the helpful owner pulled out a few bikes for me to try including a CB500F (naked, the bike, not me) and a 2021 CBR500 with 6km’s (less than 5 miles) on the clock... however no 500X’s.

I returned a week later to look at something completely different but it was sold, was the CBR500 still available? Yes was the answer, more enquiries, it was an ex demo bike from a dealer in Poland. Hmmm, no real interest shown in trading anything I had, but I placed a deposit and confirmed a collection date a few weeks later in March.

Next problem, no trade in meant using public transport for the first time in decades! Turned out to be a reasonably painless experience and the intercity bus driver was also a (chatty) biker. As I stepped off the bus at my destination he joked that if it didn’t work out he’d be on his return journey in an hour or so!

The shop was busy but eventually I was sorted. I enquired about a spare oil filter and walked out to the bike clutching a freebie, I don’t get this sort of treatment nearer home!

I filled up the tank before leaving for home and made a mess of resetting the dash without reading the handbook, although in this case the supplied hand book wasn’t in English. There are loads of settings on the dash. Luckily when home I found copies of the handbook online and sorted the display to my preference. I won’t bother explaining in detail or photographing the readout, my pea sized brain requires the handbook if I want to do anything other than flick between the dual trips / total odometer / petrol consumption reading.  

There are various features including a calculated range countdown when the tank readout gets to a certain level. However there is no air temp readout which should be possible nowadays although at least the engine has a proper coolant temperature dial. The rev counter has a digitally operated / segmented dial readout and can also be set to display as a  small numerical readout in place of one of the trip displays. The road speed is just a rather sensitive (constantly changing) digital readout on the R/H side.

The trip home was uneventful if rather cold, wet and windy weather wise but I was surprised at how stable the bike is considering its light weight and large faired areas. The rear Dunlop was spinning up very easily on the wet surfaces but this was sorted once I clocked up some dry miles in the following days. It was after all basically a new zero mileage  bike.

I clocked up enough mileage in the next few days to warrant a call to the dealer to book the first service (oil change)  although he doesn’t know me well enough to let me carry this out myself. To be fair he fitted me in at short notice at the end of a very busy Saturday and again no cash or cards were required (FOC!)

To the bike in general. 

A very low seat height, handy for shorties although I’m not. The seat to peg height is grand for me (photo  sam-2016) and the factory “raised clip on” bar position is perfect for me. This bike feels and is very light to manhandle around the garage / shed but also steers very quickly with very little input required. Just remember if you wear size 12s like me to keep them well tucked in on tight corners. Other than boots I’ve had no ground clearance issues.

We see Nigel's legs as he's sat on the Honda

The 17L petrol tank has so far allowed me to travel (with some throttle restraint) in excess of 450km’s.

The ABS hasn’t been intrusive so far. The single front disc is in my opinion excellent but the rear seems to lack the bite that I like for slow moving traffic. It is working because with deliberate heavy use it gets hot but doesn’t do much in the retardation department, maybe a change of pad material? Was it Pocketpete that mentioned this previously?

Handling  can be described as neutral or even quick steering compared to my other bikes but tracks well on smooth roads with no head shake on rough roads. Whether this is down to the Dunlop D222 tyres I’m not sure but come tyre change time I’d like to retain that feeling. 

Since purchase I’ve increased the front preload by 1 full turn, the rear preload has been returned to the factory setting 2nd notch despite my probably heavier than average 100kg weight. At one stage I felt it was better on the lowest setting especially as there’s very little if any static sag. The ride can feel over sprung and underdamped on some surface combinations and appears to be affected by extremes of temperature too.

An aftermarket custom suspension unit may be required but the local specialist I’ve used in the past has nothing available from his supplier yet, possibly available before year end.

The Engine... obviously it’s restricted and tbh it feels it too. A nice bit of get up and go between 4k and 6.5k rpm but tailing off and becoming harsh nearer the redline. It feels a bit like an engine with a lot of valve advance, petering out at the top end but strangely a little snatchy if you find yourself in the wrong gear, hence I keep it above 4k.

Maybe this applies only to my bike but noticeable vibes are available through the bars especially at lower rpm and at the upper end of the rev range, generally not noticeable between the 4 to 6.5k rpm “sweetspot”. Mechanically again I’m not sure if this applies only to my bike but especially at start up the engine can be a little “mechanical”, not at all like the Y2k CB500 that I owned in the past. I mentioned it to the dealer's mechanic but he seemed to think it was fine... time will tell!

There's plenty for the motorway and well planned overtakes but some forward planning is required if multiple overtakes are your sort of thing or overtaking on a steep incline. However in general it’s fine for me and should be a great stepping stone for riders who want to progress to more powerful bikes.

Personally I bought it as (based on Ren's ramblings) an economical to run middle weight which it has turned out to be with the added bonus of having a reasonable turn of speed while remaining completely unintimidating in all road conditions. As for economy a genuine 70 to 90mpg is easily achievable and the display readout will indicate up to or even over 100mpg but this is generally more optimistic than my calculations unless all petrol stations are ripping me off somehow!

Two things that affected the consumption on my bike were - one the OE drive chain had a couple of annoying looking  tight links so I ended up replacing it myself with another O-Ring chain and immediately there was a noticeable improvement in economy. I know Bob mentioned on here about non O-Ring chains and economy so next time I may just try one.

The second was oil... I tend to change oil at half the recommended intervals and in this case I went for the exact 10w30 spec, the results being an indicated average consumption of 36km/l (over 100mpg) on slower roads. I’m not sure what oil the dealer used at the first service.

The gear change is good too, up there with the best of other bikes I’ve ridden. Clutch operation is among the lightest of any bike I’ve owned including my 125! The switch gear is the current Honda layout with the horn button in the wrong position but other than that the switches themselves have a satisfying quality feel to them. The aero package is minimalist, no turbulence with my current Shoei helmet off the low screen but I’m In the airflow and the airstream does tug annoyingly at my lower arms at higher speeds. I’m not sure if a taller screen would help but I may decide to use this as a summer only bike in which case it won’t be something to worry about!

The lights are all LED and given the time of year I purchased I haven’t had to rely on the headlight yet but feel it may be lacking a little. Obviously they’re hardwired on all the time and in this regard the low height of the bike / headlamp and small frontal area doesn’t appear to help with daytime visibility and other road users.

Other observations (most of which I was aware of before purchase).

No centre stand. There is one listed for earlier models and the frame has a fitting but I don’t see the spring mounts and the fairing may need modifying.

Luggage is available including top boxes only, but I’ve resisted the urge so far because I have a bike with full factory luggage and have used the side cases maybe once in 3 yrs... The pillion seat however doesn’t really lend itself to mounting even a basic soft tail pack but I see Hepco & Becker list a replacement pillion seat which has been designed as a top box / luggage mount, no unsightly box hanging off the bike and ruining the handling. If I could easily get a cheap pillion seat I might do a DIY Ren-like conversion!

One thing that caught me out though, after taking a wrong turn was the lack of steering lock while carrying out a U-turn.

Side fairing removal is relatively easy but the joys of tank removal and valve clearance adjustment still await me.

Rather annoyingly, I now also get leg shakes and nods from sports bike riders, they obviously don’t recognise that I‘m not riding a “real sports bike”!!

Overall impressions, would I have been happier with a 500X? Other than being unable to ride down deeply rutted lanes (which I don’t do anyway) I’m reasonably happy. All day comfort is fine, I can hop between bikes and returning to the 500R is easy requiring no acclimatisation, it’s lighter than the 500X and as regards economy and licensing requirements aside, don’t bother with a 250, running costs for the Honda are similar!

Locally resale values for the 500R might be worse than the 500X but I’ll worry about that at the time.

In conclusion - I’ll have to admit Ren has it spot on. The ideal garage (of all round bikes) has to be a 125 Honda and a 500 Honda! Anyone looking for a cheap 23 year old BMW R1100s (a bit like a bloated, heavy, uneconomical 500R) and possibly an Enfield Bullet??

Nigel.

PS, I took out my BMW recently after a long period of non use and I must say I didn’t realise how much I’d missed that addictive surge of power where steep climbs go unnoticed and faster moving traffic is dispatched with ease. I did find myself however, having  to continuously monitor the speedo and low fuel indicator.


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Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
Thanks Nigel.
More power and probably less weight than a RD400, what's not to like.
Enjoy.
Upt'North
08/11/2022 16:19:27 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I can only assume Honda has updated the speedo for the CBR500R compared to my 2018 CB500X, I have no coolant temp on my display just a warning light.

According to Wiki the RD400 is 165kg wet, the CBR500R is around 192kg. The RD400 is 33kW, the CBF500R is 35kW. Strictly speaking the RD would theoretically by oh-so-slightly faster than the CBR. However the CBR will have a better spread of power, be more tractable, more modern suspension and tyres and and and... And most of all it's not a goddam 2-stroke.
09/11/2022 09:34:38 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
And the 500R wouldn't probably leave half of a melted piston in lane 3 of the M6 at Sandbach. What a fun night that was.
Kids don't know how lucky they are.
Upt'North.
09/11/2022 09:40:46 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Always nice to hear from someone happy with their bike. It looks tiny though and there's no way I could manage the knee angle you display in the pic. That kicked up tail would also make it difficult for those of us with ageing joints...

500cc is plenty but I can't share the enthusiasm for 125s I'm afraid - apart from looking even dafter on one than I do on a full sized bike.
09/11/2022 16:32:56 UTC
nab301 said :-
@ Ren , I'll take a photo of the display seeing as it must have changed between models.
Re the weight , Wiki has my DL250 @ 189kg dry and it certainly feels way heavier then the CBR when pushing it around , even allowing for the weight being higher !.
@ UPT , no melted pistons, ....yet , the last time that happened was my MZ 250 supa 5! (1981)
@ Ian , I'm in my 60's but( for the moment) in general find the CBR more comfortable than any of my upright bikes past or present, back pain was a problem for example on a Hinckley Bonneville I had a few years back.
Nigel
09/11/2022 21:04:08 UTC
nab301 said :-
Photo of speedo display .
Nigel
Posted Image
13/11/2022 18:42:49 UTC
nab301 said :-
I forgot to mention mirrors and underseat storage in the review. The mirrors are fairing mounted and I find them good although they can vibrate at low rpm's . This types of mirror though, as on other bikes I've owned (Deauville, and R1100S BMW) tends to be at the wrong height (same height as car mirrors) If you commute on your bike in rush hour traffic and filter between two lanes of stationary traffic. The stalks however, do slide around on their pivots (no tools needed) which I find handy when storing the bike ( see photo).
The pillion seat is removable with the ignition key and the space under it allows storage of basic items such as a puncture repair kit. The riders seat is bolted in place so no use for storage.
Nigel
Posted Image
13/11/2022 18:55:08 UTC
Crofty said :-
Hi Nigel
Enjoyed the write up of the CBR500, very thorough as usual. I am looking at Honda 500s as well just now.
After 12k with the V Strom 250 i reckon a cb500x would be almost as cheap to run. Like you I am looking for a pre USD forks model but they are very thin on the ground in Scotland. I don't think I would get on with the CBR though, would be a bit cramped for my aging body. Tried a sv650 this week as a possible replacement for the 250, seemed quicker than my 650 strom but too cramped and too much wind blast for me, so a 500x it is when i get the 250 sold. Have you still got your ?
15/11/2022 18:41:10 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Yep - the clock is entirely different to my 2018 CB500X nab301.

Crofy and nab301 - what's your problem with the USD forks?
16/11/2022 17:13:10 UTC
Crofty said :-
no problem with the USD forks Ren, its just that the models they are on are too expensive for me
16/11/2022 19:39:21 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I see. Have you ridden the 500X Crofty?
17/11/2022 09:57:34 UTC
Crofty said :-
No I haven,t Ren, being trying to get a ride on a demo but no one in Scotland has one.
Would like to try a 2018 model and then a 2019 model with the 19 inch front wheel to see which I prefer.
17/11/2022 22:58:17 UTC
nab301 said :-
@Crofty , I still have the V Strom , If I'd got a 500X I would have made an effort to trade it as they're very similar. My 500 is possibly cheaper to run than the 250.
@ Ren no real problem with USD forks , but I prefer the single disc model, they're cheaper and it's a bit awkward to fit gaiters to USD forks ......
Nigel
18/11/2022 22:42:28 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
I've never been that keen on gaiters as they tend to collect a mucky gritty mess inside them. They need a breather hole so they don't pop off and I'm amazed how much stuff finds its way inside.
19/11/2022 10:07:53 UTC
nab301 said :-
Quote"They need a breather hole so they don't pop off and I'm amazed how much stuff finds its way inside."
It was a tongue in cheek comment but I tend to fit steering rack boots and cut a small slit at the rear which allows them to " breathe " and in my experience doesn't allow dirt in .
Nigel
20/11/2022 21:09:02 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
It's my experience Crofty that a lot of dealers tend to be less enthusiastic about letting second hand bikes out for test rides - you certainly have to clearly demonstrate your interest. As such getting on a '18 model will prove ever more difficult.

With regards to fork gaitors... old jeans and 4 zip ties...
Posted Image
21/11/2022 13:51:25 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Or old inner tubes (Gordon Jackson, 1961 SSDT) .....

This is his famous single dab.
Posted Image
21/11/2022 14:12:09 UTC
Crofty said :-
Hi Ren It doesn't seem to be a problem getting test rides at the dealers I usually visit in the Edinburgh to Dundee area, its just they don't have any. Have you ridden both, ie the 19 inch front wheel model as well as the model you have. Any opinions on them welcomed. I'm really just looking for a bit more power (over the DL250) in a winter bike.

21/11/2022 19:03:46 UTC
said :-
"old jeans and 4 zip ties..."

Oh good grief, does your stinginess know no bounds? You must have saved so much over the years you're most probably a closet millionaire by now! ;)
23/11/2022 08:16:30 UTC
Ross said :-
Oops, previous post about our millionaire editor was from me, D’oh!!
23/11/2022 15:32:52 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I have indeed ridden the 19" front wheeled 2019 version... but only on a comparatively short test ride.

The '19 model has the slipper/assist clutch. While the '18's clutch is not at all heavy the 19's really does benefit from the slipper/assist clutch. If you dunno what one of them is then ask... I might do a page about it. The '19's fuelling seemed a tiny bit cleaner low in the revs, again only moving from excellent to most excellent. The '19 is taller, you decide if that's good or bad but at 5'8" I was OK with it. As for the 19" front wheel? Welllllllll...

If you're serious about any off road then it ought to be better. However the problem with a 19" front wheel is tyre choice. Before you buy see how many tyre options you have for the 19" over the absolutely bog standard 120/70-17 front fitted on the earlier models. Also look at costs if this matters to you. In terms of riding, it was wet and on new tyres, I had zero chance of pushing the front end but it felt fine. The OEM dunlops fitted to my '16 and '18 models were absolutely AWFUL - change the front as soon as possible.

Nicer clocks on the new model, in my opinion the styling is sharper.

Ross - millionaire? No. 2 problems.
1. I've spent most of it on fuel and motorcycles and riding gear.
2. You underestimate my low earnings due to my feckless work ethic.
23/11/2022 22:45:21 UTC
Crofty said :-
Thanks Ren, I'm not to bothered about the slipper clutch, I don't ride fast or aggressively any more,and haven't locked a back wheel up for about 30 years. I'll look at tyres but the 19 inch is the same as my V Strom (110/80x19) and I don't have too much problem getting tyres for that.Never go off road any more either. The main reason I like the 19 inch model is it is higher and i thought the leg room might be more generous. Just have to wait till I can try both
24/11/2022 18:31:44 UTC

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