2013 Honda CBR500R ABS | Sport Motorcycle Test
With the release of three all-new 500-class twins for 2013, Honda is making a push to expand the market for motorcycles by enticing people who have little or limited two-wheel experience. The new 2013 Honda CBR500R is the sportiest of the group, designed to appeal to those who want sportbike styling, but aren’t ready for sportbike ergonomics or performance.
We tested the 2013 Honda CBR500R ABS, which means you get the bike in blazing Honda red - hardly a compromise. However, the non-ABS versions can be had in black, as well as white with blue and red accents. We’ll take the red and ABS, thank you very much.
Getting on the 2013 Honda CBR500R, you will notice that the bars are low, but still rise from the top triple-clamp. The pegs are slightly back, but still in a completely comfortable position. This is nothing like getting on a CBR600RR. It’s an ergonomic position that works for casual sport riding, and gives you a good profile in town.
Just as the ergonomics of the CBR500R don’t approach the 600RR, neither does the performance in any way. As sport bikes go, the 500R is soft all around--not that that’s a bad thing, of course, if you’re a fresh-faced rider. The suspension on the CBR500R is certainly soft.
Comfortable on freeways and rougher canyon roads, you don’t take nasty hits from the 41mm forks or linkage rear shock. For casual, medium-speed rides in the twisties, the CBR500R feels fine. It’s not exacting, but you feel good enough that you can make a bit of time. The Dunlop Sportmax tires grip tenaciously - definitely a good choice. Pushing the 500R hard will reveal the limitations of the suspension.
The bike doesn’t exactly wallow, but there is a marshmallow-like feel and you don’t get the road feedback or responsiveness that you want when riding aggressively. Turn-in is predictable, thanks to a relaxed 25+ degrees of rake. The CBR won’t do anything unexpected - it just won’t do whatever you want if you’re a demanding rider.
The engine is equally soft. Perfectly fuel-injected, the DOHC, liquid-cooled, 471cc twin is smooth as silk. There’s not a huge amount of torque down low, so acceleration is always controllable. After the linear midrange, there’s a bit of a bump of performance over 7000 rpm, and then the engine signs off quickly.
Being a twin, it is not a high-revver. At no time will the motor ever feel intimidating or particularly responsive. It had decent acceleration, but it’s clearly designed to keep the rider fully in control at all times. If you want to go a bit faster in the canyons, keep up the corner speed and don’t rely on strong braking or explosive acceleration. The single 320mm disc has a very soft initial bike, though you can pull as strongly as you like, thanks to ABS. The rear brake is decent, and we enacted the ABS now and then.
In town, the 2013 Honda CBR500R is a fun bike. At 429 pounds, it is light and the 55.5-inch wheelbase aids in maneuverability. The fairing-mounted mirrors give a good look to the back, though they can be tricky when working your way between cars. The seat is low, so you can always get a foot to the ground when the need arises. Tight parking lots are no problem, as the clutch has a wide engagement sweep.
Freeway performance is good for the CBR500R, and the counterbalancer and 180-degree crankpin is ultra-smooth--you could use this as a light-duty touring bike. Roll-on isn’t great, but the six-speed transmission willingly downshifts for a bit of extra (though not a lot) acceleration. The square motor is neither torquey nor revvy.
Again, watch the brakes at speed, as you only get one disc per wheel (again, ABS allows room for extra-hard braking). Honda claims an amazing 71 mpg for the CBR500R, and we found it to be an outstanding commuter bike in a mix of freeway and surface street conditions. Honda has created an interesting bike with the 2013 CBR500R ABS.
It has many of the styling cues of a supersport bike, but it has the welcoming performance of a bike for new riders (or one cautiously trading up from a 250 or 300). The CBR500R is also a good choice for someone migrating from a cruiser, who wants to have the fun of sport biking, without the extremes in performance and ergonomics.
The appearance may promise more than it delivers. However, if you realize what the 2013 Honda CBR500R ABS is all about, you will be fully satisfied and you’ll be happy you left the supersport bikes to those who are far more committed.
Photography by Kevin Wing
- Helmet: Arai RX-Q Deco
- Jacket: Fieldsheer Corsair 2.0
- Gloves: Racer Summer Fit
- Jeans: Icon Strongarm
- Boots: Tour Master Solution 2.0 Waterproof