Honda has upgraded the CBR500R this year, and the new 2016 Honda CBR500R is definitely an improvement over last year. Fortunately, none of the changes spoil what was already an excellent, fun commuter/sport/all-around motorcycle with wide appeal.1. The upgraded suspension on the 2016 Honda CBR500R remains excellent. This year, the CBR500R gets spring preload adjustment for the forks—previously, only the shock had preload adjustments. This is only an issue if you’re an outlier in size, or you carry a passenger (the new aluminum passenger pegs are also sportier). Softer than you expect for a sport bike, the CBR500R sucks up the beat-up roads of urban Los Angeles before the bumps get to the rider. The nice surprise is how well the plush and compliant suspension works in the Santa Monica Mountains. Not a bike for those who want to push to 10/10ths all day, it erases the irregularities of the sometimes-bumpy canyon roads, and makes for a pleasurable sport ride. Sure, you lose that feeling of every nuance of the pavement, but you won’t mind at 8/10ths, as it is such a smooth ride. Great job! Oh, one more thing, the blue anodized preload-adjuster caps for the forks are a nice touch.
2. The updated CBR500R transmission is nice and slick. Honda is known for its smooth transmissions, and the 2016 Honda CBR500R is no exception. Honda updated the shift-drum center, but I would have to ride the 2015 and 2016 back-to-back to tell you that they’re truly different. Regardless, the six-speed transmission is flawless, in both operation and ratio selection.3. The new styling looks great. There’s no doubt about it, the new angular plastic and contemporary muffler improve the look of the 2016 Honda CBR500R and brings it into the modern age. My favorite is the white edition with the black/blue accents, followed by the red bike with black/white accents (not available with ABS). If you like black with minimal graphics, Honda offers that in both the standard and ABS versions.4. LED headlights rock. In addition to looking highly aggressive, the new LED headlights throw out an excellent beam.5. The new two-piece seat is incredibly comfortable. The 2016 Honda CBR500R may be a sportbike, but the rider’s seat is comfortable enough for all-day rides. It is softer than you might expect, but it still works well when diving through the canyons. Remember, this isn’t a hang off in the corner supersport bike—it’s a fun, practical sporting faired upright.6. The little details are also welcome. We had problems with the ignition key on Honda 300s and 500s last year—very un-Honda-like. That is fixed this year. We also like the new adjustable brake lever and the convenient hinged gas cap on the new tank (which holds an additional quart or so).7. Everything we liked about the previous CBR500R returns. The smooth DOHC twin, almost perfectly square in configuration, has plenty of torque for zooming around town, plus a healthy rev limit over 10,000 rpm for buzzing through the canyons at speed. The ergonomics are a bit sporty, though the clip-ons are above the triple clamps for comfort, and the pegs are low enough for good legroom.The single 320mm disc with non-radial Nissin four-piston caliper works well up front, with a very soft initial bite and predictably progressive feel. Handling is neutral, thanks to a relatively short wheelbase, and a relaxed 25.5 degrees of rake. In general, the feeling of the CBR500R is more about stability than outright agility, which is a good choice as many newer riders will be attracted to this bike.
2016 Honda CBR500R ABS Specs
Type: Liquid-cooled parallel-twin
Bore x stroke: 67.0 x 66.8mm
Induction: EFI w/ 34mm throttle bodies
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorized w/ electronic advance
Compression ratio: 10.7:1
Valve train: DOHC; four valves per cylinder
Final drive: O-ring-sealed chain
Front suspension: 41mm forks w/ preload adjustment; 4.3 inches of travel
Rear suspension: Linkage assisted single shock w/ nine-position spring preload adjustability; 4.7 inches of travel
Front brakes: Four-piston Nissin caliper w/ 320mm wave disc
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.