Now in its 10th year, the Honda CBR500R faired semi-upright sportbike gets a new front end to enhance its reputation—a major brake update, a new Showa inverted fork, and a lighter overall package. We’ve seen these updates in the latest naked CB500F and adventure CB500X motorcycles, and were anxious to experience how they play out with the sportiest of Honda’s 500 twins, the 2022 Honda CBR500R.
At 423 pounds ready-to-ride, the CBR500R is not physically overwhelming. A new, lighter swingarm, plus new, lighter five-spoke cast aluminum wheels, help offset the additional weight from the extra brake rotor and caliper, allowing the CB500R to maintain its manageable weight. This keeps the handling light and agile, without any sense of nervousness. Additionally, the slim physique and the seated-in riding position make you the master of the bike, whether slaloming through canyons or making slow-speed maneuvers in a parking lot. This is not a bike that will cause stress.
The CBR500R is an excellent platform for developing your sport riding skills. With a full fairing, low-rise clip-on handlebars, and semi-aggressive ergonomics, you feel the part as soon as you settle into the saddle. Fortunately, the riding position is not extreme—this is an entry-level sport bike, after all. There are two seating positions—forward in a bit of a bucket that keeps you reasonably upright, and scooted back to the driver’s seat stop for more of a supersport stance. The grips are above the top triple-clamp, the footpegs are not excessively high or rearward, and the 31.1-inch seat height is relatively low for a sport bike. The ground will be accessible to the boots of a large number of riders. Also, with a 423-pound curb weight with the generous 4.5-gallon fuel tank topped off, this is supersport-style riding without intimidation.
The new front end of the 2022 Honda CBR500R completely transforms the riding experience. We didn’t feel that the conventional fork and single disc were lacking on the old CBR500R. However, from the first ride on the new version with the Showa SFF-BP 41mm inverted fork and dual 296mm disc brakes with radially mounted Nissin calipers, it was abundantly evident that the new CBR500R’s chassis is far more sporting.
Riding a sportbike aggressively in the canyons is mostly about front-end confidence, and the new CBR500R delivers. You wouldn’t expect to be able to push an entry-level sportbike as hard as you can the CBR500R without getting a bit nervous, as flex in the front suspension makes the feeling vague long before you reach its limits. Learning riders can explore the boundaries of their abilities with far superior feedback with the Showa SFF-BP fork, as it helps the highly regarded Michelin Road 5 tires grip the road with authority. Although agile and best-suited to tighter roads, the chassis feels good at sweepers knocking on the door of 100 mph. The difference between the new R and the old one is striking.
The advantage of the inverted Showa fork isn’t just its stability—the action is also perfectly matched to its purpose. Like the shock, which is mated via linkage to a new lighter-weight swingarm, the fork has soft springing and moderate damping. It settles nicely into corners at the speeds a CBR500R rider will send it. This adds to the stability and predictability of the motorcycle. Impressively, even on canyon roads that are cracked and bumpy, the chassis doesn’t get unduly upset. It’s a good thing that Honda set the suspension up properly, as there are no damping adjustments to be had.
The new front braking system is beginner-friendly, with room to grow. While the single 320mm and two-piston caliper never felt lacking, the twin 296mm discs and the radially mounted four-piston calipers are on a whole ’nother level. Engagement is soft initially, remaining so through most of the lever sweep. However, as the lever gets near the end of its sweep and you add more pressure, the braking becomes increasingly progressive without losing any of its smoothness. It’s easy to feel that the new CBR500R is under-braked, until you get on the binders aggressively—then you find out that they will slow you down with authority. I found supplementing with the rear brake helpful in slowing quickly from high speeds, as the weight transfer isn’t so excessive that the rear tire lifts.
The non-adjustable ABS does an impressive job. Even when working that aggressive end of the braking arc on deep dives into corners, the ABS didn’t kick in. The smoothness of the engagement is part of the equation, with the rest added by the ample traction the Michelin Road 5 tires supply. The rear brake also has soft engagement, so it can be used as a supplement to the front binders without worrying about prematurely triggering the rear wheel’s ABS. These brakes will not spook a novice, yet still satisfy the demands of faster, more experienced riders.
The front end’s grasp on the pavement is important because the 471cc parallel twin is no ripsnorter. The ever-so-slightly oversquare powerplant features a flat torque curve and perfectly linear power. While the mill doesn’t lack power—it signs off north of 40 horsepower at the top—it takes its time getting there. This is fine on the two Hondas that share the engine—the CB500X adventure bike and CB500F naked upright. However, it feels lackluster when matched with the new chassis, which can handle a more invigorating power delivery.
To keep things exciting, you have to keep the motor well into the top-end, from 7k to 9k, where the rev limiter steps in gently as things get buzzy. Happily, the transmission is a slick shifter, so you can click through the gearbox ratios confidently. The top speed is around 110 mph, but you must be patient and tucked in to get there. Don’t worry; the chassis is stable at full tilt on a decent road.
While not a first choice for commuting duties, the Honda CBR500R will get the job done. Ergonomics are the limiting factor when it comes to commuting on the CBR500R. The forward-leaning body position is not ideal for keeping an eye on the erratic four-wheeled commuters in a busy urban environment, nor is it as comfortable as a more upright stance if your commute includes droning along for many miles. You will almost certainly scoot up, as having your tailbone against the seat stop gets old fast on the freeway. The bike is a decent lane-splitter, but you must mind the wide fairing-mounted mirrors.
The CBR500R holds its own on Los Angeles’ busy freeways. Yes, the mid-size engine is adequate for battling aggressive commuter traffic. You’ll be working the bike a bit more than you would a larger engine if you want to make fast overtakes—a quick downshift and twist of the throttle will reward you with the needed acceleration up to about 90 mph, which is not as fast as you think on cutthroat LA freeways. The engine response is more in tune with commuting than pure sport riding. The suspension that feels good in the corners is also nicely compliant on the bumpiest of LA freeways—not an easy accomplishment. Also, the Michelin Road 5 tread pattern handles the rain grooves like a champ.
The CBR500R also works well for around-town errands. An unexpected trip to the dentist recently found me battling busy afternoon traffic from the San Fernando Valley through a busy canyon to Beverly Hills. Waze told me I would be 15 minutes late—not good! Fortunately, the CBR500R is quite capable of slicing through congestion. The power delivery is predictable and drama-free. The flat torque curve means you’ve got pull across a broad range, and the ultra-light torque-assisted clutch pull eliminates hand fatigue. I accelerated aggressively, taking advantage of multiple opportunities to pass slower-moving vehicles and split lanes to the head of the queue at red lights. After slipping past the gate into the parking garage—an accepted LA practice—I arrived at my appointment with a minute to spare.
A super thrifty gas-sipper means the $7199 2022 Honda CBR500R will fit anyone’s budget. Although the estimated 72 mpg figure is for “comparison purposes only,” according to Honda, the nifty LCD dash reports that I routinely get an average of 65 mpg, even when riding the CBR500R hard and at high speeds. As you can imagine, most of the miles I put on the 500R were not ideal conditions for extending the mileage—high speeds and aggressive throttle in the mountains. With the 4.5-gallon tank, more sensible riding will get you an incredible 300 miles between visits to the filling station.
The accessibility of the CBR500R is one of its best features. Its dimensions and power are suited to an audience diverse in size and experience. The R will be loved by new riders, while entertaining those with many miles under their boots. The mid-size twin is supremely practical and capable, not just of getting you from here to there, but of putting a smile on your face while doing so.
Styling is spot-on—the CBR500R delivers an authentic sportbike look that doesn’t read as an entry-level bike. Honda did a great job with the graphics and styling. Available in two colorways—Sword Silver Metallic and the Grand Prix Red we tested, which looks notably upscale in person. Of course, I wouldn’t complain if Honda offered a version in Repsol livery.
Honda’s 500-class parallel twins have been around for a decade, and it’s a nicely evolved stable of reliable ponies—each capable of various duties, yet focused on a different primary purpose. The CB500X is the adventure-capable model that also is a great commuter. The naked upright CB500F rules the urban jungle, and is a blast in the canyons. The 2022 Honda CBR500R is for riders preparing for undiluted supersport bikes, yet still want something usable around town and capable of commuting. The choice between the trio comes down to how the rider will spend the most time in the saddle, as well as aesthetics and ergonomic considerations, though it’s hard to go wrong with any of this set of fraternal triplets. Going in a different direction, if you like the motor and want to go cruising, you can always pick up the completely different Rebel 500.
Honda updated the CB500X and CB500F with the same front end as the CBR500R, but the difference is far more apparent with the R. While we gently appreciated the beefier front end on the X and F, the way the R is ridden highlighted the change more sharply. The 2022 Honda CBR500R is a significant upgrade from its predecessor and an undeniable bargain for a budding superport rider who needs or appreciates a capable and versatile motorcycle.
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Motos and Friends—the weekly Podcast brought to you by the editorial team at Ultimate Motorcycling.
My name is Arthur Coldwells.
In this week’s first segment, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the much anticipated Yamaha MT-10 SP. That’s the model with the Ohlins semi-active suspension. It’s only been available in Europe for the last couple of years, but finally the good news is, that it’s coming to America. The big question is, whether the extra 3k you’re going to have to pony up for the Ohlins is actually worth it, or perhaps there’s just not that much improvement over the stock KYB suspension that has suited the Yamaha MT-10 so well until now?
In the second segment, Associate Editor Teejay Adams chats with Val Collins. Val grew up on motorcycles and learned to love speed, however her real love is Formula 1 tunnel-boat racing. These are the guys and gals that are strapped into a tiny cockpit and then hurtle down the straights at 120 mile per hour and pull 5G in the corners. We attended the recent season finale in Lake Havasu and watched our friend Mike Quindazzi try to take the win. Val chats with Teejay about her love for two-wheels and tunnel-boats. Yeah, it’s crazy stuff.
From all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode and have a great Thanksgiving Holiday!