Review of 2015 CBR500R ABS
I. IT'S A SPORTBIKE, NOT A RACE BIKE
A. The pegs are lowish and will scrape sooner than those of a race bike. However, this means a more comfortable riding position. The pegs don't scrape at any lean angle you might need for street riding.
B. Bars aren't too low or forward for comfortable street riding. I'm 5'8" tall, and I have to lean just a bit forward to reach them, such that extended city riding eventually makes my wrists sore, but at speeds over 40 mph, it is comfortable, as the weight is taken off the wrists by the wind on the shoulders.
C. Seat is comfortable. It's flat and well cushioned. It has enough area. It has a very slight forward lean to it. I would prefer it be perfectly flat, so it doesn't force the rider to push back against the bars to hold himself up.
D. It has a real-world usable power band. More on that later.
II. WIND/WEATHER PROTECTION
A. OK for legs. Lower cowlings won't keep the legs warm in the cold, but the air hitting them is not direct, as on a nake bike.
B. Pelvis and lower torso are well-protected
C. Wind hits the shoulders and head. The stock windscreen is a horrible design. Honda put NO thought into it except to make it look nice for the showroom. The complaint is not due to a lack of wind protection, but that the wind coming off the top of it is turbulent and will deafen a rider in short order. One of my first mods was to replace it with a Puig "racing windscreen" It has a bubble shape, which doesn't give much more protection, but the wind coming off the top of it is not turbulent; it's MUCH quieter where it hits the helmet.
A. Power Delivery - 10/10. It delivers its power everywhere from 3500 - 8000 RPM. With this engine, one doesn't need to rev through a dead zone and wait until 7000 RPM to get power. The flipside is that it doesn't make a LOT of power anywhere; only 47 bhp. It's usable and accessible anywhere. Perfect for any kind of street riding.
B. Smoothness - 8/10. Sometimes, it buzzes my hands to sleep between 4000 and 5000 RPM. I'm sensitive to it, apparently, and it's much worse if I'm wearing gloves that are a snug fit. When I wear a size larger glove than I normally would, I don't notice it. It doesn't buzz at expressway speeds; it's quite smooth there.
C. Amount of power - 7/10. I can't give it a 10 here, because it doesn't have enough power for quick passes with a passenger and luggage. It's one of the compromises we accept when we go with a 470cc twin instead of a 1300cc four. We give up some power, but we have low weight, narrow between the legs and excellent fuel economy. I will say that it is quick enough to be satisfying when you're above 5000 RPM and you twist the throttle, at any speed under about 60 mph.
D. Economy - 10/10. I'm averaging 72 mpg. (US miles and gallons) I get mid-60s on pure expressway riding, and upper 70s or low 80s in suburban riding.
E. Sound - 7/10. It's quiet at idle, and has that lumpy twin sound. It has a nice growl above 5000 RPM, but it doesn't scream like an inline four. Above 5000 RPM, it sounds like a four cylinder car engine on a tuned Civic. (but not the buzzy wasp kind) It sounds wonderful with a pipe.
The engine is just great. It's 470cc and makes power everywhere from 3500 RPM to 8000 RPM. (redline is 8700) Honda chose to tune if for midrange torque, rather than maximum horsepower at high RPM. (as race bikes usually do) Some people feel like it is not "right for a sportbike", but we should realize that there are now two kinds of sportbikes: real-world sportbikes and race replica sportbikes. This one is the real-world type. it only makes 47 peak horsepower, but since it makes torque everywhere, it is nice. It has a nice growl above 4500 RPM and I think it sounds great. Having owned bikes from 49cc through 1300cc, I would say the power is enough to be satisfying, but not quite to the level where you'll think: "Oh my GOD!" when you're accelerating. It's a perfect power level for beginners; they'll have to be a bit careful, but they won't outgrow it. The only time it feels down on power is when executing a quick pass on a back road above 50 mph. You know, the kind of pass where if you don't pass the guy, you'll be stuck behind him for MILES going slow enough to wreck the twisties for you.
B. Transmission - This is not great. Sometimes, when I need to downshift at low speeds because I had to brake hard, it gets stuck between gears. I'm told this has been fixed in 2016 and later models. I would give the tranny a 6/10. Most of the time it works fine, but when it's stuck, it's really annoying. I'm stuck and traffic behind me gets impatient as I'm trying and failing to get it to downshift. The rest of the time, it's very smooth and positive. I'm a little surprised it make it to market for 3 years before they fixed this. Especially so because this engine/tranny is used on 4 variants of bikes worldwide: the CB500F (standard), CB500X (adventure), CBR500R (sport) and Rebel 500. (cruiser)
A. Headlights are good, not great. Typical late model Japanese halogen, not quite up to modern LED lighting in terms of brightness and sharp cutoff
B. 2016 and later versions have both headlights lit at once.
A. Tires 5/10. Mine came on Dunlop Sportmax, which I found not to be as long-wearing NOR as sticky on the sides as a good sport-touring tire. I'm a 175 lb. rider who is usually easy on the throttle, and I got about 7000 miles out of the rear tire. The front has just over 8k now, and it looks like it will last another 1000 miles. One time, I was leaned way over in a turn, but not on the edge of the tire yet. With nothing on the road and with 40 psi in the rear, it slipped out, almost causing a high-side. If you like to ride aggressively on back roads, I would suggest replacing these tires immediately with a quality sport-touring tire, such as Michelin Road, Pirelli Angel ST, etc. (I went with the Pirelli and it is fantastic)
B. Electronics 9/10. Typical Honda. Good electronics, switches and a good amount of information on the display. This is my first bike will full digital instrumentation, and I like it. The tachometer has a digital pointer, which approximates an analog gauge. It's all easy to read at a glance.
C. Levers: 6/10. Good quality, non-adjustable. It's not something I usually comment on, except that I notice my left thumb gets sore at the bottom knuckle on longer rides. Being a 500, it requires a lot more shifting than a larger bike, and it's kind of a long reach. Factory adjustable levers would have been The Way to Go. Honda should have spent the extra $5-10 here.
D. Tools: 3/10. Only an allen wrench and helmet lock cable are included. In Honda's defense, that allen wrench will remove the seat and all the cowling, as well as a couple other things. But if you want to be fully equipped, you'll have to build yourself a proper tool kit.
E. Wind screen: 2/10. It's awful. It looks nice, and it's well-made, but the shape makes for noisy, turbulent air right on the rider's helmet. It's deafening, and worse than no screen at all. Add to that the fact that all the cowling has to be removed to properly replace it and I have to really mark Honda down for this. There's no excuse for it on such an expensive 500 twin. They need to copy the "double-bubble" design on a Puig or Givi screen and be done with it. Offer a taller, touring windscreen, since the bike is such a good lightweight sport-tourer.
F. Luggage Provisions: 2/10. Again, for a bike that makes such a nice lightweight sport-tourer, but a really compromised sportbike, it really lacks a lot. There's no good place to hook a bungee net. There's no luggage rack, not even a small one. Givi makes a nice replacement rack for it; invest in that if you'll do any touring. The SW Motech one is more expensive and doesn't replace the grab rails that have to be removed. With the stock grab rails, I can hook a bungee to either side, but there's no front area, other than the passenger footpeg mounts, to hook them. In my touring, I use the aforementioned Givi rack, along with a locking 40 L Bestem topcase, combined with a dry duffel bungeed to the passenger seat and a small 12 magnetic tank bag. It'll work for a week's worth of clothes for a single rider. If you're riding double, you'll have to pack light or limit it to weekend trips.
CONCLUSION: 7/10. This bike is not a good buy new; Honda asks too much for it. (around $8k) Then again, not a lot o them are. I bought mine new, but I bought a 2015 in 2018, so it was marked down $1800. If I had it to do again, I'd probably get a nice used Bandit 1250 instead. Or a used 2016 or 2017 CBR500R or CB500X. Or used V-Strom or Versys or Ninja 650.
2019 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+
Last edited by Smaug; 10-18-2018 at 10:22 AM.