2014 Honda 500 cc Lineup
2015 Honda 500 cc Lineup at a glance
ENGINE: 471 cc liquid-cooled DOHC parallel twin
FUEL DELIVERY: PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed with O-ring-sealed chain final
SUSPENSION: CBR500RA & CB500FA Front 41 mm telescopic fork with 108 mm (4.2?) travel; Rear Pro-Link single shock with spring preload adjustment with 119 mm (4.7 in.) travel; CB500XA Front 41 mm telescopic fork with 125 mm (4.9?) travel; Rear Pro-Link single shock with spring preload adjustment with 118 mm (4.6 in.) travel
BRAKES: Front 320 mm single wavy hydraulic disc with double-piston caliper; Rear 240 mm single wavy hydraulic disc with single-piston caliper; ABS comes standard
TIRES: Front 120/70ZR-17; Rear 160/60ZR-17
SEAT HEIGHT: CBR500RA & CB500FA 785 mm (30.9?); CB500XA 810 mm (31.9 in.)
WHEELBASE: CBR500RA & CB500FA 1,409 mm (55.5?); CB500XA 1,421 mm (55.9 in.)
CURB WEIGHT: CBR500RA 196 kg (432 lb); CB500FA 193 kg (425 lb); CB500XA 197 kg (434 lb)
FUEL CAPACITY: CBR500RA & CB500FA 15.5 litres; CB500XA 17 litres
PRICES: CBR500RA $6,799; CB500FA $6,299; CB500XA $6,799 (all three bikes currently marked down further with $750 discount)
3 Flavours of 2014 Honda 500
It?s called ?covering all the bases?.
Over the past few years Honda, the world?s biggest motorcycle company, has also seemed determined to create the world?s biggest lineup, adding product to every possible size segment and category.
The most recent stream of new motorcycles kicked off a few years ago at entry-level with the CBR125R and a follow-up CBR250R, just recently replaced by a bigger and more varied 2015 CBR300 lineup.
Other additions have included the NC700 series models, also recently bumped up to NC750 size, and the return of heritage models like the CB1100A and VFR800F revamped in modern form, and a new moderately priced street-oriented CBR650F for sportbikers on a budget.
A CTX lineup, styled as modern cruiser alternatives and available in 700 cc and 1,300 cc sizes, joins new stripped-down Gold Wing cruisers and baggers, the futuristic NM4 that will debut as a follow-up to the DN-01, and even the new and diminutive 125 cc Grom runabout.
But staking out the middle ground and tested here, we have Honda?s 500 cc lineup.
Although that 500 cc lineup was initially designed to sneak in under the 47 hp A2 novice rider regulations in some European jurisdictions, these middleweight bikes seem a natural fit here in Canada as an attainable intermediate segment for newbies who are moving up and looking for more muscle, or for experienced and aging riders who are moving down and looking for less mass.
And although Honda has been picking off each category with sniper-like precision, they seem to be blowing away the 500 cc segment with more of a scatter-gun approach here, offering a wide-spread choice of three distinct flavours based on a shared chassis and powertrain.
The 500 cc lineup harnesses 471 cc parallel-twin engines, shared components and standard ABS braking in three different model styles ? the CBR500RA sport bike, the CB500FA naked version and the CB500XA adventure-styled model. (Yes, there is also a cheaper, non-ABS CBR500R model but we?ll skip that one for the sake of brevity).
If we were to follow an evolution of the ergonomic triangle – the comfort zone distances from seat to pegs to handlebars – you would see the rider sitting progressively more upright as you shift through the three models in the above order.
The CBR500RA ($6,799) stays true to sport styling and race-oriented DNA with narrow, low handlebars and full fairing bodywork and protection. Even so, the seating posture hardly rates as a race crouch and the fairly upright positioning does not put too much pressure on the rider?s arms.
I?m tall but even with the tightest ergonomic triangle in the group, this turned out to be a favourite over the long haul, offering the best wind protection of the trio. It also shines with tight and nimble corner-strafing abilities.
The CB500FA ($6,299) naked model loses a good deal of the bodywork but it boasts more than just a stripped-down, street fighter makeover.
Yes, you?ll be battling the wind more on high-speed highway runs but this is the lightest bike of the bunch and it boosts urban commuter confidence with slightly more upright seating, and wider, flat one-piece handlebars to complement the cut and thrust of downtown driving.
The CB500XA ($6,799), the adventure-styled model, sets an off-road tone with digi-camo ?X? graphics and the most upright attitude of the trio. It also strays the furthest from the shared formula with about an inch more legroom stretch for taller riders ? more ground clearance (+15 mm) and a higher seating position (+25 mm) along with raised and even wider handlebars.
The forks are 20 mm longer and front suspension travel has been increased to 125 mm (4.9?) compared to the 108 mm (4.2?) of travel across the rest of the lineup. Add in a tweaked increase in rake and trail geometry ? 26.5 degrees rake, 108 mm trail compared to 25.5 degrees rake, 105 mm trail ? and the result is a slightly elongated wheelbase (1,421 mm instead of 1,409 mm) that might make the handling feel a little less nervous.
The windshield offers 40 mm of up-and-down manual adjustment. An even taller windshield is also available along with off-road styling cues – fog lights and handgrip knuckle guards.
With its more generous dimensions, real rear seating and longer range 17-litre tank, the CB500XA is the most touring-friendly model, offering passenger room and the only available set of panniers.? All three models do however share some bling bits, heated grips and a top box on the accessory list.
And although the flavours of these three models – the R, F and X – vary somewhat, they do share a satisfying power source with enough oomph to keep things from getting boring.
The 471 cc engine common to all three bikes responds with healthy vigour, ably assisted by a slick-shifting six-speed transmission. Acceleration may not be quite as excitingly frantic as the dental drill scream of a 600 cc sportbike but the engine and exhaust combo is definitely more inspiring than the usual chicken-cluck of smaller parallel-twins.
My fuel economy averages after riding all three versions seemed to settle in at 3.5L/100km (comb), which works out to a potential range of about 440 km with the 15.5-litre tank of the CBR500RA and CB500FA or 485 km with the 17-litre tank of the CB500XA.
In only it?s third year of production, I would expect Honda?s 500 cc lineup to carry forward with little in the way of change for the 2015 riding season, save for the annual refresh of the colour palette.
At the time of writing, all three 2014 models were marked down with a $750 discount. And with that kind of affordable entry price, combined qualities and three distinct flavours for a wide swath of customers, Honda?s three-model middleweight lineup offers potential appeal for any discerning rider in the coming season.