By: IOL Motoring Staff
Johannesburg - Honda has a history of sporty, high-revving parallel twins going back to the 247cc C70 of 1957. They took a back seat in 1968 with the advent of the Honda CB750 Four and its smaller siblings, but never really went away - and now they're back, in the shape of the CBR500R.
It has all the advantages of a parallel twin - a compact, narrow engine with its masses neatly centralised - and, although it has clearly been built down to a budget (steel frame, relatively unsophisticated suspension), Honda has succeeded in giving it a sporty persona with a Fireblade-style full fairing, 17” cast wheels at both ends, digital instrumentation and a seating position that looks a lot more radical than it is.
There's been no budgeteering on the engine, however; it's liquid-cooled, twin-cammed and fuel-injected through four valves per cylinder, almost exactly square at 67 x 66.8mm bore and stroke for a true capacity of 471cc.
In other words: proven, hard-core engineering, exactly what Honda does best.
The spec sheet quotes 35kW at 8500 revs and 43Nm at 7000rpm, delivered via a conventional cable-operated clutch, six-speed 'box and chain final drive - although we're treating its claim of 3.7 litres per 100km with appropriate restraint 'til we've ridden one.
The 35mm diameter steel diamond-tube frame has been tuned in the same way as its bigger stable-mates, for controlled flexing in some planes and none at all in others, matched to a no-nonsense swing-arm welded up from three pieces of 70 x 30mm rectangular steel tubing for a short-coupled 1410mm wheelbase and a fairly conservative (by spoprts-bike standards) 25.5-degree rake angle.
Suspension is entrusted to 41mm conventional cartridge forks, devoid of any adjustment, and Honda's signature Pro-Link rear set-up, adjustable only for preload, while the 17” cast rims carry 120 section front and 160 section rear radial tyres.
Kerb weight is a surprising 194kg, about the same as a 600cc supersports four, but a lowish (790mm) seat height, relatively high handlebars and slim midsection make the CBR500R easier to manage.
The brakes are an odd mix: petal discs and ABS rings make them look state-of-the-art but the real work is left to bargain-basement Nissin callipers - a twin-piston floating unit in front and just a single piston at the rear.
Mind you, with only 35kW to modulate, that may well be all that's required; we'll reserve judgement until we've tried it.
The all-digital instrument pod includes a speedometer, digital bar-graph rev-counter, odometer, two trip meters clock, fuel gauge and fuel-consumption display.
The Honda CBR500R retails for R69 990, which includes rider training through the Honda Academy, a two-year, unlimited distance warranty and 12 months' roadside assistance.
Engine: 471cc liquid-cooled parallel twin.
Bore x stroke: 67 x 66.8mm.
Compression ratio: 10.7:1.
Valvegear: DOHC with four overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 35kW at 8500rpm.
Torque: 43.1Nm at 7000rpm.
Induction: PGM-FI electronic fuel-injection.
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorised with electronic advance.
Clutch: Cable-operated wet multiplate clutch.
Transmission: Six-speed constant mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: 41mm conventional cartridge forks, no adjustment.
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link with monoshock, adjustable for preload.
Front brakes:320mm petal disk with Nissin dual-piston floating calliper.
Rear brake: 240mm disk with single-piston floating calliper.
Front tyre: 120/70 - 17 tubeless.
Rear tyre: 160/60 - 17 tubeless.
Seat height: 790mm.
Kerb weight (claimed): 194kg.
Fuel tank: 15.7 litres.
Fuel consumption (Claimed): 3.7 litres per 100km.
Warranty: Two years - unlimited distance.
Price: R69 990.