THIS could be the bike that a new generation of riders will one day look back at with misty-eyed memories of their youth – the first sports bike developed specifically to cater to the new “A2” European licence rules that come into force on January 19 next year.
To recap, the new regulations will prevent anyone under the age of 24 from doing a direct access test and riding unlimited bikes straight away. Instead, 17 year-olds will be limited to 125cc bikes, and from the age of 19 riders will be allowed to use “A2” bikes – with under 35kW (47bhp) and a power-to-weight ratio of no more than 0.2kW per kg. Effectively that's a minimum weight of 175kg for any bike using the full 47bhp, so forget all those ideas of digging out old RG250 Gammas. Oh, and just to really make life awkward, you can't restrict anything “more than twice” as powerful, so the idea of sports 600s with restrictor kits goes out of the window, too.
While there are bikes out there that already fit those rules, most of them are so dull that anyone under the age of 24 would rather ride a bicycle than be seen on. That's where the CBR500R comes in.
Powered by a new parallel twin, 8-valve, 471cc water-cooled motor, making precisely 35kW, it's been designed with the A2 class in mind from the start. The motor's square bore and stroke – 67mm x 66.8m – should add up to a good spread of torque (32lbft at just 7000rpm, while peak power is only 1500rpm higher than that – the closeness of the peaks suggests a tractable motor). Using the same sort of stacked gearbox arrangement as most modern sports bikes, the new fuel-injected motor has been kept compact, too.
The motor is bolted to a tubular steel frame, with novice-friendly geometry (25.5 degree rake, 102mm trail and a 1410mm wheelbase) and low, 790mm seat. While the bike looks sporty, the bars are actually quite high and wide while the pegs are relatively low, although the aftermarket is sure to step in with alternatives that will give a more authentic sports bike riding position. The suspension is fairly basic, with conventional 41mm forks and a rear shock adjustable for preload only, and the brakes are similarly unspectacular, with a single 320mm front disc and two-pot caliper, albeit with ABS as standard.
Only the bike's weight – at 194kg ready-to-ride – seems a little disappointing, but on closer inspection of the specs, its dry weight is close to the 175kg minimum that the bike's 35kW output would allow while meeting the EU's petty 0.2kW-per-kg A2-class limit.
Price will make or break the CBR500R, and we're going to have to wait a little longer to find out exactly where it will sit. There's a big gap between the current £4100 CBR250R and the £7300 CBR600F, and the CBR500R will slot in there somewhere. However, with the NC700S currently only £5400 (and one of the few large-capacity bikes that could be legally restricted to fit the A2 licence class) the chances are that the CBR500R will be lower than that – maybe around £5k?