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Honda CBR500R (2022) road test & review | Scottish NC500 sports bike tour!

Honda CBR500R 2022 review

We spent some time with the new Honda CBR500R on the famous North Coast 500 - just how much Fireblade is squeezed into this middleweight A2 motorcycle?

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Sportsbikes
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The Honda CBR500R has been around since around 2013 with the CB500X and CB500F, and it has happily served an A2 licence market (and up) after that famous Honda reliability, and as much Fireblade DNA as possible squeezed into a middleweight package. 

Following the review of the 2022 CB500X, we’re looking at the sportier of the 2022 CB500 trio that we enjoyed on an anti-clockwise tour of the North Coast 500. Toad mentioned that this was one of the most enjoyable machines on the market that he’s ridden - and coming away from it with time to reflect, Toad was spot on.

Over the three days, I was fortunate enough to find myself on the CBR500R when our tour hit faster, flowing roads - and it was exceptional fun pushing it (and with it, myself) with some talented riders.

cbr500r review 2022

It felt composed, well balanced, and overall a seriously competitive sports bike for a middleweight market - I refrain from placing the potential market into the ‘learner’ box, because whilst this is certainly accessible, it doesn’t feel hindered by the need to be too beginner-friendly. Simply put, it’s great fun.

What’s new on the Honda CBR500R in 2022

Let’s start with what’s new, and there’s quite a bit added to the formula here. Instantly you’ll find new 41mm Showa Separate Function Big Piston USD forks from its bigger sibling, the CB650R. Also from the CB650R is the front mudguard, with dual-LED headlight with a broader spread of beam from CBR650R.

New brakes with a twin-disc setup, with four-piston calipers radially mounted to 296mm discs for direct feedback. The engine has also received tweaks to the fuel injection settings for smoother and stronger power at the low and mid-range revs.

Elsewhere, weight saving is considered with lighter 5-spoke wheels, a 92g lighter radiator (without sacrificing performance) and a redesigned swingarm (over 1kg lighter) - taking weight distribution to around 50/50 - it feels well balanced and poised on the road.

Update: pricing is confirmed for the CBR500R, and it'll set you back £6,399 - £100 up from the 2021 model.

Engine

It’s the same 471cc parallel-twin unit with 47 bhp @ 8600 rpm and 43 Nm (31.7 lb-ft) @ 6500 rpm as found in the rest of the 2022 CB500 range, giving you plenty of poke to just about reach into triple digits.

Overtaking and maintaining good speed is absolutely possible with this revvy motor, and at a full twist of the throttle you can put down plenty of power to engage the road and zip up to the speed. 

Doing this does mean ensuring you’re in the right gear, mind. Sitting in 6th at 60 mph is smooth with no huge engine vibrations, but there is little torque to be found at full twist, you’ll need to flick down a couple gears for maximum pulling power. 

sports bike riding shot

Luckily the 6-speed is effortless to click through with assist & slipper clutch, and the tweaked fuel injection makes the throttle smooth with delivery opening from closed. It doesn't sound overly aggressive either, mind.

Easy to get on with, it's a frugal sports bike - an unlikely combination, but a huge amount of fun.

Tank size is 17 L, and in the group we were regularly returning 65 - 80 MPG figures, which is exceptional considering the pace we were progressing, and capable of up to 300 miles in real-world riding. Top stuff.

Suspension and brakes

With the new Showa 41mm forks and new twin disc setup, the front end is entirely new. Despite being non-adjustable at the front, the separate function USD forks help the CBR feel superbly well planted on the roads and in corners. Considering this is the NC500, there were plenty of varying road conditions to try them out on, too.

The rear shock is given a 5 step preload adjust, so you can hone in the ride for your requirements - factor in the new swingarm and engine as stressed chassis, it all feels as sharp as can be.

Mid corner the CBR feels nimble and holds a line well - and if this is any indication - it truly does start feeling like the baby ‘Blade that Honda wants it to be, just with A2 performance. The two-channel ABS doesn’t kick in unless really hammering on the brakes, and if you’re reading this looking for a step up from CBT to A2 (and beyond), it’s a superbly confidence-inspiring place to be for any tentative sports rider.

brakes and suspension

Ride quality

Clip-on bars, 785mm seat, and aluminium footpegs all give a truly sporty riding position, but it’s not so hunched that you can’t ride around town easily. Acting as a stressed member, the engine unit and frame combine for a total weight of 192kg wet - it’s well described as ‘taut’.

At one point on the tour we were traversing between Kylesku and Ullapool in some monstrous winds pushing us across the road - I was able to fully tuck in behind the accessory tall black screen, letting the wind sail over me. I considered it the ultimate wind tunnel test in a sporty full tuck. The seat itself was comfortable enough and for a 6’3”ish rider - at the end of the ride I had no huge complaints about comfort, aside from the usual stiff leg from tucked knees. 

I’ll add that the Michelin Road 5 tyres really did the job well in the dry and wet - and speaking of wet, alleviating some of the cold were the accessory heated grips. Really worth thinking about if speccing one up, operated by a neat little button and activating some toasty-mitts. 

night and led lights

A last comment on the speed, as mentioned I lucked in and got all of the fast and flowing roads for my stints (plus a hugely windy frolic in the Scottish highlands), and it was supreme fun pushing the bike on without being at risk of losing your licence. You had the feeling of full-throttle speed, but without ripping your arms off and waddling back home with your tail between your legs. 

Reliability, features and price

One thing that may divide opinion is the features present on the CBR. The dash is a simplistic LCD, with no smartphone integration and limited features. Now, some may find this no problem, stick a tank bag on with your phone screen visible (like we had) and it’s just as good. But others may want some more electronic trickery up the sleeve. Nevertheless, it's clear to read in dim weather, well laid out and you can make out the info with a slightly longer look in sunny conditions. 

The front brake is given an adjustable lever, the switchgear is the standard high-quality Honda, but one issue may lay with the mirrors. Despite being a precarious reach away for adjusting on the fly, the mirrors surprisingly returned little other than my elbow and arm without a tilt of the lid to get the full picture.

It’s available in 2 colours, Grand Prix Red and Matt Gunpowder Black Metallic (new for 2022), and it looks the part. Lovely little winglets on the bottom of the fairings, and it does look like Fireblade from a quick glance.

At £6,399, the 2022 model year price is not too bad considering the additional tweaks and updates. If considering between 2021 or 2022 models, I know which I’d be choosing as a daily runner.

Honda CBR500R black 2022

Accessories and extras

You can opt for the usual suspects here; including the previously mentioned heated grips, taller screen and tank bag that a commuter may find useful - there’s also a 35L top box, 12V USB-C socket, seat cowl, wheel stripes (which are present in riding pictures) and tank pads.

Perhaps some would want more thrown in for the price, particularly a snazzier screen with phone integration, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a motorcycle in the A2 category (out of the box) that does all of the fundamentals so well. Plus, a two-year warranty!

scenic Scotland John o'Groats

What we like and dislike 

Overall, the entire package ticks practically every box that someone would be after. The new suspension and brake setup, along with updates to the weight arrangements, really give this ride a poised feel. It’s supremely easy to ride, confidence-inspiring and will appeal to riders stepping up or stepping down, and still able to etch a smile on the hardest of faces. I’ll also add that the motor is top across the CB500 range.

The main negatives are apparent in the simple screen, awkward adjust mirrors and basic ‘bonus spec’ across the bike. Speccing one of these up to your liking may see it travel way above the original price if you want all the mod cons. 

scotland scenery

Verdict

There are plenty of things to like about the Honda CBR500R in 2022, and chief amongst them are the updates that are brought into this new model year. It’s a formula that has been working for years now, and these updates feel substantial in contributing to a superbly fun motorcycle. 

That’s what I came away thinking from riding this on the NC500, where we shared time on all three. Whilst the CB500X was perhaps the most suited for the tour, the CB500F the most ‘middling’, the CBR500R was outright the most fun. 

At £6,399 it’s a genuine consideration for someone after a frugal bit of fun in the garage. It’s the classic Honda reliability tropes here, and that’s not something we can test for - but in this case, I think buying Honda will mean buying happy. 

Thanks again to Honda, head to their site for more details, spec and pricing info!

Watch: 7 things to know about the Honda CBR500R (2022)