Honda’s A2-compatible mini-street fighter receives an aggressive redesign front-to-back and new tapered handlebars. Its twin-cylinder engine has more low-to-mid range power and torque, and is also now equipped with an assist/ slipper clutch. New LCD instruments and LED indicators round out the updates.
The naked CB500F – originally launched in 2013 alongside the adventure-styled CB500X and fully-faired CBR500R – has proved that one of Honda’s tried-and-trusted formulas for building popular motorcycles has lost none of its relevance.
Namely, an entertaining twin-cylinder engine wrapped in a simple, lightweight, sporty chassis can be as much fun for an experienced rider as it is for those still building their riding career. And while a 35kW peak power output makes it suitable for A2 license holders, the CB500F offers so much more than ‘entry level’ performance.
While its compact dimensions and welcoming manners make it an easy machine to manage, ride and learn on, and sensible running costs built-in make it a great commuting partner, those same attributes make it a genuine pleasure for those – whether stepping up from a 125 or coming down from a bigger machine – who want to explore just what it can do at the weekend.
In 2016 the CB500F received a sharp set of stripped-back ‘streetfighter’ clothes, which put its peppy engine firmly on display, plus a larger fuel tank, LED lighting, preload-adjustable front forks and adjustable brake lever. Building on the theme for 2019 the CB500F is redrawn with uncompromising lines that further elevate its technical and mechanical aspects, plus a host of upgrades that enhance the riding experience even more.
The CB500F has evolved for 2019 and now wears aggressive bodywork to create a more muscular wedge-like muscularity. Tapered handlebars add further riding feel. New LCD instruments feature a Shift Up and Gear Position function and the indicators are now LED, to match the rest of the lighting.
While the CB500F’s engine maintains the 35kW required for A2 license holders it now makes 4% more power and torque between 3-7,000rpm, thanks to revisions to the inlet, exhaust and valve timing. The new dual-exit exhaust muffler emits an enhanced exhaust note; the engine now also features an assist/slipper clutch. The chassis is unchanged, but a new rear single-tube shock absorber delivers consistent damping performance and improved control.
For its 2019 evolution the CB500F’s naked faired form has been evolved front to rear, and exudes a new-found aggression. LED by the penetrating headlight design the machine’s stance is low-set and ready for action; the side shrouds interlock with the fuel tank and fully emphasize the engine, while the side covers and seat unit continue the theme of muscular angularity.
Tapered handlebars add feel and leverage. New LCD instruments feature a Gear Position and Shift Up indicator; this is set to a default 8,750rpm but can be adjusted in 250rpm increments between 5-8,750rpm. The 35mm diameter steel diamond-tube mainframe is unchanged for 2019. It’s light and strong, with a tuned degree of yield that gives plenty of feedback to the rider as road surfaces change. The shape and position of the engine mounts, plus the frame’s rigidity balance also reduces vibration.
Wheelbase is 1410mm and rake and trail are set at 25.5°/102mm, giving nimble, yet confidence-inspiring steering. Mass centralization, with the engine in close proximity to the swing-arm pivot point, delivers turning agility and optimum front/rear weight distribution ensures stability and its kerb weight is 189kg.
Seat height remains low at 785mm, making the CB500F very easy to manage and its neutral riding position comfortably accommodates riders of any height. Overall dimensions are 2080mm x 790mm x 1060mm, with 145mm ground clearance. The fuel tank holds 17.1L including reserve, and combined with the engine’s excellent fuel economy gives a range of 480km (over 260 miles).
The 41mm preload-adjustable telescopic front fork, with 120mm stroke, delivers a compliant yet controlled ride and gives great feel for front tyre grip. A new single-tube rear shock absorber (as found on larger capacity sports bikes) replaces the double-tube design of the previous model; its large-diameter piston ensures excellent suspension response and temperature management. It has 9-stage spring preload adjustment and works through a rigid box-section steel swing-arm, which now features pressed steel chain adjustment end-pieces. Final drive is via sealed 520 chain.
Lightweight, 17-inch cast aluminum wheels employ hollow cross-section Y-shaped spokes. Front wheel width is 3.5inch with a 120/70-ZR17 tyre, the rear 4.5inch with a 160/60-ZR17 tyre. A single front 320mm wavy disc and two-piston brake caliper is matched to a 240mm rear disc and single-piston caliper. ABS is fitted as standard. The CB500F will be available in the color options Grand Prix Red, Matt Gunpowder Black Metallic, Pearl Metalloid White and Candy Energy Orange.
The lively twin-cylinder power plant’s internal architecture mirrors that of the CBR1000RR Fireblade and with a revised inlet, exhaust and valve timing delivers 4% more mid-range power and torque. It emits a sportier sound from the new dual-exit muffler and features an assist/Slipper clutch that eases upshifts and manages downshifts.
The CB500F’s A2-licence friendly, 8-valve liquid-cooled parallel twin-cylinder layout offers a well-proportioned balance of physical size and willing, enjoyable power output, with an energetic, high-revving character and zappy top end. Already strong off the bottom, the target for 2019 development was faster acceleration through a boost in low-to-mid-range power and torque in the 3-7,000rpm range; the 4% improvement comes via altered valve timing – with ‘close’ timing accelerated by 5° – and lift increased by 0.3mm to 7.8mm.
Feeding the PGM-FI fuel injection is now a more-or-less straight shot of airflow through the airbox and throttle bodies. The battery has been re-positioned further away (44.1mm versus 13.4mm) from the rear of the airbox intake duct to allow greater airflow; the exhaust muffler now features dual exit pipes, adding a sportier sounding edge to each pulse. Peak power of 35kW arrives at 8,500rpm, with 43Nm torque delivered at 7,000rpm.
Bore and stroke is set at 67mm x 66.8mm and compression ratio remains 10.7:1; the crankshaft pins are phased at 180° and a primary couple-balancer sits behind the cylinders, close to the bike’s center of gravity. The primary and balancer gears use scissor gears, reducing noise. The crank counterweight is specifically shaped for couple-balance and its light weight allows the engine to spin freely, with reduced inertia.
Acting as a stressed member, the engine complements the frame’s rigidity with four frame hangers on the cylinder head. Internally the cylinder head uses roller rocker arms; shim-type valve adjustment allows them to be light, for lower valve-spring load and reduced friction. A silent (SV Chain) cam chain has the surface of its pins treated with Vanadium, reducing friction with increased protection against wear. Inlet valve diameter is 26.0mm with exhaust valve diameter of 21.5mm.
The piston shape is based upon those used in the CBR1000RR Fireblade to reduce piston ‘noise’ at high rpm. Friction is reduced by the addition of striations on the piston skirt (a finish that increases surface area, introducing gaps in which oil can flow for better lubrication). As with the CBR1000RR, an AB 1 salt bath process, used after isonite nitriding, forms a protective oxidization membrane. The ‘triangle’ proportion of crankshaft, main shaft and countershaft is very similar to that of Honda’s four-cylinder RR engines and much of the internal structure and engineering is taken directly from the CBR1000RR.
The crankcase uses centrifugally cast thin-walled sleeves; their internal design reduces the ‘pumping’ losses that can occur with a 180° phased firing order. Using the same internal relief structure as that of the CBR1000RR, the oil pump features improved aeration performance, with reduced friction; a deep sump reduces oil movement under hard cornering and braking. Oil capacity is 3.2L.
The CB500F’s six-speed gearbox is very close to that of its RR cousin and uses the same gear change arm structure and link mechanism. New for 2019 an Assist/Slipper clutch enables lighter upshifts and smooths out any hard downshifts. A range of Genuine Honda Accessories is available for the CB500F. They include a 35L top box, rear carrier, tank bag, seat bag, high screen (clear), heated grips, 12v socket, rear seat cowl, center stand, wheel stripe and tank pad.