Before lockdown, I’d been daily riding a Honda CBR500R around 25 miles every day. Except for falling off - completely my fault - I enjoyed getting to know the bike, but the one comment I always heard was “wait until you get bored and want more power!” Well, I have had more power before - I used to ride a CR650R - so thought it was time to address the matter.
Because, guess what…you’re right.
Now don’t get me wrong: revving a bike out like the CBR500R is fun, but when you see cars closer than expected in your mirrors, the sense of satisfaction after launching hard from the lights quickly fades.
What’s more, the twin-cylinder’s exhaust note doesn’t give me the fizz, and when I pull up at the lights next to boys with bigger bikes, my manhood retreats into myself.
That is until I remember one thing:
Compared to a lot of you, I’m old at 35, which means that I like different things. So while I agree that 21-year old me would probably crave that sweet, sweet power hit, 35-year old me just wants to hit sweet, sweet MPGs. In other words, my maxim has switched from fast is fun in favour of boring is beautiful.
To call a sports bike like the CBR boring is nonsense though, but the benefits of having a more sensible bike like this far outweigh the fun I could have on a 1.0-litre superbike. After all, London isn’t a racetrack, and I have to pay for fuel.
Now one drawback I expected from the 500R was lacklustre performance on motorways, but I’m happy to report that isn’t the case; 47hp and two-cylinders is plenty to get me and the bike up to speed, and the mid-range, 32lb ft torque has surprising punch. What’s more, the CBR is fun on a B-road without being too scary and is easy to place on the road.
My greatest love for this bike is its size, though. Because it’s small, and because it only weighs 192kg (a CBR650R weighs 207kg), it’s easy to manoeuvre in traffic, simple to back into a parking bay and always feels lithe; there’s nothing worse than riding a bike you’re not confident on.
Its low 785mm seat height (versus 810mm on the bigger 650) also means that I can flat foot the 500, because as I’m sure many of you know already, what I lack in height I make up for in a lot of terrible car purchases.
The looks and riding position also get a thumbs up from me, which surprised me. During my time with the CB650R, I thought it was the bees, but leaning slightly more towards the handle bars on the CBR is more enjoyable. As for the aesthetics, I’ve grown to love the aggressive design, but the naked CB still clinches it.
So to answer my question of ‘can you really live with a 500cc bike?’, the answer, for me at least, is yes. My days of driving like a dick while listening to Akon (the guy in the 2000s who sang about smacking it all on the floor, being lonely and getting locked up) are done, and I’ve realised now that most girls aren’t impressed with a sick second-gear fly-by.
What I really want is something that looks good (tick), is easy to ride (yup) and doesn’t demand fill ups every other day (with over 80mpg, filling up happens once every two weeks, so job’s a good ‘un).
Now of course if my name were Ron Haslam, and if I lived on a race track, there’s no way that 500ccs would cut it. But for daily rider duties, a bike like the CBR500R is all the machine you’d ever need.