Big bikes are really becoming popular in Thailand, but they do come with heavy price tags because they are imported.
The CBR500R corners like a proper sports bike.
The Honda CBR1000R, for instance, costs 799,000 baht. We believe that there are many bikers who are looking for more choices on medium size sport bikes with a good reason, but price must be right also.
Kawasaki seems to be the only brand that produced a good range of locally made medium size motorcycles with affordable prices, which are set from 254,000-289,000 baht for their 650cc models. Now, Honda has just launched three sport bikes at this month's Motor Expo, where 47% of the 450 sold units are the CBR500R, with the rest being CB500F, both assembled in Thailand.
In the past, Honda's only sports models available were the CBR150 (76,000 baht) and CBR250 (from 100,000 baht) posting sales of 12,000 and 31,000 respectively.
The wow factor this time comes with the CBR500R priced at a mouth-watering 204,000 baht.
We were among other Thai media selected to test ride the CBR500R for the first time in the world earlier this month at Bira race circuit in Pattaya.
At first glance, the CBR500R has got the visual DNA of its CBR1000R big brother _ a good thing.
It has the proper looks of a sports bike, with the expected 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels shod with 120/70 and 160/60 section bit tyres and not with anything smaller. Colours include red, black or white/blue/red.
500cc Twin is all-new.
The engine is an all-new 500cc, liquid-cooled, parallel twin cylinder that delivers good power and, with a fuel injection system, an energetic response. Intake and exhaust ports are wide in diameter and the narrow valves maximise air intake and exhaust efficiency.
Using the famed piston of its CBR600R predecessor, the so-called Couple Balancer is claimed to diminish engine shock vibration. The thin crankcase is compact and built with a lightweight concept.
Other key features include high-luminance headlights, nine-level Pro-Link rear suspension, ABS, LCD digital speedo and Honda Ignition Security System (HISS).
I am one of those who love middleweight sport bikes. Revving the engine at high rpm through corner after corner is, in fact, one of the reasons to ride.
And the Bira circuit is perfect place to test ride this bike. The track was in good condition: dry in the morning and over-cast in afternoon.
Hopping on the bike for the first time, my feet were on the ground nicely. No more ballet dancing because the seat height is only 785mm from the ground. In my view, the handlebar is set in "Sport Touring" position. Honda made this bike very easy for everyone, even the beginner.
I had a flash idea right away to change it to a clip-on if I buy this bike myself. The LCD display is very legible.
This is not a Super-Four engine, so it does sound very quiet. Some of you may feel disappointed, but Mugen and Moriwaki exhaust systems are available to add some noise into it.
But when you start rolling to the racetrack, you will forget about sound issues because it is fun to ride.
On the warm-up lap, the 500R was amazingly easy to control and is smooth and comfortable. It was seemingly built to enjoy the torch from low to medium flames.
It does explain well why I revved the engine from first to sixth gear. Reaching 167kph before the first corner was quite fast, even though that isn't its top speed. After a few laps, you'll know the CBR500R is a real sports bike. No question about that. Yes, it feels light, but fast for a 500cc bike.
The transmission works well and cornering with stock tyres is exceptionally good on the track.
The brakes work equally as well with confidence when you need. I notice that the ABS doesn't work right away when you try to brake really hard. I like this set-up a lot.
In the end, is the CBR500R worth the money? Definitely. It's a fun bike for both the road and track and is also built for comfort. Pretty much something for everyone out there who wants a bigger bike at the right price.
CBR500R: 204,000 baht.
About the author
- Writer: Poravit Sreshthaputra
Position: Designer of the Bangkok Post