Honda’s CB500F is the quintessential, unintimidating, capable, vanilla motorcycle. It isn’t particularly fast, it doesn’t really excel on highways. But like a good wife, the worst thing about the CB500F is that it won’t give you any reason to leave it for something more exciting.
The CB500F exists in a class of motorcycles called “premium mediocre.” Motorcycles which are just bad enough you’ll look forward to upgrading, but damn good enough you won’t ever really need to upgrade from if you don’t want to.
In this Honda CB500F review we’ll be covering 5 reasons to buy, and 5 reasons not to buy, the Honda CB500F.
Reason to buy: #1 – It feels like riding a toy.
The Honda CB500F is very beginner friendly, forgiving, and easy to ride. The seat height is 31”, and it cuts in very narrow at the edge, which helps shorter rider’s feet to touch the ground. It can feel like riding a toy.
The unintimidating CB500F also comes with a short 55.5” wheel base, and rolls on a standard 120/70-17 front tire. In the rear you’ll find a 160/60-17 which is narrower than the standard 180/60-17 you’ll find on most supersports, and makes for nimble and easy handling. Ease of input is also aided by a wide handlebar, and the entire motorcycle feels very predictable thanks to a near 50-50 weight bias. The package all comes together to make an motorcycle that’s easy to handle, like a beginner bike, or a groupie.
Reason NOT to buy #1 – It feels like riding a toy
That was not a typo. The toy-like feeling of the CB500F can also be a bad thing, depending on your perspective and your size.
The Honda CB500F just doesn’t give that big motorcycle feeling that some riders want at highway speeds or just need for their all-round comfort. Around town the less aggressive ergonomics and the nimble and chill nature of the CB500F are nice to have. However, riders getting close to and over 6 feet tall may start to feel a bit cramped, especially on longer rides.
More than though, most advanced riders point out that the motorcycle feels a little toy-like in the sense that the brakes, suspension, and transmission can feel economy-tiered. That makes sense given the price point, and we’ll tackle some of these components further along in our Honda CB500F review.
Reason to buy #2 – It’s actually fairly affordable
The Honda CB500F is priced around $6,700 USD or $7,700 Canadian. This motorcycle is actually fairly well priced for you get. Thanks to Honda’s excellent reputation, they can also maintain their value well depending on where you live, provided they aren’t too banged up. That means you might benefit from a stronger than average resale value versus some of the motorcycle’s less popular competitors.
Naturally because the CB500F is a common motorcycle, you might be able to scoop one up on the used market and save a pretty penny. If you’re just dipping your toes into motorcycling for the first time, I would recommend scoring a a gently used CB500F, even if it is a few years old.
Reason NOT to buy #2 – It’s probably not your forever motorcycle
The Honda CB500F is not a motorcycle that I would recommend to all riders. If you’re an experienced motorcyclist, the Honda CB500F might not be the right motorcycle for you. While it’s a good all-round, cost-efficient means of transportation, it may leave you wanting more in some areas.
You should consider this a good beginner to intermediate motorcycle. If you find yourself already having spent a few years on a 250 or 300cc, you’ll appreciate the upgrade initially, but you may still find yourself wanting more bike.
It isn’t that anyone needs more power than what the 500cc twin can make – although wants and needs are very different things – it’s that bigger motorcycles tend to come with better components. Motorcycles built to a beginner target, and a budget price-point, have beginner and budget components. If all you’ve ever ridden in a Honda CBR300, the brakes, suspension, and transmission of the CB500F will feel just fine. But if you have a lot of experience on more premium motorcycles, the cost-effectiveness of these components might be more obvious to you.
Reason to buy: #3 – It’s the most reasonable of Honda’s trio of CB500 twins
Honda has three CB-family motorcycles using the same motor: The CB500F, the CB500X, and the CBR500. Of these, the CB500F seems the most reasonable.
The CB500X is aimed at budget adventure use. The CBR500 is aimed at people who think perception is reality, and they have a motorcycle that looks fast, maybe they can fool everyone into thinking they are fast.
Most riders in this segment are just looking to get started in motorcycling, do some occasional commuting to work, and maybe some fun riding on weekends. They aren’t necessarily looking to cross the Sahara on a CB500X or win a race in Sepang on a CBR500R. The in-between bike, the CB500F, is a terrific does-it-all 500cc motorcycle. There’s enough bike there to give you several years of enjoyment out of without giving you too much seat height for some beginners like the CB500X does, or too uncomfortable ergonomics like the CBR500R does.
Reason NOT to buy #3 – You will never stop shifting
The Honda CB500F comes with a six speed transmission, which is great. The short shifting is beneficial to new motorcyclists just learning what “just right” feels like. Unfortunately, the gearing can get annoying, especially for those used to bigger motorcycles.
When I owned one of these motorcycles my commute was a mix of residential zones, major city streets, and a short highway jump. I felt like no matter where I was, I was constantly shifting gears on this motorcycle. At the time I had just gotten a Ducati Monster 620, and there was no comparison between the 10 year older Monster 620, and the CB500F. The Monster’s gear ratios were much better for an experienced motorcyclist, whereas the CB500F is really geared to be extremely, beginner, friendly.
Of course, the bright side is that you can change the gear ratio yourself by changing the sprockets. Many people in the CB500F community have already been doing this for years. Putting on a 16 tooth front sprocket is a very popular mod. There’s also a cost-free way to off-set some of the need for shifting: roll out of stops in 2nd gear rather than in 1st gear.
Reason to buy #4 – Changes and years
Speaking of changes, 2022 saw a lot of upgrades to the CB500F! Earlier generations will still get some kick-ass stuff like a slipper clutch for easy shifting, and 70-80 MPG for an almost 300 mile range out of the 17 liter tank, but if you’re thinking about buying new, the 2022 model brings even more to the table.
Standard upgrades for 2022 include shocks, which seem to vary by market, they seem to be the same shocks as the CB650, but reports vary with some saying they’re adjustable in some markets, and others saying they are still non-adjustable in other markets. It’s best to have a look for yourself wherever you are.
2022 saw the addition of a second disk brake up front which is nice to have. These are paired with four piston calipers which are also nice to have. Although reviewers on brake feel are still mixed, I haven’t tried one of the new 2022s myself, so I can’t help you much there!
You also get a new LED light, because Japanese manufacturers like all of their motorcycles to look the same.
Finally, in 2022 you get lighter swing arm and lighter wheels bringing the weight down and improving the balance ever so slightly on this motorcycle. To be honest though, the Honda CB500F never felt either heavy or unbalanced to me when I owned this motorcycle, and I only weighed 140 lbs back then.
Honda brags about also making the radiator lighter, but the rad is tiny, so I’m questioning how much it even weighed to begin with, and why every review on the internet insists on bringing this up. It seems like Honda tooting their own horn on something so minor, and a million moto journalists all trying to kiss Honda’s rear end by praising Honda shaving off a few ounces… But I digress.
Reason NOT to buy #4 – There is still a lot you don’t get included
Honda makes factory top cases, heated grips, and wind screens for this motorcycle, but much like the second mirror on a 1970s Honda car, those are things you’ll have to pay extra for if you want them.
As mentioned, in some markets you will get pre-load adjustable front forks, but in others you won’t.
ABS is starting to become less of an option and more of a standard feature across most markets, but your brake fluid will still be pushed through rubber hoses. That’s fine if you’re buying brand new and not stopping too hooliganishly, but if you’re buying this bike a few years out, you’ll probably wish it had come with some braided lines from factory. Why isn’t Honda just putting those on straight away from factory? Cost-efficiency, that’s why.
Reason to buy #5 – It makes respectable power, if you push it
When properly provoked the Honda CB500F can make respectable power. It pushes out 47 horsepower, which is about on par with the 805cc Suzuki Boulevard I reviewed earlier this season. It can keep up just fine on the highway. Once there, the 6th gear is nice to have to keep your RPMs calm, but…
Reason NOT to buy #5 – This isn’t a motorcycle for speed demons
If you’re trying to go fast and overtake people at interstate speeds, your Honda CB500F may start to feel a bit buzzy over 6,500 rpm. Coincidentally, that’s where this motorcycle makes her peak horsepower. Luckily you have a 6th gear for comfortable highway cruising, which is what the Honda CB500F is much better at, especially with the lack of fairings and wind screen.
The CB500F is a motorcycle that can keep up, with enough roll on power left at interstate speeds to get you out of the way of trouble, but without the kind of power that could get you into trouble. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. It all depends on which side of the line between safe space and danger zone you like to play in.
Honda CB500F review conclusions
Do I need a Honda CB500F? No. Do I want a Honda CB500F? No. Would I recommend a Honda CB500F? Heck yes. 100x over!
The Honda CB500F is a great entry into motorcycling. It’s also a great second motorcycle for someone who started on something smaller, like a CBR250R, or a CB300F, but who doesn’t want to go up to a full size motorcycle for any number of valid reasons.
The CB500F does everything it needs to do. It has a bullet proof motor, and is a more than adequate motorcycle.. It’s a great entry to intermediate level all-rounder that will be an excellent first or second step into motorcycling for a lot of new riders. It’s something that you can own for a few years without it feeling like that favorite pair of pants you’ve somehow outgrown.
Sure, you could make upgrades to the suspension, brake line, gear ratio, etc. but most riders won’t go beyond adding a wind screen, a tank bag for your necessities, and a cheap slip-on exhaust. That’s not a knock, my CB500F came with a Coffman exhaust, which was pretty janky, but sure sounded a lot better than original exhaust did.
But you’ve already been riding for a few years, and you’re really into motorcycling, you will likely want to move up to one of the better spec motorcycles already on the market, like the Honda CB650.
The twin can get a little buzzy at fast interstate speeds. It’s a little low on torque at around 32 foot lbs, and you need to know when and how to shift it to get the most performance out of it. You’ll also need to change the gearing if you live in a busy city or you’ll feel like you’re constantly shifting a toy-like motorbike.
But that doesn’t mean the CB500F is a bad motorcycle by any means, and if a friend of mine wanted to get into motorcycling, I would eagerly tell that person to buy one. They can ride it for a few years, and enjoy and appreciate it.
It’s well designed, well thought out, well built, and will last forever. In other words, it’s a Honda. The motorcycle is so good it’ll make you fall in love with motorcycling. That means the more you ride it, the more you’ll want more from your motorcycle. And that means this bike will have done its job.
It’s hard to find faults with the CB500F, for what it is, but like I said at the start, it’s like a good wife: the worst thing about it is that it won’t give you any reason to leave it for something more exciting. And that’s okay!
Great review, it’s not always about speed, casami about fun:)