Road Tests


Monday 8th April 2013


Think the new licence restrictions rule out a 'proper' fast bike? Honda's got the answer...

Like it or not the world of motorcycling is changing. As PH2 pointed out in the recent review of Honda’s 2013 CBR600RR, the supersport class is in a tail spin. Insurance, recession, the sheer cost of a new 600, all these factors have put a large dent into the sales of supersport bikes. The simple fact is that when times are tough it is hard to justify spending nearly £10,000 on a 600, and the young riders who used to snap them up are few and far between. However this doesn’t mean young riders are shying away from two wheels and as such we are seeing the emergence of a new class of bike – the A2 licence friendly machine.

Honda has responded to the new licence laws
Honda has responded to the new licence laws
What’s an A2 bike?
With a maximum of 35Kw/47.6hp these bikes are aimed at riders of between 19 and around 26 years of age – the old target audience of supersport bikes. Cheap to insure and also run, A2 bikes are now developing into far more than just dull commuter hacks and this class is genuinely exciting to watch as it grows. And leading the charge is Honda with its new range of parallel twins.

PH2 got a very brief road ride on the CBR500R and if you were restricted to an A2 licence you would be pretty chuffed to have one in your garage. With a £4,950 (including ABS) price tag the Honda is great value, but far more important that that it looks amazing and rides brilliantly. The bike we tested had the same white/blue/red colour scheme as its CBR brothers the Fireblade and CBR600RR and at a quick glance you wouldn’t have picked the 500 out as a low-powered budget machine in the line up. It really does look superb and although there are obviously cost-saving areas, they don’t scream out. The dash is digital, a fuel gauge is included, ABS is standard, the right way up forks have a smart back finish and the quality of paint seems pretty high. All in all it’s a damn fine looking machine, and one that is surprisingly accomplished to ride.

Mini 'blade looks, big bike feel
Mini 'blade looks, big bike feel
Here to stay or a flash in the pan?
Often bikes aimed at newer riders can feel a bit like oversized toys. The old style CBR125R was just so small and low it felt horrific to ride, however while the CBR500R is very narrow, a feature that gives it the feeling of a low seat height as your legs are less spread and therefore you can reach the ground easier, it has a genuine big bike feel. Blatting around on the CBR I didn’t feel like I was riding a ‘new rider’ bike, it felt like I was instead enjoying a sensibly powered motorcycle with good handling and a lovely character.

The parallel twin engine is packed full of charm. It has a surprisingly pleasant exhaust note that while certainly slightly wet-farty as standard isn’t as awful as some – stick a race can and on and I reckon it would be absolutely mega. The power delivery is what you would expect from such a machine, slightly muted so as not to scare but get it wound up and the CBR can motor. On some open back roads I managed to get a bit enthusiastic on the Honda and while the suspension wasn’t overly happy, the engine and handling was certainly good enough to put a huge grin on my face. It may be a ‘new rider’ bike but that parallel twin has some potential for silliness– well  it had better, this year one will be attempting to haul John McGuinness around the TT course…

An aftermarket can should make it sound better
An aftermarket can should make it sound better
What’s next?
While it’s upsetting to see supersport sales slipping it’s  genuinely exciting to see what will appear next in the A2 category. I have nothing against well priced, good fun machines that tempt new riders onto two wheels. Sure I wish supersport bikes were still £6K, but they aren’t and if these A2-friendly machines are the future then it’s not all bad news.



471cc parallel twin
Power: 46hp@8,500rpm
Torque: 31lb ft@7,000rpm
Top speed: 110mph (est)
Weight: 194kg (dry)
MPG: 76mpg (claimed)
Price: £4,950

Author: Jon Urry