Think the new licence restrictions rule out a 'proper' fast bike? Honda's got the answer...
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.
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…
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.
Engine: 471cc parallel twin
Torque: 31lb ft@7,000rpm
Top speed: 110mph (est)
Weight: 194kg (dry)
MPG: 76mpg (claimed)