Spicing Up the Honda CB500F | STREETBIKE SURGERY

Honda’s Sweet Twin Gets a Little More Serious

When you aim for entry-level perfection, it's possible to leave a little on the table that might benefit slightly more experienced riders. So it is with Honda's sprightly and fun CB500F, our favorite of the CB500 lineup by a long shot.

Tail Tidy
Made by R&G, the Tail Tidy Fender Eliminator gets rid of the clunky license-plate/reflector rigmarole. Installation is straightforward. $160 / twistedthrottle.com

But we knew we could make it better without throwing a ton of money at it, which is always a challenge when your base bike is so affordable. (We’re still waiting for official 2015 pricing on the CB500F, but the ’14 model was $5,799 for the base bike and $6,299 for the ABS model seen here.) The thrust was simple: Add a little bit of visual flair, improve the bike’s soft suspension, and give it a tad more character than it started with.

Style came from the R&G Tail Tidy, which cleaned up the CB’s somewhat awkwardly styled tail section. Practicality came from the Puig hugger and especially the Puig windscreen, which did far more to increase high-speed comfort than we expected. Indeed, this might be the one must-have mod for the CB500F.

Front Suspension
Race Tech provided the springs and Cartridge Emulator package for our CB500F. See the main text for notes on this relatively inexpensive and thoroughly effective upgrade. $280 plus installation / racetech.com

On the suspension front, we installed a Race Tech Cartridge Emulator and a set of 0.85 kg/mm straight-rate springs. The Nitron NTR-R1 shock was ordered for a 180-pound rider and came with a 625 pound-inch (or 11.16 kg/mm) spring. We started the fork with 15-weight Maxima oil filled to 120mm below the fork caps (springs removed) and 10mm of spring preload after carefully cutting the fixed spacers.

As set up, the CB was a tad soft up front and stuff at the back, so we added 5mm of front preload (by adding spacers, but we’d cut a new set of spacers for a long-term solution) and took 1.5 turns of preload out of the shock, ending up with the shock spring at 142mm total length with the suspension fully extended. (Sadly, adjusting the preload collar is a royal pain, given the Honda’s close-in bodywork). We also set the emulators springs, which control the crossover point from orifice to valve damping, to one turn of preload to help reduce small-bump harshness.

Shock
Nitron's NTR-R1 shock comes built to spec based on rider weight and style, with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping. This single shock is an emulsion style, meaning it has no remote reservoir to mount. $600 / nitronusa.com

We’re delighted with the Honda’s suspension now. It’s just firm enough for larger and more aggressive riders—and adds some needed cornering clearance—without being the least bit harsh. In an effort to increase the CB’s responsiveness, we experimented with new tires—Continental’s excellent ContiRoadAttack 2s—and a slightly narrower front size. The 110/70-17 roller did sharpen the CB’s steering but gave up a little too much stability over the stock 120/70, which would be our default choice having tried both. The Contis are grippy, break away predictably, and wear reasonably well.

In the end, we managed to really perk up the little Honda’s handling without making it any worse for new or lightweight riders. If anything, it’s more fun than before, which is impressive all by itself.

Exhaust
Yoshimura's R77 full exhaust system with carbon-fiber canister boosted power by 0.6 hp at the peak (now 44.6 hp at 8,000 rpm) but added 1.7 hp at 6,000 rpm and 1.4 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 and again at 5,000 rpm over stock. The system is 10 pounds lighter than the OE piece. It also scored a moderate 98 dBa on our noise meter. Some of our staffers like the throaty rasp provided by the Yosh system; some, who don't care for the drone-y sound of a 180-degree twin, thought it a little much. Be advised that the full system is not approved for street use in California. $769 / yoshimura-rd.com
Mirrors
Puig provided a pair of High-Tech 3 black mirrors, replacing the Honda's plastic items. Unfortunately, the glass is slightly too-flat (not concave enough) and prone to vibration-induced distortion, making your view of traffic behind a little narrow and a little blurry. $140 / puigusa.com
Windshield
Puig's tidy bolt-on windscreen made an unexpectedly large improvement to the CB's highway comportment. Barely a foot tall, this dark, angular screen kicked the wind off of most riders' chests without inducing turbulence or any other negative side effects. A full-on win in our books. $130 / puigusa.com
Tail Tidy
Made by R&G, the Tail Tidy Fender Eliminator gets rid of the clunky license-plate/reflector rigmarole. Installation is straightforward. $160 / twistedthrottle.com
Hugger/Tires
Puig's rear wheel hugger kept a bit more junk off the Honda's inner fender. While the fit was generally good, some reuse of the stock hardware made it less secure than it could be. $160 / puigusa.com We also spooned on a set of ContiRoadAttack2 sport-touring tires. $427 set / conti-online.com
Exhaust
Yoshimura's R77 full exhaust system with carbon-fiber canister boosted power by 0.6 hp at the peak (now 44.6 hp at 8,000 rpm) but added 1.7 hp at 6,000 rpm and 1.4 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 and again at 5,000 rpm over stock. The system is 10 pounds lighter than the OE piece. It also scored a moderate 98 dBa on our noise meter. Some of our staffers like the throaty rasp provided by the Yosh system; some, who don't care for the drone-y sound of a 180-degree twin, thought it a little much. Be advised that the full system is not approved for street use in California. $769 / yoshimura-rd.com
Mirrors
Puig provided a pair of High-Tech 3 black mirrors, replacing the Honda's plastic items. Unfortunately, the glass is slightly too-flat (not concave enough) and prone to vibration-induced distortion, making your view of traffic behind a little narrow and a little blurry. $140 / puigusa.com
Windshield
Puig's tidy bolt-on windscreen made an unexpectedly large improvement to the CB's highway comportment. Barely a foot tall, this dark, angular screen kicked the wind off of most riders' chests without inducing turbulence or any other negative side effects. A full-on win in our books. $130 / puigusa.com
Front Suspension
Race Tech provided the springs and Cartridge Emulator package for our CB500F. See the main text for notes on this relatively inexpensive and thoroughly effective upgrade. $280 plus installation / racetech.com
Shock
Nitron's NTR-R1 shock comes built to spec based on rider weight and style, with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping. This single shock is an emulsion style, meaning it has no remote reservoir to mount. $600 / nitronusa.com