HONDA CB500 (1994-2003) Review

Published: 24 November 2006

"Huge fun because it's so confidence-inspiring"

Honda CB500 motorcycle review - Riding

"Huge fun because it's so confidence-inspiring"

  • At a glance
  • 499cc  -  57 bhp
  • 50 mpg  -  200 miles range
  • Insurance group: 9 of 17
    Compare insurance quotes now
  • Medium seat height (775mm)

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

The Honda CB500 is a first big motorcycle you’ll never want to sell. It’s huge fun because it’s so confidence-inspiring, meaning you can take it anywhere and it’ll make you feel you can push your limits. Very competent: commuters and couriers love Honda CB500s for their reliability and all-round, top-notch performance.  In all aspects, the Honda CB500's a winner.

Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5

Everything is stable and friendly, meaning the rider can hone their skills whilst chucking the Honda CB500 about with wild abandon. It’s comfortable, the suspension’s ok, the gearbox is smooth and both slow and high speed handling are excellent. Very versatile, the Honda CB500 will cruise up to 90mph on the motorway without a fairing.

 

Engine 5 out of 5

The Honda CB500 motor’s incredibly smooth with loads of power across a broad range. Even more fun… There’s an unexpected surge of welly, just after 8000rpm, which makes the Honda CB500 take off. Power delivery’s clean from a responsive throttle. Furthermore, the Honda CB500's very reliable and you can rack up the miles with little care.

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

So good, we almost need a fanfare. Honda CB500 engines go on and on and on, as many a courier will tell you. Weaker points are the easily-rusting downpipes and short-lived exhausts. Otherwise, the Honda CB500 is pretty damned good: far more refined, and with far more longevity, than its rivals (see below).

Insurance, running costs & value 5 out of 5

Excellent. The Honda CB500 is a hugely versatile machine that’ll surprise you with its ability. Competitors, such as the old Kawasaki ER-5 or Suzuki’s GS500E, may be slightly cheaper but don’t have the quality (or the extra horsepower) of the Honda CB500. Be wary of ex-training school/race bikes (the Honda CB500 had its own series!) which have been dropped/crashed a lot. Find a Honda CB500 for sale.

Insurance group: 9 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 3 out of 5

Nothing too flash (the money went on the Honda CB500's chassis and the engine) just well-thought-out and well built. The Brembo brakes work wonders. The Honda CB500 clocks are large and clear but very basic. A good seat with a decent amount of room for a pillion, too; and there’s a grabrail. Comfort’s good overall on the Honda CB500 but it can be cramped for giant riders.

Owners' Reviews

25 owners have reviewed their HONDA CB500 (1994-2003) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your HONDA CB500 (1994-2003)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 4.4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.0 out of 5
Engine 4.2 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4.4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.4 out of 5
Equipment 3.9 out of 5
4 out of 5

more bike than it seems

23 April 2017 by Oliver Huebner

its my 1st bike, so I have only little comparison. But it seems inexpensive, reliable, does have very good ergonomics for 5'10'' person, good analog displays, is easy to ride; forgives small mistakes, suspension can and should be upgraded with better... Read more springs (its a much different bike then!), brakes are ok but far from greatness, engine wants to be revved/pushed to be fun, it does have enough power to overtake cars on country roads easily (if you revv it high!) and is fast enough for the Autobahn, the little Honda is not a showbike and not really good for cruising but nevertheless very versatile... I use it for commuting and for fun rides, also travelled the distance with full camping equipment,... yes, there are probably better allround bikes out there now - but I cant think of none for the money. Its a good 1st bike for safe and fun learning (without being lame) before deciding for s.th. more expensive with that experience (or sticking to the little one). Also I can recommend it as a everyday workhorse or as a budgetbike/ secondary/backup. 4 out of 5 only because of the just ok brakes and because sometimes I d like more punch at low/medium revs...

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
good positioning/ergonomics for five' ten'' rider; outstanding with suberbike bar; original springs are kind of soft and fine for commuting - harder springs improve handling a lot but will make the ride less comfy; I can still ride it for hours/ travel all day if needed (good weather and road conditions); brakes are ok but not better than that; no abs of course
Engine
4 out of 5
enough power for trafficking of any kind even Autobahn, but needs to be revved above 6000 for fun and above 8000 for funfun, only mediocre performance at low revs, but it does have a good and precise gearbox!
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
seems to be excellent, no repairs yet (one year/8,000 miles)
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
value? It comes and goes for little money... tyres should last 12000 to 15000 km (roughly 7500 to 10000 miles)... cant tell about the chain yet (after 8000 miles with almost new chain)... fuel will take you at least 170 miles before reserve when pushing hard, above 200 when commuting/travelling... no repairs since I own it (one year/8,000 miles)... only the usual maintenance sort of things and some upgrading, can mostly be done by oneself (even without experience)
Equipment
3 out of 5
Bridgestone BT45; stronger fork springs and (YSS) progressive springs for the rear, suberbike bar, windshield (MRA/spoiler); extra bright light bulb; I will switch to a slightly smaller pinion (14 instead of 15 teeth) when installing new chain....
Buying experience

Bought it for a very reasonable price from an acquaintance, who opted for a different kind of bike. No regrets

4 out of 5

Best little thing ever

29 March 2017 by Margit

My first bike, had it for 6 years not, not planning to sell yet. Must learn how to wheelie with it first. Rusts with time, but it's what to expect from a 21 year old bike. Needs some work to get it running smoothly every now and then. Perfect for... Read more short riders and women as it is low and light.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
Extremely comfortable on long trips, can ride 600 km on one day easily. With pillion a bit more tiring as it's a small bike. Pillion loves the wide and soft seat. Takes curves like a dream (my curves were faster than Ducati monster and Suzuki gsxr750). Back brakes are still drum, but stops with decent time.
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
As the years go by, I find harder to buy original new parts for the bike. Some parts are not made by Honda any more and are not available in warehouse either. But a lot of them available as second hand parts.
Equipment
4 out of 5
I like that it's low. I'm only 1,62 cm and it suits me well. I use Kappa 2 helmet size top case, a bit big with wind but OK even with pillion on back. Handlebar could be wider.
Buying experience

Private seller. Got it for 1200 euros in year 2011

5 out of 5

Superb, cheap runner

21 September 2016 by gareth sloggett

Superb bike, so cheap to run ,milage 200,000 miles no problems just change the oils 120mph just keeps on going. Read more

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
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Engine
5 out of 5
unburstable engine typical honds 200,000 miler
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
5 out of 5
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5 out of 5

Perfect bike? I've not owned better

10 August 2016 by Jester

Just coming up to 100 000 miles and still going strong with over 7 000 miles ridden this year so far. Everything about the bike is perfect for me, the other bikes I have owned at the same time as the CB [955i Speed Triple, 900 Hornet, XJR1300,... Read more CB500X and Gladius] are at best 4/5 compared with the CB500s 5/5.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
The handling will see off bigger bikes around the twisties where they can't get 200 bhp down without a trip to casualty and don't turn as fast. Low speed lock-to-lock figures of eight are easy to achieve. I've ridden just under 900 miles in a day in the past, these days 500 miles/day is about the most I do. 2-3 hours between breaks is easily achievable if you are used to distance riding. Brakes are strong with the front good enough to 'stoppie' the bike and plenty of feel. The front judders before it locks.
Engine
4 out of 5
More power is always welcome, but 57 BHP at the crank will see the bike into cruising at speeds frowned upon. Low RPM riding is easy and a 'change at 8' acceleration gives 0-60 in about 5 seconds. Ignore the 'test' mpg, in the real world and with big miles on the clock the bike returns between 60 and 75 mpg unless thrashed everwhere you go when it will drop to high 50s.
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
The only failures I've had are the reg/rect at 60 000 and the water pump having a bit of a dribble at 99 000. As with any bike ridden in all weathers there are bits of corrosion but my CB500X had a rotten frame after 11 days and 1000 miles of riding.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
I service the bike myself apart from the valves due to lack of room and bench. The shims haven't been changed from new. Oil and filter changes are a doddle and there's not much else to do.
Equipment
5 out of 5
If you want tacho, speedo and a couple of warning lights then that's what you get. If you want a BMW level of buttons and displays you won't get it, but then you don't pay the BMW premium, service prices or accessory prices. The review states that the forks are adjustable [they aren't] but they don't need to be. The rear shocks needed the 'one click higher' setting for me to be happy on the bike. BT45s are the ideal tyre and allow hero blob damage. If your riding style is "not plodding" the front may triangle rather than square off with the wear appearing either side of the centre and the tread blocks stepping as the tyre nears it's worn limit. I have heated grips, 45L cases, luggage rack and a sat nav on mile. The underseat storage contains lock, first aid kit, puncture repair kit, puck, lock, cable repair kit and other tat that you won't fit on a monoshock bike.
Buying experience

Bought new in 1999 from John Lee in Higham Ferrers for £3600

4 out of 5

Great first bike, will keep you going for ages

01 June 2016 by Ed the VLG

Great first bike, big enough to put a nice sized box on the back for work gear etc. Read more

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
First bike & compared to the couple I did my basic training on it's really confidence inspiring.
Engine
4 out of 5
Always seem to have power there for you & if you really rev it there is a surprising boot at higher revs.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
Pretty clean bike, only work to be done was to rub down the rear foot rests as they were corroding a bit, & the speedo gear in the front wheel was broken.
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
Not had it serviced yet, but getting 40mpg in mainly city riding.
Equipment
3 out of 5
I had the seat reshaped which reduced the ride height by approx 1.5inches, & it feels much better, even seems to ride better. I stuck on additional LED spotlights 'cos I felt it could be a bit more visible on the road (I'm in the city a lot so any extra helps) Also changed to mirrors to more 'sporty' looking ones.
Buying experience

Bought privately through a mate. €1600 in 2015.

4 out of 5

21 April 2016 by robert mackenzie

need to know specifications Read more

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

18 February 2016 by James

I bought this bike as my first "big bike" (Thanks eu licence restrictions) Overall the bike is great! I bought mine for £1200 and fitted a few extra's such as heated grips and a full luggage system. I'm currently averaging at least 250 miles each... Read more week and the only part that lets the bike down is the organic bit that sits on it (me)! So far I've put on about 5K miles in the last 4 months and she hasn't missed a beat. Overall I'll never have any intentions to sell this bike.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
The brembo calipers front and back do an amazing job at stopping the bike. It's even more noticeable when there is a pillion on the back.
Engine
5 out of 5
Very good on fuel apparently 45-60mpg is what I've had out of mine but I've been used to a 125 that does 120mpg so my view will be different to most. At less than 10 pence a mile I can't really complain.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
Engine mounting bolt seizes to the engine and can be difficult to remove but that's my only complaint.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

One of the greats!

10 February 2016 by Danny

I brought my Honda CB500 last year for £1200, and with only 6k on the clock it was an absolute bargain because over 50k miles is pretty normal! So far I've used it for both work and fun on the weekends and its not had a single problem. Its a great... Read more first big bike or just a great bike in general. The performance is good and it handles very well. I personally like the brakes because they are very linear and strong when you want them to be. Handling is very good in all conditions and servicing is easy for anyone. I've had it a year and I'm not even thinking of upgrading because its so good for my commute and so reliable.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
Brembo brakes are very strong and linear.
Engine
5 out of 5
Good overall power. Good MPG I probably get between 50 - 65mpg even when you go a little mad
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Seeing as its 18 years old its held up very well. My only problems so far have been slight rust on the rear suspension but that was probably caused by all the road salt over the winter. Everything else is great
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Easy to service so do it myself. Probably looking at between 60 and 150 depending on if you need chain and sprockets or brake pads ect, but parts are very cheap and easily obtained.
Equipment
4 out of 5
No fuel gauge, which doesn't really bother me but might annoy some. The storage under the seat is huge! Also having a center stand makes servicing easy work.
5 out of 5

It a bird, its a plane ITSS the Honda CB500!!

16 December 2015 by Elliot

An incredible bike, I paid £500 in 2013 with 23,000 Currently 38,000 and performs like a dream. I was knocked off my bike in early 2014, resulting with the bike being reluctantly sidelined to the back garden. A year later I returned to the bike... Read more with a new battery, two attempts later the bike started without any need for the choke!! Incredible! that same day I spontaneously rode the bike from Birmingham (Home) to London (University) with no issues and bearing in mind the petrol had been sat in the tank for a year! A month later I rode the bike around Europe, two up with luggage restricted to 47bhp, through mountains, motorways, rain, sunshine and 3000 mile later we returned home without the bike missing a beat! I would not only recommend the Honda, i'd make a mandatory law stating everyone should at least ride the little CB, I however realise, I may have been absurdly lucky with my bike but its the Best £500 I have ever spent and strongly recommend a CB500

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
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5 out of 5

The best 500 twin

13 December 2015 by Bob

Superb 500. The best I have ever ridden. Really responsive, very easy to manage, all in all a really great all round bike. Read more

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
Bike is great around town and on fast A roads. Good for scratching around bends. Reasonable on motorway - up to 80mph.
Engine
5 out of 5
Pulls like a train all the way up to 80. Bit hard work after this. But very smooth considering its a twin.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Consumables are very reasonable, very easy to obtain - but buy the very best you can afford. Do not scrimp on things like oil and filter.
Equipment
4 out of 5
Very comfy seat, handlebars are spot on, clocks nice and big.
Buying experience

Purchased privately. Paid good money - but very, very good example.

Read all 25 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1994
Year discontinued 2003
Original price -
Used price -
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 9 of 17
Annual road tax £62
Annual service cost £140
Performance
Max power 57 bhp
Max torque 35 ft-lb
Top speed 120 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 13.2 secs
Average fuel consumption 50 mpg
Tank range 200 miles
Specification
Engine size 499cc
Engine type 8v parallel twin, 6 gears
Frame type Tubular steel cradle
Fuel capacity 18 litres
Seat height 775mm
Bike weight 173kg
Front suspension 37mm fork, preload
Rear suspension Preload
Front brake 296mm disc
Rear brake 240mm disc
Front tyre size 110/80 x 17
Rear tyre size 130/80 x 17

History & Versions

Model history

1994: Honda CB500 launched. It had a drum brake at the rear and Nissin caliper up front. Naked version only available.
1997: The rear brake converts to disc and both brakes get Brembo calipers.
1998: Honda CB500 race series kicks off and a silver version of the bike becomes available to celebrate. A half-faired Honda CB500S version joins the Honda fleet.
2003: Both Honda CB500 models discontinued as they didn’t meet EU emissions laws. Replaced by the Honda CBF500.

Other versions

CB500S: half faired version of the Honda CB500, introduced in 1998 and discontinued in 2003.

Photo Gallery

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  • Honda CB500 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda CB500 motorcycle review
  • Honda CB500 motorcycle review - Riding
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  • Honda CB500 motorcycle review
  • Honda CB500 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Honda CB500 motorcycle review - Riding
  • Honda CB500 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda CB500 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda CB500 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda CB500 motorcycle review - Side view
  • Honda CB500 motorcycle review - Side view
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