For those amongst us that has had the pleasure of learning to ride a motorcycle, you more than likely had a few lessons on the bike schools weapon of choice – the mighty Honda CB500.
For those who aren’t familiar with this motorbike, it is a low tech, sturdy twin cylinder 500cc motorcycle, chosen by many as an ideal commuter bike due to its great handling and reliable engine. So what else would you need to make a great low cost racing formula?
After a break from motorcycle racing due to injuries and overseas postings, my racing career was back underway in 2015. After registering with the RAF Motorsports Association and receiving sponsorship from Sawyer Bros Ltd I was soon competing with my CB500 at East Midlands Racing Association (EMRA). EMRA are my local club ‘from back home’, they predominantly hold race meetings at Mallory Park in Leicestershire.
The bikes are very lightly modified from the road going version. A set of race panels, flat & wide handle bars, a rain light, high level exhaust and a bit of lock wire here and there. That’s about it! It makes for an affordable but competitive formula to race in as the bikes are all basically the same. No engine tuning or modification to suspension allowed.
2015 has been a busy year for me, so test days have been…..well…… non-existent! I have resorted to turning up at Mallory Park on the Saturday of the race meet, prepping the bike in the paddock, and then racing it on the Sunday. Bearing in mind that race meets are a month apart, it takes me a little while to get back into the swing of things, (that’s the excuse I’m sticking with anyway!).
With my experience on the bike growing, I was beginning to feel confidence in the bike’s handling and grip. For a commuter bike it has surprising levels of grip and is a true joy to ride in the twisty sections. A distinct lack of straight line speed is quite normal for the CB500’s so the relatively short ‘Kirkby straight’ at Mallory Park seems to take an age to come to an end. This does however give you plenty of thinking time before tipping into ‘Gerards’ a long sweeping, high speed corner which a CB500 can comfortably nip round with the throttle pinned wide open. Much to the surprise of other modern sports bike riders – myself included!
So with more and more riders competing with CB500’s at EMRA it was recently announced that a new, dedicated HONDA CB500 class would be set up for 2016 race season. Great news! CB500 racing is however, by no means a new idea. Similar classes have been running with other clubs in one form or another from the days of New Era, to Thundersport GB whose coverage of the racing is often broadcast on Motors TV. Membership places with Thundersport in the CB500 class are highly sought after and I was sadly, unsuccessful this year. Although, Sawyer Bros Ltd are represented with one bike already competing with Thundersport, my team mate and brother, Paul #69.
A trip out to watch the thrills and spills at a club race meeting can be a great day out for the family, whilst showing support for grass roots club racing. Please search for events in your area, or come along to Mallory Park and cheer me on, I could do with the support!