Hours before the world opens its weary eyes and the population starts its day, I thumb the starter and the motor fires to life – my two-wheeled escape plan hath commenced. The parallel twin cylinder engine of the CBR500R quickly falls into a rhythm as it warms. I take the time to throw on my gear: first the jacket, followed by the helmet and lastly, the gloves. As I shut the windshield on my helmet, the rest of the world disappears with it. Nothing matters but the journey now.
A tug on the clutch lever and some motivation on the shift lever eases the bike into gear. With a dose of throttle, I pull onto the empty streets as the first rays of light pierce the last of the night’s sky. A motorcyclist always leaves early; when the world is fast asleep, the morning air is crisp and the roads are ours for the taking. The mission is simple; escape reality en route to a world only motorcyclists and fighter pilots know exist. Gunning for the hills, I make quick work of the city streets in search of the highways that connect me with my concrete heaven. The miles exiting my 9-to-5 world are made easier thanks to the comfy ergonomics of the CBR500R that allow me to see the road ahead without straining my neck and cramping my legs.
Motorcyclists aren’t bashful when it comes to what they want in a bike. It’s rather simple: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The civility and comfort for everyday riding is as necessary as the capabilities to get down in the turns, accelerate on the straights, and raise your heart rate on the weekends. When not relentlessly chasing the perfect road, things like comfy ergonomics and a buttery smooth ride mean everything. Just as a powerful motor, strong brakes and capable handling are crucial to full throttle rides, low maintenance, low cost, and fun are all prerequisites. We don’t want to work on it. We want to ride it! And by ride it, we mean everyday and everywhere. So the motor needs power and poise, while the rest of the package must also display style. There is no overheating and cantankerous behavior like a classic sports car. We want our cake and we want to eat it too. This is power and comfort without the compromises.
Back to the task at hand. I approach my exit to the promised land, only a few miles of civilization remain before I break free. A sign reads “Next Gas Stop, 70 miles.” Thankfully, my CBR needn’t stop for gas. Unlike bigger bikes, it sips fossil fuels and still rips. While the comfortable saddle, generous legroom and highish bars of the R-model are great for the everyday, with the last turn in sight, it no longer matters. Here in the serpentine mountain roads, what matters most is how the motorcycle accelerates off the turns and what it feels like bent through the turns. I start slow, building heat into the Dunlop Sportmax tires because, unlike cars, motorcycles must balance on contact patches (the size of the tire that touches the ground) no wider than several inches. The steering response sharpens and the CBR’s demeanor tightens as the tires reach their operating temp: It’s time to turn up the pace. I fan the shifter, knocking down from 6th gear to 3rd as I bring the twin cylinder engine into the meat of the powerband. I roll open the throttle and charge for the next corner, clicking off shifts at the 8,500-rpm redline. Unlike some motorcycles with arthritic shifters, the slick six-speed transmission on the CBR500 makes speed-shifting a cinch. I see the coming turns and set up for the first hard right. A downshift to 4th gear, a change in body position and a slight tug on the bars is all it takes to tilt the horizon–this bike is light on its feet. This is what I’ve come for. The lightweight Honda changes direction in an instant, making quick work of the endless turns. In what feels like a hailstorm of intensity, I climb for the clouds, one turn at a time.
The sensory overload is so consuming, only my unconscious acknowledges I’ve reached nirvana. Leaned into a bend, my gaze is locked on the exit of the present turn and then the entrance of the next. According to my calculations I’m not turning tight enough. It’s OK, we’ve reached the point at which man and machine have become one, as I drop my inside shoulder and turn tighter. No car, no matter how great, can compare. Here, my every move translates through the bike. A drop of the shoulder, a nudge on the bars, a push of the leg or a move of my knee produces an immediate reaction. Try that in your car. All you’ve got is a paltry steering wheel. Ha, a pity! In what seems like an instant I’ve reached the crest and decide it best to rest my mind at the lookout where motorcyclist convene. It all still doesn’t feel real. My hands are trembling and I can barely remove my gloves and helmet. This is what I’ve come for. A cursory look at the Honda to make sure all is well reveals no signs of fatigue–it was just warming up. A few stationary minutes off the bike slows my mind enough to re-live the onslaught of visceral input I just experienced. There’s nothing like it, and I still have another 40 miles of heaven ahead. Basking in the kind of overpowering exhilaration only pilots and motorcyclists will ever experience, faint whispers of reality creep in. It’s almost Monday. Deadlines are looming. That’s my cue to get back in the wind and the CBR500R is ready for more. It’s time to run, time to escape reality and, three turns in, I’m back in the groove.