Home » This Hot Motorcycle Has Intakes In Its Headlights And Looks Like Every ’80s Bike You Love

This Hot Motorcycle Has Intakes In Its Headlights And Looks Like Every ’80s Bike You Love

80s Vibes Cf Moto
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Neo-retro design is alive and well with car buyers and motorcyclists alike piling into dealerships for a modern taste of the past. One of the brands cashing in on nostalgia is an unexpected one with CFMoto. The motorcycle maker, once known as the place to go to when you couldn’t afford a Honda, is now making motorcycles that look so cool you might buy one over the Honda. Its latest motorcycle, the 500SR Voom, is another stunner. It looks like the bikes from the 1980s, has the power to back it up, and oh yeah, the headlights are also air intakes.

A few months ago, I brought home a tiny motorcycle with the looks of a 1980s sportbike. I plunked down $4,500, not much cheaper than the final price of a Honda Grom, to buy a 2024 CFMoto Papio SS. Why did I buy the Chinese version of Honda’s coolest street-legal minibike? CFMoto is doing something that Honda isn’t and it’s producing motorcycles that nod to the the rad designs of the 1980s. You get those neo-retro looks everyone’s into right now, but without having to sync a rack of four carbs.

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The CFMoto 500SR Voom is the company’s latest entry into the neo-retro space and it’s surprisingly well-equipped for the job.

Retro Done Right

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The motorcycle industry is no stranger to following the trends and one of the big ones right now is retro design. The biggest brands out there all offer a motorcycle made to look like a bike decades older.

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CFMoto is the last company I expected to jump on the retro bandwagon, but I’m glad it’s here. It’s sort of amazing because CFMoto came onto America’s shores in 2007, sold us some sketchy Honda clones and a bizarre scooter-based motorcycle, and then bowed out after 2015. But it came back with compelling motorcycles ranging from naked bikes to adventure bikes. CFMoto was also smart to pounce on the neo-retro movement with the 700CL-X, a naked with vintage style in the same vein as the Ducati Scrambler and the Yamaha XSR700.

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Then the company came out of left field in January 2023 when it decided to lean into the retro vibes even harder. The CFMoto Papio SS is like if you took a Suzuki GSX-R750 and scaled it down to a 126cc thumper. But it also blends the old-school look into modern tech like LED lights and cute RGB dot displays on the sides of the tank. It sure caught me hook, line, and sinker.

Chinese motorcycle makers have been in the news lately because they’re beginning to bang out some wild stuff like flat eight engines, chunky electrics, V4 engines, and bikes with girder-like forks. Oh, and CFMoto wants some of that Triumph Daytona action as it recently unveiled a neat three-cylinder sportbike.

Now we have another weirdo.

The CFMoto 500SR Voom

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This motorcycle was first unveiled back in May, but as typical with Chinese companies, we got photos but no specifications. Thankfully, China’s type certification system makes specs public and thanks to Cycle World we now know more.

The headlining feature of this motorcycle is its engine. There’s a 500cc four bolted to the frame, which makes it a bit of an oddball. It’s smaller than the 600cc powerplants commonly found in faster sportbikes but larger than the 400s you find in smaller bikes. The engine pumps out 78 HP and the bike is capable of a top speed of 130.5 mph. Sadly, we don’t know all of the specifications yet, but we do know that it weighs 430 pounds and has a 54.9-inch wheelbase. The 500SR also rides on 120/70-17 and 160/60-17 tires.

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Other goodies come in the form of dual-rotor front brakes, single-rotor rear brakes, inverted forks, and KYB suspension.

The design is something else that stands out. The CFMoto 500SR Voom features styling that seems like every 1980s and early 1990s sportbike blended into one. But then there are bits that are all over the place. The bar-end mirrors are a bit out of place, as are the winglet-looking structures. Still, it’s a fantastic design.

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Don’t let your motorcycles vape!

The lights are also properly weird. The headlights are split into two sections. The LED circles just under the windscreen? Yeah, those are air intakes with sizable ducts leading into the motorcycle’s airbox. Obviously, these lights aren’t bright enough for road use, so the main beam is hidden underneath.

The specs we do know put it in close competition with the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-4RR. That motorcycle weighs 414.5 pounds, rides on a 54.3-inch wheelbase, and makes similar power depending on the market. The CFMoto weighs a little more but makes more power than the 399cc four in the Kawasaki. The 500SR Voom makes 22 HP more than the American-spec Ninja ZX-4RR and 4 HP more than the European version of the Kawasaki (below).

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Unfortunately, CFMoto has not made an official announcement just yet in regards to pricing or expected markets. However, CFMoto has been pretty good about sending new bikes our way. With that said, Chinese products are becoming more controversial, especially in light of the latest EV tariffs and concerns about forced labor in the region, so I could see it going either way.

If the 500SR Voom seems like your kind of ride and if it comes here, it’s sized like a 400cc sportbike and has roughly the performance to match. Yet, the engine is a touch bigger than what you’d expect. The biggest question will be about pricing. The Kawasaki costs $10,349 after the destination fee. CFMoto could have a winner if it comes in under that.

(Images: Manufacturers, unless otherwise noted.)

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TchmilFan
TchmilFan
13 days ago

Wondering about the efficacy of those headlights – city riding only?

Miss_jay
Miss_jay
22 days ago

While I completely agree with the CFMOTO bikes of yore being cheap but not cheerful, the bikes they make nowadays are in another league, and absolutely on par with the fit and finish of Japanese bikes.

I had a 700CL-X, loved it, and swapped it for an 800NK Advanced (we get a better equipped Advanced model as well as the base Sport model here in Australia) back in March.

The 800NK is fantastic. Is it the be all and end all of middleweight nakeds? Of course not, but it’s a lot of fun and a lot of features for not a lot of money, and it’s an extremely agile and well-balanced bike to ride. It’s also plenty powerful enough to enjoy without much risk of going from zero to red smear on a guard rail in under 3 seconds.

Yes, it needs traction control, and the OEM tyres are junk, but other than that, it’s brilliant.

I’ve owned a litany of Japanese bikes over the last 21 years (mostly Suzukis and Hondas, the most recent of which I still have) and don’t regret buying either of the CFMOTOs for a moment.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
23 days ago

motorcycles motorcycles motorcycles motorcycles

Motorcycle coverage, I am nourished. I’ve been a sourpuss lately and I just need to shut my mouth and open my throttle, each for a good long while.

Fatallightning
Fatallightning
23 days ago

I think it’s neat they also have a “modern” variant with different bodywork (non Voom). The displacement and cylinder count are also interesting, it doesn’t really seem to slot into any tax legislation limits or learner restriction, so why not just make a 600? The tail treatment also smacks of modern MV Agusta naked bikes, not a bad company to poach from.

Last edited 23 days ago by Fatallightning
InTheBackround
InTheBackround
23 days ago

ehh it looks nice from far away but id be way more into it if it had normal round dual headlights, an analog speedo/tach, and the tail didnt look ugly. Guess i should just stick to my cbr600f2 and cb-1.

Black Peter
Black Peter
23 days ago

I’m reminded of 80s Bol ‘d Or racers.. But why are designers so adverse to tails? If this had a tail piece that extended out more it would not only look better but support the bum or someone larger than a second grader

Dudeoutwest
Dudeoutwest
23 days ago

More early 90s, in my humble opinion, with the full fairing and spar frame. The OG GSXR was only introduced in 1986 and had a perimeter square tube frame and Yamaha was just getting there with the FZs a couple years later with a cast perimeter frame. For the full vibe, this should be painted mostly white with contrasting pastel color “graffiti” style graphics if you want to get the full early 90s late 80s experience.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
23 days ago

Urban Tiger Fireblade or no deal.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
23 days ago

It’s true, this is me, every street bike I love has dual round headlights 😛

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
23 days ago

Over my experience with motorcycles, there’s a vast rift in quality between brands.

When it comes to maintaining a 20-year old bike: give me a Honda. Far above and beyond better build quality than the other three Japanese brands. Screws still silver after mileage >100k or 10-20 years that thread cleanly, paint standing up to the years better than other brands, and readily available parts for virtually every model.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
23 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

I’ll be curious to see how these new CFmoto bikes are with quality. The ones back in the late 2000s were sketchy, and a friend who bought one had a frame weld crack from just light commuting and ditched it for a Kawasaki. As you say, the Hondas are awesome when it comes to quality, though I have a friend with a 45 year old Kawasaki that has held up amazingly over the years. Then again, his Kawasaki hasn’t been pushed nearly as hard as his CR500 and CRF450X – those machines are practically unkillable.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
23 days ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

Unfortunately it’s a waiting game that you don’t find out for years if they’re alright.

And, then, years again for a reputation to hold resale, and build a support network.

Dudeoutwest
Dudeoutwest
23 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

I have a 1998 VFR in my garage I bought new. It’s Honda and BMW here. Hondas last and I can get parts for my BMWs, even the one that’s nearly 60 years old.

I’ve had other Japanese marques and if they got left outside the fasteners, which were as soft as cheese, would reliably form rust spots.

I had a 916 for a while and it’s fasteners and assembly were a whole other world from my Japanese experiences. They were BMW like; stout and over engineered for their task. To strip it down for a belt service, including removing the throttle bodies, took less than 5 minutes. The fasteners were stout and solid. I loved that bike, but aged out of it.

While I love my VFR, it’s so densely packaged that any serious work fills me with dread because there will be problems just getting my hands and tools on the bits I need to work with. It’s a good thing it doesn’t ask for much from me.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
23 days ago
Reply to  Dudeoutwest

My Ducati experience wouldn’t complain about fasteners, but just general robustness/reliability of the overall package is questionable. Perhaps best that they screws never corrode since you’re in there trying to figure out what’s not working now – and changing another timing belt whilst you’re at it.

I wish your VFR the best. I love the VFR800s, a solid bike.

Bomber
Bomber
23 days ago

CFmoto is really knocking it out of the park. This year has been crazy. This, the Ibex 450, the new 450ss/nk. All amazing

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
23 days ago

Paint that thing a solid color and it would look way better.

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
23 days ago
Reply to  MATTinMKE

Couldn’t disagree more. I was thinking it needs some bright color stripes like the 80s bikes used to have. Give me some bright red and blue on there and that would look awesome! I like it as is too though

10001010
10001010
23 days ago
Reply to  Brandon Forbes

This, needs brighter and bolder colors.

Library of Context
Library of Context
23 days ago
Reply to  Brandon Forbes

It needs to be painted in the same style as Eddie Van Halen’s guitar.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
23 days ago
Reply to  Brandon Forbes

Agree: the two-tone paint is such a nice touch.

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