CRA Motoring News
By JOE MICHAUD
Honda CB500X gets upgrades for more off-road chops.
Since 2013, Honda has used the same 471 cc parallel twin motor across its popular CB500 two-cylinder platform. It’s common through the three variants: the CB500F, a standard “naked” bike; the CB500R, a sport bike with fairing; and the adventure-styled CB500X.
But although it shares the same frame and Nissan brakes as its siblings, the CB500X motorcycle — which features a durable dual overhead camshaft, four-valve-per-cylinder design with 34 mm throttle — has received a few tweaks to add a bit more audacity.
The CB500X suspension has been lengthened from the on-road variants to provide more off-road capability. The standard 41 mm front forks now have 5.9 inches of space to allow for up-and-down travel and the rear at 5.3 inches, up from 4.7 front and 4.6 rear. Front forks are preload adjustable, with the rear Pro-Link single-shock preload controlled by a multiposition cam ring.
The CB500X front wheel is a dirt-friendly 19-inch hoop, more tractable in adventure settings; the rear is 17 inches. Rake and trail have been altered and adapted for off-road maneuverability. My tester was shod with the stock Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour rubber, lightly treaded for additional traction off pavement. Serious off roading will need a knobbier tread, although the Mixtours worked well on pavement, with no squirmy traits when pushed with moderate exuberance. Bridgestone BattleAx knobbies were provided for some test bikes at the press reveal. The anti-lock braking system is noncancellable, so decide at purchase if that’s a deal-breaker.
Honda is careful about revealing horsepower and torque specs, but internet sources claim 49 HP at 8,000 rpm and 32 ft/lbs torque at 7,000. The motor needs to be spun up, so I was in the gearbox frequently to keep the enjoyment on tap. Keep the backcountry revs around 7,000 and it’s a fun bike in the canyons. Below that, it’s still torquey enough for errands and commuting, while remaining comfortably polite around town. Red line is 8,200 rpm. Weight is 434 pounds..
The exhaust note from the two-into-one muffler with two exits is pleasantly raspy on the over-run — sociable but still audible.
Pilot accommodations are comfortable with wide, rubber-mounted, tapered handlebars and good peg placement. I’m 6 feet tall and the pegs felt a touch high for me. Flat foot placement at stops is easy, despite the 33-inch saddle height, because of the tapered design at the nose. However, after two hours, the seat began to feel narrow and hard. Cushioning may soften as miles accumulate.
Windshield height is adjustable with a few simple hand tools; moderate wind noise and buffeting remained, but it wasn’t an issue. A horizontal bar between the windshield brackets can be used to mount a GPS or a cell phone perch — a nice touch from Honda.
Onboard fuel tracking reported an overall average of 61 mpg over a 200-mile day, but topping the tank and doing the odometer math penciled out at 66 mpg; with a 4.7-gallon tank, the range should be close to 300 miles. Fueling requires unleaded pump octane number (PON) 86 or higher.
The slipper/assist cable-pull clutch is light, and six-speed shifting was superb. Brakes by Nissan are a single 310 mm disc up front and 240 mm rear. The initial feel was a bit wooden but it wasn’t intrusive after a few miles. Stopping power is fair, but the front needs a deliberate squeeze plus a touch of rear pedal if danger is imminent. ABS is included. Steering is light and predictable. The frame/motor is narrow, which eases urban prowling and makes lane sharing a simple feat.
Fit and finish is Honda-perfect. Few equipment manufacturers do overall appearance better than Big Red. Despite the bike being built down to an MSRP price point of $6,999 (including ABS), the overall look is one of a higher quality. The cast wheels look sharp, and all lighting is LED.
Passenger accommodations are spartan at best, and I don’t believe the bike has the power to enthusiastically haul a pillion. Plenty of factory accessories are available to personalize the bike, including panniers, heated grips, handguards, a center stand, and crash guards. Strangely, Honda does not currently offer an accessory skid plate to protect the exhaust pipes and oil sump. Such protection should be readily available on any adventure bike that is semi-designed to be, however briefly, taken off pavement. The aftermarket can provide one.
The instrument panel is my only real issue. The layout is good with information readily intuitive, but the flat lens reflected badly in both sun and shade, making a quick glance difficult. Familiarity with the layout may make that a nonissue for long-term owners.
Carving the tight and steep local canyons means maintaining inertia, so making a pass on small roads requires planning. The long straight climbs around Barrett Junction made me wish for more power, but when keeping the bike in its rev band, all was well. It was quite capable on the freeway, where constant speed is the goal. It was happy to run 70 mph at 6,000 revs, safe enough for a commuter.
The Honda factory warranty is a transferable one-year limited plan with unlimited mileage. Extended coverage is available through HondaCare Protection Plan.
MSRP for the ABS variant is $6,999. Local dealership quotes an out-the-door price with tax, DMV, freight, etc. at $8,225.
So, how does the CB500X fit its niche market? In these days of “everything, all the time,” some big-bore adventure bikes capable of taking a rider across Africa can weigh close to 600 pounds and cost three times the CB500X. With seven inches of ground clearance, nimble weight, and bars wide enough for leverage, the CB500X looks the part. But is it a true adventure bike?
If you keep your adventures humble, it might be.
Michaud is a San Diego-based motorcycle writer and restorer. Send email to email@example.com.
Article Credit To The San Diego Union Tribune.