If you plan on going long distances in the dirt, the
bike’s motor won’t be the limiting factor. Neither will its
mass. The 500X is actually fairly limber and light-feeling.
The weight is said to be 427 pounds with a full tank, and
you would guess it to be lower. No, the ride will be what
shortens your day. Despite the fact that the handlebar, the
footpegs and the seat are all in very acceptable positions
for riding in the dirt and even standing up, the bike still
has a very distinct street bike feel. The suspension feels
limited in travel and damping, and the steering is very
steep and over-active. Smooth dirt roads at conservative
speed aren’t any challenge, but the 500X isn’t designed
for dealing with rough stuff or going especially fast. The
suspension is harsh when there are real bumps to be
absorbed. In 2016 Honda added preload adjusters to the
fork, which helps somewhat, but what we would like to
see is some damping adjustment.
On the plus side of the ledger is fuel range. The gas tank
is 4. 6 gallons, and thanks to phenomenal gas mileage, that
will take the bike almost 300 miles. The seat is surprisingly
good for that kind of stint, and a offers nice cushy ride.
We didn’t have our test bike long enough to try any real
modifications, but we know it’s possible. Rally Raid in
the UK has a kit that changes the suspension and wheels
to improve the bike’s off-road handling. But, it’s more
realistic to just put more aggressive off-road tires on the
bike and use it as intended—for
a lifestyle preview. The 500X
will allow you to tag along on
any real adventure ride with the
space tourists and heli-skiers
every six months, and in the
intervening period you can
use it for commuting and the
occasional canyon ride with
your street buddies. The Honda
CB500X is all about practicality.
And, it makes a great place
holder for your impractical side
when it’s ready. ❏
The CB500X has a 471cc parallel twin with a 180-degree
crank, fuel injection and a six-speed gearbox. The Honda
CBR500R street bike that spawned the 500X came along
a few years after the ancient Kawasaki EX500 Ninja disappeared, and slid seamlessly into that role as a street
commuter. In its adventure guise it has completely different
bodywork and seat, a taller handlebar, different footpegs,
more fork travel, more fuel capacity and an adjustable windscreen. This is more than just a cosmetic do-over; the bike
has been seriously rethought given the constraints of using
the same engine and frame. To give the two versions even
more separation, the CB-X was redesigned in more of a
canyon-racer motif in 2016. The main goal of both projects
was to hit a certain price point. The MSRP of the CB500X
is $6499. That’s $200 less than the Honda XR650L, $400
less than a Kawasaki KLR650 and $1800 less than a Suzuki
V-Strom 650. The real idea is to get a new rider hooked
and, with any luck, get him on board the new Africa Twin.
Now that Honda has a legit high-end adventure bike, there’s
good reason to invest in the whole adventure bike world.
HOW MUCH ADVENTURE DO YOU WANT?
So here’s the real question: how much adventure does
$6500 buy? If you’re looking for overall quality for the price,
the Honda scores well. The motor is technologically flawless. It’s much more powerful than any of the Japanese 650
singles or the old Kawasaki EX500. It’s more in the same
league as a Suzuki 650 V-Strom.
The torque is excellent. On top, it
shows that it’s only 471cc in displacement and runs out of steam a
little early. The redline is just over
8500 rpm, but power never really
limits what you can do. Even at
highway speed, you can roll the
500’s throttle on and get a mild
surge of acceleration. The motor is
freakishly smooth and vibration-free
too. It’s almost to the point that you
want a little more motor throb to
give the bike some character.
ADVENTURE BIKE TEST: HONDA CB500X
Our test bike came with anti-lock brakes,
which pushed up the price another $300.
The price of the Honda CB500X is under $6500, and bikes in the price
range tend to depreciate very little. You can try on your adventure bike
identity without a big commitment.