Not A Lot Of Bike, But A Lot Of Bike For The Money

Honda’s CB500X pushes the adventure-bike envelope well into entry-level territory with a mid-displacement engine and low-impact price tag meant to bring more riders into the genre. Let’s face it; the one-liter Africa Twin and larger VFR1200X are a lot of bike for new riders who are not — I repeat: NOT — liable to ever see a trek down the Ivory Coast. Could it be used as a trainer for the larger bikes? Certainly, but its main lot in life will be as an urban commuter with the capacity to handle some poorly-maintained roads and the occasional pothole. If it sounds like I’m downplaying the bike a bit, I would submit that the urban adventure ride is about all most of us manage in a lifetime, thus making it good enough for its designed purpose.

Continue reading for my review of the Honda CB500X.

  • 2015 - 2018 Honda CB500X
  • Year:
    2015- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Parallel-Twin
  • Displacement:
    471 cc
  • Top Speed:
    124 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    6599
  • Price:

Design

2015 - 2018 Honda CB500X
- image 726317
The CB500X fits the adventure-bike genre to a T, albeit with a slightly more compact stature than the rest of Honda's adventuresome lineup.

The CB500X has been around for four years now, and the family has matured a bit while garnering the adoration of its fans. This ride fits the adventure-bike genre to a T, albeit with a slightly more compact stature than the rest of Honda’s adventuresome lineup. A bird’s beak fairing leads the way under the adjustable windshield that got a bit of a size boost for the 2016 model year for greater rider protection. As a bonus, the windshield comes vented to reduce the turbulence and concurrent head-buffeting while makin’ tracks down the superslab for a lower-fatigue journey than you get from the non-vented variety.

Upper “cheek” fairings close off the sides of the radiator from view, but it ain’t all about aesthetics as they also help channel and control the cooling air. The factory removed the “chin” fairing from the turn of the exhaust headers to clean up the look just a bit, but as a matter of personal taste, I kinda liked that detail and the newest version looks just a little unfinished to me.

There’s a bit of pullback to the wide handlebars to enable a relaxed, upright riding posture that is easy on the back, shoulders and wrists. The flylines continue down the fuel-tank hump to a narrow waist at the saddle-tank juncture, and there’s quite a bit of seat padding that makes it onto the back of the tank to pad your backside during aggressive braking actions.

Fold-up footpegs and full-length oh-shit handles complete the passenger’s accoutrements over the tapered tail section, and although I’m not a fan of big hangy-offy mudguards, I’ll give credit where it’s due and say that Honda did a good job keeping it relatively unobtrusive. The factory changed the muffler for this year, and I can’t say I’m a fan; I didn’t see anything wrong with the more pragmatic tubular design from the ’16 models.

Chassis

2015 - 2018 Honda CB500X
- image 754730
Not much in the way of fancy-schmancy in the suspension, but if there were, the price would be higher and kinda defeat the purpose.

Honda started out with a 35 mm, diamond-tube frame designed to mitigate some of the engine’s vibration while using the lump itself as a stressed member to help reduce weight. Built for comfortable cruising, the 26.5-degree rake and 4.25-inch trail make the CB500X track fairly well while keeping it responsive to inputs at the wide bars.

Suspension is better than straight vanilla as the rwu, 41 mm front forks come with adjustable preload just like the Pro-Link monoshock out back, so you can at least dial in for changing passenger and cargo loads if nothing else. Could it be better? You betcha, but the price would necessarily be higher and that would defeat some of the purpose of this ride.

Suspension travel clocks out at 5.5-inches up front and 4.7-inches in back at the axles; plenty for a plush ride even on poorly maintained roads. A twin-pot anchor and single, 320 mm, wave-cut disc slows the front wheel with a single-piston binder and 240 mm disc to slow the rear, and it can be had with or without ABS protection.

The suspension hikes the seat up to 31.8-inches high with 6.6-inches of ground clearance, and it pushes the wheelbase out to 55.9 inches. Cast, Y-spoke rims mount the 17-inch hoops with a 120/70 up front and 160/60 in back.

Rake: 26.5 degrees
Trail: 108mm (4.25 inches)
Front Suspension: 41mm fork; 5.5 inches travel
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link® single shock with nine-position spring preload adjustability; 4.7 inches travel
Front Brake: Twin-piston caliper with single 320mm wave disc (ABS: Combined ABS)
Rear Brake: Single caliper 240mm wave disc (ABS: Combined ABS)
Front Tire: 120/70-17 radial
Rear Tire: 160/60-17 radial

Drivetrain

2015 - 2018 Honda CB500X
- image 726321
Without expensive rider modes, traction control or any such fandanglery, the CB500X is an uncomplicated ride.

A 471 cc, liquid-cooled, parallel-twin plant powers the thing. The eight-valve, DOHC head inhales through a segregated airbox and 26 mm intake valves and waste gas is eliminated through 21.5 mm exhaust poppets for efficient aspiration. Bore and stroke measures out nearly square at 67 mm and 66.8 mm, respectively. Vent holes between the lower bores help reduce losses due to pumping, and the counterweight is designed to combat the rocking couple caused by the 180-degree phasing of the crankshaft con-rod throws. Yeah, no tingley hands or numb derriere from engine vibration to be had here. And the peasants rejoice.

A pair of 34 mm throttle bodies with PGM fuel injection manages the mix for straight-up engine control without any complicated (read: expensive) rider modes, traction control or any such fandanglery. Concentric grooves in the piston skirts carry extra oil with them up into the bores for better wear characteristics due to the lower friction. The deep oil sump is designed to improve oil pickup, even when maneuvering aggressively, and the oil pump itself is designed to perform well even when the oil starts to take on air.

All this yummy-goodness comes together to give the CB500X a total of 49.6-horsepower at 8,500 RPM with 31.7 pounds o’ grunt that comes on at an even 7 grand. Last year saw an improvement to the six-speed transmission that provides smoother shifts, and that carries into the 2017 model year as well.

Engine: 471cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin
Bore And Stroke: 67mm x 66.8mm
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Induction: PGM-FI with 34mm throttle bodies
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorized with electronic advance
Valve Train: DOHC; four valves per cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive: O-ring-sealed chain

Pricing

2015 - 2018 Honda CB500X
- image 726313
MSRP for 2018 is a carryover from last year, but with a new colorway.

Honda lets go of the non-ABS CB500X for $6,599 MSRP, and the ABS version will set you back another $300 at $6,899. Honda gives you a one-year, transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty on your new ride with extended coverage available through the Honda Protection Plan.

Warranty: One-year, transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan
Colors:
2016: Matte Black Metallic (ABS: Matte Brown Metallic)
2017: Candy Rose Red
2018: Force Metallic Silver
Price:
2016: $6,499 (ABS: $6,799)
2017, 2018: $6,599 (ABS: $6,899)

Competitors

2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300
- image 697186
2015 - 2018 Honda CB500X
- image 726318
The Versys packs fewer cubes, but the pricing point allows for that and the two are likely to appeal to the same sort of buyer.

The 500 cc ADV bracket is a little thin right now. Most manufacturers within the genre have something closer to the top of the liter bracket, and the more progressive builders are eyeballing the bottom of the spectrum in an effort to appeal to the younger buyers. In this case it seems that it’s Kawasaki to the rescue with the Versys-X 300 ABS. Yeah, it’s packing fewer cubes, but the pricing point allows for that and the two are likely to appeal to the same sort of buyer.

Kawasaki favored a much more angular look to run against the relatively curvaceous Honda product, and as a matter of personal taste, I gotta say I prefer the looks of the CB myself, even if the snub-nose fairing on the Versys is better looking than the bird’s beak and similar to the Africa Twin. Both have oodles of that characteristic adventure-bike panache, but neither are set up to actually tour some third-world country and so are more like “soccer-mom SUV” bikes and that’s OK.

Suspension performance definitely goes to the Red Riders with it’s variable preload up front even though the Versys comes with a few tenths of an inch more in the way of travel. Brakes are likewise fairly even across the board with ABS protection available if you want and a non-ABS version of both rides up for grabs as well if you would rather have full control.

The biggest difference is obviously the powerplants; Honda’s lump displaces 471 cc while the Kawi falls a bit short with only 296 cc total. This leaves the Kawi short on power as well with only 34 ponies to the Honda’s 49, but to be fair that’s to be expected, and the lower power is one of the reasons the Versys-X 300 is considered to be one of the best, if not the best entry-level ADVs around.

Pricing reflects the displacement difference with the Versys at $5,699 with ABS and $5,399 without. The CB rolls for around a grand more across the board, but as an entry-level ride you are less likely to outgrow the larger engine too quickly, if at all.

He Said

My husband and fellow motorcycle writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Overall, this ain’t a bad ride for a commuter or even a light tourer if you throw on the accessory bags and top case. Pricing is reasonable, performance is high enough to be fun without being too much of a threat and it isn’t a bad-looking sled. What more could you ask for if you’re looking to break into the ADV genre?”

She Said

"This isn’t the most technologically-equipped adventure bike around, but it is lightweight and comfortable. As an entry-level bike to the adventure genre or as a capable commuter, the CB500X is responsive in the low-range and gives you a plush ride over the bumps. It’s not a lot of bike, but it is a lot for the money and as these 300-to-500 cc bikes gain in popularity, the CB500X is already well established."

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 471cc liquid-cooled parallel-twin
Bore And Stroke: 67mm x 66.8mm
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Induction: PGM-FI with 34mm throttle bodies
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital transistorized with electronic advance
Valve Train: DOHC; four valves per cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive: O-ring-sealed chain
Chassis:
Rake: 26.5 degrees
Trail: 108mm (4.25 inches)
Front Suspension: 41mm fork; 5.5 inches travel
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link® single shock with nine-position spring preload adjustability; 4.7 inches travel
Front Brake: Twin-piston caliper with single 320mm wave disc (ABS: Combined ABS)
Rear Brake: Single caliper 240mm wave disc (ABS: Combined ABS)
Front Tire: 120/70-17 radial
Rear Tire: 160/60-17 radial
Dimensions & Capacities:
Length: 81.9 inches
Width: 29.5 inches
Height: 45.1 inches
Wheelbase: 55.9 inches
Seat Height: 31.8 inches
Ground Clearance: 6.69 inches
Curb Weight: 427.6 pounds (ABS: 432 pounds)
Fuel Capacity: 4.6 gallons
Details:
Model ID: CB500X (ABS: CB500XA )
Warranty: One-year, transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan
Colors:
2016: Matte Black Metallic (ABS: Matte Brown Metallic)
2017: Candy Rose Red
2018: Force Metallic Silver
Price:
2016: $6,499 (ABS: $6,799)
2017, 2018: $6,599 (ABS: $6,899)

References

2017 - 2018 Kawasaki Versys-X 300
- image 697186

See our full review of the Kawasaki Versys X-300

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: powersports.honda.com, kawasaki.com

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