Honda CB500X (2019) | Review

BikeSocial
By Michael Mann
MannOnABike BikeSocial's Web Editor. Been riding bikes since 1984 and writing about them since 2013. Commuted in Central London for 10 years, fast and smooth road rider, does a reasonable job in a track day quick group. 6 ft and 14 st.

 

Two years ago, UK-based after-market parts specialist, Rally Raid, supersized a Honda CB500X to make it more rugged and off-road friendly by upgrading its 17” front wheel to a 19” version, beefing up the suspension and adding a bash plate, among other tricks and bits.

Now, whether it’s a coincidence or just plain old good thinking but for 2019 Honda’s version of their popular A2-licence friendly CB500X is back with a little facelift, longer travel suspension and a 19” front wheel and you no longer need to buy the 2016 base model plus the £2.2k upgrade kit from Rally Raid. In fact, the new compact adventurer is yours for little more than £6,000.

Forming part of a revised three-bike 500 range, the X is the most rugged and sits alongside a CBR500R and CB500F, sharing both a frame and 471cc parallel twin engine. And I got to ride all three at the European press launch held on the Canary Island of Tenerife.

Offering an accessible entry point into the adventure bike world, Honda have refined an already highly accomplished machine, so does the new version have the ‘X’ factor?

<< See the first impressions video from the launch further down! >>

Honda CB500X (2019) | Review

Above: Three ‘X’ colours

 

2019 Honda CB500X Price

The X is available in three colours – Matt Gunpowder Black Metallic, Grand Prix Red and Pearl Metalloid White – the A2-licence friendly Honda come with price tags of £6,069 which places it in the middle of the 500 trio; £30 cheaper than the CBR500R but £510 more than the F. I reckon this represents excellent value.

 

PCP example

Honda CB500X

OTR Price

£6,069

Deposit

£1,000

Amount of Credit

£5,069

36 Monthly Payments

£90.09

Duration

36 months

Final Payment

£2,614.11

Final Payment inc Option Fee

£2,624.11

Total Amount Payable

£6,867.35

Representative APR

6.9%

Option to Purchase Fee

£10.00

Annual Contracted Mileage

4,000

Excess Mileage Charge

£0.03

 

Power and torque

The significance of the liquid-cooled 471cc motor is its compliance within the A2 licence regulations. When combined with the overall wet weight (also known as kerb weight), the Honda fits neatly at the top end of the 35kW (46.2bhp) limit. In fact, according to the Japanese project engineers joining us on the launch, the engine will actually tip the scales at 37kW but adjustments to the throttle bodies were required for the compliance.

Peak bhp arrives at 8600rpm and that is almost red line territory. While a peak torque figure of 31.7 lb ft (43Nm) is achieved at 6500rpm.

 

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

The twin-cylinder light middleweight is designed as an inviting proposition for the less experienced rider to get into adventure bike-style machinery. That said, Honda’s sales charts demonstrate that the most popular age demographic of CB500X customers over the last six years has been the 51 - 60 bracket, selling 21,000 in total and seeing a strong growth trend since 2015. So don’t assume that all A2 machines are for the younger crowd.

Sitting tall and with a purposeful road presence means a certain amount of beans are required to capture the rider’s imagination and offer the feedback needed for such a machine – you don’t put a 1.3l Eco boost engine in a 911 Porsche after all.

On paper 46.2bhp isn’t fearsome yet it comes from a competent, punchy and slightly vibey motor which has been revised to offer 4% more power and torque in the useable mid-range than its predecessor. Get the motor spinning, use plenty of revs and carrying corner speed in the shape of momentum is the key to progress on the wide open roads. Dropping a gear and giving the throttle a big handful won’t scare anyone but it will be enough for the overtake without concern of running out of steam. In fact, given the time and legality, speeds north of 100mph can be achieved. From plodding around town to full-on touring, the engine is adaptable enough as an all-rounder. Though not its intended use, hustling around the quicker country roads is just as rewarding on the X as it is on the sportier R, I found myself using all the revs on offer and flicking between 2nd and 3rd gear to ensure plenty of pull out of the tighter bends.

The addition of a new assist and slipper-clutch adds real value and quality to the gearbox. A super light clutch feeling and sharp gear selection are just two benefits, once again meaning a newer rider or perhaps one happily stepping down in cc’s for an easier rider will happily enjoy. First gear around slower town traffic can create a jerky initial throttle action but nothing to concern your physio with.

A new dual-exit muffler looks and sounds meatier than before adding further distinction between the out-going model and this more grown-up bike.

 

Honda CB500X (2019) | Review

 

2019 Honda CB500X Economy

Owning a multi-purpose bike with a frugal 17.7 litre tank is good maths. On the press ride I achieved 71.3mpg according to the on-board and brand new instrument panel. Not too shabby compared to the claimed 78.5mpg, especially considering the spirited tarmac-section of the ride resulting in some hard use of the throttle and gearbox.

The fuel tank is slightly larger on the X than the R or F and should get you close to 300-miles after it’s been brimmed.

This economic engine coupled with a two-year unlimited mile warranty and Honda’s renowned reliability make for a very cost-effective package, all for just £90 per month on Honda’s own PCP deal.

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

I wouldn’t normally put a 46 horse-power adventure-style bike at the top of my list for those that handle impeccably and offer exceptional ride quality and feedback around the quicker corners yet the CB500X is a dark horse for a bit of what some refer to as ‘scratching’. The unchanged frame matches its flatmates, the CB5R500R and CB500F, and provides a strong and sturdy feel when in an upright position. A commanding enough riding position helps peak over the top of cars when in traffic jams while the expanded fairings are still narrow enough to filter, helped with the screen that diverts air flow nicely away and will protect your visor from many-a-bug. The 830mm seat height shouldn’t put many off thanks to the slim seat and accessible peg position. The bike isn’t wide enough to hinder leg spread when coming to a standstill either. The turning circle is good while the 197kg wet weight makes for easy off-bike manoeuvring.

The pace was hot enough on the latter part of our test ride to really push the revised suspension. The front forks have been raised by 10mm to 150mm while the stroke on the new rear shock is up by 17mm making for added ground clearance. That, plus the new 19” front and Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour tyres, adds up to a demon combination for getting the bike through the twists and turns of the Tenerife mountain roads. Naturally, a £6k price tag was never going to allow the finest top-end components and at first I found the budget suspension a little too soft and wallowy particularly at the rear. But it soon became apparent that this tough little motorcycle’s natural habitat isn’t dawdling around town and coping with sleeping policemen with much aplomb. Out onto the open roads an even off-road on the loose gravel tracks and the CB500X was much more comfortable. The suspension, and particularly the new Dunlop’s, were a mighty mix of competency.

As an entry bike into the other adventure or ‘X’ models in the Honda line-up, the CB500 version is the most agile thanks to its weight compared to an NC750X, VFR800X Crossrunner, VFR1200X Crosstourer or even the Africa Twin pair.

 

Honda CB500X (2019) | Review

Above: There’s still plenty of off-road entertainment to be had

 

2019 Honda CB500X Brakes

Evaluating brake performance all depends on the aggression with which you ride. The spec sheet shows a single wavy 310mm disc with a two-piston Nissin caliper with its ABS on the front which is more than capable at slowing the 197kg adventure style bike. The initial bite isn’t super sharp but this is no 160bhp land-swallower. The brake lever is adjustable and once caressed does exactly what its job requires.

I’m not much of a rear brake user but when riding behind a couple of journalists that are meant for a sweet waft of burning making its way into my AGV now and again.

 

Comfort over distance and touring

The larger 19” front wheel plus an 830mm seat height and longer travel suspension is a handy combination for a comfortable riding position. The handlebar position is 137mm higher than the R while 111mm closer to the rider and with a slimmer seat than before, you can easily move around the saddle adjusting position for comfort. Footpeg placement offer ideal levels of ground clearance and once you sling a tank bag and top box/panniers on then 300 miles in one sitting may well be achievable.

The screen is 20mm higher than before and offers adjustability through 40mm in the two positions which require an Allen key, and as impractical as that sounds once set it’s likely you’ll leave it there for the duration of your ownership. It is an effective piece of fairing that accompanies the tougher-looking styling on the X which helps create that feeling that you’re riding a bigger bike than a 500.

 

Above: new instrument panel and adjustable screen

 

Rider aids and extra equipment / accessories

For the avoidance of confusing settings, the CB500X is ideal for the less experienced or those who simply can’t be bothered with its simple approach to the instrumentation, buttons and modes. Quite simply it has nothing to worry about. This was highlighted at the end of the dusty gravel road that joins the main tarmac road – on many machines with off-road capability you’d have to stop and fiddle about yet on the X there’s no transition. Just make sure you’re not carrying too much off-road surface crap onto the main road and be cautious with the tyres into the first couple of corners.

There is of course a shopping list full of luggage, protection, cosmetic and practical accessories including heated grips, a centre stand, a top box and knuckle guards. Though no bash plate or even wire wheels as an option for those willing to introduce the X to some green lanes.

 

Rivals

In the middleweight class of adventure bikes the surrounding price tags of the Honda offer a range of options. Excluded in this chart purely because of space are the KTM 790 Adventure (A2 version), Triumph Street Scrambler and Yamaha Tenere 700. I’ve opted for two machines either side of the Honda in terms of price:

 

 

Royal Enfield Himalayan

Kawasaki Versys 650

BMW G310 GS

Suzuki Vstrom 650

Engine

411cc, air-cooled, carburetted single

649cc, liquid-cooled, parallel twin

313cc, liquid-cooled, single

645cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90° V-twin

Power

24.5bhp (18kW) @ 6500rpm

68.4bhp (51kW) @ 8500rpm

(A2 version available)

33.5bhp (25kW) @ 9500rpm

69.7bhp (52kW) @ 8,800rpm

(A2 version available)

Torque

23.6 lb-ft (32Nm) @ 4500rpm

47.2 lb-ft (64Nm) @ 7000rpm

20.6lb-ft (28Nm) @ 7500rpm

45.7 lb-ft (62Nm) @ 6500rmp

Weight

191kg (wet)

217kg (wet)

169.5kg (wet)

213kg (wet)

Seat height

800mm

840mm

835mm

835mm

Fuel tank

15 litres

21 litres

11 litres

20 litres

Price (from)

£3,999

£7,249

£5,275

£7,399

 

Honda CB500X (2019) | Review

 

2019 Honda CB500X verdict

The ‘X’ is the most enchanting of the 2019 CB500 line-up. Beautiful and strong build quality with smart styling mixed with presence and versatility on the road. Let’s be honest, while the bike can handle some basic dusty trails, it’s going to spend 99% of its life on the tarmac and it’s perfectly capable too. The A2-licenees are going to love it just as much as any Africa Twin-owner looking for something a little easier to handle.

 

Three things I loved about the 2019 Honda CB500X …

  • Imposing stature on the road… for an A2 machine
  • Versatility and practicality
  • Agility

 

Three things that I didn’t…

  • Awkward adjustability of the screen – almost pointless
  • Non-adjustable seat height
  • Throttle connection at very low speeds

 

2019 Honda CB500X spec

New price

£6069

Capacity

471cc

Bore x Stroke

67mm x 66.8mm

Engine layout

Parallel twin

Engine details

Liquid cooled 4-stroke DOHC

Power

46.2bhp (35kW) @ 8600rpm

Torque

31.7 lb-ft (43Nm) @ 6500rpm

Top speed

110mph

Transmission

6 speed, chain drive

Average fuel consumption

78.5mpg claimed / 71.3mpg tested

Tank size

17.7 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

305 miles

Frame

Steel diamond

Front suspension

Conventional Telescopic, 41mm

Front suspension adjustment

Pre-load

Rear suspension

Prolink monoshock, steel square pipe swingarm

Rear suspension adjustment

5 stage pre-load

Front brake

Single wavy disc, 320 mm x 5 mm disc with two piston caliper

Rear brake

Single wavy disc, 240 mm x 5 mm disc with single piston caliper

Front tyre

110/80R 19M/C – Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour

Rear tyre

160/60R 17M/C – Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour

Rake

27.5°

Dimensions (LxWxH)

2155mm x 825mm 1410mm (low screen) or 1445mm (high screen)

Wheelbase

1445mm

Ground clearance

180mm

Seat height

830mm

Kerb weight

197kg

Warranty

Two year, unlimited mileage and two year breakdown cover throughout Europe

Service intervals

8,000 miles

Website

www.honda.co.uk

 

To learn more about what the spec sheet means, click here for our glossary

 

First Impressions: Honda CB500X video
Straight off the bike at the press ride and in front of the camera, here are Michael Mann's first thoughts about the new Honda, including on-board commentary
Honda CB500X (2019) | Review
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