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HomeZA BikersBike ReviewsHonda Stir the Middleweight Pot with the Launch of their CB500X

Honda Stir the Middleweight Pot with the Launch of their CB500X

Photo credit: Beam Productions

We got to sample Honda’s CB500X when members of the motorcycle media and other ‘influencers’ were invited to ADA’s excellent facility for a day on the new bikes. I believe that this bike is particularly relevant at this time, given the dire economical times that we are facing. Bikes have, in the main, become overpowered, overpriced, complicated, large and heavy. Many riders are looking at ways to downsize without too much of a compromise. Honda may well have come up with a viable solution alternative.

Honda’s CB500X is not a new model in the sense that it has been available in other markets since as far back as 2013. Having said that, it received major upgrades early this year which significantly improved what was already a popular motorcycle in Europe. The CB received 41 mm Showa SFF-BP big piston USD forks and another disc up front. Given modern brake efficiency, I am not sure if that was really necessary, given that their heavier NC750 makes do with a single disc. Be that as it may, double discs always provide reassuring stopping power.

Photo credit: Beam Productions

The CB500X has an absolutely tried and tested motor. Variants of the parallel twin have been used in Honda models for yonks, with typical Honda reliability. It produces a stout 39 Kw @ 8600 rpm and 43 Nm of torque @ 6500 rpm. Power feeds through a light-action slipper clutch. The gearbox is a 6-speeder and shifts are light and accurate. As aforementioned, it has 296 mm dual discs up front complimented by the usual smaller single rear, with 2-channel ABS. Wheels are handsome mags with a 160/60×17 rear and a 110/80×19 on the front, perfectly suited to its all-road purpose, with the advantage of plug-and-pump tubeless tyres.

Despite a reasonable 830 mm seat height, the 500 X still manages a decent 181 mm of ground clearance. Instrumentation is via a neat and functional LCD display which is adjustable for brightness.

Photo credit: Beam Productions

Styling is typical Honda beaky adventure bike, (think Crosstourer 1200) and with the 17,7-litre tank topped up, the bike tips the scales at a reasonable 199 kg. I say reasonable because I am of the opinion that modern bikes should be significantly lighter. The grandpappy of adventure bikes, the BMW R80 GS, weighed in at 186 kg, fully fuelled! Get my drift? The CB has LED lights all around and is undoubtedly a handsome beast.

Photo credit: Beam Productions

It is not a small bike and as such feels substantial without feeling frumpish. Taller, larger riders will have no trouble getting comfortable. The seat is well-shaped and has decent density foam, so smashing long days in the saddle should not be too painful. The colours are a red/black combo which looks spiffy and Pearl organic green/black which looks almost more spiffy!

Photo credit: Beam Productions

Ok, so now you got an idea of the standard package. Honda have quite a comprehensive accessories package to complement the bike. Very different to when the Africa Twin CRF1000 was launched. We waited for ages for goodies for that bike. Because the CB500X has been available offshore for ages, there is a cottage industry which has sprung up around accessorising this bike. From on-road commuter/tourer to a full-on Rally Raid setup. It is a great platform from which to “roll your own”.

The team at Honda SA know the psyche of SA riders all too well. We take unlikely bikes and put them through the wringer off-road, all in the name of adventure. With a CRF1000L in the lead, and shepherded by a CRF250L and a CRF250 Rally we sallied forth. After the torrential rain of the previous week, sections of the “tweespoor” trail we rode had been transformed into stinky glutinous mud by the first rotation of riders. Watching the Africa Twin trying to find traction and crabbing sideways, I was thankful for less power and weight and a lower seat height. A huge benefit for the CB500X right there!

Photo credit: Beam Productions

Once we had slipped and slithered our way through the quagmire, we were faced with a steep rutted and rocky climb. The X has surprising torque just off idle and there was zero tendencies to stall as we bobbed and weaved up the broken incline. Throttle response in first is a trifle abrupt but easily modulated with the smooth clutch. Overall, the gear ratios are nigh perfect.

A big shout-out to the standard suspension. The front fork has no adjustment but is supple and gives great feedback and control. At no point did it bottom under my 83 kg load. The back shock did bottom lightly when I hit some dips with enthusiasm, however, upon inspection, I found it was only on its second step of preload, with another three stiffer settings. Dialling in more preload would have sorted the bottoming for sure! Anyone short of a crazy hard charger will have any need to spend money on suspension upgrades.

Photo credit: Beam Productions

The rubber on the footpegs became super slippery when given the mud treatment, so off-road chaps will be a must if you are likely to take your X into the dirt regularly. A bash plate and radiator guard as well as bark busters would also be well advised. Why am I telling you this? Because the CB500X is a blast to ride down a dirt road and surprisingly capable. The motor has enough oomph without spinning up with every application of the throttle. The result is good forward motion with a minimum of fuss.

Both tar and dirt road handling is stable and confidence-inspiring. Riding behind Mojaki Rammoneng, the winner with Claude Deyzel of the 2018 Honda Quest, I was impressed with how smoothly he rode. We rode a rutted dirt road with rock lurkers and occasional treacherous patches. It was such a patch that provided a serious spectacle. Mojaki hit the soft spot at pace and had his bike do its damnedest to swap ends. Testimony to both bike and rider that they saved that one!

Photo credit: Beam Productions

At 6000 rpm the CB is hauling along at 125 km/h, with still 2500 rpm in hand. It is incredibly light on fuel at this speed, giving around 30 km/L. This translates to a range of over 500 k’s on a tank. Buy one of these and the fuel saving over your 4-wheel shopping basket will pay for the bike, not to mention the hour less time that you will spend stuck in load-shedding traffic snarl-ups. At R119,900, the Honda CB500X represents a lot of bike for the money.

Some may argue that their NC750 doesn’t cost a helluva lot more, but the fact is you then really don’t have anywhere near the dirt road ability of this bike. KTM’s 390 Adventure plays in the same space with similar performance, however, it lacks the all-around polish of the twin-cylinder Honda. Both the KTM and BMW G 310 GS need to cost significantly less to be considered alternatives. The all-around package, coupled with the legendary Honda reliability, and the real-world capability that we experienced on this launch, may just find Honda with a big winner on their hands.

Photo credit: Beam Productions

Honda CB500X

For more information on the bike featured in this article, click on the link below…

2023

HONDA CB500X

Pricing From R124,799 (RRP)


Brand: Honda
Dave Cilliers
Dave Cilliers
My name is Dave Cilliers, from as far back as I can remember I have loved travel. Africa provides salve for the gypsy in my soul. My best trips are done travelling to unlikely places with unlikely vehicles, keeping it as simple and basic as possible.
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