The Honda CB500X is finally here, but with such a high price, it faces big questions to answer.
The CB500X is the type of motorcycle that you just can’t dislike, no matter what flavour of motorcycling you’re into. Born in 2014 as a do-it-all, road-biased tourer, the bike received a significant update in 2019, which introduced a sharper style, a bigger 19-inch front wheel, and a little more suspension travel.
With its simple, friendly and capable character, the CB500X proves to be just the sort of bike for our road conditions and motorcycling aspirations. We got to spend just three hours with the bike, so this isn’t a full blown review of its touring capabilities, but rather an overall look at what to expect from this machine.
Honda CB500X: Hardware and features
Speaking of first looks, the CB500X makes a great initial impression because its size and proportions are spot on – not too big and certainly not too small. The angular bodywork and LED lighting all around gives it a premium look and feel. Both paint schemes available look smart, but unfortunately we don’t get that delicious Pearl Metalloid White in India. Seat height is at 830mm, but it feels quite approachable because the seat is slimmed down near the 17.7-litre fuel tank and the bike doesn’t have an exaggerated sense of top heaviness that can make big ADVs intimidating. I’d imagine that anyone above 5ft 6in or so should find themselves relatively comfortable with the height of this bike.
Instead of a flashy TFT, you get a rather small and simple negative LCD display.
Finish and quality levels all around are good, but there’s no escaping the sense that the CB500X has been built with cost effectiveness in mind. The fork isn’t upside down, the swingarm is a simple box section unit, and instead of a flashy TFT, you get a rather small and simple negative LCD display; though, it displays the essential information you’d need. It’s a similar story with electronic assists and there’s no traction control, quickshifter or cornering ABS to be found here.
Nevertheless, comfort is excellent, with a very spacious seat and an upright riding position. The windscreen works well and it is adjustable, but you’ll have to undo some bolts to do so.
The windscreen works well and it is adjustable, but you’ll have to undo some bolts to do so.
Honda CB500X: Engine
The CB500X runs a 471cc parallel-twin that produces 47.5hp and 43.2Nm. Those are pretty humble numbers on paper, but the engine is rather impressive in person. Power delivery is absolutely linear and the strong bottom-end/mid-range is surprisingly encouraging of first-gear wheelies. The motor is also very tractable, and you’ll find yourself in sixth gear well below 60kph.
The sound and feel of the motor are reminiscent of the 650s from Kawasaki, but the Honda has a little more character, thanks to a deeper exhaust note and the occasional pop and burble. The fuelling and throttle response is smooth for the most part, although throttle opening and closing at low speeds is slightly jerky.
Refinement levels are generally good, and you only start to feel vibrations if you rev the bike towards its 8,750rpm redline. At this point, the bars and foot pegs start vibrating quite strongly, and you realise the best way to ride this bike is to surf the strong mid-range and short-shift.
The 6-speed transmission shifts with a positive sensation and a slipper clutch helps with smoother downshifts. Just from the feel of things, I suspect acceleration numbers should be in the ballpark of the KTM 390 Adventure, but that’s something to be confirmed when we get the bike again for a full review.
Honda CB500X: Ride
Matching the effortless performance is a chassis that’s a breeze to get along with. The bike feels lighter than its 199kg kerb weight would suggest, and there’s plenty of steering lock available. Factor in the tractable nature of the engine and the light clutch, and this is quite an easy-going bike in urban conditions. We’ll have to spend more time with it to answer whether it produces significant heat, but this is a bike you could easily commute on if you wish to.
On an open road, a 100kph cruise is completely relaxed and while we never got to try this, the CB500X should be at relative ease even at 120-130kph. All manner of bad roads are dealt with very well, and the suspension setup feels rather plush. One complaint was that the rear shock displays a tendency to rebound a little excessively over heavy undulations in the road. The suspension is preload adjustable at both ends, so playing with the settings at the rear may help to some extent, but I’m not sure if that will completely solve this behaviour.
Head to a winding road and the CB500X continues to behave in an easy and neutral manner. It doesn’t take much effort to get the bike turned in and there’s plenty of lean angle available, probably more than you’ll ever end up using. The bike can flow through corners at a quick pace, but it doesn’t appreciate being ridden too aggressively. Do so and you’ll find that the rear, once again, can get disturbed through mid-corner bumps, which isn’t a nice feeling. The Dunlop Trailmax tyres also feel a little vague on the limit, but for the most part, they performed well on the road. The brakes are good too, although you’ll need to get accustomed to some front suspension dive under hard braking.
With 181mm of ground clearance, the CB500X won’t shy from deviating off the tarmac, and you could take this bike to some fairly isolated places. It has the suspension composure to take on a few mild jumps, but it’s best not to get too excitable, because there isn’t a huge amount of suspension travel – 150mm and 135mm at the front and rear, respectively. That’s more than your typical road bike, but much less than a full-on ADV. Other hints at the Honda’s abilities come in the form of the rubber foot pegs, the lack of a bash plate and the inability to deactivate the rear ABS without pulling a fuse.
Honda CB500X: Verdict
There was never any question that this bike makes great sense for our market. Having finally ridden one, I see what the hype is about, and this is a genuinely sweet and likeable motorcycle. With its effortless nature, punchy, but non-intimidating performance and excellent badge value, the CB500X is the ideal first big adventure bike for the average Indian enthusiast.
Sadly, Honda has priced this CKD motorcycle far higher than expected, and many dreams have been shattered in the process. As lovely as it is, it's hard to justify a price that’s so close to the excellent Kawasaki Versys 650 – a motorcycle that is undoubtedly heavier, both in person and on the pocket to maintain, but a bike that is also undoubtedly in a segment above.
Along with so many others, I hope that Honda doubles down on giving the CB500X the localisation effort it deserves and lowers the price to a more reasonable level. If and when they do, it’s going to have a very bright future in our market.