2019 Honda CB500X Review: You don’t need a big-bore bike to go real adventure riding, as Honda amply proves with the CB500X.
2019 Honda CB500X Review
The older I get, the better I was. So, it doesn’t surprise me as my age creeps up, more and more I’m enjoying the benefits of sub-600cc motorcycles.
And the adventure market is waking up to their benefits, too. Bikes like Honda CB500X, Kawasaki’s Versys 300 X, and BMW’s 310 GS (and if you’re up for something different, the Royal Enfield Himalayan) are signaling a new era for off-road travel, one that doesn’t require big cubes to go big places.
Photography by Drew Ruiz
Thus, the Big H has revamped the CB500X for 2019, having started its life in 2013 with no updates since. For this year, however, there are a plethora of new goodies thrown at the 500X rider in a four percent more powerful 471cc parallel-twin motor via a new intake, cam timing, a new exhaust, and a revised fuel injection map; there’s a new slipper clutch for a 45 percent lighter lever pull; new ergonomics with the seat jacked up from 31.9 inches to 32.7 inches, and a new handlebar bend; a bigger 19-inch front wheel matched to new suspension that’s 0.4 inches and 1.2 inches front and rear more than last year, respectively; and more relaxed steering geometry with the rake now set at 27.5 degrees, up one degree over last year.
Aesthetically, the 500X has come in for a nip and tuck, with a new color scheme (you can have any 500X you want, as long as it’s red), a slightly shorter front mudguard, new fuel tank, radiator shroud, headlight, clear taillight lens, and new LED turn signals. Plus, there’s a 20mm taller screen adjustable via a 5mm Allen key, and a new digital dash that’s finally got a gear-position indicator in it.
Honda is marketing the 500X as an entry-level ADV option, but it’s a bike that seasoned off-road riders can still enjoy. Real ADV riders will still notice the lack of spoked wheels, despite the fact the cast front wheel comes in a 19-inch size—but in the day of midlevel off-road terrain we rode in, no one got a pinched rim or flat tire despite the repeated pounding we gave the wheels. That bodes well for riders who want a light, easy ADV bike that can handle most of the terrain humans will dare take it. Riding one of these in Baja should be no problem.
Swinging a leg over the slightly taller seat gives a ride position you could sit in for days. At a touch over six feet tall, the ergonomics of the 500X were almost ideal for my size, although I’d go for a set of bar risers on the new tapered handlebar if this were my bike to get better off-road comfort and performance when standing up.
In developing the new 500X, Honda took inspiration from those beasts of ADV modification at Rally Raid in the UK—you can check out all the parts they have for the 500X by clicking here. Rally Raid has been on the 500X bandwagon since the beginning, and Honda has been paying close attention to what customers do when they purchase a new 500X. The result is what you see here: more off-road capability but still an upright touring bike at heart.
2019 Honda CB500X Ride Review
On the road, the 500X is a pussycat. Honda won’t divulge power figures, and I’m not game to print any here, but what’s on offer from the 471cc twin is more than enough for 90 percent of street riding. Sixth gear is an overdrive, dropping the revs right down and ensuring you get plenty of miles per gallon, but the 500X still offers solid but un-intimidating acceleration in the first four gears to get you up and moving.
Our test bikes were fitted with Bridgestone’s brand new AX41 adventure knobby tire (Dunlop’s Trailmax is what the 500X comes with as standard), which has an excellent amount of grip on the tarmac. You can push these things pretty hard if you like, and they’ll give you plenty of warning before letting go. However, transfer the 500X off the road, and you’ll really start to see the fruits of not just Honda’s, but Bridgestone’s, labor.
The AX41’s worked stupendously on the light dusty trails in San Diego County with plenty of front end grip, which allowed the 500X chassis to shine. The new chassis gets slightly lazier steering geometry, which gives it a bit more stability in the slippery stuff and over rocks and bumps. And when matched with the grip on offer from the Bridgestones, it’s surprising how far you can get off-piste.
Once you hit the dirt, the flexibility of that little twin-cylinder motor shines through. There are no riding modes to have to fiddle with, just a simple, small capacity four-stroke motor that’s got excellent throttle response and plenty of power for most off-road situations. Oh, and did I mention there’s no traction control? Honda’s conspicuous lack of electronic TC is a breath of fresh air, as the bike really doesn’t need it and gives a bit of control/responsibility back to the rider. Plus, it’s one less thing that can go wrong when you’re in the middle of nowhere. Honda’s claim to a 45-percent lighter clutch pull is evident when you ride it—I haven’t ridden the old 500X, but I’ve ridden lots of CBR500R and CB500F models—both of which use the same engine like this. The lever pull is exceptionally light, making for one less thing to worry about in twisty trails.
It’s always nice when a bike is more capable than you initially think, and I’ll admit to being a little skeptical on the 500’s off-road ability before I rode it. But over a 150-mile loop, most of which were dirt roads and a few decent ADV sections, the 500 handled brilliantly. Part of this is because it weighs a claimed 430 pounds (434 pounds if you go for the ABS model), there’s not as much weight to get away from you, not like an F 850 GS or higher.
The Honda is the little red ADV bike that could—its combination of that excellent parallel-twin motor, minimal electronics (none if you take the non-ABS model), good ground clearance, brakes that are plenty up to the task despite being only a single disc on the front, and a riding position and comfort that will encourage massive days in the saddle make the CB500X an excellent prospect—especially for the asking price of $6699 for the non-ABS model we tested (add another $300) for the ABS model.
The CB500X doesn’t look as aggressive as the other ADV bikes out there, but it’s sharp enough to attract old and new riders alike. It’s a surprising little package, this one.CN
2019 Honda CB500X Specifications
||$6699 / $6999 ABS
||Liquid-cooled 20° parallel-twin
|Bore x stroke:
||67 x 66.8mm
||Cast aluminum twin spar
||41mm telescopic fork
||Pro-Link single shock w/nine-position spring preload adjustability
||320mm petal style disc w/single 2-piston caliper; ABS optional
||240 mm petal style disc, w/1-piston caliper; ABS optional
|Weight (wet, claimed):
||430 lbs. / 434 lbs. ABS