Honda patents "NX 500" name: New model for MY2023?

Honda seems set to begin production of a new NX 500 dual sport bike, 23 years after the previous NX 650 Dominator was discontinued.

Honda NX 650 Dominator. - Motorrad/Jacek Bilski

HONDA has patented the name “NX 500”, and is anticipated to be adding a new dual sport bike to its roster in 2023. 

Motorrad reports that Honda has patented the “NX” abbreviation in May, and intends to make a 500 for 2023, with the established 471cc motor which is already used in the CB500X, and is anticipated to be used in the CL 500. 

Honda NX 250 and NX 650 Dominator. - Motorrad/Jacek Bilski

Details of a new NX 500 beyond the engine are unclear, and so the question of purpose for the bike remains somewhat mysterious. If it is to lean more towards the road,’ perhaps a 19-inch front wheel will be fitted. However, if Honda wants the NX 500 to be more of an enduro, we should expect a 21-inch. Motorrad suggests that a 19-inch front will bring the bike too closely into competition with the aforementioned CB500X which shares the same motor. In comparison, there are few worries about a mid-range enduro-focused bike competing with the 1084cc Africa Twin adventurer.

A 2023 NX 500 would not be the first NX, of course. Between 1988 and 2000, Honda built the NX 650 dominator: a single-cylinder dual sport enduro that replaced the XL 600 R, and was eventually replaced itself by the FMX 650 Supermoto. 

Although the engine of the XL 600 R was a four-stroke compared to the legendary two-stroke Honda motocrossers of the day, its appearance was comparable to such as the CR 500s of 1986 or 1987. Such aesthetic similarities would have been of benefit to the bike; when thinking of the CR 500, it is hard to avoid thinking back to the 1986 Motocross of Nations when David Bailey (with the 500), Rick Johnson (CR 250) and Jonny O’Mara (CR 125) dominated the field to win every race and the overall title for that year. 

Tim Gajser, 2022 MXGP of Latvia. - Honda Racing Corporation/Shot By Bavo

The CRF450R which has dominated this year’s MXGP World Championship with Tim Gajser is arguably not on the same level of mysticism as the CR 500, although it is true that nostalgia can play a part in this. This could make things more complicated for a new NX 500, but market prioritisation could be of benefit here. 

Motorrad reports that, in 2021, Benelli’s 500cc enduro, the TRK 502, was the best-selling bike in Italy. Of course, Benelli is now owned by QianJiang, but it is still an historically Italian brand. In that respect, Honda could face some patriotic opposition in Italy. But, at the same time, there is clearly a desire for mid-range enduros there, while, in Britain, the sales comparisons between the popular Africa Twin and an anticipated NX 500 could be a decisive one for Honda’s future direction.

Lead and first in-text image both courtesy of Motorrad and Jacek Bilski.