Honda Honda CB500X (2021) Review - A2 friendly adventure motorcycle

Honda CB500X offroad

We were lucky enough to test out the 2021 Honda CB500X for two weeks, so how does the updated model shape up off-road, and on it? Is it a perfect step up for new A2 riders?

Details
Manufacturer:
Honda
Category:
Adventure
Overall
Not rated
Can this A2 compliant adventure motorcycle really do it all? We put the 2021 Honda CB500X to the test.

HONDA has established itself in the motorcycle world as a perennial supplier of reliable, robust, and refined rides. So when they sent over the 2021 CB500X I was pretty excited to see what it could do, what changes had been brought in from the last model, and how far I could push the A2 friendly motorcycle (and myself) off-road.

The 2021 model has had a few updates, namely an Africa Twin inspired sub-frame, Euro 5 compliant engine, and I suspect new rubber engine mounts to remove the pesky vibrations at higher speeds - something we found on our 2020 review of the same model. 

Honda CB500X 2021 review

New Honda CB500X 2021 Review | Visordown.com

Over the 2 weeks I had with the CB500X, I was able to go out on all types of roads - towns, backroads, dual carriageway, and green-lanes / fire-trails. It handled them all with ease. Versatility is in abundance with this A2 friendly adventurer, and for £6,199 it’s a decent platform for a new rider, or sensible commuter, with an 'adventure itch' they need to scratch.

Style

First things first, the style - it’s placed on the market as an adventure motorcycle, but I see it as a do-it-all tourer with adventure capabilities. On the market since 2013, the redesign in 2019 brought the largest changes to the CB500X, giving it a sophisticated and sensible style that carries across to this current day model alongside Euro 5 updates.

I like the look in all honesty. It has a lot of road presence, and even as an entirely stock model it has a bit of character. The one I had in for review was in Grand Prix Red, with alternative colour variants Matt Gunpowder Black Metallic, and Pearl Metalloid White available.

Engine and gearbox

Honda has placed the CB500X firmly in the adventure category, with the CB500F and CBR500R distinguishing themselves in the naked and sports categories with the same 471cc parallel-twin power unit across the trio of bikes. 

It’s a really accessible motor, providing a good deal of torque at the lower end and getting you up to speed quickly off the mark. It may not be a Fireblade, but it shares the same piston shape to reduce piston ‘noise’ at high rpm. 

The 6-speed gearbox really is solid, I had no missed gears and zero false neutrals, except for when I didn’t click it into gear properly whilst off-road. Entirely my mistake on that one. The clutch is super light, thanks in part to an assist and slipper clutch, it's literally like closing your fist as there's hardly any weight to it.

Real-world riding

Dropping a gear (say from 6th to 5th) and accelerating for an overtaking opportunity is... comfortable, and the 47 BHP is shared well across the superb 6-speed gearbox, peaking at 8600 rpm. Torque numbers are a out at 43Nm (34.6lb-ft) at 7000 rpm, but you feel plenty of pull from the 3k mark. 

The ultimate test of real-world acceleration is getting up to speed with traffic on a 60mph road. Pinning the throttle and leaning forward slightly to tuck-in behind the big stock screen will see you effortlessly reaching 60mph. Power does drop off a bit towards the rev limit, but you don’t hit any walls as you may find on smaller capacity machines - where power will literally drop to zero as you reach the limit. 

The only real downside was the jerky cable-operated throttle in the first three gears at low speeds, like in town. The best way I can explain it: twisting the throttle to engage a touch of power will engage power from say 0% to 25%, so you have to be quite direct with your throttle inputs, use a higher gear than you’d think, or ride the clutch a bit longer. Solutions to an albeit minor issue, because once you’re aware of it your riding changes a bit to compensate for it.

It weighs 197kg, and on the road, it feels planted and balanced. When moving the bike around you do have to becareful with the high-centre of gravity, especially in tight spaces. Other than that, it all feels nicely composed, great for newer riders who are moving on up through the ranks. 

Riding at night is fine, also, LED lights all around provide a decent amount of light on the road, and the high beam/low beam angles are really well set up to make riding in dark hours as tolerable as can be. The LCD dash is really visible at night, although the same can;t be said for riding in direct sunlight!

Brakes and exhaust

Accompanying you on the ride is a stock can with two little pea-shooters that actually produces quite a nice raucous note, and you’ll catch it burbling over when decelerating - for a stock unit it really is quite nice. Maybe you’d want to change it for even more grunt, but I like it. 

Brakes are Nissin wavy discs, single 310mm on the front and 240mm on the rear, and provide a good deal of consistent stopping power throughout a day of riding. I noticed no fade to the brakes across a full day of riding, and was quite impressed. Perhaps a twin-disc would be nice, but I’m not entirely sure it’s needed. 

Comfort

With an 830mm comfortable seat, long rides and long days in the saddle were comfortable - which is perfect for an ultimately frugal bike that can easily get 300 miles from a full 17.7 litre tank (including the reserve). I came off this bike with no distinct signs of travel, and riding for a full day on and off-road, I had no sore legs, arm, or aches. Great considering I’m a bit of an elongated lump at 6’3” and 15(ish) stone.

Plenty of room for a pillion, with grab handles and decent seat area for riding two-up. You can ride fairly normally, but most of the weight is high up so be aware at low speeds, if it's your first time, keep an eye on that!

The upside-down reverse LCD display gives you the basic info, and is laid out really well - you have revs, trip, odometer, fuel gauge, gear indicator and engine temp. Glare is a little bit of a problem, but still visible enough (just takes a little squint). A TFT screen would be nice here, but by no means essential. Ask yourself, would you want to pay the extra on top for a TFT screen on a base model? 

The riding position itself is the traditional adventure stance - upright, pegs beneath you with wide handlebars, and standing on the pegs gets you positioned well above the tank, reaching down to the raised bar. It works well off-road, and I was happily riding across gravel, dirt, mud and sand with confidence. Not bad considering my off-road experience is fairly minimal. After a few advanced trails on this, I feel 100 times better about taking a bike off road in the future.

Off-road adventure - Africa Cousin?

So let’s get to the adventure stuff, then. Whack on some knobblies and adventure bits, and you’ll really start getting a proper adventure machine. The standard tyres (Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour) are good on-road, but if you’re heading for lots of off-roading you’ll want something with a touch more grip. 

That does bring up the point of accessories, and as standard, it really doesn’t have much adventure-focused gear. Flick through the Honda catalogue and you can add on some knuckle guards, pannier mounts, fairing protector frames and fog lights that may come in handy. If you’re after a proper adventure bike, you’ll want a few of these. 

The long-travel suspension (front 41mm telescopic forks with preload adjustment, rear mono shock absorber with 5 step preload adjust) soaks up uneven terrain, and whilst it is soft, it’s comfortable to ride on the road - with potholes and gravel tracks handled well. 
You have 180mm of ground clearance, and turning to the trails and green lanes is where you start to push the adventure side - just be aware of the jerky throttle that I mentioned if you’re riding in 1st or 2nd gear. 

Rear ABS cannot be switched off for off-road moments, and there are no alternative modes to peruse, but it’s entirely capable to just get going, and you can get a bit of rear-wheel spin when you push it. Rider modes here would be nice, but a simple on & off mode is good enough for anyone!

Lastly, with a 19-inch front wheel, and 17-inch rear, you feel stable on the roads and can comfortably sit at speed cruising along, whilst the motor literally sips fuel beneath you. They work well off-road, but they’re not spoked rims, and a 19-inch spoked front matched to a 17-inch rear would be optimum.

No, it’s not quite an Africa Twin, but alongside the red subframe, you can see the influence.

Conclusions and verdict

It’s a Honda. It does everything you’d want a Honda to do. It does dip a toe in to ‘commuter bike’ territory, but it’s happy to go off the beaten track and it’s a pretty cracking versatile option. For the £6199 price tag you get a solid foundation to either build riding skills on and off-road, or just enjoy a comfortable ride.

This CB500X, in my mind, is perfect for someone looking for a capable adventure-tourer that will sip at fuel and be extremely economical to run, insure and enjoy. Whack on a few adventure-y bits on and you can customise it into the adventure bike that isn't going to break the bank. It's also comfortable machine for a 125cc rider to step up to, who’s after a solid foundation to grow their riding skills in the adventure segment. 

And it's not just the newer riders who might take a look at the new CB500X. More experienced pilots may want to consider this as an ideal winter hack or second bike. You really get out of this bike what you put in. It’s happy to cruise around at sensible speeds, not really egging you on to push it much further - but take it off-road, or down a windy B-road, and you’ll definitely have a laugh. 

Perhaps consider looking at the 2019/2020 models if you're trying to save a few quid, but the 2021 model has a few touches that can't be ignored - rubber engine mounts, economical motor, red sub frame - plus you'll get warranties and that 'new bike' feel. 

3 things I like:

  • Versatility - it can do basically everything you throw at it
  • Size - at 6’3” it’s not often I can ride around all day and not feel it, this is a great option for tall riders.
  • Economy - cheap to run, cheap to insure.

3 things I don’t like

  • Rider modes - it’d be nice to have some rider modes. Appreciate the simplicity, but give us the options for switching the ABS off.
  • Jerky throttle - I’m sure it can be tweaked and sorted, but it seems to run in the old models too.
  • Dash - it’s not a deal-breaker, but the screen can get a bit awkward to read quickly in the sun. Plus give us a USB plug as standard, please!

If you want to find out more, find out more on the Honda website

I'll leave you with two of my favourite shots with this machine!

Honda CB500X 2021 Specs

ENGINE

Type

Liquid-cooled, parallel twin

Displacement

471cc

Bore and stroke

67mm x 66.8mm

Compression Ratio

10.7: 1

Max. Power Output

35kW @ 8,600rpm

Max. Torque

43Nm @ 6,500rpm

Oil Capacity

3.2L

FUEL SYSTEM

Carburation

PGM FI

Fuel Tank Capacity

17.7L (inc reserve)

Fuel Consumption (WMTC)

27.8/litre

ELECTRICAL SYSTEM

Battery Capacity

12V 7.4AH

ACG Output

25A/2000rpm

DRIVETRAIN

Clutch Type

Wet multiplate

Transmission Type

6 speed

Final Drive

Chain

FRAME

Type

Steel diamond

CHASSIS

Dimensions (L´W´H)

2155mm x 825mm x 1410mm (Low screen) 1445mm (High screen)

Wheelbase

1445mm

Caster Angle

27.5 degrees

Trail

108mm

Seat Height

830mm

Ground Clearance

180mm

Kerb Weight

197kg

SUSPENSION

Type Front

Conventional telescopic, 41mm, pre-load adjustable

Type Rear

Prolink mono with5 stage preload adjuster, steel square pipe swingarm

WHEELS

Type Front

Multi-spoke cast aluminium

Type Rear

Multi-spoke cast aluminium

Rim Size Front

19 X MT2.5

Rim Size Rear

17 X MT4.5

Tyres Front

110/80R–19M/C (On-off pattern)

Tyres Rear

160/60R–17M/C (On-off pattern)

BRAKES

ABS System Type

2 channel

Type Front

Single wavy disk, 310mm, 2 piston caliper

Type Rear

Single wavy disk, 240mm, 1 piston caliper

INSTRUMENTS & ELECTRICS

Instruments

Digital speedometer, digital bar graph tachometer, dual trip meters, digital fuel level gauge & fuel consumption gauge, digital clock, gear position indicator

Security System

HISS (Honda Intelligent Security System)

Headlight

Low 4.8W. Hi 12W. (LED)