Honda Honda CB500 X - On and Off-road REVIEW

We have taken the Honda CB500 X into uncharted depths, with a full and thorough on and off-road review, here’s what we found out...

Details
Manufacturer:
Honda
Category:
Adventure
Price:
£ 4950
Overall
Not rated

SINCE it was launched in 2016, the Honda CB500 X has been the entry-level route into ‘Big Red’s’ adventure touring range. And as entry-level bikes go, it’s always one I’ve found strangely attractive.

The mixture of good value (£6,199 for the 2021 model), that peppy little 471cc parallel-twin engine, and the kind of lightweight dynamics (197kg wet) that makes it an all-round easier proposition to ride off-road. Especially for a short-arse like me!

Honda CB500 X on and off-road video review

So when perusing Honda press fleet on the lookout for some test bikes, the little Honda was surprisingly top of my ‘want’ list – even above the latest generation CBR1000RR-R! Like any adventure bike that we test here at Visordown, we always hit the dirt, quite often making an afternoon of riding on mud the first port of call. Will the CB500X have enough in the tank to call it a proper adventure bike?

First off, let's get one thing straight; most CB500X owners won’t be looking at hours of off-road riding and taking on technical trails and green lanes. For many, the bike will be selected because of its commanding riding position, 17.7 litre fuel tank, and tried and tested Honda reliability. To get the commuting box ticked, I took the back road back from Corby after collecting the bike, crisscrossing my way across Leicestershire on my way back home.

First impressions of the bike are, like the rest of the 500cc Honda range, it is very easy to ride. The clutch is one-finger light, the brakes are strong but not overly sharp and the gearchange is textbook Honda, slick, direct and easy to use. The only issue I found with the ‘box was when riding in my clod-hopper adventure boots, it was a bit of a struggle to get my foot hooked under the lever to come up the box – a problem that is exaggerated when standing on the pegs and riding off-road.

Comfort too is very good, the bars are within comfortable reach, the seat is large and well padded. At 5’7” tall I found the upper and lower body ergonomics to be about right, and I could see this bike easily accommodating riders who are much taller than myself. The bike also has a full-sized look to it, and despite having a relatively low – for an adventure bike – 830mm seat height, you still have a nice commanding view of what’s going on around you. If you’re looking at spending big miles on the motorway, I’d recommend grabbing a slightly better screen than the stock item. There’s a fair amount of bluster around your shoulders and the top of my bonce was well outside the bubble.

The little adventure bike handles a jump surprisingly well!

Once we’d got the bike back home, I pretty much immediately get kitted out and headed off for a little bit of a play on the dirt. And the first positive point of budget adventure riding reared its head. Hitting the dirt requires no messing with settings, not turning off of traction control or any other systems. The CB500X is totally uncluttered on that front. All you have is the two-channel, non-switchable ABS. If there is one thing I’d change about this bike’s equipment, it’d be to add an option to disable the rear ABS, not doing that on even an entry-level bike seems like a bit of an own goal.

Once we’re on the dirt, the soft set up of the CB500X comes into its own, soaking up bumps and jumps and providing a surprisingly capable base to go and have a play on. The engine provides an A2 compliant 46.9bhp, with peak power coming in at 8,600rpm, and peak torque of 31lb-ft coming in at 6,500rpm. In truth, off-road is not the natural habitat for the engine with it’s fizzy and rev-happy nature. But it’s by no means out of its depth either. It’ll chug around at very low revs happily enough, and the power and torque are delivered in a nice linear manner that makes it entertainingly accessible.

I did find the cable operated throttle on the press bike I rode to be a little snatchy, causing me to either ride in a gear higher than I needed or to slip the clutch to mitigate the jerkiness. Having spent some more time with the bike it transpired that adjusting the cables helped massively, they seem to come as stock with a large amount of free-play already there that really needs winding out.

After pretending to be good off-road I decided I’d head off to Leicester, down the M69 and then loop back on the A47 to get home, just to see how the little Honda handles the motorway miles. Straight away it became clear that the bike is more than capable of keeping up with the traffic, and it’s bloody frugal in the process! Sitting at between 75 and 80mph will see the Honda returning between 70 and 80mpg. Ease off to 65mph and the onboard MPG reading will hit 100mpg!

While it’s hard to argue that the economy of the thing is any other than brilliant, there are a couple of notable issues for distance riders. The first is that at anything over 70mph there is a bit of a high-frequency buzz through the bars. I spent a good two hours on the bike at that sort of speed, and on getting off the bike had pins and needles in my fingers for a good five minutes. You could slot some of those oversize foam handgrips over the standard ones, which would no doubt help massively.

The other issue, which I guess is both a positive and a negative is that the bike does pick up a crosswind quite easily. It goes back to what I said earlier; the CB500X has an almost full-sized side profile but weighs under 200kg. I’m not claiming that you’ll be wobbling all over the M1 here, although with the optional top-box on there and maybe a passenger… it’s something to keep in mind.

Honda CB500X verdict

If you’re looking for a bike that offers great value versatility, you really can’t go wrong with the Honda CB500X. It’d make an ideal long-distance commuter, which then turns into a miniature mile-muncher when you and the other half fancy a weekend away somewhere. Add to that the fact that it’s actually a fairly handy little off-road machine and it really does start to look like a Swiss army knife of a bike.

It’s also cheap to buy, around £99 p/m on PCP, is cheap to insure being insurance group 10, and best of all, if you commute around 50-miles a day Monday to Friday, you might only need to fill the tank once a week.

For the lowdown on the latest 2021 versions of the Honda CB500 range, click here. To check out the rest of the Honda range or to arrange a test ride, head to: honda.co.uk