When I was a teenager (admittedly, a long time ago), a 500cc bike was considered a big bike. I thought Honda’s CB350s were fast, and CB450s were really fast. Now, of course, a 500cc bike is hardly considered a “mid-displacement” machine.
Nevertheless, we were pleased to see Honda revive a smaller displacement twin a few years ago, and certainly enjoyed our test of the CBR500R. The precise displacement is 471cc for this fuel injected parallel-twin with four-valve heads. A nice six-speed transmission provides a good range of gearing, as well.
Honda offers this motor in an adventure-style machine, as well. Indeed, the subject of this test is the 2016 CB500X, which has all the prerequisites of the adventure tourer category, including upright ergos, a wind screen and increased suspension travel (5.5″ front and 4.7″ rear).
Perhaps not all the prerequisites of the category, as the CB500X makes do with 17″ wheels both front and rear. Some adventure tourers have 19″ front wheels for better off-road usability (occasionally you can find a 21″ front). Those wheels are shod with Dunlop Trailmax tires sized 120/70 in front and 160/60 out back.
The suspension is non-adjustable with the exception of spring preload on the fork and shock. Like its siblings, the CB500X has a single front brake disc sized 320 mm squeezed by a two-piston caliper, and a smaller 240 mm rear disc with single-piston caliper.
Curb weight (with the 4.6 gallon fuel tank full) is a claimed 427. 6 pounds. Reasonable, but not quite as light as you might expect a 500 twin to be. As we found out, 4.6 gallons provides more than 250 miles of range, even when the bike is ridden aggressively.
The 2016 CB500X is actually the second iteration of the model, which was updated for 2016 with a number of changes. Suspension tuning was changed and adjustable fork preload was added. Additionally, more wind protection comes from a taller screen and lighting improves with LEDs both front and rear. Styling is “sharper” according to Honda, and detail changes include a new muffler design, adjustable front brake lever, improved gear-change feel and a hinged fuel cap.
Riding the CB500X was a very pleasurable experience for a number of reasons. First and foremost, this is an extremely comfortable motorcycle. Invitingly so … if you have several bikes in the garage and are in the mood for a stress-free ride, the CB500X beckons.
For an adventure bike, the seat is also relatively low (31.8″), and lifting it off its side stand and moving it out of the garage couldn’t be much easier.
The power won’t snap your neck back, but it is a nice step up from the current batch of 250s and 300s, both in terms of torque and peak horsepower. The fuel injection is dialed in well and the power spread is wide. Even on the highway at elevated speeds, where the 300s can feel a bit wheezy, the CB500X had plenty of speed and felt relatively relaxed in the 70-80 mph zone.
Fuel economy is also exemplary. It is hard to get less than 55 mpg (even while wringing its neck we achieved this figure), and getting close to 65 mpg is very doable. With 4.6 gallons on tap, the theoretical range of the CB500X is all the way up in 300 mile territory. If you haven’t owned a bike that you can fill up and ride, and ride … and ride without worrying about running out of gas, this is a joy in itself.
Handling is light and predictable, as well as stable at higher speeds. Nevertheless, the first thing we would do to the CB500X is swap out the hard Dunlop semi-knobbys for a pure street tire of good quality. The CB500X deserves this treatment, which would undoubtedly improve both performance and comfort (as well as fuel economy).
Suspension tuning of the largely non-adjustable units is good, although damping of small choppy bumps in front is characteristic of non-cartridge forks. That is, a bit harsh. Other bumps, including undulating surface changes, are handled well. Light off-roading (graded fire trails, for instance) works better than on bigger, heavier bikes, but is not this bike’s strong suit.
The brakes work surprisingly well given their specification. This makes sense given that a similar single front disc set-up is used by Honda on the much heavier NC700X. Both feel and power are more than adequate.
A legible, informative instrument panel, and windscreen adjustable for height, also enhance the comfort and practicality of the CB500X. Even the passenger accommodations are reasonably generous, and several Honda accessories, including luggage, make the CB500X a more than reasonable platform for touring. We did two, 500 mile days on the CB500X.
Indeed, given its heritage, it shouldn’t be surprising that Honda can produce a modern parallel twin of high quality. That is exactly what we have in the CB500X. A bike that is as fun to ride as it is practical and comfortable.
Although we tested a 2016 model and the 2017 version has already been announced, there are no changes whatsoever save color choice . For 2017, the CB500X gets a $100 price bump to an U.S. MSRP of $6,599. The 2017 model is only available in Candy Rose Red. Take a look at Honda’s web site for additional details, specifications and available accessories.
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