Honda’s Newest Midweight Adventurer

My first motorcycle was a Honda. . . and so was my second (curiously, my first car was also a Honda). It was that XR250L that opened my eyes to the fun and adventure of exploring by dirt bike, and my life-long love for adventure motorcycling. When I think back, it was the reliability and durability of that red and white 250 that inspired me to buy a Honda in the first place, and it is that same reputation that puts “Red” on the consideration-set for so many customers. However, over the years, there were few options available for overlanding with the Honda brand. Travel models were limited to the 650L and older Africa Twin and Transalp models, but in the last few years the lineup of ADV options has rapidly expanded, including the new Africa Twin, the 250 Rally, and now the CB500X.

Enthusiast Inspired
In talking with the Honda PR team, they were quick to note that the 500X was inspired by their customer’s demands, the need for a more adventurous mid-weight CB500, and one that looked and worked as much like the aftermarket Rally Raid CB500X Adventure. The factory responded with many of these improvements, and also a cadre of their own. The 471cc DOHC engine refinements include four percent more torque from 3,000-7,000 rpms, a revamped intake, new injectors, and improved cam timing. The motor makes a respectable 50 horsepower at 8500 rpm. Fuel economy should come in around 65 mpg on the highway, with a 250+ mile real world range. Certainly respectable for remote travel.  honda.com

Improvements for the dirt include several important changed, including an increase in front and rear suspension travel, with 5.3 inches in the front and 5.9 in the rear. Ground clearance is better, and the front wheel is now a 19 inch, critical for performance in the dirt.  An improved ABS system is an available option, with upgraded modulators for better control. On the highway, the rider benefits from a 20mm taller windscreen.

Overall, the new 500x is an exciting new model, one inspired by real adventurers and brought to market by a quality-conscious OEM. We are excited to see this and other lighter weight offering coming to market, addressing the general trend towards adventure motorcycles, but also towards lower cost, lighter weight, and easier to maneuver options. Look for a full field test later this summer after we properly use the CB500x in the field and put it through the paces.

Pros
Honda reliability and durability
19 inch front wheel
4.6 gallon tank provides proper range

Cons
Needs an engine/exhaust skid plate
No ABS off switch (although that is easy to install)

2019 Updates
• Engine refinements for an increase in overall power, including 3 to 4% more torque from 3,000 to 7,000 rpm.
• Fuel-injector spray narrowed, fuel-droplet size optimized for improved spray penetration in intake. Improves combustion and therefore creates more linear power from first crack of the throttle through to rpm redline.
• Smaller battery, repositioning of components enable increased air-intake volume and addition of filter element in tract below headlights. Straighter velocity stacks and reshaped separators between the cylinders make for decreased turbulence, resulting in improved power at every rpm.
• New valve timing increases torque and improves roll-on response.
• New crank-sensor system with over 2.5 times more-frequent crank-position readings and model-specific fuel-injection settings allow more linear power delivery, with emphasis on low- and midrange power and more precise throttle response.
• New muffler with increased volume before and after catalytic converter. Backpressure optimized for improved low-end and midrange power. New dual-outlet muffler tip makes exhaust note racier-sounding to match new power.
• New transmission gear-dog design is more precise for more accurate, sure shifting action.
• New slipper clutch design adapts to load stresses for increased hook-up under heavy acceleration and reduced engine braking under downshifting.
• New clutch design, with the same engineering found in the CBR1000RR, decreases lever pull by 45%, especially helpful in stop-and-go traffic. Lever shape improved as well.
• Larger, 19” front wheel for better bump absorption, improved high-speed handling.
• Steering caster angle slackened by 1 degree (now 27.5 degrees) for improved handling.
• New front and rear tire design with deep-grooved tread.
• New shock with advanced pressure-separation design from Honda’s large sport models is more stable and predictable for improved rear-wheel tracking and traction.
• Increased suspension travel (up .4 in. in front, 1.2 in. rear) for improved performance through stroke, reduced bottoming and increased ground clearance.
• On ABS version, upgraded modulators improve precision during ABS engagement.
• Revised hydraulic ratio in rear brake, combined with ABS, achieve improved brake modulation in low-traction situations.
• Lighter seat rails for improved mass centralization and better handling.
• New, full-featured display has larger screen and thinner bezel, includes new upshift indicator that can be set to different rpm settings.
• Turning radius reduced by nearly 8 inches for easier maneuvering.
• Windscreen is 20mm taller for great wind protection during high-speed cruising.
• Seat narrowed above pegs to aid touching feet to ground at stops.
• New tapered handlebar improves feedback, control and style, while new rubber-mounted handlebar clamp minimizes vibration to rider’s hands.
• More aggressive adventure styling with new fuel tank, radiator shroud, headlight, clear taillight lens and new LED turn signals. New shroud design helps direct radiator heat away from rider’s legs.

One-year, transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan.


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Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and include three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar travels include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. He lives in Prescott, Arizona