REVIEW | The Honda CB 500X is an affordable, capable adventure tourer
Honda SA recently launched the CB 500X motorcycle as a more affordable alternative in its adventure touring line-up.
With modern bikes priced increasingly beyond the reach of the mass market, its attractive R122,399 price represents a big saving over the more powerful 1,100cc Africa Twin (R253,099) and 750cc Transalp (R209,999).
The CB 500X lacks hi-tech traction control and adaptive suspension found in some more expensive adventure tourers, but does come standard with ABS brakes and a slipper clutch that controls rear wheel lock-up during hard braking and rapid downshifts. Dual front discs with twin-piston calipers and a single rear disc provide the braking prowess.
It is an attractive machine with an appealingly rugged-but-neat vibe, with front and rear LED lights. The test bike’s Pearl Organic Green is an unusual Honda colour, and it’s also available in black and red.
Its tagline is “enough power for every adventure” and after test riding a CB 500X for a week I would largely agree. Power-wise the twin-cylinder bike rates low on the excitement meter but has enough fire in its belly to commute and tour without feeling underpowered.
The parallel-twin is a low-revving engine with smooth, linear acceleration, gathering pace without power spikes. Its 35kW of power and 57Nm of torque are enough to take the middleweight bike to an indicated top speed of slightly more than 170km/h if there’s a slight downhill.
But it’s not a bike made for blazing top speeds. On the open road the bike’s happy place is about 120km/h-130km/h, where it has enough poke to accelerate out of trouble if necessary. It also feels smoother at lower rpm, as higher revs create a vibration that could become tiresome on long trips.
The CB 500X is a foil to high fuel prices. The test bike sipped fuel at the highly economical rate of just 3.3l /100km in an urban/freeway mix — even lower than the factory-claimed 3.6l. That promises a range of more than 500km from the 17.5l tank.
The six-speed gear lever shifts smoothly, without feeling clunky, adding to the bike’s generally fuss-free and easy-riding appeal.
It’s a comfortable ride with a 19-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear, on long-travel suspension that cushions impacts effectively. For precise suspension control on varying terrain, the Showa forks separate the damping and spring.
The upright riding position provides good visibility and makes for comfortable long-distance touring, as does the tall windscreen, which keeps out much of the buffeting. The windscreen is height adjustable but not while you’re on the road. It has to be done with Allen keys.
At 199kg the CB 500X is relatively light for an adventure bike which makes it fairly wieldy to reverse out of parking spots while straddling it, and the 830mm seat is usefully low.
The light mass makes this Honda a nippy handler. What it lacks in top speed the CB 500X makes up for in agility, and with its quick turn-in it’s a treat to flick through corners.
The CB 500X is not a hard-core off-roader with its relatively small wheels, which are cast aluminium and not spoked, but has useful gravel ability with a 180mm ground clearance.
Unlike more expensive adventure tourers, there are no riding modes to select, which I welcomed as it’s less distracting. It’s refreshing to be able to just jump on and ride, without a raft of switches to fiddle with.
The digital LCD instrument panel is simple and straightforward too and has the essentials of dual trip meters, fuel consumption gauge, gear position and shift up indicator.
This simplicity is a large part of the Honda’s appeal. Affordable, cheap to run and fun to ride, the versatile CB 500X makes an ideal machine for new riders getting into the adventure tourer scene.
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