You never know what bikes will end up garnering a cult following. This can be based on so many variables, one of which is the aftermarket. The Honda CB500X was a nice enough little adventure-styled 471cc motorcycle when it was introduced in 2013, but when aftermarket manufacturers like Rally Raid Products out of the UK started providing accessories to bring the CB500X into dirt-worthy territory, interest in the bike took off. You can now buy full suspension kits and spoked wheels among other serious off-road accoutrement to fit to your CB500X. When Honda went back to the drawing board to redesign its littlest adventure touring bike, it began with a look at what current owners and prospective buyers wanted in a light(ish) weight touring bike and how to make the CB500X easier and more fun to ride. The result? Read on.
When I asked our helpful Honda media coordinators how much off-road riding we’d be doing versus street, I was pleasantly surprised to be told 50/50. Yes! The more dirt the MO betta, and it speaks to where Honda sees this bike being used by its owners. Of course, the off-road sections would be more like gravel fire roads for the most part, but that’s okay. The 500X isn’t meant to be a hardcore adventure bike, but I was excited to see just how capable the 2019 Honda CB500X is.
Honda paid attention to the popularity of its CB500X being outfitted for adventure and wanted to deliver customer-driven updates for its little ADV. For 2019, the 500X receives a larger, 19-inch front wheel as well as additional suspension travel – with 5.9 inches both front and rear giving increased ground clearance of just over seven inches. Spring preload is adjustable on both ends. The shock itself has seen a full redesign using a higher spec two-chamber system. A taller windscreen has also been included with the 2019 CB500X, which can be moved a touch higher as long as you have a 5mm allen handy.
For 2019, the CB500X has also gained a degree of rake at 27.5 degrees, as well as an inch from axle to axle giving it a wheelbase of 56.9 inches. This all lends to a more stable and planted feeling at speed; after railing the CB500X through stretches of sinuous pavement and gravel roads, I can confidently say the bike handles predictably. It’s quite fun to ride fast and loose, which is also thanks to its 430-pound curb weight, though it feels lighter. The X also has a much wider turning capability from lock to lock making it easy to maneuver in tight situations.
One thing you may have noticed in these pictures is that our test rides were fitted with Bridgestone’s new AX41 adventure tire, which is not stock fitment for the 2019 Honda CB500X. Sorry. The folks at Honda decided that we could better utilize the bike’s off-road performance with more aggressive tires. During our day’s ride, I REALLY enjoyed these new Bridgestones and am thankful to have had a brief test of the tire’s capability. From the factory you’ll see more road-going rubber by way of the Dunlop Trailmax.
Honda didn’t just push the CB500X closer to being off-road adventure ready, it also put time into engine and transmission updates to make the bike more efficient and easier to ride. Although much of the engine remains unchanged, Honda claims 4% more torque between 3,000 and 7,000 rpm, thanks to revised intake timing which sees the valves opening earlier. This also has been aided by optimized fuel injection spray and changes to the airbox which allow for more direct flow. The exhaust has also undergone a redesign and left me surprised by its aggressive tone every time someone would take off quickly in front of me. As we saw with Honda’s new CB650s, the 500X also receives a new slip and assist clutch which is said to provide a 45% lighter pull at the lever. Percentages aside, it’s one of the lightest pulls at the lever I’ve tested. Shifts are also more positive thanks to the new model’s gears using nine dogs versus six in the previous model.
Riding the 2019 Honda CB500X is such a fun and easy affair that it left a smile on my dust-covered face for our entire ride. On the street, the 19-inch front wheel has little to no adverse effect on steering as the bike is easily pitched from side to side. The single 320mm front brake has a fairly strong initial bite to it, and even if it doesn’t give much feedback, it will still get the bike slowed quickly enough. The rear brake is easily modulated at the lever and with our more aggressive tire fitment worked very well for getting the bike turned off-road. The CB500X is available with ABS or without and offers no easy way to switch it off should you opt for the anti-lock option.
While power is modest, the revised power delivery from the 471cc parallel Twin gives more torque where you most need it. The only time I felt the power lacking was when trying to overtake cars at speed. The character of the parallel Twin was also what added to the fun off-road as we all enjoyed breaking the rear end loose into and out of every corner. No TC available here.
The rider triangle is as neutral as they come while seated and perfectly comfortable whilst standing for my 5-foot 8-inch self. The seat is a bit stiff but maybe just enough to be supportive. Our 200-plus mile ride consisted of plenty of stops, so it was hard to tell. We’re told the handlebar has been moved up and back slightly from last year’s model, which for me, made the fit juuuust right. Although the seat height has been raised by just under an inch to 32.7, the seat has been slimmed closer to the tank, making getting your soles on the ground easier while giving more room in the seat to footpeg department.
Because the bike feels so light, it’s a real pleasure to ride off-road. Sliding and jumping don’t have the same consequences on the CB500X as they do on a 550-pound plus 160-hp adventure bike. If you get into trouble with the 500X, it’s easily remedied thanks to its light weight, modest power delivery, and good brakes. The suspension also handles light off-road duty with ease. I might like to make some adjustments to compression and rebound for the shock, but it’s not bad out of the box. The fork was actually fairly stiff in its initial stroke but didn’t feel harsh on any of the larger bumps off-road.
At $6,699 for non-ABS or $6,999 with, the 2019 Honda CB500X delivers more versatility than its predecessor while coming in at a great price for new riders, old riders, or any rider looking to add some easy-going fun adventure to their garage. My colleagues and I were already planning rides to Baja on this thing before our press ride even began, now I’m even more excited about the prospect. Baja 1000, here we come! To spectate, of course.
|2019 Honda CB500X Specifications|
|Engine Type||471cc liquid-cooled 20° parallel twin|
|Valve Train||DOHC; four valves per cylinder|
|Bore x Stroke||67.0mm x 66.8mm|
|Induction||PGM-FI fuel injection w/ 34mm throttle bodies|
|Ignition||Full transistorized ignition|
|Final Drive||15T/41T; O-ring-sealed chain|
|Front||41mm telescopic fork; 5.9 inches of travel|
|Rear||Pro-Link single shock w/ nine-position spring preload adjustability; 5.9 inches of travel|
|Front Brake||Single two-piston caliper w/ 320mm petal-style |
disc; ABS available
|Rear Brake||Single one-piston caliper w/ 240mm petal-style disc; ABS available|
|Ground Clearance||7.1 inches|
|Seat Height||32.7 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||4.6 gallons|
|Color||Grand Prix Red|
|Curb Weight||430 lbs./434 lbs. with ABS (claimed)|