Why the New CB500X ‘Adventure’ Makes a Great Bike for the TAT
5,000 miles on the Trans-America Trail tests the new CB500X Adventure Kit.
The Trans-America Trail (TAT) is a 5,000 mile dual-sport route crossing 10 different states through the heart of rural America. Encompassing a series of primarily dirt roads and jeep trails interconnected with minor highways and byways, it is traditionally run from east to west, starting in North Carolina and ending on the Pacific Coast in Oregon.
The concept of crossing the United States on the road less-traveled was created over 20 years ago by Mississippi dirt rider Sam Correro, who has continued to update the route meticulously with a series of revisions and additions over the years.
The TAT travels on everything from dirt and gravel roads, to technical jeep trails and dried-up creek beds. Riders that navigate the entire length of the Trans-Am Trail are likely to experience sections of mud, sand, snow rocks and more. Overall, it’s not a hard-core enduro route but the terrain can get quite challenging and a day’s ride averages about 200 miles (322 km).
Large twin-cylinder adventure bikes offer comfort and carrying capacity that can be useful for such a long journey, but they can also be a real handful on the more technical sections or when bad weather sets in. Many TAT riders choose street-legal dual-sport thumpers for their nimble handling off-road. A smaller ADV Bike gives riders greater confidence to explore off the beaten track and to keep going, even when bad weather hits.
While the vast majority of the prescribed route is on dirt and gravel roads, inevitably on a journey of such magnitude you are going to have to ride some sections of highway — although on the whole, the highway sections are predominately minor roads and backcountry byways that are [on the right bike at least] also fun to ride. It may also be necessary to divert from the route and get on the highway — whether to make up time, find spare parts, or simply to get a decent meal and warm bed for the night. For those highway stretches, it’s advantageous to have a bike with a smooth twin-cylinder engine, tall gearing and enough power to maintain highway speeds.
My Marathon Journey ‘Double’ Crossing of the US
As part of my job as a test rider for Rally Raid Products, I’ve been involved in the development of the new Rally Raid Adventure Kit for the CB500X (CB500X Adventure). The Rally-Raid Adventure Kit takes the standard Honda CB500X platform and improves it with a rally-derived long-travel suspension, rugged wire-spoked wheels, engine protection and luggage accessories — to turn it into a more off-road-capable middle-weight Adventure Touring bike.
After developing the kit, we needed a proving ground for the CB500X Adventure to evaluate its performance and durability, before making it available to the public. We looked for a marathon journey that would include everything from long highway stretches, to technical off-road trails and everything in-between — and the TAT provided the perfect opportunity for this.
I set out on a solo journey across the United States from West Coast to East Coast — and back again. Billed as the ‘Trans-Am 500’ ride, my route ultimately encompassed 12,500 miles over 52 days, including a 1,000 mile Iron-Butt challenge during the east bound leg, followed by the complete navigation of the TAT during my return back west.
Throughout the journey, the CB500X performed flawlessly meeting all of our expectations. The rally-derived suspension was impressive on the fast desert trails, the small chassis provided greater agility on technical terrain and the bike retained its excellent road manners on the highway sections that link up trails. Overall, the CB500X Adventure proved to be a true 50/50 on road/off-road machine that’s a joy to ride regardless of the surface under the tires — the perfect bike for the TAT.
What Makes the CB500X Adventure Perfect for the TAT?
1. Less is More Off-Road: The slightly smaller physical size of the CB500X Adventure means it is appreciably lighter and more nimble than any other twin-cylinder ‘adventure’ bike on the market. At 200kg (440lbs) fully fueled (including the Rally-Raid engine guard fitted) the bike is ready to go with just the addition of a minimal soft luggage system.
2. Fuel Injection: Smooth EFI fueling makes for a predictable power delivery and great tractability, regardless of altitude, temperature or terrain. Important as TAT route undergoes numerous and significant altitude changes from barely above sea level to nearly 13,000 ft throughout its length.
3. Fuel Efficiency: With a genuine 65+ mpg and 4.5 gallon tank, the CB500X offers a fuel range of 250-300 miles as standard, without the need for aftermarket tanks or auxiliary fuel containers, helping to keep the weight light and low.
4. 6-Speed Transmission: A well spaced 6-speed gearbox offers sufficiently low gearing for technical off-road riding, while still being able to cruise all day at 80mph on the highway if required. On a trip as diverse as the Trans-Am Trail this flexibility is certainly appreciated when embarking on a multi-day endurance ride.
5. Comfortable Ergonomics: A comfortable seat, adjustable cockpit controls and a small windshield are standard equipment, and makes the CB500X all-day comfortable. These are typically accessories you would have to add to a dual-sport thumper to make it more versatile.
6. Luggage/Passenger Carrying Capability: The original road-biased chassis means the CB500X already has a substantial subframe for luggage and a proper pillion provision if required.
7. Short Wheelbase: The short wheelbase and lower center of gravity makes the bike very nimble and maneuverable. One of the key attributes to the CB500X Adventure is its correspondingly shorter wheelbase (at 56 inches) compared to larger multi-cylinder adventure bikes. Typically this makes it far easier to turn around on a trail, or when negotiating through technical terrain. Meanwhile the 19″ front wheel and uprated front suspension means the bike is also very stable and predictable at speed, both on and off-road.
8. Rally-Tuned Suspension: The heart of the Rally-Raid Adventure conversion is the complete re-engineering of the stock suspension with high quality TracTive components front and rear – which quite literally transforms the ride quality from a budget commuter, to something more akin to a high-dollar dirt bike.
9. ABS Brakes: The CB500X is available with factory fitted ABS if desired, and the Rally-Raid Adventure Kit retains this capability. Furthermore, the stock ABS works very well both on and off-road, without the need for a bypass switch that some other manufacturers feel is essential for off-road use. Not only is CB500X the lightest weight twin ADV Bike with ABS on the market, but currently only the KTM 690 Enduro offers ABS brakes in the thumper class.