Rally Raid CB500X Adventure First Ride
We test the new Rally Raid CB500X Adventure and pit it against the KLR650.
The Honda CB500X is often criticized for not being a “True” adventure bike, primarily because it rides on 17″ cast aluminum wheels and has very little ground clearance or suspension travel. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have some great qualities for Adventure Riding.
The CB500X is sold around the world, which makes sourcing parts far easier for globe-trotting adventure riders. It also sports a bulletproof twin-cylinder motor that provides smooth highway riding and enough oomph for quick passes. High fuel efficiency gives it a range of about 300 miles from a moderately-sized 4.5 gallon tank and a low purchase price makes it easier to add accessories without breaking the bank.
Those same qualities are what UK-based Rally Raid Products saw when they decided to build their Rally Raid CB500X Adventure Kit. The company already had great success building adventure kits that turn the dirt-focused KTM 690 Enduro R into a versatile long-distance travel bike, so why not try it the other way around and create a kit that addresses the off-road shortcomings of the economical and practical Honda CB500X?
Rally Raid CB500X Adventure Kit
So what are the upgrades in the CB500X Adventure Kit? Rally Raid has developed a range of accessories for the Honda CB500X that can be purchased individually or in three different “stage” kits through their website or their US distributor Giant Loop.
With the complete Stage 3 kit, the stock wheels are replaced by heavy-duty rims with stainless steel spokes and billet hubs. The front wheel is increased in size to a 19″ for more off-road stability.
Both the front forks and rear shock are upgraded with high-end components from Tractive Suspension, the same company that builds Touratech’s suspension. The remote reservoir rear shock is fully adjustable and both fork and shock spring rates can also be tailored to your weight and riding style.
A new billet rear swingarm linkage is used to accommodate the longer-travel suspension and a billet top triple clamp makes room for the larger 19″ front wheel. With the new triple clamp installed, you also get additional bar height adjustments, the option to use over-sized 1-1/8″ bars and the ability to bolt on a Scotts steering stabilizer. The stage 3 kit also includes a longer kickstand to handle the taller suspension and a new front fender to match the larger front wheel.
If you like, you can customize your CB500X further with more accessories like heavy-duty platform foot pegs, engine crash guards, a rear luggage rack, soft panniers racks and more. All of the options allow you to equip your CB500X with just the upgrades you need and nothing more.
Rally Raid CB500X Review and Comparison to the Kawasaki KLR650
Recently, we were contacted by Giant Loop and offered a chance to test the Rally Raid CB500X. We decided to meet in the mountains of Santa Barbara where there are a wide selection of twisty asphalt roads and technical trails that provide the perfect opportunity to test the versatility of an Adventure Bike. Our test bike had the full stage 3 kit installed along with most of the accessories available from the catalog.
Usually when we receive a bike to test, they tend to be low mileage examples. Our Rally Raid CB500X test bike turned out to be the same motorcycle Dakar Rally Racer Jenny Morgan rode more than 12,500 miles across the United States. The bike had also been ridden another 800 miles from Giant Loop headquarters in Bend, Oregon to Santa Barbara and was being ridden home the next day, so it speaks volumes to the confidence they have in the reliability of the bike.
We also brought along our Kawasaki KLR650 test mule for comparison. The second generation KLR650 is about the same dimensions, weight and power as the CB500X and both are known for being practical, affordable and reliable middle-weight Adventure Bikes.
The CB500X definitely had its work cut out for it. The KLR650 has more suspension travel and a larger 21-inch front wheel that give it some advantages off-road. Our test bike’s dirt-worthiness has also been improved with a Touratech suspension upgrade.
Rally Raid CB500X First Impressions
Sitting on the Rally Raid CB500X for the first time it feels slim between the knees. A manageable seat height and a short wheelbase make it a good fit for smaller riders. Taller riders may be a bit cramped but potentially this can be addressed through lower pegs, a taller seat and bars.
Our test bike came with the stock 7/8″ handlebars which are about the right height but not wide enough. They feel a bit like tall sportbike clip-ons. Opting for the 1-1/8″ bar on the Rally Raid triple clamp and getting a set of tall bend bars would give the bike a more traditional Adventure Bike feel.
Heading into the long set of twisties on Camino Cielo road, the Rally Raid CB500X is a blast to ride. The bike shares much of its design with the Honda CBR500R sportbike, and you can tell. It’s got a low center of gravity and is easy to flick around. Even with 50/50 dual sport tires, the little Honda has no problem leaning deep into turns and with its short wheelbase it’s great fun on hairpins.
Accelerating on the straightaways, the little inline twin gives a mild rush of linear power. The powerband feels completely flat and it’s almost electric motor smooth. Fueling is spot-on and it has enough grunt for short shifting or you can rev it to the moon. The motor doesn’t have a lot of character, but it’s deceptively fast.
Comparing the two bikes, the CB500X Adventure is much easier to ride fast in the turns and always has a little more in reserve, while the KLR650 feels like it is near the limit when riding at a spirited pace. Braking on the CB500X isn’t spectacular but the brakes have better feel and power than the KLR’s.
Once the pavement ends, we ride along a graded dirt road for some time until we reach the Divide Peak OHV area. Here there are some fairly rugged off-road trails that are more commonly ridden on smaller dual sport motorcycles or green sticker dirt bikes. As the coastal trail gains elevation, it gets rockier and rougher and we enjoy striking views of the Pacific Ocean below.
With its perfectly-tuned fuel injection, the CB500X climbs the rocky inclines with ease. There is less concern about missing a downshift compared to the KLR650 which doesn’t like to be bogged. The 19″ front wheel on the Honda is large enough to keep a line through loose rocks and it offers good maneuverability to avoid bigger rocks.
Continuing on down the trail, we eventually get to a very steep rutted out hill climb littered with loose rocks. Definitely not the type of hill you’d want to do on a full-sized Adventure Bike. But with the additional maneuverability and lighter weight of our middle-weight ADV bikes, it’s the perfect challenge. We decide to give it a go and both bikes make it up to the top of the hill without any mishaps.
After the hill climb, the trail only gets rougher and we continue on for several more miles of rocky madness giving the bikes and our bodies a thorough workout. Bonding with the Rally Raid CB500X comes easy and the harder you push, the more it tempts you to ride faster.
Despite the upgraded suspension and 21-inch front wheel, the KLR650 feels slower to react and less willing to push the limit. The CB500X definitely has a sportier demeanor. We’re not sure which bike is faster in the dirt but the Rally Raid CB500X definitely feels more enjoyable to ride on technical trails.
The KLR650 does get the advantage in high-speed whoops where its longer wheelbase and additional suspension travel allow it to go faster and bottom out less frequently than the CB500X. We’d also expect the 21-inch front wheel to track better through deep sand.
On the Highway
After snacking on dirt and twisties all day, it was time to get a feel for the Rally Raid CB500X on the highway. Entering the highway on ramp, we perform an acceleration test and both bikes seem evenly matched until about 60 mph when the Honda begins to pull away.
Once on the highway, the CB500X easily keeps pace with traffic at 75-85 mph. Acceleration is good and you don’t have to plan passes out like you do on a 250cc. There’s no adrenaline rush during full-throttle acceleration, but it’s more than adequate.
One of the main reasons to buy a Rally Raid CB500X is for the smooth inline-twin motor that makes long slogs on the highway more enjoyable, and we were eager to see how it compared to our KLR650 thumper. Riding along at a steady pace at about 75 mph, the Rally Raid CB500X motor is butter smooth and exhibits minimal vibes. The seat is comfortable and the bike feels stable at speed. In comparison, the KLR650 has dirt-bike ergos and a less comfortable flat seat. Even though we’ve added vibration damping devices to the KLR650’s bars in the past, it still emits more vibration than the CB500X.
Not everyone is obsessed with big horsepower and not everyone needs a hardcore trail bike, and that’s exactly where the Rally Raid CB500X stakes its claim. Like the KLR650, the Rally Raid CB500X is a versatile, reliable and practical machine that can do just about anything you ask of it. Yet the Rally Raid CB500X did almost everything better than the KLR650 during our test. Plus you get a modern engine/chassis design, 6-speed transmission, twin-cylinder motor, optional ABS and fuel injection that just aren’t available on the KLR.
Some long-distance travelers may prefer the simplicity of the KLR’s carburetor over fuel injection, and it also comes from the factory with pretty good off-road performance for less money than the Rally Raid CB500X. But there is the potential to save thousands of dollars on building your Rally Raid CB500X by picking up a lightly-used model.
Other middle-weight twin-cylinder Adventure Bikes worth considering are the BMW F700GS and Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT. However, once you build your Rally Raid CB500X, you’ll end up with a lighter and far more capable off-road bike that costs less money.
It’s no surprise the Rally Raid CB500X is a good street bike but we were skeptical that it could ever be transformed into a capable off-road bike. Rally Raid has successfully turned the mundane CB500X into a real performer in the dirt and it’s durable enough to ride to remote corners of the earth or blaze around on technical trails in your own back yard.
- Sporty feel on street or dirt.
- Maneuverability off-road.
- Buzz-free twin-cylinder motor.
- A little cramped for taller riders.
- Engine lacks character.
- Stock handlebars not wide enough.
Rally Raid CB500X vs. Kawasaki KLR650 Specs Comparison
|Specification||Rally Raid CB500X||Kawasaki KLR650|
|Engine:||471cc inline twin||651cc single|
|Fuel Consumption:||63.7 mpg||48 mpg*|
|Horsepower:||47 hp @ 8500 rpm||37 hp @ 6200 rpm|
|Torque:||31.7 ft-lbs @ 7000 rpm||33.4 ft-lbs @ 4950 rpm|
|Transmission:||6 Speed||5 Speed|
|Fuel System:||Fuel Injection||Carburator|
|Seat Height:||34.25 in.||35.0 in.|
|Wheelbase:||55.9 in.||58.3 in.|
|Ground Clearance:||9.25 in.||8.3 in.|
|Fuel Tank:||4.6 gallons||6.1 gallons|
|Wheel Size (Fr./Rr.):||19″/17″||21″/17″|
|Susp. Travel (Fr./Rr.):||6.7 in./6.7 in.||7.9 in./7.3 in.|
|Wet Weight:||436.5 lbs.||432 lbs.|
|1/4 mile time:**||14.03 @ 91.8 mph||14.52 @ 85.7 mph|
Rally Raid CB500X Kit Shopping Options
** Source: Motorcycle Consumer News
*** Prices based on cost of new CB500X with Level 3 Rally Raid Kit and new KLR650 with Touratech suspension