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ADV Bikes2019 Honda CB500X First Ride Review

2019 Honda CB500X First Ride Review

Honda does an overall spiff, dialing up the adventure factor of its CB500X.

Published on 08.01.2019

You’ve gotta love it when a manufacturer listens to its customers, and even more so when it uses that feedback to make major improvements to a model. Such is the case with Honda’s 2019 CB500X. We had a chance to test the adventure-intended middleweight on a daylong half dirt/half street ride in the mountains east of San Diego, California, and returned feeling very optimistic.

When first released in 2013, riders across the globe saw the “X” had potential as an affordable adventure bike but they also had some wishlist items including a 19” front, longer suspension travel and spoked instead of cast alloy wheels. In jumped UK-based Rally-Raid Products to save the day with wheel and suspension kits for the CB500X. Honda, it appears, couldn’t ignore the popularity of these mods, admitting during the bike’s introduction that the direction was Rally-Raid inspired.

2019 Honda CB500X Review
The new model now features a larger 19″ front wheel and more suspension travel.

So, thanks to “customer-driven updates” the new X does sport a 19” front wheel (though it’s still cast, not spoked), and modest upgrades to suspension, with the 41mm fork’s travel increased by .4 inches. A revised rear shock increases travel 1.2 inches, and both front and rear systems are manually adjustable for preload. The geometry of the chassis has changed too, with an increase in rake (26.5º to 27.5º ), steering angle (plus 3º) and overall ground clearance (up .39 inches for a total of 7.09 inches).


The engine and drivetrain have also been revised for 2019, with the parallel twin boasting a 4% increase in torque between 3,000 and 7,000 rpm. The exhaust system has been overhauled for improved sound and efficiency, while revised valve timing, more precise fuel injection and a new crank-sensor system combine to smoothen power delivery. Drivetrain upgrades include new gears (9 gear dogs vs. 6 for a more positive engagement, plus revised tooth shape) and a silky smooth slipper clutch for a 45% reduction in effort at the shift lever.

First Impressions

2019 Honda CB500X Review

Right out of the gate the first thing you notice about the new CB500X is its lively handling. It’s a spry bugger: very flickable, but without feeling skittish. A perfect medium in this area: confidence inspiring yet refreshingly agile, especially if you’re used to riding more ponderous heavyweights. Those buttery smooth shifts are also appreciated straightaway as you churn through the gearbox in an effort to make good time through town or win at backroad games of chase.

Though it weighs a claimed 430 pounds wet, at no time does the CB500X feel heavy. It does however, feel tall. At 5’ 10” with a 33-inch inseam I had no trouble resting both feet squarely on the ground, but the shortest tester in our group, 5’5” and new to dirt riding, reported feeling uncomfortable with the seat height of 32.7 inches (up from 31.9). On the flip side, in some tricky U-turn situations on narrow fire roads with a high crown she easily popped off the bike and walked it though maneuvers – doable only because of the X’s light, well-balanced feel and sufficiently low center of gravity.

2019 Honda CB500X Review
Improvements in the 471cc engine’s intake tract and valve timing have helped increase torque and throttle response.
2019 Honda CB500X seat
While the seat height has been raised by 0.8 inches for 2019, it was also narrowed near the front to aid in touching the ground.
2019 Honda CB500X exhaust
A new exhaust system has been optimized for improved low-end and midrange power. The update has also enhanced the sound.

The bike appears tall in stature as well. Proud even, and unmistakably adventure bound with its taller, adjustable windscreen, wider side panels and a perky new fairing that swoops forward into a bud of a beak. The riding position is neutral when seated and very comfortable for any street riding scenarios including at interstate speeds, where the bike feels well planted and smooth, if a bit underpowered.

2019 Honda CB500X exhaust
Windscreen is 20mm taller for better wind protection at higher speeds.
2019 Honda CB500X Review
Although the LCD display screen is now larger, it is a bit difficult to see the readouts under direct sunlight.

An all-new LCD, featuring a larger digital display than previous, offers up all the information you’ll need from gear selection to average mpg. A favorite feature on the new display is the ability to switch between speedo and tach as the prominent readout. Unfortunately, the whole arrangement is pretty much invisible in direct sunlight, even with adjustable backlighting.

Putting In Miles

In the lower gears used around town, the CB500X provides plenty of power to negotiate stoplight-to-stoplight traffic situations. That grunt, combined with its light feel, nimble steering and effortless clutch action make it an awesome choice for commuting or blasting along your favorite twisty road. On longer stints, the Honda’s ergos never felt cramped and its new windshield in the high position did a fine job blocking the rider from wind blast.

Honda CB500X Review

The X’s new premium tapered handlebar, intended to increase steering feedback, is slightly higher (8mm) and closer (3mm) to the rider and does feel great for street riding. However, the first time you stand on the pegs you’re likely to make a mental note to switch to a taller bar or add risers asap. I would personally roll the bar forward immediately to make it feel less tiller-like. While the standing ergos promote a ready-for-trouble crouched posture that looks aggressive, it just isn’t comfortable for sustained travel and all test riders, from very experienced to not, ended up seated for the majority of our long fire road sections.

That easy-to-remedy awkwardness aside, the CB500X worked surprisingly well in all the off-road conditions we were exposed to — from sandy gravel fire roads to loose, technical climbs and descents. Because Honda wanted us to understand the far limits of their updated ADV entry, we were given the bikes with Bridgestone AX41 Battlax knobbies instead of the stock Dunlop Trailmax Mixtours, which made the bike feel quite capable off-road.

Honda CB500X Review

Honda CB500X Review

The revised suspension rides taut, making the bike super fun to squirrel through tight, fast corners, yet it is compliant enough to soak up a tattered road surface without disturbing trajectory. One tester was heard complaining about stiffness after some washboard sections, when really, few bikes are juicy enough to smooth out that nuisance. Overall, the suspension was adequate for a wide range of situations. The CB500X’s single two-piston caliper disc in front and single-piston caliper disc out back were also wholly efficient and befitting a bike of this weight, power and price range.

Despite serious flogging throughout the day, a final reading of 58.9 mpg registered on the screen. Even with the small 4.6-gallon tank, you’re still looking at a range of over 250 miles.

Final Thoughts

After a day testing this bike on and off-road it feels like a smoking deal at $6,699 (add $300 and 4 pounds for ABS). That’s only $100 more than last year’s CB500X, for all the new mechanical goodies, leaner, more aggressive looks, cooler sound and – best of all – a huge jump in adventure potential.

The real question is what about its competitors. With Kawasaki’s long-lived KLR650 out of the picture, BMW’s F750GS comparatively heavy and pricey at $10,395 and Yamaha’s Tenere 700 in a different league off-road, the CB500X’s real rivals are found in the entry-level market.

2019 Honda CB500X seat
New CB500X with optional crash bars and stock Dunlop Trailmax Mixtours tires.

Kawasaki’s Versys-X 300 and BMW’s G310GS may be smaller in displacement, but they are very similar in stature and intention. Having spent time on both of these CB500X rivals I would say the Kawasaki in particular is a serious contender, especially if you spend more time on traveling on streets than playing in the dirt. Its high-revving, beautifully-dampened Ninja-based engine makes for faster and smoother high-speed travel than the X, though the Honda does outdo the Versys in low and mid-range grunt. In matters of weight and budget, the Kawasaki is also about 50 pounds lighter and $1200 less.

Honda CB500X review

Royal Enfield’s 410 Himalayan (slow in comparison yet satisfyingly simple and only $4,749) is a viable option, as is BMW’s lightweight G310GS at $5795. But at the end of the day – especially a day of mixed street and dirt riding – the Honda CB500X is more bike than its entry-level rivals. Especially when you throw on some aggressive tires like the Bridgestone AX41s. And maybe the Rally-Raid spoked wheels. Oh, and its even longer Level Two suspension kit…and switchable ABS…. Keep listening Honda. The dirtier these bikes, the better.

2019 HONDA CB500X Specs

Engine Type: 471cc liquid-cooled 20º parallel twin
Valve Train: DOHC; four valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke: 67.0mm x 66.8mm
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Induction: PGM-FI fuel injection w/ 34mm throttle bodies
Ignition: Full transistorized ignition
Starter: Electric
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Clutch: Multiplate wet
Final Drive: 15T/41T; O-ring-sealed chain
Front Suspension: 41mm telescopic fork w/ preload adjustability; 5.91 in. stroke
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link® single shock w/ nine-position preload adjustability; 5.9 in. travel
Front Brakes: Single two-piston caliper w/ 320mm petal-style disc
Rear Brakes: Single one-piston caliper w/ 240mm petal-style disc
Front Tires: 110/80-19
Rear Tires: 160/60-17
Rake (Caster Angle): 27.5º
Trail: 108mm (4.3 in.)
Length: 84.8 in.
Width: 32.5 in.
Height: 56.2 in.
Ground Clearance: 7.1 in.
Seat Height: 32.7 in.
Wheelbase: 56.9 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.6 gal.
Color: Grand Prix Red
Curb Weight*: 434 lbs. ABS; 430 lbs. Standard
MSRP (USD): $6,999 ABS; $6,699 Standard

Photos by Drew Ruiz

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge

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August 1, 2019 11:08 am

If I didn’t already have a Versys-X 300 (and a Tiger 800XCA), I’d have to consider one of these. But I must say I’m very disappointed that the wheels still are not spoked. BUT, I have to say (I’m biased, of course) that I love my little VX300. The extra power on the 500 would be nice, but not at the cost of another 50 lbs.

Bob Gardner
Bob Gardner
August 1, 2019 11:26 am

Do thumpers count as competition? DR650. Light, cheap and simple to own and operate.

August 1, 2019 1:59 pm

Really hope honda takes the cutting edge technology of an adjustable windscreen and puts in on the new africa twin (s).

August 1, 2019 10:11 pm

Very nice. Since Kaw has a 400cc motor out there will they use that in a ‘wee’ Versys and perhaps have the best overall bike in the segment?

Samuel Jacob
Samuel Jacob
August 2, 2019 1:11 am

For some weird reason, Honda has always been apprehensive about bringing their 300-500cc products to India.
The last bike that really excited a regular Indian buyer was the CBR250R and it had a good run, before it eventually got old and lost it’s market share to the REs, Benellis and Dukes. Honda needs to realize that touring is on the rise here and with the growing popularity of adventure bikes, the CB500X will be the perfect machine for a lot of people who are just waiting to take a step further towards bigger motorcycles.

stephane novel
stephane novel
August 5, 2019 8:51 pm

haven’t seen a comparison vs the Versys 650.
I took my 2010 through dirt roads all the way up to Deadhorse and in some places was better than my accompanying KLRs. With a 650cc engine, and good MPG i managed a range of about 380km. I think it is the perfect adventure/touring combo that nobody is talking about.

Meerkat1 filmcrew
Meerkat1 filmcrew
August 15, 2019 3:48 pm

Test rode this 500cc Honda bike to advise my daughter on her “first” bike for ADV – The clutch is astonishingly light, the Honda twin motor has plenty of usable torque and the handling is faultless on the street (not permitted to test ride off-road here) – brakes (ABS) good, seating position good – low speed puttering very good, maybe needs 2″ risers for standing, excellent cockpit – everything i needed to see was just there. Got off the CB500X-2019 with a big smile on my face – wow ; for the price its the winner. and in the-flesh it’s one of the best looking ADV bikes on the market. I advised her to buy one… PS: Jamie the myth of cast wheels – vs wrong technique … I’ve ridden next to KTM 1190 Rallye riders who smashed up their spoked rims by literally “mindlessly” hitting rocks and holes right infront of their path?, whilst I rode along side them missing the same stuff (ie paying attention/scanning further ahead) and had perfect round rims and no punctures… so my tip is “stopping hitting obstacles” – look further ahead

August 19, 2019 4:53 pm

I saw the author’s parting comment to Honda to allow for “switchable” ABS. Mt question: Is the ABS not switchable? ie: Is it full time, can not turn it off?

Eric Altman
Eric Altman
August 21, 2019 2:14 pm
Reply to  Bob

It can’t be turned off. You would need to install an aftermarket kit from Rally Raid to make it switchable. But not sure if they still offer it.

August 27, 2019 12:15 am

There’s only one solution for the “underpowered” aspect. The bike needs to lose weight. Honda is NOT going to give this bike more HP.

It’s an A2 limited bike. 47hp. That’s it. And that, IIRC, is where the bike is already at. They can massage it and get more torque out of it, but you won’t see more HP. So, drop the weight.

I would love to see Honda listen to the enthusiasts in their Thai factory that modded a couple of these for rally racing, along with the Rally Raid folks, and put together a real ADV bike. Solo seat, with a full GIVI compatble rack. 8″ suspension travel fore and aft. 8″, not 10″ This is an ADVENTURE bike, not a Dakar racer. ergos for standing. Tubeless, lightweight (not superlight) spoked wheels. ABS dirtbike style plastics. Full LED lighting. Switchable ABS and Traction control with a modest suite of ride modes (dirt, rain, road). Use the same FORM factor (if not the same) forks and rear shock as the CR450L and CR450X.

So, some folks will ask “who’s gonna buy this rather than a REAL dual purpose/trail bike?” The answer of course is somebody who is going to do scores, if not hundreds of miles of pavement. interspersed with some good medium difficulty dirt road / offroad.

Note that Kawasaki COULD do the same sort of thing when they bring their Versys 400X to market. And Kawa would have the advantage of starting out 50 lbs lighter.

February 16, 2020 1:01 am

Very nice. Since Kaw has a 400cc motor out there will they use that in a ‘wee’ Versys and perhaps have the best overall bike in the segment?

Philip St
Philip St
May 26, 2021 9:25 am

Leading the sales chart is the popular Kawasaki Z900. Why is it at the top, you ask? Because at Rs 8.34 lakh (ex-showroom), it is one of the most bang-for-buck inline-four naked big bikes out there. Along with its impressive 125PS motor, the Z900 also offers TFT instrumentation, traction control, Bluetooth connectivity, riding modes, all LED illumination, and not to forget, razor sharp aesthetics.


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