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ADV BikesWhy the New CB500X ‘Adventure’ Makes a Great Bike for the TAT

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.

Published on 11.13.2015

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.

trans america trail map
It takes roughly three weeks to complete the entire Trans America trail from North Carolina to the Pacific Coast of Oregon. (Courtesy

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.

Honda CB500X Adventure In Mississippi
The TAT is full of surprises. Having a smaller bike made it easier to handle the unpredictable conditions.

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.

CB500X Adventure In Utah
The CB500X ‘Adventure’ performed flawlessly, over a diversity of terrain, throughout my 12,500 mile journey that included the complete navigation of 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.

CB500X Adventure Ophir Pass Colorado
Electronic Fuel Injection gave the CB500X Adventure consistent power, even when crossing the high mountain passes of Colorado.

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.

Honda CB500X Adventure In Oregon
While the CB500X is a smaller bike, it had no problem carrying all of my gear across the US on the rugged trails of the TAT.

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.

Honda CB500X Adventure In Moab
The rally-derived long-travel suspension allowed the CB500X Adventure to make quick work of technical sections on the TAT.

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.

Author: Jenny Morgan

Jenny Morgan is a freelance photojournalist based in the United Kingdom. Having learned to ride a motorcycle in her early teens, she returned to her two-wheeled passion a decade later. She subsequently embarked on a series of long distance overland trips in the USA, Europe and North Africa; while also racing in a number of International Rally-Raid competitions, including the Dakar Rally in 2011. Jenny now works with Rally-Raid Products and has been instrumental in developing their new CB500X Adventure off-road kit.

Author: Jenny Morgan

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21 thoughts on “Why the New CB500X ‘Adventure’ Makes a Great Bike for the TAT

  1. I have modified my cb500x with the rally raid kit. The bike is superb and i cant see myself ever selling it now. it does everything i could want in a motorcycle. It also has 8000miles service intervals which is a huge bonus when traveling

  2. That’s a badass little bike! The most under appreciated ADV bike out there…….except to those that know.

    Makes those $29,000 GSA’s look like oversized jeeps that never see dirt……basically poser mobiles.

    • Most of the planet rides around on lame little commuter bikes that travel on road’s and tracks that look like something out of an adventure bike novel. They do that without the reliance on the parts supply chain that a number of performance Adv bikes require. A quick look at bikes most traveled and similar long distance travel trips show what a wide assortment of machines people travel around the planet on. It comes down to travel or endure in your definition of off road and how far that off road takes you from the parts store that the machine needs to feed on.

    • Ride one, then your opinion can be backed up by factual information instead of out-of-hand dismal of something you’ve never seen. You simply can’t judge this bike otherwise – because there’s really nothing else like it on the market. I’ve logged more miles over the years on the three “lame commuter” Honda twins – including the RRP CBX ADV – I’ve owned than most riders will ever put on their bikes. For long-haul travel and international touring, there is not a better, more reliable, more versatile or cost effective option in the world. Bigger is not necessarily better.

  3. Being used to riding my DR650 on this type of terrain, switching to my V-Strom, which has very similar specs to this little 500x (from a suspension standpoint) and I’d much rather have my DR650. It’s 100 lbs lighter and has 10″ of suspension travel. And it does just fine on long stretches of pavement. But to each his own.

    • I’ve ridden the DR650 back-to-back with the Rally Raid CB500X Adventure on super rough jeep trail in Central California, and if you’ve taken the time and/or spent the money to dial in your DR’s suspension, then I will concede the DR a slight advantage in the dirt. However, if you’re going to cover any amount of highway riding, then the CB wins hands down. There is no one bike that does everything equally well, but he RRP CBX ADV does more things well than just about any single cylinder bike available – while weighing 50+ lbs less, offering a lower seat height and thousands of dollars less to purchase than any other twin cylinder adventure bike on the market.

  4. Hi Jenny,
    Thanks for the article. I was wondering if you ever exceeded 80mph and if it was comfortable or not. I’m looking at it for a touring bike which would be mostly highway.
    Thanks much

    • Hi Kim – the CB500X will sit comfortably at 80mph all day if you want, with a little more for overtaking (it tops out a little over 100mph on the stock gearing) – although you find if you start to push much over 70-75mph your fuel economy starts to suffer (but still returning around 60mpg). I rode an Iron-Butt on one last summer at typically the posted speed limit all day and it was surprisingly comfortable for such a modest capacity bike. Ultimately where this bike really shines is away from the interstate network, on the more twisty two-lane roads and on dirt tracks and trails too of course.

  5. That low tail pipe looks like an immediate disqualification to me. I sometimes cross knee deep creeks on my BMW F650GS Dakar, which handles it great with its high mounted exhaust.
    My buddies’ larger GS bikes sometimes fill the lower mounted exhaust with water on such crossings.

    • Hi Tony – the rear of the tailpipe is not especially low – the exit hole of the silencer is actually at the same level as the top of the rear tyre, so you could ford a good two-feet of water before there was any chance of it entering the pipe – and if you keep the revs up, water shouldn’t enter at all unless you stall the engine.

  6. Watching Jenny negotiate the very difficult Moab Rim Trail this Spring I can vouch for Jenny’s knowledge and skills. And she is right about riding maneuverable lighter weight motorcycles while riding in remote back country trails. After reading this article I am now looking for a used cb500x to modify it with the rally kit. I plan on doing the TAT in the next year.

  7. I followed in Jenny’s footsteps (or tyre tracks?…) this year, running the TAT, and a lot more miles, on a RR Level 1 CB500x. 11,000 miles, 22 US states and 2 Canadian Provinces.

    The CB did an amazing job of ADVing around North America. Whether it was 460 miles of ‘slab’ (Moab to Vegas), or 200+ miles of TAT trail. Nothing broke, nothing failed.

    It is, IMO, one of the most underrated bikes currently on the market. And definitely worth a look if you’re considering a ‘do it all’ bike.

  8. Pingback: Adventure bike options - Page 7 - GL1800Riders


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