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ADV BikesRally Raid CB500X Adventure First Ride Review

Rally Raid CB500X Adventure First Ride Review

We test the new Rally Raid CB500X Adventure and pit it against the KLR650.

Published on 02.22.2016

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.

Rally Raid CB500X Stage 3 kit
Adding the complete $2,899 Rally Raid Stage 3 kit raises the suspension travel 1.2 inches in front and 2 inches in the rear. Ground clearance is also raised 2.6 inches while the seat height goes up 2.4 inches.

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.

honda cb500x off-road giant loop luggage
The Rally Raid luggage racks are designed and tested to work well with the Giant Loop’s line of off-road soft bags.

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.

CB500X vs. KLR650
The Rally Raid CB500X sizes up its competition for the day – a second gen KLR650 equipped with Touratech suspension front and rear.

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.

Twisty Asphalt

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.

cb500x adventure kit cornering clearance
The Rally Raid CB500X still retains excellent on-road performance and is a joy to ride in the twisties.

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.

Off-Road Test

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.

honda cb500x off-road review
There are some fantastic trails and views of the coastline to be had in the mountains above Santa Barbara, California.

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.

Rally Raid CB500X Review dirt bike
This local dirt biker was amused to see two Adventure Bikes this far up the trail.

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.

Rally Raid CB500X Review ground clearance
With 9.25 inches of ground clearance, the Rally Raid CB500X has an extra inch on the KLR650 for clearing big rocks and ruts.

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.

Rally Raid CB500X Review hill climb
The nimble handling, high ground clearance and smooth torque of the Rally Raid CB500X help you tackle difficult hill climbs with more confidence.

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.

Final Thoughts

honda cb500x off-road review

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.

Jumping the CB500X off-road
One thing is for sure, the Rally Raid CB500X likes to be pushed hard and always keeps you smiling!

For more information on Rally Raid kits and accessories for the Honda CB500X, visit Rally Raid’s Website or their US distributor’s website Giant Loop.

Favorite Features:

  • Sporty feel on street or dirt.
  • Maneuverability off-road.
  • Buzz-free twin-cylinder motor.
  • Bulletproof.
Minor Gripes:

  • 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
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1 9.8:1
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
Price $USD:*** $9,398 $7,893

Rally Raid CB500X Kit Shopping Options

USA International
* Estimated
** Source: Motorcycle Consumer News
*** Prices based on cost of new CB500X with Level 3 Rally Raid Kit and new KLR650 with Touratech suspension

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Mexico, North Africa, Europe, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

Author: Rob Dabney

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38 thoughts on “Rally Raid CB500X Adventure First Ride Review

      • Hey Dave. I think with a bike like this you are really customizing it to your own tastes and making it into a bike that fits your needs. With any custom bike, you probably aren’t going to get your money out of it when you sell it. But if you are worried about resale value, pick up a lightly-used CB500X that’s already been depreciated.

    • Hi Smithy. We didn’t encounter any problems with the kit itself. Except we did notice the rear shock bottom out on some of the big hits. But you select the spring rate when you order the kit and our test bike was originally set up for a smaller rider. After adjusting the compression damping, this seemed to get rid of the problem for the most part. If the bike had the heavier spring installed, I don’t think we would have encountered any issues. The cost of the kit may be a concern but I think it’s a fair price to pay when you consider you are getting a premium suspension and a set of heavy-duty wheels.

  1. Pingback: Honda CB500X - Serious consideration for a RTW machine? - Page 11 - Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB

  2. I have my cb500x with this kit installed.
    I bought an used one and throw rally raid stage 3 kit in.
    Tyres are one pair of KC60 Haidenaus instead TKC80s.
    Bike is now a proper adv happy loose crazy tail bike.
    I’m from Chile btw. If you want some other impressions or have any doubts
    Find me in my facebook Sebastian Alonso Corrales Rojas.

  3. This is the way forward for me-smaller and lighter. I want one. Rob, what about pannier racks with the stock exhaust? Any issues? Thanks!

  4. This looks like a great kit, especially if you buy your CB500X used. Gotta figure any ADV/Dual Sport bike is gonna get $2-4k worth of mods anyway, might as well put this kit on it too along with crash bars, better bars, etc.

    • True Rob. And with the CB500X you are trading in budget wheels, suspension, handlebars, etc for top-end equipment, so you get a bigger overall improvement. It’s a lot harder to justify upgrading when its a bike that already comes with pretty good equipment and the improvement isn’t as dramatic.

    • i dont trust second hand when i am really planning to do something like a longer trip in the desert and i am depending on the bike i ride. You never know what the guy was riding it in before. 1000km offroad is like 10k km Tarmac or more.
      I like virgins and plus this kit you are very close to other ready to go bikes.
      have a great day and ride safe

  5. Nice Review – the wife and I have been looking at this as a possibility but fear that the gvwr won’t handle us and camping gear/panniers/topbox – we’re @ 330lbs with gear – had a DR650 but it was cramped and way underrated for us and gear – had a GS1200 but it’s too heavy for the areas we like to explore (hard to pick up!) and looking to go lighter to get more places – so … seems to be down to the Vstrom 650 or the Guzzi V7II – (had an 06′ Bonnie that actually did better than the BM in tough spots – says volumes about my ability I suppose) not looking for trail bike – just more challenging dirt roads 2 up on a lighter machine than our old BM and more off road worthy than the Bonnie – any opinion is appreciated.

    Michael and Tammie in Fruita, CO

    • I should clarify a bit – sorry – 330 lbs includes us in riding kit and all travel/camping gear but with out weight of soft panniers, metal loop type pannier frames and hard relatively large top box 50liters or so (preferred set up for bike) – seems the Honda would have the go – but not the gvwr – on paper anyways …

    • Looks like the CB500X has a 408 pound GVWR, so you would be just under the limit. But the CB500X does have a shorter wheelbase that might be a little cramped for 2 up riding. If you are regularly riding two up and just light off-road, then the V-Strom 650 or BMW F700GS might be worth a look.

  6. That CB500X is a badass little bike and very underestimated. I’m glad you guys compared it to a KLR650 as it seems like a fair comparison and good to see how it stacks to the simple but great KLR. I agree with you, if you find a good lightly used CB500X then buy this conversion you’ll have yourself an impressive, capable, reliable, low cost to own, modern 65+ MPG FI little burro!

    • Thanks for your comments Paulo. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rally Raid Kits help start increasing the demand for used CB500X’s. We’ve seen several in the $4,500 range with just a few thousand miles on them. And these bikes are typically just used for commuting.

  7. Yes the bike and the kit are something that is missing for shorter or older riders or riders not wanting the big powerful and heavy adventure type of bikes that are for sale . Honda have a great package in the CB500X and the kit makes it a bike that will be the more in demand than ever. I have mentioned the kit for and the concept to couple of other riders and looks like there will some in New Zealand in the future as well. Nice to see the comparison between a single and the Honda twin. Honda have got it right.

  8. Now just add in the Can-am 450 to this and I will be really excited to see the results. I already have the KLR but have been interested in the 500X and Can-am for way too long. Any chance you will be seeing the Can-am anytime soon for comparison?

  9. The funny thing is KTM 950/990 is still lighter weight…and way more powerful…I’m won’t say its fork in stock form doesn’t have its shortcomings, but its an easy fix for a bomber adventurer…

    • Hey Mike. You may be confusing dry and wet weights. The last of the KTM 990 Adventures weighed 502 lbs with a full tank of gas. That’s 65 lbs heavier than the RRP CB500X. Earlier 950’s were a bit lighter but still outweigh the KLR650 and RRP CB500X by 40+ lbs when you compare wet weights.

  10. Rob,
    Do you have a feel for gas milage of the bike off-road, any significant drop in milage when doing rough 2-track or single track?

    • Hey Bart. We didn’t have the bike long enough to check mileage but typically on 2-track and single track, when the RPMs are lower, bikes get good gas mileage. That is unless you’ve got a lot of hills, sand or you are flogging it constantly, which can drop the MPGs down. Also, ringing it out on the highway at high RPMs can drop the mileage.

  11. Pingback: New Rally Raid CB500X Heritage Bike Build - ADV Pulse

  12. Do you think some of this kit could be applied to the NC700x, (Wheel kit, specifically) or do you foresee a similar kit coming out for the NC?


  13. Pingback: New Recall Pending for 2015-2016 CBR300R & CB300F - Page 77 - Honda CBR 300 Forum

  14. Although I really did appreciate the comparison test for these 2 bikes and was impressed with the Honda, at the same time in your “final thoughts” you were comparing a fully done up Honda to the nearly stock KLR. The Honda in stock form already costing nearly $1500 more than the KLR then had an additional $2000 more than the cost of the KLR’s spring upgrade. (correct me if I am wrong but that exhaust can on the Honda also looks like a $300-500 upgrade as well? – not to mention a $500 tire upgrade on the Honda to the KLR’s stock rubber) So in the end the Honda is close to $4000 or more than the KLR. So most riders on a budget would probably favor the KLR and most without a budget would likely buy something else all together. Really nice camparison though. I have been wanting a KLR for a long time. If The Honda’s sticker price was the same, making those tasty upgrades a little more affordable then this article may very well have changed my mind, wanting the Honda. But there are many (myself included) that just can’t afford to spend over $10,000 on a bike. So the die hard KLR will likely win for me.
    But nice article guys 🙂

  15. so the kit cost near $3K, as another gent comments how about all the other extras,
    what about the bottom skid plate and the tube engine guard, what did this cost? How about the bark busters? Other comments ask about tire upgrade ($cost) and I agree your in the $3500 for extra range. No doubt its a capable machine but bike + off road upgrade now your in the $8500/$9K range asking myself why not just spend another $1500/$2K and just pick up the AT (African Twin)? Good read, I have owned the KLR in the past likely won’t go back to it but exploring all my options.

  16. Pingback: Small bike regrets? - Page 4 - Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB

  17. Looked at the price, looked at the parts, looked at the price again and NO SIR… 3000 US is a lot of money, a CRF250L you can buy for it, not just some parts. And the best is, there are not even the footpegs, a luggage rack and crash bars included. I dont want finance the new Pool or Villa for the Boss of Rally Raid. I know labour is much more expensive in Europe, specially in England but i am waiting for the Chinese to copy it and sale it for 50% like most of the other stuff.
    Many motorcycle parts are made in China since centuries now, also when they write Made in Japan on it.


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