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Test Ride: Honda 2019 CB500X Review

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Honda 2019 CB500X ReviewHonda's New 2019 CB500X Ridden and Reviewed – Much More than BNG (Bold New Graphics)!

The blitz of fun, new, practical and affordable adventure bikes continues with Honda's newly revised 2019 CB500X. Originally introduced in 2013, the ADV potential for the reliable 500cc parallel twin was immediately apparent. Unfortunately the 17 inch wheelset kept the CB500X more in the adventure "style" category than adventure riding. After only six years, Honda took the community feedback to heart and made some considerable changes. Are they enough to get riders excited about this new mid-sized adventure mount?


https://youtu.be/mp1f1Fh37YE


• Wheels and Suspension

One of the most important changes to the 2019 CB500X is the cast 19 inch front wheel. Off-road riders already know the benefits of larger rims, but many street riders who have traditionally only ridden 17 inch wheels may not understand the reason behind this change.

Honda 2019 CB500X 10

 

Why have a larger front wheel on a motorcycle? 21 and 19 inch front wheels roll over surface irregularities like potholes, speed bumps, ruts and washouts better than smaller 17 inch rims. Also, there are very few dual-sport tire options for 17 inch rims. 19 inch wheels provide a better off-road riding experience with plenty of tire choices while staying nimble on pavement. The trade off is generally slightly slower handling and a minimally taller bike.

While some wish the CB500X came with laced rims, in all honesty cast rims work just fine on all but the toughest terrain and also are natively tubeless. Be prepared to pay big bucks for tubeless spoke wheels which are usually only found on $15,000+ flagship bikes. Steel rims are easier to repair should they get bent in the hinterlands, but cast wheels should work just fine for 99 percent of the terrain a CB500X is intended to see in stock form. 

Stock front tire size is a standard 110 width, but the rear tire is a hefty 160/60-17. This probably aided the CB500X's very neutral and predictable street manners, but I can't help wonder how the on and off-road performance of the bike would be impacted by installing a narrower and lighter tire in the rear. Throwing a heavy duty tube in a tire that wide would add power sapping weight to the wheel.

If you really want to push the new CB500X's off-road prowess, some of the Rally Raid wheel and suspension upgrades are available for the 2019 model.

Dunlop’s Trailmax tires come standard from the factory, but since our test ride hit some dirt the bikes were fitted with Bridgestone's new Battlax AX41. The AX41 surprised nearly all the test riders with their ability to hug the edges on tight twisties, but also provide plenty of hook-up off pavement.

Honda 2019 CB500X 16Stock suspension is only pre-load adjustable in both front and rear. Pavement manners were well behaved and provided no surprises as we carved out some of San Diego's beautiful scenic twisties. The front forks see a 10mm increase in travel while the rear axle sees an additional 16mm. Honda manages to keep this slight rise from affecting ground reach by narrowing the tank, which stays at the same 4.6 gallon capacity.

Off-road manners were not bad for high frequency washboard and even hitting some fairly large rocks and bumps. I noticed that mini-whoops, like those made by large trucks on curves, would cause a bit of chatter and the rear end to buck a bit.

To be fair, the bikes were basically new and nothing had broken in yet. The stock suspension is competent for a wide variety of riding conditions but not excellent at any one in particular. While those demanding more from the machine will be looking to upgrade, it should be fine for most riders and matches fairly well with the intended use and entry level price point.

Honda 2019 CB500X 12

• Engine and Power

Overall, the new CB500X’s 471cc engine is everything you'd expect from a modern Honda motor: compact, powerful, reliable and fuel efficient. You realistically couldn't ask anything more from a mid-sized engine at this price point.

Although Honda could have left the engine alone, they managed to squeeze a 4% increase in torque and horse power between 3-7,000 RPM. This is accomplished with revised intake timing, new fuel injection nozzles and a crank sensors system which reports 2.5 times more frequently for smoother power delivery. We like how Honda tends to favor low end power because it's most practical for low speed conditions like commuting and also off-road riding.

Honda 2019 CB500X 06

More importantly, the update also includes a new slipper clutch, which not only reduces wheel hop on overly enthusiastic downshifts, but also reduces lever pull effort by 45%. The only cable clutch bike we’ve tested with a lighter pull is the Versys-X 300 which was outfitted with a similar clutch in 2017.

The air intake system got a do-over as well. It sports not only a straighter airflow, but also more space between the intake body and battery positioned right next to it. Exhaust can is larger and now has twin exit ports for a less pedestrian growl. As capable as the motor is in stock form, we're still wondering how much power could be uncorked with a full aftermarket system.

Power wise we're looking at just shy of 50HP at 8,500 rpm (redline) and 32ft/lb of torque at 7,000 rpm. Power delivery is smooth with the 180 degree firing order but I missed the throbbing twin sound found on other 270 degree crank engines.

Honda 2019 CB500X 08

Moving through the six speed gearbox is a quick and positive experience, thanks in part to a redesigned shifting gear with more dogs and new tooth shape. The gear ratios felt smartly placed and had the engine working at approximately 5,000 rpm at 65MPH in sixth gear.

Last but not least, the roughly 300 mile range from the 4.6 gallon tank results in a real-world 70+mpg. For a touring or commuter bike, it’s hard to beat this kind of fuel efficiency while not having to work the engine too hard at highway speeds.

 • Body, Styling and Ergonomics

Looks are a largely subjective topic but I thought the update was a visually attractive modern looking package. Re-worked front and side fairings are slightly wider and taller and help divert warm air away from the rider. The beak on previous models has been retracted while still providing a more aggressive and hawkish look.

 Honda 2019 CB500X 17

We got to see how the bike takes damage in person thanks to a couple injury free get-offs in the group. The upper side plastics take a good beating but get scratched up pretty hard, as do some edges of the engine case. If you plan on riding off-road, you'll definitely want to invest in upper and lower body protection.

Rounding out the new fairing is a two position adjustable windscreen. At highest position it still provids some buffeting for a 6 foot tall rider with a dual sport helmet. Most of it went away by squatting down a few inches, but taller riders may look for some sort of laminar lip add-on to clean the trailing air coming off the top edge. One feature I like, but wasn't widely mentioned, was the built in crossbar between the windscreen stays for mounting phone or GPS above the gauges. In addition to a pre-molded plug for a 12v cigarette outlet to the left of the gauges, we give  a big thumbs up to Honda for including these small but usable changes.

The new all-digital instrument panel has a good amount of information, but is difficult to read in direct sunlight despite the nicely designed sun shade above it. We checked to see if it had a brightness adjustment, which it did, but was unfortunately already at its brightest setting. I noticed the level of contrast changed slightly with viewing angle so someone who was slightly shorter may not notice this as much. Aside from opting for a more expensive TFT style display found on pricier bikes, the best solution would be to make the instrument panel angle adjustable. Perhaps some screws behind the gauge unit can be shimmed with washers to help with this.

Honda 2019 CB500X 01

Greater comfort is provided by rubber mounted bar clamps with more rise and pullback from previous model years. Over the years I've found people are wildly different about vibrations, especially high frequency, so tend not to make declarative statements unless they cause notable pain or discomfort.

Used to mostly riding thumpers, the counter balanced engine felt very smooth and nothing too disturbing came through the handlebars during the day ride. Others thought differently and mentioned excessive buzz and tingling fingers. Oversized handlebars are now a standard feature so adding a tapered CR high bar would not require an additional adapter.

Most qualities of the new CB500X have met or exceeded expectations in all major areas but there's always room from improvement. Despite many of the changes made to ADVenturize the CB500X, the bike's street DNA keeps its potential back as a more dual-sport oriented bike.

Under engine exhaust routing is extremely common in adventure bikes which comes from street backgrounds. All Kawasaki's Versys platforms do this as well as Suzuki’s V-Stroms. Mounting the exhaust under the seat is not as necessary as routing the exhaust line anywhere but under the engine. This reduces ground clearance and also means there’s no safe way to support the bike under the engine. Adding a skid plate helps a little, but can’t be mounted to the frame for maximum strength. Although these bikes are not designed for severe off-road use, it would definitely add to both the looks and functionality if someone could incorporate these changes at an affordable price.

Honda 2019 CB500X 18

All LED lighting is a great upgrade over the previous generation. Although we didn't have a chance to test the headlights at night, the general output of a properly focused led light is far more usable than most halogens. The LED brakelight and turnsignals are clearly visible in direct sunlight, but the turn signals are on hard stalks which snap easily when the bike tips over. This can be easily addressed by the aftermarket and is not the design change I felt would have been more important.

Footpeg placement and design is a critical part to off-road riding. First, like many street bikes, footpegs tend to be long and narrow and attached to the bike though a cast hanger which is then bolted on to a steel part of the frame. This usually puts them rather high on the frame which helps cornering clearance.

The CB500X's foot pegs are 100% street DNA and swapping them out for small cage type pegs with rubber inserts would be been a nice and inexpensive touch. The footpegs are mounted to cast hangers higher on the frame and can cause your ass to be up in the air when standing. You could raise the bars to help compensate for this but really the pegs need to be lower and designed differently for a couple reasons.

Honda 2019 CB500X 09

Most dual-sport bikes have the pegs about as low as possible and mounted directly to the frame. This creates a roomier seating position and also makes standing on the bike easier. During street riding, most of your body weight rest on the saddle, but standing up places nearly all of the weight on the pegs. Riding continually rough terrain at moderate speeds places a fair amount of force and on a peg structure which may not be designed to handle it.

I’m not saying this is the case with the new CB500X, but it’s a detail that would have given a more comfortable and off-road appropriate geometry. Looking at the bike’s construction, this could be solved with peg lowering adapters or someone could even design a new bracket which lowers the peg altogether.

• Summary

When it's all said and done, the CB500X is an amazing value for a bike which is capable of just about anything most riders would ever want. We nit-pick because it's our job to find problems with things, but the past couple of years have been great for riders looking to buy practical, fun, friendly and affordable bikes.

The most direct competition for Honda's CB500X is Kawasaki's Versys-X 300 (<---link to full review) which comes in 40lbs lighter, with a smaller engine for under $6,000. While I'm a huge fan of the Versys platform, the CB500X represents a similar style of bike, with a more robust engine and perhaps better build for just under $7,000 (with ABS) and $6,700 (without ABS). A larger bike means more cost and weight, but if you put them side by side as a shopper who isn't bent on throwing money at one brand or another, you're arguably getting a lot of value for the extra thousand bucks.

Up-sizing to a larger engine, the nearest competitor is Suzuki’s V-Strom 650 which is another well established bulletproof adventure touring bike. A new V-Strom 650 will set you back over $9,000 and weighs in over 60 lbs heavier at almost 500 lbs. Those wanting to learn off pavement riding may find the weight and size a bit daunting.

Honda 2019 CB500X 13

It’s taken a few years for this selection of bikes to become available, but all of them are great options. Honda’s new CB500X sits squarely in the middle between other 300cc and 650cc options with plenty to offer and a very friendly price tag to boot. Making the perfect bike to satisfy everyone is an impossible task, but it's great that Honda is trying and, more importantly, are responding to market feedback in a timely manner.

Honda's new 2019 CB500X is one of the best mid-sized adventure touring bikes on the market today. Many experienced riders looking to downsize know you could live the rest of your life with a bike like this and be happy with a few key upgrades. At the same time, the new CB500X provides a solid platform for new riders to cut their teeth in touring, commuting and exploring gravel roads. 

And from there, who knows? Maybe the next big announcement from Honda will be a CRF500 Rally with spoke wheels, high exhaust, better suspension and lower pegs for around $9,000. We can only dream and let them know what we want. Honda is now listening more than ever to the adventure segment, so there’s never been a better time to check out the new 2019 CB500X at your local dealer. If you do, let us know what you think at info@adventuremotorcycle.com.

For more information and to find a dealer near you, please visit: Powersports.Honda.com


Pros:
• Cast 19 inch front wheel a welcome improvement
• Wonderfully neutral handling
• Smooth motor with a couple extra horses and slipper clutch
• Good stock suspension for most applications
• Outstanding value for versatility

Cons:
• Street footpegs should be lower and first thing swapped for off-road riding
• Instrument Panel hard to read in direct sunlight and certain angles
• Will need suspension upgrades for heavier off-road use
• Under-engine exhaust routing less than ideal for aggressive off-road use


• 2019 Honda CB500X Specs

ENGINE:
Cylinder Configuration: Parallel twin
Displacement: 471cc
Compression ratio: 10.7:1
Valve train: DOHC; 4 vpc
Fueling: EFI w/ 34mm throttle bodies
Transmission: 6-speed with Slipper Clutch and Assist

CHASSIS:
Front suspension: Preload adjustable 41mm fork; 5.3 inches of travel
Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted spring-preload adjustable shock; 5.9 inches
Tires: Stock: Dunlop Trailmax; as tested Bridgestone Battleax Adventureross AX41
Front tire: 110/80 x 19
Rear tire: 160/60 x 17
Front brake: Nissin 320mm disc w/ 4-piston caliper
Rear brake: 240mm disc with 2-piston caliper

DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 56.9 inches
Rake: 27.5 degrees
Trail: 4.3 inches
Seat height: 32.7 inches
Fuel capacity: 4.6 gallons
Curb Weight: 430 pounds
2019 Honda CB500X Color: Grand Prix Red
2019 Honda CB500X Price: $6,700 (without ABS); $7,000 (with ABS)

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