The Honda CB500X is here! Let’s address the elephant in the room first, the price. More expensive than the Benelli TRK 502 it rivals on spec, and incredibly close to the more powerful Kawasaki Versys 650. Honda has brought the motorcycle to India via the CKD route, and yet it remains a costly affair. But let’s keep the price aside for a moment and talk about the motorcycle the CB500X is. Essentially a road-biased adventure tourer, the CB is hoping to capitalise on the growing popularity of this format of motorcycles. We’ll get to what it is like to ride in a bit, but first, let us take a look at its specifications on paper, shall we?
On paper, it seems underwhelming. At the heart of the motorcycle lies a 471cc parallel-twin engine that puts out a seemingly modest 47bhp and 43Nm. It has got a chassis that leans towards the touring end of the motorcycling spectrum. The engine is a stressed member in the tubular steel frame, and it gets a telescopic (no USDs!) fork up front with 108mm of travel and a preload adjustable monoshock at the rear. It’s got a 19-17 wheel set up (alloys here), and that combined with the Dunlop on/off-road tyres hint at its mild off-road ability. As for the brakes, there’s a 310mm petal disc up front and 240mm at the rear.
In terms of tech, it is pretty spartan. The only real electronics you get on the motorcycle is dual channel, non switchable ABS. No riding modes, no traction control, nothing. The display is basic, throwing up all the information you need but it feels a tad bit simple as we’ve been spoilt by the digital displays on KTMs.
As underwhelming as it is on paper, the CB500X is incredibly good when you’re on it. Thumb the starter motor and the two cylinders settle in to a bass-y thrum that sounds just a little naughty. Blip the throttle and they growl, almost like a slightly subdued Africa Twin. And once you get going, its hard to stop grinning under that helmet. For starters, it feels a lot sprightlier than the power suggests. It weighs just 199kg, and that’s with it fuelled up (a large 17.7-litre tank here) — giving the motor less to pull along, and allowing it to get a proper move on. Supremely refined, creamy delivery and an engine that despite being tractable, will indulge you with revving out to the redline enthusiastically. The mid-range is the sweet-spot and it has an enthusiastic top-end as well, and its a motor that feels incredibly fun. The 6-speed transmission is slick and the slip-and-assist clutch makes for an extremely easy clutch action.
The chassis has to be the highlight though. It remains completely unfazed with our roads — no matter how bad they get. The suspension does a fabulous job of soaking up bumps, and should the road really deteriorate, all you need to do is stand up on the pegs, pick a line and keep the gas pinned. It’s softly sprung and cushy, and you should be able to do long days comfortably. This is a road-biased motorcycle and even with the 19-inch front and on/off-road tyres, it will hold its own in a set of corners. The rear wallowed a little in bumpy corners and that’s because of how softly it is sprung, but it is a sweet handler — tips in eagerly and confidently holds its line. A motorcycle this tall shouldn’t be such an enthu cutlet in the bends, but the 500X is. The brakes are exceptional as well — progressive and communicative, with good bite.
It’s relatively compact dimensions should make it every-day useable in the city — it isn’t too wide or bulky. The slip and assist clutch makes for easy shifting, while I could flat foot both feet (I’m 5’10”). The rider’s triangle is comfortable with slightly rear-set pegs, an upright ‘bar and spacious, comfy seat. There’s a good amount of steering lock, and that should make manoeuvring it through traffic easy. To aid you while out touring, there’s good wind protection with the 2-step adjustable windscreen. You need an allen key to adjust it though, so make sure its set up before you head out riding. The CB will also tackle light off-road trails without complaining — the ergos standing up are good, and the engine has enough grunt — though you do need to be mindful of the lack of a bash plate.
After being on the saddle, no longer does the CB500X feel unimpressive. Instead the simplicity of it makes it endearing. If there was a one-motorcycle-garage for India — this is it. It’s compact enough to take on the maddening city traffic, capable of dealing with all our bad roads and should you be in the mood for a 1000km day on the saddle, the Honda will oblige. Being Japanese, you won’t have to worry about it cranking up the next morning either. Despite the competition offering better bang for your buck, the Honda, well, it feels like a complete package. If I were to be critical of it, I’d say silly, insignificant things like I wish the switchgear felt more premium. I find it hard to justify the price even after riding the bike, but the impressive package does a solid job of cushioning the blow.