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2013 Honda CB500X—Road Test

Mark Tuttle
January 2, 2014
Filed under Honda Motorcycle Road Tests: Reviews on Honda Motorcycles, Sport Standard + Standard Motorcycle Reviews

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Honda CB500X

Equipped with the accessory hard saddlebags and top case, taller windscreen and centerstand, the CB500X is ready for long rides or low-cost commuting. (Photos by Kevin Wing)

The core of Honda’s praiseworthy, multi-bike response to the Global Financial Crisis and the distressed motorcycle market is the 2013 CB500 series, three bikes based upon the same engine, frame, running gear and one very key feature—a price under $6,000. For as little as $5,499 riders can avail themselves of the CB500F, an attractive, nimble standard shorn of expensive-to-fix bodywork. Or for $5,999 whisk away on a CB500R, which mimics its larger sporting brethren with a racy full fairing and lower handlebar. We reviewed both Thailand-made machines in the September 2013 issue and concluded that they sip fuel and are a blast to ride.

2013 Honda CB500X

Even with its wide handlebar and sticky Pirelli Scorpion Trail tires, it takes a skilled rider and some effort to find the footpeg feelers in corners.

At that time, the third member of the CB500 cast had not yet arrived, so when we got our hands on a $5,999 CB500X we made up for lost time by outfitting it with the Honda accessory saddlebags and top case, taller windscreen and centerstand. Though we subsequently put more than 3,000 miles on the machine, we had concluded in the first 400 that the X is the best of the CB trio. Numerous small differences add up to big improvements in its versatility and fun factor. To suit the CB500X’s adventure-bike styling if not intent, Honda gave it 1.2 inches more fork travel in front and a higher, wider handlebar, improving its handling, ground clearance and long-distance comfort. This also increased its rake, trail and wheelbase a bit, enhancing its stability on the highway without significantly slowing down its nimble steering. The bike also has 0.4 gallon more fuel capacity, which—at our 54.3 mpg average—ups its range to more than 240 miles on regular gas, a nice number for touring guys and gals. Finally, a 16-pound higher GVWR than the other CB500s better suits the CB500X for loads and luggage.

2013 Honda CB500X Saddlebags

Accessory top case will hold a full-face helmet.

All three CB500s were a pleasant surprise in the power department. While a new rider is likely to trade-in a first purchase in the 250 or 300 class for something with more oomph eventually, these 471cc twins make just enough power to endear themselves to both new and experienced riders who are more interested in low cost and fuel economy than blinding acceleration. Unless you’re counting lightweight and user-friendliness, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC parallel twin, which has a typical 180-degree crank and nearly square bore and stroke. The key is the burbling engine’s nearly flat torque curve, which stays in the 25-31 lb-ft range throughout the powerband. Although you can scream from corner to corner with the engine revving up near redline at 8,500 rpm and its 45.5-horsepower peak, the bike’s milder, lumpier twin-cylinder personality is the one you’ll be enjoying most of the time. Heavier riders and loads require plenty of downshifting for hills and passing, but on our 2,000-mile loop from California to southern Arizona and back, we found the CB500X had no trouble staying with traffic and providing plenty of smiles in the curves, even with a 230-pound rider aboard and a week’s-worth of gear loaded in the accessory luggage.

Honda CB500X

2013 Honda CB500X

Mounting the engine solidly as a stressed member in the steel double-cradle frame enhances chassis stiffness and handling, and while some vibration creeps into the grips at high rpm, a gear-driven counterbalancer in the engine takes care of the rest. The cable clutch pull is light, the 6-speed transmission shifts really well without any driveline lash, and the Honda PGM-FI fuel delivery is precise and smoother than many more expensive motorcycles. In this price range you won’t find niceties like adjustable brake and clutch levers, but the CB500X’s middling size and low weight give it a one-size-fits-all feel from the seat to the grips. With my 29-inch inseam it’s easy to swing a leg over the 31.9-inch seat, which is narrow up front so I can plant both feet on the ground at stops. At this power level and load capacity the X is more of a solo machine, though both the rider and passenger seats are comfortable, and the rider’s grip-footpeg-seat layout is roomy and natural for long rides. We’d go even taller than the taller accessory windscreen on our test bike, which adjusts two inches up or down and provides some protection for the upper body, but allows a lot of noisy windblast to hit your helmet.

2013 Honda CB500X

Some additional fork travel increases the CB500X’s ground clearance to about 6.5 inches, but the bike lacks a skid plate.

Our CB500X came with 90/10 on-road/off-road Pirelli Scorpion Trail tires, but other than the bike’s styling that’s where the similarities to a true adventure bike end. Though it has a little more ground clearance than its siblings at about 6.5 inches, that’s without a skid plate in place like most ADV bikes with clearance in the 8-9-inch range. A lighter rider might find the bike adequate for gravel and rutted dirt roads after adding an aftermarket skid plate and better rear shock, but even with more aggressive tires, tougher trails would be pushing it—in our off-road forays on the stock bike, we were wary of the comparatively short suspension travel and lack of any underbelly coverage, even as an accessory. As long as you’re sticking to pavement adventures, however, the bike’s upright ergonomics, wide handlebar and accessories such as heated grips, hand guards, a centerstand and a light bar that doubles as a fairing guard give it similar versatility and comfort to the big boys.

We found very few weaknesses in the CB500X package, in fact. Front and rear disc brakes are strong and have good feel, and for $500 more you can add the security of ABS. Other than a sticky lock on the trunk, we liked the pricy accessory luggage, which doesn’t get in the way while mounting and dismounting the bike. The top trunk will hold a helmet and works great by itself for skinny commuting, yet the medium-sized saddlebags are narrower than the mirrors and come off easily. Sure, the suspension is very basic, and lacking anything but rear preload adjustment is easily upset in bumpy corners, though the bike steers and handles great otherwise. The bar graph tachometer is difficult to read, and the sidestand is too short when the bike’s preload is jacked up for full loads. Upping the preload, by the way, is best left to the dealer on purchase day, since it’s a knuckle skinner of a job and the bike doesn’t come with any tools.

For a motorcycle that starts at $5,999, that’s a pretty short list of complaints, and the 3,000-plus miles we put on the CB500X are further testimony to its overall goodness. If you’re looking for a fun, inexpensive, versatile motorcycle for commuting, solo touring or just plain riding around, X marks the spot.

Honda CB500X

The CB500X should sell well enough that numerous aftermarket accessory options will become available for it in addition to Honda’s. First thing we’d get is a windscreen that’s even larger than Honda’s taller accessory, and add the Honda heated grips and hand guards for cooler weather.

2013 Honda CB500X ABS

Base Price: $6,499
Price as Tested: $8,520 (ABS, tall
windscreen, trunk & saddlebags, mounts, key cylinders, centerstand)
Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
Website: powersports.honda.com

2013 Honda CB500X Engine

The CB500 twin has a dual personality that is full of grunt in the midrange and rev-happy up to 8,500 rpm.

Engine
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin
Displacement: 471cc
Bore x Stroke: 67.0 x 66.8mm
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: 16,000 miles
Fuel Delivery: PGM-FI, 34mm throttle bodies x 2
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 2.9-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain

Electrical
Ignition: Digital transistorized w/ electronic advance
Charging Output: 500 watts
Battery: 12V 8.6Ah

Chassis
Frame: Diamond-shaped tubular-steel w/ engine as stressed member, box-section steel swingarm
Wheelbase: 55.9 in.
Rake/Trail: 26.5 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 31.9 in.
Suspension, Front: 41mm stanchions, no adj., 5.5-in. travel
Rear: Pro-Link single shock, adj. for spring preload, 4.7-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Single 320mm disc w/ 2-piston pin-slider caliper
Rear: Single 240mm disc w/1-piston pin-slider caliper
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 17
Rear: Cast, 4.50 x 17
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Rear: 160/60-ZR17
Wet Weight: 471 lbs. (as tested)
Load Capacity: 336 lbs. (as tested)
GVWR: 807 lbs.

Performance
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gals., last 0.7 gal. warning light on
MPG: 86 PON min. (high/avg/low) 60.2/54.3/46.6
Estimated Range: 244 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 4,800

(This article Adventure Bike Light was published in the January 2014 issue of Rider magazine.)

Comments

7 Responses to “2013 Honda CB500X—Road Test”

  1. Peter Harris on January 4th, 2014 1:59 pm

    These are great bikes. I have the F and I’ve tested other rides from soulless BMWs to overly souled KTMs and I keep coming back to this eager willing machine. A great engine, a great chassis – and with inexpensive mods any shortcomings of the suspension can be fixed (although unless really pushing it it’s fine).

    [Reply]

  2. Bob Rolf on May 3rd, 2014 10:26 pm

    Thanks for this content rich article. I am looking for hands-on info on adventure bikes. A good friend, who trains locals how to properly purify and store drinking water in South Sudan, also transports portable water purifiers into the most outlying areas, like the Nuba mountains. Many times the roads, in reality, are no roads at all.The scooter he used in the past has died. Most likely he will go to Uganda or Kenya to buy a bike and I like to help, by doing some research. Does anybody have suggestions about makes & models? What to look out for when buying ‘ that make/model’ used? About home-maintenance issues, important parts & tools to have?
    Thanks a bunch,
    Bob

    [Reply]

  3. Gimme Somespace on May 24th, 2014 8:49 pm

    The CB500X will be my next bike! Thank you Mark & company for providing this informative review and test. I’ll be trading in my Baja Kitted CRF150F that’s as light as a feather. But this follows a long trail starting with a mini-bike, next a Trail 70, KZ100, Hodaka Ace, CZ125MX, KZ400 Deluxe, Honda Nighthawk450, Yamaha TTR125, BMWF650, Pacific Coast (great ride). The fun is just beginning!

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  4. Nick Staib on June 26th, 2014 9:45 am

    I just returned from a two week solo tour around Spain on my UK spec CB500X. It came with ABS as standard. And a tool kit, including a tool for that rear shock adjustment. Mostly ridden on tarmac but plenty of dirt tracks as well. Competently handled. I opted for the (significantly) less pricey GIVI screen and V35 panniers and racks. No issues at all and good economy. Top speed around 95mph but 70-80 is more comfortable. Great value for money.

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  5. Gary M on August 10th, 2014 9:55 pm

    Just put 600 miles over the past week on this bike, love its lightness and its power and acceleration will leave most autos in the mirrors, amazing bike.

    Madstag enginering offers what soon to be tested a tall adjustable windshied. The light bike is a blast and pleasuire to drive and has not tired me out,no work to ride this exceptional cb500X.

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  6. Yan on September 9th, 2014 8:57 pm

    I bought this bike in May 2014 as my first bike and so far everything is top notch!

    For road usage, it is a beast but the 1st-2nd gear can be added a bit more acceleration. Some scooters goes faster when it turn green light~ but nonetheless the speed to commute/highway is perfect and easy to ride.
    The weight and suspension fits right in.

    One more thing is lack of gear panel. It doesnt really matter after all but it would be nice to have. You will get used to it with the revs-speed eventually.

    Overall perfect bike for everyone i’d say. And yea BMW GS is a bit soulless and KTM is overkill adventure. So I highly recommend this one or V-strom 650 (my next one i think)

    [Reply]

  7. Dallas on October 1st, 2014 6:54 pm

    Where is the NC750x or even the NC700x for 2015?

    [Reply]

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