My wife wants to join me out on motorcycle rides, but not as a passenger anymore. She wants her own wheels. No problem since there are plenty of excellent options out there.
She Wants To Write Too
She wrote an introduction about what criteria were most important and why she picked the Honda CB500X in the end after combing the field of applicants closely.
See her beginner rider perspective below.
“Is there anything more exciting than shopping for your first (or second) motorcycle?
There’s so much to think about. I need something lightweight with a low seat height and a decent amount of user-friendly power that will work for me even at highway speed. I want an upright riding position with a comfortable seat, good fuel economy and low cost of ownership.
My dirt bike background makes me lean towards dual sport bikes more than sport bikes or cruisers, but most dual sports are too tall for me or underpowered for highway riding.
This is my second season of on-road riding, so they don’t come much more green than me. I started on a 2004 Suzuki LS650 Savage and the bike felt a bit cramped and too small physically for my liking.
I took a Motorcycle Safety Training Course last month where I tried several different styles of bikes and then I spent time sitting on many in dealerships to asses the new market. The answer, in the end, was a lightly used 2016 Honda CB500X ABS.”
Why The CB500X?
This generation of CB500 bikes first appeared in 2013 as the 500R, 500F, and 500X. All three are identical mechanically and from a power perspective so you just have to choose the style you like.
The R and F models are the naked and fully faired sport versions while the X is adventure styled. The X is the model preferred by my wife because it has a small fairing and windshield to protect her from the wind but the downside is the 32-inch seat height being too high for her.
So we had the right bike, but it needed a lowering kit.
A Used CB500X?
We initially looked at buying a new one and added up the cost of installing a lowering kit, heated grips, and crash bars to see what it would cost, then looked at the used market.
The 2018 CB500X ABS costs $6899 before taxes, fees, etc.
Amazingly, I found a 2016 bike with the lowering kit, Oxford heated grips and Givi crash bars installed with only 2000 miles on it for $2000 less than just the cost of the bike brand new.
The differences between a 2016 and 2018 CB500X are mainly cosmetic so it was a no-brainer!
Power: 49.6 HP (35 kW) @ 8500 rpm and 31.7 lb/ft TQ (43 Nm) @ 7000 rpm
The parallel twin engine in this bike is torquey off the line, but not in a tire spinning sort of way. It’s quite tame and won’t scare anyone with its linear delivery, but won’t stall easily thanks to its ample torque.
My wife says she’s having a hard time keeping up with me when leaving a stoplight while out riding, but when I climbed aboard and rode the Honda I found it plenty peppy for getting around in city traffic. It has a reassuring and very planted feel while riding on any surface. A great bike all around for learning on or just commuting.
Use the Power Curve
My wife isn’t used to finding and using the strongest RPM of the engine to work with yet (4000 to 7000 rpm) and thinks she’s over-revving it up that high. The redline of 8500 makes even 6000 no problem at all for usage. With a small engine like this, it’s necessary to get the revs up fairly high before shifting in order to accelerate quickly.
Dirt and Gravel Roads
The CB500X isn’t a real adventure bike from the factory, it’s just styled like one with its stereotypical beak, barkbuster handguards, and upright riding position.
It looks and rides a bit like a “mini-me” Africa Twin and is a good starting bike for people who want to end up on the AT after learning the ropes of riding. I think it even has the same handlebar switches as the big AT, but half the power and suspension travel along with 17” aluminum spoked wheels front and back.
Those factors make it a poor choice for really going all out when off-road riding, but what it does very well is managing gravel and dirt roads if you choose the right rubber.
I also found that while standing up on the bike for better stability on the gravel I had no problem shifting up or down. This can be an issue with some bikes where the bars aren’t raised up high enough, but the 500X is just right for someone 5’7” and 180 lbs as I am.
Rally Raid Off Road Package
Rally Raid has created an awesome upgrade kit for the 500X. It gives you larger rims equipped with steel spokes, engine guarding and off-road worthy suspension needed to turn this “adventure style” bike into an actual off-road machine ready for adventure alongside the Africa Twin.
It’s not cheap to buy, but from what I read is worth it for the improvement you get. You can also purchase individual parts instead of the whole kit if you like to gradually upgrade your ride.
The bike we bought came equipped with Continental TKC 80 tires front and back instead of Dunlop Trailmax D609 ones from the factory.
It’s not often you see the very best dual sport tire on a CB500X and so I had to find out how it would perform. The answer is SOLID! The bike held a straight line even going through sections of gravel almost 2 inches deep thanks to those tires.
The stock Dunlop tires would be totally fine on asphalt, but riding down a gravel road on them would be a white-knuckled affair, to say the least.
On The Highway
Those TKC 80 tires are equally at home on asphalt and are what make them the best dual sport tires on the market according to many (myself included).
At low speeds, the TKC80 tires rumble on asphalt and a fair bit of vibration are transmitted to the handlebars. At high speeds, they make a high pitched howling noise, but neither of these is so bad it would make me regret having them. The grip on any surface is outstanding and worth the trade-off.
On the highway at 75 mph, the little Honda floats along quite happily, but it’s revving pretty high to get up to 80mph and getting close to the redline. I didn’t max out the bike to see what the top speed is, but I can say this 500 is perfectly happy on the highway. I would want cruise control of some sort to do really long tours.
Word on the street is that the 500X tops out at 110 mph, so it’s no slouch at all.
I took the bike at high speed around a traffic circle and experienced no stability issues in hard cornering.
The Problem With Lowering Kits
The only issue with leaning hard while riding around the traffic circle was that I started scraping my boot and pegs before long thanks to the lowering kit. I could still turn really sharp, but if the suspension had been higher I could have gone further without dragging anything.
As you can see in the photo above my foot is close to the road. Part of the issue is this bike has larger aftermarket foot pegs as well which will drag sooner than the small stock ones.
Ah well, it’s important for a new rider such as my wife to feel confident while learning and being able to flat foot is a big part of that.
The seat is very comfortable even though my wife found that there is a little pressure on the hip joints after a more lengthy ride, mostly caused by her existing lower back issues.
My favorite feature of the seat is the vinyl covering has a grippy texture. It is great when you are wearing textile riding pants that would feel slippery on a smoother seat. They must have had their adventure riders in mind when designing this seat.
Stock seat height is about 32 inches, but ours is down to 30.5 inches after the lowering kit adjustment.
The adjustable front forks work well for me as is smoothing out even fairly big bumps without bottoming out, but the rear is set too soft currently. It is 9 stage preload adjustable Pro-Link but is a bit hard to reach as the bike has no remote adjuster, unfortunately. My wife seems happy enough with it as is so I’m not rushing to adjust it for my liking too quickly.
The 6-speed transmission on this bike is very typically Honda-esque. It shifts quietly and smoothly without any resistance. The ratios seem about right for the power level and help give it unbelievable fuel efficiency.
Instrument Panel and Handlebars
The compact instrument cluster is greyish yellow with black LCD digits on it. The tachometer is a bar style indicator that climbs up and then to the right across the top of the screen. Some people don’t care for them, but it doesn’t bother me.
It doesn’t have anything too fancy displayed on it other than the basic speedometer, engine rpm, clock, temperature, mileage, fuel tank level and usual warning lights. That fuel gauge actually is noteworthy since many economical motorcycles in this size lack them.
I enjoy the fact that you can cycle through a menu and bring up the instant and average fuel economy numbers to watch and feel good about.
The twin cylinder powerplant is fed from a 4.6-gallon tank and PGM-FI fuel injection. You can expect close to a 320-mile range despite the smallish gas tank capacity.
While riding this motorcycle you’ll see some truly ridiculous fuel usage numbers appear on the instrument panel. With my own eyes, I witnessed the readout showing 117 mpg while traveling 30 mph through the city on flat ground.
That’s extreme but even typical usage showing up at 55 mph hangs around an unreal 70 mpg. That fuel economy is all the more impressive considering this isn’t a super lightweight motorcycle as it tips the scales at 427 lbs.
It Ain’t Heavy
427 lbs may sound heavy, but the 500X doesn’t push back when ridden. This is especially true with the lowering kit installed in it. To me it feels a lot like a dirtbike when I ride it.
Parking it is a simple task as is throwing it around the garage or pushing it around when not running for whatever reason.
You’ll get brilliant LED lights front and back on the 500X that are very visible and light up the road ahead at night more than adequately. The turn signals are still incandescent bulbs but are plenty bright as well.
I’ve already touched on the Rally Raid Off-Road kit for the 500X, but there’s a huge market of more typical add-ons available like touring luggage on the sides and top, larger windshields and other goodies like heated grips and transmission gear position indicators.
The 500X is much beloved in Europe and Asia where in congested cities it really fits the bill to get around economically and swiftly. I even noticed one tour company in Thailand was using them as their fleet motorcycles for dual sport jungle tours.
There’s nothing out there about problems with these bikes. They’re totally bulletproof, cheap and easy to maintain. Typically Honda to the core.
The CB500X is a people pleaser. It seems to want to be the bike you need it to be. With niceties like a 6 position adjustable front brake lever right from the factory it is easily suited to work for many average sized and smaller riders.
If what you’re after is an economical, practical and fun motorcycle to flick around corners in urban or rural jungles in style I’m sure this one is a keeper. My wife rides it with confidence already and I think it’s going to be with us for a while.
This isn’t just for beginners either. My friend from Australia who is an experienced rider of many years was discussing visiting me recently and when I mentioned now having a second bike he could take a spin on he was thrilled to hear it was a 500X. The broad appeal of this 500X couldn’t be any more real.