2019 Honda CB500X First Ride Review

Honda’s CB500X commuter goes full ADV, well almost.

"Jump it!" our photographer prompted, as I stood on the footpegs and twisted this Honda CB500X's throttle. The 19-inch front wheel climbed over the rocks on the short, albeit technical path of our test ride. I popped up and over a small boulder that was providing a launch ramp for the bunny hops. I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting Honda to take us on an off-road adventure, but by the end of the day, the CB500X left me pleasantly surprised.

Honda's CB500X started life in 2013 as a commuter bike. At its most daring, it might have been considered a light sport-touring model, stock off the dealer floor. Honda marketed the small midsize bike to new riders, customers looking to step up from a 300, or someone looking for a second bike. But customers had other plans for the small-displacement oddball. Many riders installed the Adventure Kit offered by Rally-Raid Products, which essentially turned their mild-mannered commuter bike into a lightweight adventure warrior. Upgraded suspension, spoked wheels, engine guards, and bark busters were just a few of the accessories riders were kitting their first-gen CB500X bikes to be ready for just about anything. Honda took note, which brings us to today.

2019 Honda CB500X on road.
The turn-in was surprisingly quick, and steering was light and easy, thanks to increased rake and steering angle.Drew Ruiz

Let's be clear: The 2019 Honda CB500X is not exactly a smaller version of an Africa Twin. But the changes Honda has made to this new generation of the X evokes more adventure, and accommodates a reasonable amount more too. Updates to the ergonomics, fuel capacity, suspension, ground clearance, and transmission show the 500X embracing more ADV ethos, without sacrificing the daily commuter. To prove it, Honda took us on a ride through the hills east of San Diego, on pavement and off, to give us a taste of the CB500X's more adventurous side.

2019 Honda CB500X 471cc engine.
At 471cc, the CB500X’s engine has been tuned to produce 4 percent more torque than its predecessor.Drew Ruiz

We set out from our starting point in Alpine, and immediately hit the freeway. Rolling onto the on-ramp, the CB500X’s easy throttle response delivered power in a predictable linear fashion. Honda claims the torque and power output has been increased by 4 percent. Twisting the right grip was not a wait-and-see exercise in getting up to speed, but the 500X didn’t snap my head back either; just nice, easy, predictable power. Although an added rubber mount to the handlebars had the Honda folks claiming reduced vibrations, the 471cc engine still buzzed a fair amount when we got up to freeway speeds. I felt it less in the grips and more in the footpegs, which took a little getting used to, before I stopped thinking about it. The seat transferred a bit of that engine buzz too, though it was far less pronounced and not as much of an annoyance.

2019 Honda CB500X Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross tire.
Travel has been increased on both front and rear suspension components, and helped raise the ground clearance to more than 7 inches high. Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross tires stepped in as better off-road shoes for our truck trail adventures.Drew Ruiz

Speaking of which, that new seat is nearly a full inch higher than the previous generations’ saddle. And since we were on bikes outfitted with Bridgestone Battlax tires (not the stock Dunlop Trailmax), it’s possible the CB500X’s seat, as we tested it, was even a bit higher. Either way, despite Honda claiming the seat’s narrow profile over the footpegs, my 30-inch long legs could not reach comfortably on either side of the bike to firmly plant my feet on the ground at a standstill. On level pavement, this isn’t as much of an issue, as I can deal with tip-toe balancing or a one foot takeoff. It was more noticeable when the time came to get our tires dirty, and we were asked to do U-turns on crested gravel roads made of decomposed granite. I often dismounted the bike so I could walk it backward into or out of a parking space, or while making a U-turn. It’s not completely unexpected that an ADV bike would be tall. But when smaller-displacement bikes are brought to market, it gives false hopes to those of us who are vertically challenged (and I’m not even the shortest rider out there!).

2019 Honda CB500X 4.6-gallon fuel tank.
The 4.6-gallon fuel tank was redesigned to have wider shoulders for better wind protection.Drew Ruiz

Aside from the seat height, once I was on the bike and rolling, the rider triangle is really well suited for someone of my height. The new CB’s handlebars are taller and closer to the rider than the previous gen bike. Considering I’m 5-foot-5, with a 30-inch inseam, my torso is a little shorter, so I appreciate how comfortable the reach is from the upright seating position. As we cruised along at freeway speeds, the new, taller windscreen added to the comfortable ride. The 500X windscreen can be mounted in two positions, and we tested the bikes out in the taller position. The windscreen did a great job preventing turbulence around my helmet and shoulders.

2019 Honda CB500X on dirt road.
Soft-roading is easy on the new CB500X; anything more serious than small boulders and you should consider upgrading the suspension first.Drew Ruiz

As we made our way through the twisty paved roads of the foothills, then onto a little dirt, the CB500X’s updated six-speed transmission made shifting a breeze. Clutch pull was light, which helped prevent hand fatigue with the frequent shifting through second and third gear. The new 500X has a new dual ramp assist/slipper clutch, borrowing engineering from its big brother, the CBR1000RR. One ramp uses the engine rpm to assist with clutch engagement when accelerating from a stop, while the other ramp allows slippage during deceleration to prevent rear wheel lockup from engine-braking. This extra engineering did such a good job smoothing out transitions during up- and downshifting, that I barely noticed it; it never called attention to itself.

2019 Honda CB500X exhaust.
A new exhaust provides better sound and improved low- and midrange power.Drew Ruiz

As we carved our way through the hills, there were plenty of times to test the brakes. Coming in hot on more than one decreasing radius corner, the single two-piston caliper gripping the 320mm floating front disc slowed the 500X down with a reasonable sense of grip. Honda is offering two versions of the CB500X: an ABS model and a non-ABS model. I was aboard one equipped with ABS, and the system kicked in a couple of times as I was scrubbing speed while we were making our way along the dirt roads. One thing to note about the ABS is that the system stays on all the time; it cannot be deactivated. The ABS model cost an extra $300 over the standard model, which seems a worthwhile investment.

2019 Honda CB500X windscreen.
The windscreen can be set to two positions. We tested it in the high position, which is taller than the previous gen, and it provided great wind protection even at freeway speeds.Drew Ruiz

As for the new CB’s road manners, there were plenty of times I felt the suspension was a bit springy. Sharp bumps transferred through the seat, and larger bumps or dips made the bike feel spongy. The front end dives on hard braking, but the soft suspension allowed the bike to go over small boulders or through unavoidable potholes without punishing my hands or arms. It’s no 450L, but Honda claims the CB500X’s 41mm fork has an increased stroke by 10mm. The shock has been revised too, improving the travel by 16mm. Both front and rear suspension allows for preload adjustment, and the improved suspension adds to the new CB’s higher ground clearance, reaching just over 7 inches. On our little boulder hopping exercise, that extra 10mm of clearance was appreciated; no underbellies were harmed during our little escapade.

2019 Honda CB500X on dirt road.
The front end has been redesigned, and the CB500X features all LED lights.Drew Ruiz

As much as Honda wanted us to see the off-road capability of the new CB500X, it was surprising to see the bike rolling on seven-spoke forged wheels. These are not your typical wire-spoked wheels that are better equipped to handle true off-roading, but Honda did increase the front wheel to a larger 19-inch diameter, which proved useful on our little rocky side road. Despite the lack of wire spokes, Honda improved our off-road traction by swapping out the stock Dunlop Trailmax tread for knobbier Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross tires. The Dunlops are more geared for street, so the Bridgestones gave us better grip for the truck trails and mild scrambling.

After we survived our little off-road excursion, we started making our way back to the hotel and found some particularly tight twisties. Pushing the handlebars as I flicked the bike back and forth through the hills revealed the CB500X’s surprisingly nimble handling. Not only is the bike a relatively lightweight 434 pounds (claimed, even with 4.6 gallons of fuel), but Honda increased the rake by one degree and the steering angle by three degrees. This means the commuter turned adventure bike’s turn-in was quicker than expected.

2019 Honda CB500X on side of road.
At 31.7 inches, the seat height is still on the tall side, though that’s to be expected of most ADVs.Drew Ruiz

Overall, Honda’s CB500X proved to be a reasonable adventure machine, while keeping a mild personality of the small-displacement engine. Honda offers the CB500X and CB500X ABS in one color: Grand Prix Red. The standard model is available for $6,699, while the ABS model is $6,999. Honda offers a two-year warranty, and the bikes are available in dealerships now. There is a slough of accessories offered from Honda from heated grips to tank pads, hand guards, pannier set, light bar, wind deflectors, and other bits to really kit the bike out for adventure. The whole package of Honda’s available accessories for the 500X add up to an additional $1,622.55, which still brings this lightweight ADV bike under $9,000. That’s a great bargain for a bike that is ready to take on the local truck trails and do a little soft-roading.

Gear Box

2019 Honda CB500X in grassy field.
Honda’s CB500X makes a comeback to prove its ADV chops.Drew Ruiz
2019 Honda CB500X on side of road.
A whole package of accessories are available for the CB500X. From heated grips to panniers, to a centerstand, and more, you can buy each item separately, or together as a package. Even with all the accessory options, the CB500X is still under $9K.Drew Ruiz

2019 Honda CB500X Specifications

PRICE $6,699 / $6,999 ABS
ENGINE 471cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled parallel twin, 8 valves
BORE x STROKE 67.0mm x 66.8mm
FUEL DELIVERY Fuel injection
CLUTCH Wet multi-plate assist/slipper clutch; cable actuation
FRAME Aluminum twin-spar
FRONT SUSPENSION 41mm fork adjustable for spring preload; 5.9-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Pro-Link single shock adjustable for spring preload; 5.9-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Radial-mount 2-piston caliper, 320mm disc
REAR BRAKE 1-piston caliper, 240mm disc
WHEELS, FRONT/REAR Cast aluminum; 19 x 2.5-in. / 17 x 4.5-in.
TIRES, FRONT/REAR Dunlop Trailmax; 110/80-19 / 160/60-17
RAKE/TRAIL 27.5°/4.3 in.
WHEELBASE 56.9 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.7 in.
CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 430 lb. / 434 lb. ABS
CONTACT powersports.honda.com