Let me start with a confession — I am not comfortable riding off-road. As long as there is tarmac, I am happy, but the rest of terra firma doesn’t work well for me. And yet, I really like tall adventure motorcycles. Not being hypocritical, just practical. I find taller motorcycles easier and more fun to ride – you sit upright, you don’t need to worry about the quality of roads, and until recently, almost all of them came with big powerful engines, so a total win-win. The CB500X seems like Honda’s attempt to lure people like me, who want an adventure motorcycle but prefer the tarmac.
Honda has got the looks spot on, for an adventure motorcycle, which is not surprising when there is an Africa Twin in the family. The familial resemblance works well for the CB500X, with the new design, flowing panels and the protruding beak reminding you of the Africa Twin. The long-travel suspension, adjustable screen and chunky tires help confirm its off-road desires. There are LEDs all around and the negative-display LCD screen shows basic information like speed, engine rpm, trip meters, gear position, fuel level and fuel consumption. The toggle buttons look dated, but overall quality of switchgear is up to the mark.
It is not just looks that Honda is banking on, though. The CB500X is powered by a 471cc parallel-twin liquid-cooled engine which puts out 47 bhp and 4.38 kgm of torque. If you are thinking these are not numbers which are impressive considering the engine size, or the competition, you are making the same mistake I did. Yes, on paper these numbers may not be impressive, but I suggest keeping the paper aside and riding the CB500X. The parallel-twin motor constantly surprises you with its pace, linear power delivery and a pleasing exhaust note. Whether at triple-digit speeds on the highway or in stop-and-go traffic, the CB500X is always comfortable. Refinement is at par with what you would expect from Honda and there is a calmness to the motor which is impressive.
The other really impressive bit about the CB500X is the suspension which takes everything thrown at it in its stride. Again, on paper, a conventional 41-mm fork and preload-adjustable monoshock may not seem impressive, but on the road it is definitely impressive. Stopping power on the CB500X comes from a 310-mm disc at the front and a 240-mm disc at the rear. These discs are drilled petal-type units and do their job without any drama. The CB500X gets dual-channel ABS and the emergency stop signal (ESS) feature which activates front and rear hazard lights under sudden braking. I’m happy to report I didn’t get a chance to test these two, but I am sure both features work as advertised.
At 830 mm, the seat may feel higher for the average Indian rider, but the handlebar is higher and closer to the rider, making it easy to ride with an upright position. The clutch is light, thanks to the slipper-assist function, and while the gear shifts are smooth, I did catch neutral more than a couple of times while downshifting to first. The only thing which is bothersome on paper, and in reality, is the price of the CB500X. Honda may have overshot the mark here with Rs 6.87 lakh, ex-showroom, which lands up comparing the CB500X to the Benelli TRK 502 and the versatile Kawasaki Versys 650, not to mention the KTM 390 Adventure which makes about 4 bhp less than the CB500X and costs less than half.
The CB500X, for riders keen to start off-roading, could be all the motorcycle they need. City riding, long-distance touring and even some off-roading – it can handle all these while being surprisingly easy to ride. Yes, it is expensive, but think of it as a multi-dimensional touring bike which can go off-road, and it could change your mind. Remember, don’t compare specs on paper. Go for a ride and give the CB500X a chance.
PHOTOS Aniruddh Kaushal
Displacement: 471.03cc, parallel-twin
Max power: 47 bhp@8500 rpm
Max torque: 4.40 kgm@6500 rpm
Type: Steel tube frame
F/R: 310-mm disc /240-mm disc
F/R: 110/80 R19 / 160/60 R17
L/W/H (mm): 2156/828/1412
Wheelbase: 1443 mm
Ground clearance: 181 mm
Seat height: 830 mm
Kerb weight: 199 kg
Fuel capacity: 17.7 litres
PRICE: Rs 6.87 lakh (ex-showroom)