2019 Honda CB500X First Ride Review

Honda redesigns the CB500X into the light adventure bike riders want.

Honda has reworked the CB500X for 2019, increasing its off-road and adventure capability.Drew Ruiz

The Honda CB500X started life in 2013 as a midsize commuter without a lot of personality, but customers quickly saw the potential for more. Larger wheels with heavier tread, longer-travel suspension, and other modifications were being made to turn the mild-mannered 500 into an approachable light adventure bike. Like it has done before, Honda recognized the way people were using their motorcycle and made some changes to better accommodate its buyers. Available for a starting price of $6,999, this bike offers versatile performance in an affordable package, opening up doors for those looking to get more out of their commuter and enjoy some moderate adventure riding without spending big money.

2019 Honda CB500X
New radiator shroud design on the 2019 Honda CB500X helps direct heat away from the rider’s legs.Drew Ruiz

The front 17-inch wheel has been replaced with larger 19-inch wheel, improving off-road performance and opening up a wider variety of adventure and dual sport tires. Suspension travel has increased 0.4 inch in the front and 1.2 inches in the rear, increasing ground clearance and, again, improving off-road handling. The new windscreen is 20mm taller and adjustable with two height settings to more efficiently buff wind away from the body and head. The seat has been narrowed above the footpegs to make stand-up riding more comfortable and improve the rider’s range of motion while seated. The tapered handlebar eats up some vibration while giving adequate feedback, and a new rubber-mounted handlebar clamp helps to cut back on vibration even further. Many of the first aftermarket modifications being done by customers are now coming equipped on the motorcycle. Honda’s giving adventure riders a head start, while not diminishing the bike’s previous on-road capability.

Riding a trail east of San Diego
Equipped with aftermarket Bridgestone Battlax tires, the CB500X was plenty of fun on the trails east of San Diego.Drew Ruiz

Aesthetically, the CB500X got an adventure-themed makeover as well. The redesign of the fuel tank, headlight, and radiator shroud, on top of all the functional components listed above, gives the bike a much more aggressive and adventurous look and feel. Combined, the taller suspension, front wheel, and new seat result in a seat height change from 31.9 to 32.7 inches, which may deter some shorter riders, and ground clearance also increases from 6.6 inches to 7.1—another dirt-minded alteration

CB500X on the road
Despite the adventure-minded modifications, the CB500X hasn’t lost any of its on-road merits.Drew Ruiz

On our single-day test ride, the CB500X was comfortable on the road, easily pulling up to highway speeds without stressing the 471cc parallel twin at any point. The engine has been refined for a claimed torque of 3–4 percent in the 3,000–7,000 rpm range, but the larger focus is on the power delivery. A new assist and slipper clutch design similar to that used in the CBR1000RR decreases lever pull by a claimed 45 percent and allows better hookup during acceleration and reduced rear wheel hop while downshifting. Even with its claimed curb weight of 434 pounds, the CB500X had the power to spin the tire in second and third gear in the dirt, and had no trouble getting the front tire up over obstacles in first and second gear.

CB500X taller windshield
The new CB500X’s taller windshield and redesigned seat make stand-up riding more comfortable and less fatiguing.Drew Ruiz

Only the ABS-equipped version of the bike was available on the press ride, so as we headed off the pavement and onto some dirt, I anticipated some unwanted interference from the braking system. Speeding into the first turn, I was impressed to find the rear behaving just as I wanted it to, slowing down adequately despite the low-traction situation. Applying front brake in the dirt had the same effect, with strong power and surprisingly decent feel without locking up or washing out that new 19-inch front tire. Buying the non-ABS model for $300 less might seem like an obvious choice for the off-road-inclined rider, but after seeing how the antilock performed, I’d say the ABS model is the smart buy.

471cc parallel twin
A 471cc parallel twin powers the CB500X to its on- and off-road adventures.Drew Ruiz

On the pavement—through highways and twisty roads—suspension was adequate but not impressive, with a bit too much dive on braking and a little too much of a rebound bounce through some of the bumpier turns. Once I hit the dirt, the suspension’s shortcomings became a little more obvious; the 41mm nonadjustable fork and Pro-Link rear shock did soften the blow from larger bumps but still felt a little springy and soft overall. This could be fixed with a number of adjustable damping suspension components already in use by Honda, but suspension parts are expensive and would add cost that would likely take this bike out of the value-for-dollar sweet spot where it now sits.

adventure-ready motorcycle
Honda’s aesthetic makeover with a tall windscreen and new shrouds make for a more adventure-ready motorcycle.Drew Ruiz

Despite all of the off-road-minded modifications, the CB500X remains a comfortable commuter. With a 4.6-gallon gas tank and six-speed transmission, it’s easy to see upwards of 200 miles without stopping. One test rider even claimed to have seen almost 300 miles of highway on a single tank. The taller, adjustable windshield does a surprising amount to cut wind fatigue and accessory luggage options now increase passenger comfort as a backrest, and further extend time on the road.

With a starting MSRP of $6,699, the CB500X just makes sense. It’s a comfortable commuter that’s been brought much closer to the adventure style most riders are after with this bike, while not losing its on-road merits. It’s easy to ride and approachable for new riders while able to be upgraded into a more capable motorcycle that experienced riders can thoroughly enjoy as well.

Long suspension travel and more ground clearance
Longer suspension travel and more ground clearance do add to a taller seat height, but the trade-off is worth it.Drew Ruiz

2019 Honda CB500X ABS Specs

MSRP $6,999
ENGINE 471cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC parallel twin; 8 valves
BORE X STROKE 67.0 x 66.8mm
FUEL SYSTEM PGM-FI fuel injection w/ 34mm throttle bodies
CLUTCH Wet, multiple disc, cable operation
ENGINE MANAGEMENT/IGNITION Full transistorized ignition TCI
FRAME Aluminum twin-spar
FRONT SUSPENSION 41mm telescopic; 5.3-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Pro-Link single shock adjustable for spring preload; 5.9 in. travel
FRONT BRAKE 2-piston caliper, 320mm petal-style disc; ABS
REAR BRAKE 1-piston caliper, 240mm petal-style disc; ABS
WHEELS, FRONT/REAR Cast aluminum; 19 x 2.5-in. / 17 x 4.5-in.
TIRES, FRONT/REAR 110/80-19 / 160/60-17
RAKE/TRAIL 27.5°/4.3 in.
WHEELBASE 56.9 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.7 in.
CONTACT powersports.honda.com