Honda aren’t daft when it comes to making the best of the current market and learner laws, they also like to get the most for their Yen, so building three bikes out of one was always going to be a winner. Enter the final part of the new CB500 trio.
The other two models were introduced earlier this year, there’s the sporty CBR500R and the naked CB500F, now here comes the adventure style CB500X. Three well built, great looking bikes all for just less than £5000, an absolute bargain.
The CB500X is the perfect machine to tempt novice riders on to two wheels, its cheap enough (whilst still retaining the Honda build quality and name), has enough power to take full advantage of the A2 licence regulations and looks like a proper adventure bike, albeit slightly smaller and much less intimidating to ride. It’s low, light and nimble so should appeal to anybody new to riding, but will also suit riders looking to downsize, or returning riders who want something capable for not a lot of money, and let’s face it, less thsn £5000 isn’t a huge lump sum to find for a brand new Honda, albeit one built in Thailand.
Having recently spent a couple of days touring Ireland on the Honda DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) bikes it came as a shock to suddenly have to change gears manually again, not to worry I was likely to get plenty of practice on our 120km long road test around the tight and nadgery mountainous roads high above Barcelona.
Up close the new bike was every bit as good to look at as it is in the photos, Honda haven’t skimped on build quality to keep costs down. The bike is well finished, stylish, modern and comes with ABS as standard, Hondas ABS system is second to none and not intrusive in the slightest. Swing a leg over the bike and at 5’10” I was easily able to place both feet to the floor. The riding position still retains that adventure bike style and is both natural and comfortable. Turn the key, prod the starter and the parallel twin cylinder engine bursts into life and sounds quite tasty with a blip of the throttle. The foot pegs are set perfectly and the clutch is relatively light, snick it effortlessly into first and you’re away. The upright riding position and bar width gives you a good view and a feeling of control, just as well really with a posse of Italian journalists swarming all around me. These lads are a bit more unpredictable than the Brits so you need to keep your wits about you, they’ll pass as close as possible, go around the outside mid corner if you’re slower than they want to be and they’ll drag a knee whilst they’re at it…in jeans.
The CB500X may not be large in capacity but it has a fairly strong engine with a linear power delivery so it pulls well, although you do need to be in the right gear as you exit slower corners or it will bog slightly, something that isn’t a problem but is just a bit more noticeable having just spent over 400 miles on the more powerful DCT bikes. I did notice a bit of snatchiness as well occasionally but nothing to worry about and it’s only as you open the throttle from slow speeds. Keep it in the right gear and the bike powers along quite nicely, hit 6,000rpm and you’re rewarded with a nice induction roar and it’ll quickly get up to the redline. Get your head down and you’ll see 107mph on the clock so it’s no slow coach.
The brakes are superb, loads of feel, loads of bite and they also have the Honda ABS system to back them up, I never felt it cut in during my time on board but the Honda system is so refined that it’s hard to notice it anyway, it’s just there to help if and when needed without getting in the way of the riders enjoyment. The bikes come fitted with Pirelli Scorpions as standard and on the dry roads we experienced they stuck like glue, no cause for complaint there. The previous days had been blessed with torrential rain and the testers heaped praise on the tyres then as well, with these kind of roads a bad set of tyres would be found out quite quickly in the wet. Suspension is another area worth complimenting, it’s got a bit more travel then the rest of the CB family, as you’d expect from an adventure style bike but it felt very good around the mountain roads.
MPG is quite a big selling point these days and during our ride the on board computer was reading at 5.2 litres per 100km, which works out a little over 47mpg. This was whilst riding hard though, spending most of the time in third and fourth gear because of the tight roads so I’d expect to improve on that significantly if I was riding to save cash, rather than enjoy myself! Honda claim 76.3 on the WMTC.
I love the whole Honda concept of building one bike with three very different personalities, especially when it can be done at such a reasonable price. It makes much more commercial sense and gives A2 class riders (or any full licence holder) a choice of similar machines to choose from, all from a name they can trust. As far as I’m concerned this, or at least the CB500 family, will become THE bike of 2013. The other two models are already selling like hot cakes and there’s no reason why this one won’t fly out of the dealers showooms just as quickly. Head down to your local Honda dealership today, get yourself on a bike for summer. You won’t regret it I promise you.
Photos courtesey of Zep Guti