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Honda CB500X 2016 Review

By Pocket Pete

Review Date August 2016

Pocket Pete's CB500X in red with panniers and top box

The bike has covered 1000 miles and has performed really well so far. It starts first time and obviously is more powerful than the Inazuma. The first few days the power difference even though I was running it in was pretty staggering. I also seemed to always be in the wrong gear for some reason. I think the engine is very quiet and the steering so light that I kept leaving it in a much higher gear than needed probably due to the fact it pulled very well in most gears.

The bike has to be run in at a maximum of 5000 revs. This equates to almost exactly 70mph in top gear. I had been told various things by various people. Some said never go over 5000 revs some said vary the speed and be gentle on the gears. Some said take it over 5000 but really vary the speed from one minute to the next dropping from 70mph to 55mph then speeding up slowly. God it was really confusing I simply stuck to gentle riding, even gently it is much faster than my old bike. I immediately had several runs out on the bike with and without Paula on the back. The bike seems to handle her 8 stone weight without too much hassle. The suspension seemed OK. Lots of dive at the front under braking. Handling was reasonable, slightly willowy on rough road surfaces. Ran slightly wide on bends at low speeds.

I purchased the Honda Adventure kit which is centre stand, top box and panniers. I think it should be an offence to sell a bike without a centre stand its an essential bit of kit in my opinion. My bike as you can see is a lovely bright red. The finish of the paintwork and the fittings are all great much better quality than I expected, the bike cost me £5800 including the kit and following Ren's advice I blagged a free first service. I think the bike looks quite big and when parked next to larger engine bikes it still attracts admirers who are not sure what it is.  With the panniers and top box it really looks the long distance tourer that it pretends to be.

The Panniers are sturdy. Made by Honda and I even managed to get the pannier side panels changed from red to black. These just stick on the outside but the red ones made the bike look a little too red and made it look a little cheap. I think white ones would have been best but he had none in stock so black it was. I don't like the fact that I have to have a different key for the Panniers and top box as this bike has the new 'Wave' key installed. Never mind I was lucky to get the ABS model with panniers and centre stand for this price.

After a week I was a little underwhelmed with the bike. I loved its look and its lines but I felt a bit indifferent to it. I knew something was wrong but I was not quite sure what it was. I then realised the wind from the screen was hitting me straight in the chin causing a vibration in my head. I then raised the screen to its higher position and found the wind then hit me in the eyes. This also has the knock on effect that any speed over 35mph my visor would slam down. On my Suzuki this did not occur until 65mph. Once the visor slammed down it then started an even worse vibration and it would sometimes flip up again if I moved my head in the air blast. God I was pretty pissed off with both the helmet and the screen.

After a search on the internet I saw a mod to the visor which involved fixing rubber o ring washers to each side of the ratchet mechanism. I tried this and it made little difference. I looked again at the visor and realised the washers needed to be much thicker maybe 3-4mm to push against the rachet to ensure there would be resistance on the ratchet. Ah brainwave don't bother with the O rings I cut out some rubber matting I found into a circle the size of a 5p piece which was 3 mm thick and glued it to the centre pivot point then pushed the visor back on and now loads of resistance and the visor now stays in place at any speed and doesn't vibrate either. God this £500 helmet is really bad just how many mods will I have to do to it.

Took the bike out again and felt much happier. Still something not right but I can't put my finger on it. Perhaps it will just take time.
A week later I had done 400 miles on the Honda and booked it in for its first service. Horror I could not get it in the garage until the 20th of August some 20 days away. By that stage I expected to have completed over 1000 miles. 
After speaking to the garage they stated I should not use the bike after 800 miles as the running in oil degrades and could cause problems. He told me to change the oil as soon as possible. Not to bother with the filter as they would do that. He gave me 2.7 litres of oil and a sump washer told me how to change the oil. i waited till 600 miles and changed the oil for some nice fresh Castrol.

It was fairly simple to do and the only problem I had was the complete lack of a 12 mm spanner or socket set. Quick trip to Halfords and small socket set purchased. Oil change took me about 30 minutes to do and wasn't too stressful. As soon as I drove the bike the gearbox was smoother and the engine felt nicer.

Whilst I changed the oil to I had a look at the rear suspension adjuster and found the correct tool and moved it up 2 marks to number 5. The next day I went to work and could not believe how nice the bike handled what a difference how had I put up with the handling for so long it now held steady in bends didn't dive as much when braking and didn't wallow. Wow I then experimented with various set-ups and adjusted the front preload. After much messing about I established for my weight there were 3 settings. 

Solo = position 5 rear : 2 circles showing at the front
pillion = position 5 rear : 1.5 circles at the front
pillion and luggage loaded = 6 rear : 1 circles at the front.

Obviously this suits me but now my bike actually handles really well its completely transformed the bike I love it now. As the filter has not been changed I'm still reluctant to hammer the bike but I've had it up to a steady 80. Even the screen seems better now maybe less sag has adjusted the way the air hits me it now seems to hit the top of my helmet. I can throw the bike around with more confidence and it holds its line very well now it's as described in the reviews neutral positive handling ideal for a learner. I really look forward to riding it now.

The centre display is a little disappointing even on its maximum brightness I struggle to see it sometimes but its an awkward colour for my eyes (red green colour blind)  would have been better in blue. It has all features you need and I have been getting 77mpg which is decent especially as I have been 2 up several times.

The seat is OK. Its firm and big but really it is not as good as the Suzuki Inazuma seat. that was soft but firm and I could sit on it for 4 hours without a sore bum. The Honda gets me at the 2 hours mark. But the more upright position puts the strain on different parts of the bottom maybe I will get used to it after time. The mirrors are also not bad I was spoiled by the brilliant extended mirrors on the Suzuki. But now I have got them adjusted correctly the Honda's are pretty good not as big but clear and vibration free.

The engine really is smooth, now very responsive and not underpowered I think the reviews keep comparing this bike to Vstrom and other 750's but it is in a class of its own really as the others aren't 471cc. Its a different quirky bike it has its own feel and style the exhaust is rather dull sounding no real noise I suppose that's why people put on loud after market things but I like it quiet, it means I can listen to the radio better at 70mph. It feels much faster than it should be yet also very light. I feel I could get to speed as quick as I wanted and keep up with bigger bikes on a run yet its frugal and service intervals are pretty big at 8k.

For a budget bike it far exceeds its price and in many ways exceeds its design. I don't think Honda really designed it to be so good I think it was an accident that it all works so well they designed a cheap average bike and ended up with a cheap great bike.

The main Led headlight is also fantastic the beam is really white. Dazzling clear white light. It works well at night but it is great during the day. Simply run between slow moving cars on the motorway and they obviously get dazzled and move over quite quickly and give you plenty of room not quite the parting of the red sea but better than my Suzuki. 

I think I made a good choice with the CB500X perhaps not a sports bike but its fun and brings a smile to my face every-time I get it out of the garage. I wish it was faster had better suspension and better handling more cylinders etc etc but its not like that its a Honda CB500X not a touring BMW or a Superbike or even a 600cc learner street bike. Its what it is, a very unique rather strange underrated bike. Perhaps Honda's best kept secret. You see all the reviews are mainly done by sports bike riders, they simply just cant imagine why anyone would want this little Honda. But I fully understand now. Its taken a few weeks to get under my skin but now I finally get it I'm an X convert.

Honda are clearly committed to the range and if the keep improving bike every couple of years as they have done already it should remain popular for years.

I have been looking at after market add ons for the bike I think i will get the rear hugger to protect that exposed spring. The hand guards and possibly some engine bars/mushrooms just in case. Maybe even some Oxford heated grips. 

 

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Reader's Comments

Daf said :-
Thanks for the review Pete, I've had my eyes on these since they came out as they'd be a perfect fit for the amount of commuting I do! I opted for the Inazuma though as one came up at the right time at the right price. But I'm definitely looking at one of these as its replacement in a couple of years! :)
09/08/2016 10:33:43 UTC
Pocketpete said :-
It's a definite direct upgrade path to the Inazuma. They are different but they both have a defined character. If you like the suzuki you will almost certainly like the Honda.

Had a go on a triumph 675 Street triple this week loved the power handled well but had no soul or character. Even my old honda c90 had character.

It's that feel that makes the a bike come alive. I get the cb500x out of the garage and I just want to go out for a spin in the hills. If I could just sort the screen out...
09/08/2016 10:53:41 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
After 600 miles this weekend going to Brighton and back I must say the screen has frustrated me too. It rattles my helmet. Not SO BAD that I can't see but just enough to becoming annoying after 4 hours. I'm going to take the darn thing off. I'm used to no screen so the wind blast isn't an issue. I'll experiment a little and see what works best for myself.
10/08/2016 10:42:27 UTC
Pocketpete said :-
On the cb500x forum there are hundreds of similar posts.

I can put up with the screen it really only becomes a problem at 65mph. Then their is that vibration and noise. It does slowly get you down but I have put the screen on both settings. Hi and low they both annoy me. It's either blast or vibration. I am tempted to buy a kit to adjust it upwards but just think it won't make much difference. It just needs a bigger better screen.

10/08/2016 17:56:31 UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Since adjusting the suspension at front and rear I have put the screen on its lower setting. The wind now hits the vent on the top of my helmet which gives a nice breeze.

Not sure why adjusting the rear has altered the airflow by so much. But I'm a happy chap now the bikes so much better in every way. The annoying vibration is gone. I think the angle of the front is lower causing the wind to go upwards slightly more. The roar of the wind is now much reduced. I can hear my intercom at 75 which is also the same speed where my visor starts to drop.
21/08/2016 21:13:25 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I've solved my screen issues. I've removed the screen! It's a whole lot better for me. I've always owned unfaired bikes or at least ones with small fairings so I'm used to the wind blast and actually find it to be "part of the experience". I appreciate the protection it offers but it's not enough to compensate for the turbulence. I plan to engineer (ok bodge) a smaller screen that should place the wind onto my shoulders.

I'll mess around with bits of plastic and report back my results...
22/08/2016 08:32:03 UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Seems a common solution to remove it fully. Certainly my inzuma seemed happy without a screen at 75 was much better than the Honda for wind noise. Somehow though changing the rear up to setting 5 and 6 must drop the from end by a few mm as the screen is quite effective for me now. I moved it up today to the top setting i left the rear on position 6. Was horrible on the motorway. I stopped and moved it back to the lower position and all is great.

In the top position wind swirls around the top of the screen but also seems to come in from the sides it's odd as it seems worse at slower speeds. Put the rear back on position 3 and its horrible again.

I'm going to try it off on the way home and see how it is knaked.

It's the only thing that let's the bike down.
22/08/2016 12:24:36 UTC
Brian Connors said :-
After months of trying various screens on my cb500f I have finally cracked it. Without a screen or with any small screen the wind hit the base of the helmet and was very noisy. Now I have a mra vario fitted the wind hits above the visor and is totally quiet with my Shoie NXR. A persons height makes a big difference, I am 5' 9". Happy at last and love my Honda,best bike I've had for years.
19/10/2016 07:59:56 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I had an MRA Vario on my Triumph Tiger and liked it a lot, especially after I made a deeper aerofoil for it.

But I know other people didn't get on with them. Screens do seem to be a very personal thing. I'm 6ft 2 but with a long back so need the extra height.
19/10/2016 13:33:04 UTC
Brian said :-
Mra vario on honda cb500f. Photo attached

Mra screen
19/10/2016 15:11:05 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Well after a couple of thousand miles without any screen on my 500 I think I'm happy with it the way it is!
21/10/2016 08:12:44 UTC
 

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