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Honda CMX500 First Look

Look Date 22 July 2017

By Ren Withnell

I have a confession. I like cruiser style motorcycles. Yes yes yes they're ridiculous and they're silly and they'd make me look like I'm trying way way way too hard to be "bad ass" but I still like 'em. You see I started riding in '89 at the very end of the era of the old skool bikers who'd seen "Easy Rider" and wanted to own a Harley and be really bad ass.

A very trick, shiny, specially painted and incredibly highly finished custom cruiser motorcycle
Totally Cheesy Rider maaaaan, bad ass.

I've since seen Easy Rider for myself and what a dire film it is! I guess you had to be there and it was probably at the time a wild, zany and refreshingly exciting way to think about motorcycling and bikers. My 65 year old mate tells me that after watching the movie he and his mates all went straight home to start fitting peanut tanks and apehangers on their Norumphs and Tritons. 

After I had my crash in 2002 I couldn't bend my left knee much so I purchased a second hand Honda CMX250 Rebel. The cruiser seating position, in particular the slightly forward footrests, meant I didn't need to bend my knees much and I could ride the bike. And what a bike! Comfortable, capable, stylish (to me) and economical. (CMX 250 Rebel Review)

The original CMX250 Honda Rebel from back in the day
Much maligned and misunderstood, this was a blooming fabulous bike.

Now some 15 years after my crash Honda has finally resurrected the CMX range. Unlike the Fury and some of the Shadows Honda haven't gone all out full on bad-to-the-bone Harley clone on us. This time they've gone all Rebel on us. Eh? The original Rebel was about as rebellious as a conservative mother's knitting circle with its polite little motor that sounded like a sewing machine. The new models won't offend much either, about the same as one of the knitting ladies wearing jeans rather than a pleated skirt.

The CMX 500 in a shop
It's all pretty standard cruiser fare and not particularly rebellious.

The 500cc version's engine is straight out of the CB500X, or CB500F or even the CBR500. It's been detuned in the computer mapping to produce 45bhp rather than 47bhp, shocking huh? This allows peak torque to be moved lower a little, that's all. Don't worry - it will easily break every speed limit in the UK (and most other countries) so I can't imagine why you'd want any more.

What do I like?

Firstly the 500 shares its engine with other established models. Although I can't see it listed yet on Honda UK's website there appears to be a 300 model that uses the CBR300 motor and shares many components with the 500 such as the frame, wheels and forks. All this sharing might suggest to some "compromise" but to me is says parts, spares, aftermarket kit and servicing should all be available in abundance. I've owned relatively rare models in the past (NT 400 Bros for example) and finding parts was a blooming nightmare.

Next there's the motor. I currently own a CB500X and I know the engine is a good 'un. A nice spread of usable power without any alarms or surprises and yet enough go to put a smile on my face. Combine that with 80mpg and an 8,000 mile service interval and we're good to go. I hope...just hope...that getting to the motor for servicing is a little easier on the Rebel than it is on my X but still.

The CMX 500 engine is the same as the CB500X, CB500F and CBR500
Yip, Honda's making the most of their 500 engine, it's a good 'un.

The styling is of course a matter of taste. I like the simple clean lines, the minimalist clocks and lights, the sloping tank and the big fat tyres. You either get it or you don't and I do. 

Sitting on the bike as you'd expect everything comes to hand easily and sensibly. There's no stretch to the bars, the pegs are not way forward and I'm not left looking like I'm on a recliner while reaching for the sky. It is an old school riding position but it's not going to make you look silly.

There's little touches like the switchgear being "darker" than normal which will make you feel mean and moody (or just ask "why?"). The round clock is in fact a case for a rectangular LCD display. It tells you what you need to know but lacks any character. Perhaps that's the point? The frame looks industrial, I particularly like the swingarm's tubular construction and the natty chain adjusters are a work of art.

The chain adjusters on a tubular swingarm, neat tidy and effective
Just how well executed are these?

Oh - the keys go in the side of the bike just behind the headstock and there's a really old school steering lock too. Sweet.

The lock on the side of the bike and the steering lock on the fork yokes
I think I must be old. Niiiiice.

What I don't like? 

There's something - I have yet to work out what it is - just in front of the rear wheel. At first I thought it was the ABS module but I'm uncertain. I suspect it may be a fuel pump but please don't quote me on that. Whatever it is it is going to get covered in crud and thoroughly soaked so I hope it is well and truly weatherproof.

Under the swingarm is a part, round in shape with pipes coming out of it
What the hell is this and what is it doing under here?

The rear pillion seat comes as a rectangular pad which sits on the rear mudguard. Your riding buddy ain't gonna be too pleased if you're planning a world tour. Either take it off and go solo in style or your pilly will truly understand what bad-ass really means. The rider's seat is lovely.

Speaking of big trips if you're going to take luggage you're going to have to do some engineering or wait for the luggage companies to come up with some products. In standard trim saddle bags and duffle bags are a non starter. I am absolutely certain this can be remedied but off the shelf this bike is for looking good on not loading up. With an 11 litre tank looking good will also involve stopping at the petrol station more often too.

The rear end of the CMX is just a mudguard and seat, no rack no hooks or luggage space
Needs a big ole rack and a proper seat.


The CMX500 is being sold on it's easy to ride, friendly nature with good looks and a low seat height. In UK marketing terms that translates to "it's for girls who've just passed their test." ARGH!!! Sharon would not look at a bike like this because she hates cruiser style motorcycles. Just as many women want sports bikes, adventure bikes or muscle bikes as men so stop with the bullcrap. 

What I see is a stylish bike with a great engine. I hope to test ride it soon, the reports I've read so far suggest it's a hoot to ride. I doubt it'll be a big seller in the capacity obsessed UK market where an 883 is considered a small bike for those new to bad-ass motorcycling, I'm just glad the Rebel is back and I'm glad Honda at least have taken it seriously.

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Reader's Comments

pocketpete said :-
Yep your old.

Looks pretty ugly to me. I agree the engine is totally great but the rest of it is simply odd looking. I mean a big cruiser for the open american roads is one thing but you can hardly cruise on the congested crap roads around the UK.

29/7/2017 9:57:03 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
OLD! How very dare you.

It's a matter of taste PocketPete. I knew, I just knew I shouldn't admit to liking it.
29/7/2017 10:50:07 AM UTC
Borsuk said :-
PocketPete. I reckon he's ancient myself.
Must admit it is not floating my boat. The CB1100EX, that has my boat fully afloat and heading for a dealer.
No offence Ren. :-)
29/7/2017 12:53:53 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You both know that physically I'm not as old as either of you two reprobates. But I did start riding back in't day when bikers had beards and wore "cut offs". So did the women (beards too). When I was 19 all I wanted was a Harley, a beard and tattoos. I have failed on all counts.

Now shut up and let me pretend that I could be a real roughty toughty biker and go round scaring people and have rough but somehow sexy women throwing themselves at my manliness. Just let me do this before Sharon turns up and starts bossing me around, demanding to be fed and to check her bike over.
29/7/2017 7:37:51 PM UTC
pocketpete said :-
Im only jealous as youve got a nice pony tail. Wish I had hair. Im sure the world and the cruiser bike would look so much better.
29/7/2017 11:46:15 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Ha! Yeah you're all just jealous cos I still got hair.
30/7/2017 6:07:50 AM UTC
Liam said :-
Honda are certainly making good use of just a few engines.

So the CRF250 L/M/Rally, CBR250/300 and possible Rebel 300 with the same engine.

CBR500, CB500X, CB500S, Rebel 500.

NC750X, NC750S, NC750 integra, X-adv 750, NM4 Vultus.

Between the CB and CBR range I'm sure those engines will have things in common between sizes and across onto different bikes.

The CB1300 was a bored out 80s jelly mold CBR1000 engine still finding its way into a bike.

Certainly resourceful but somewhat lacking variety these days. Where's the mid CC 70hp bikes. The CBR 650 should have been a sharp handling torquey twin, what we got instead was an asthmatic inline 4 lardy lump of bike.

What ever happened to the all encompassing Honda range I lusted over in the 90s whilst dreaming of getting my license?

4/8/2017 3:55:55 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Money Liam, money.

You can take the line that Honda are getting fat and greedy by utilising their engines and limiting their range. OR you can take the line that Honda are in a price war as are all the other big marques. They're battling each other on price and against the burgeoning and improving Chinese and other "cheap labour" marques.

Triumph making models in Thailand (Thai-rumphs), BMW getting their 310s made in India, Harley are hardly all American now and the big four Japanese companies all utilise foreign industry. It's a cut-throat world.

Honda have for years used one engine in various models as do all marques. I do agree though the depth of range is not quite what it used to be. Maybe...just maybe we're thinking like the UK is the only market in the world. Maybe Honda doesn't think razor sharp 650 twins are worth the effort. Be interesting to see how Kwak goes on with the Z650 - which is really a glorified ER-6f - which is also a 650 Versys - which is also the 650 cruiser.......
4/8/2017 4:44:19 PM UTC
Pocketpete said :-
All we need is an honda 640 range of bikes just like the 500 engine but bigger and a bit more power but keeping the cheap happy fun riding of the 500 range.
20/9/2017 11:44:59 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You're determined that Honda should make a 650 version of the 500 motor Pocketpete! Drop 'em a line and get 'em told.
20/9/2017 8:07:37 PM UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Although happy with my 500x it just seems they have a bit of a gap in their range compared to Kawasaki.

A 650 just seems the obvious choice. Not to big not to small just about right. Ie the Suzuki sv650 and Kawasaki 600s.

For my use a 500 is fine but i do miss that little touch more ummph when overtaking.

No point in letting honda know when have they ever listened to a customer lol
21/9/2017 7:26:15 AM UTC
Matt Mac said :-
Dear Editor ,I have a cousin who is a similar size to Sharon ,she rode a Bonnie for years , then changed for a Yamaha Dragster . I know the Dragster is lower how she got onto the Bonnie is anyone's guess but the T120 were lower anyway .l just mentioned this as women are smaller in statue than men and this style may suit .ps would never dare call my cousin a hobbit ! ??
4/10/2017 6:12:07 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Matt Mac. The new 900 Street Twins have quite a low seat height but they're still a leeeeeetle bit too big for Sharon, she is very small.

Yes indeed on average woman are smaller than men and I would expect motorcycle manufacturers to know this. So why are the only motorcycles available to shorter ladies cruisers? Ladies want sports bikes and adventure bikes and every other type as well but unless they're reasonably tall there's no hope. It drives Sharon nuts.

Every time I call Sharon a hobbit she beats me terribly. I take this punishment on behalf of the readers so they can have a laugh.
5/10/2017 11:10:02 AM UTC
Brian said :-
Had my cmx500 since early summer having moved from a CB500F, purely to be able to get on easy and flat foot too , with the onset of the usual arthritis.
It's every bit as good as the CB500F as you might expect using many of the same bits. It's quick off the mark and cruisers at whatever speed you like comfortably right up to the ton. Oh and 84 mpg to boot on an average run round the Highlands.
It revs a bit higher at 60 so I have changed front sprocket which helps a lot. So far maintenance seems easy but could do with a manual before tackling tank removal etc.
Only other mods made are heated grips, decent screen & removed silly rear seat.
The suspension and seat have mellowed over the months , as they were harsh to start.
Can't see why Sharon wouldnt enjoy this one, if you're up north anytime she's welcome to try it.

6/10/2017 1:12:40 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Oh my, that does look rather good in black Brian. Let me clarify, Sharon is doesn't hate cruisers but they're just not her style, her thing. Just the same as you might like rugby but not football. Originally Sharon wanted hyper sports bikes with fairings and head down ass up riding positions. She's mellowed a bit since then.

Whereabouts is "up north" Brian? Even if Sharon doesn't want a ride I'd certainly like a go so I can write a proper review!
6/10/2017 1:26:51 PM UTC
Brian said :-
Up north means just that , Inverness ??
Further to my recent email on NC500 , the Ullapool annual folk music festival has cancelled future dates because of lack of accommodation for those attending ,due to it all being booked up by nc500 folks.
But there again a hotel in Helmsdale is re opening for tourists on the route , so it aint all bad . Swings & ...........
6/10/2017 2:40:15 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Ah *that* Brian! Hello once again. Yes I think the NC500 will very soon become a victim of its own success it seems. Well next time I'm oooop norf I might just take up your offer of a ride. I am hoping to get to Harris/Lewis next year to visit a friend who lives up there now. You'll be "en route".
6/10/2017 3:59:34 PM UTC

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