Welcome to the Adventure Motorcycle Traveller Reviews. Here’s a 96,000-mile review of the Honda CB500X by RTW motorcycle rider Luke Phillips.
- Bike: 2014 Rally Raid Honda CB500X
- Purchased for: £3,250
- Miles covered: 96,000
- Years owned: 2017 onwards
Honda CB500X Specs
- Engine: Twin cylinder, liquid-cooled, 471cc, FI
- Power: 46.9 bhp
- Torque: 31.7 ft-lbs
- Wet weight: 195kg
- Seat height: 810mm
- Tank capacity: 17.3 litres
- Tyres: 17 and 17
- Front suspension: Telescopic forks
- Rear suspension: Pro link single shock, pre-load adjustable
Why the Honda CB500X?
Back in 2017 I was busy preparing for my round the world trip. At the time I was commuting to work on a small 1999 Honda CB500. I loved the bike, it was incredibly reliable and would always start with no problems in the cold English winter weather.
My initial research drew me towards the usual choices for a round the world motorcycle. Mid to heavyweight BMW and Suzuki motorcycles were at the forefront of my searches. I even went to view several motorcycles around England. But none of them were the one. For me, reliability was the main issue. I was going alone and for a long time, so I didn’t want to find myself stuck in the middle of nowhere.
I also loved riding my little CB, the only problem with it was the ride height, comfort and of course the fact that it is a road bike. Then I stumbled upon a company called Rally Raid Products UK. They had taken a CB500X and turned it into an off-road adventure machine!
It promised the reliability of the CB500, added comfort with the additional X adventure styling from Honda, and bulletproof, go anywhere off-road capability thanks to the numerous upgrades they offer. I was sold.
Along with the full Rally Raid Level 2 kit, including spoked wheels, Tractive suspension and increased ride height, I have a few other mods on the bike. Givi Engine guards, pannier racks and top rack. Rally Raid sump guard, footpegs and levers. A Beowulf Radiator guard, Barkbuster handguards and finally my trusty Tutoro chain oiler.
In terms of luggage, the first year of my trip was actually a bit of a journey to get to this point, I really ironed out what did and didn’t work, mainly through spectacular trial and error with bags ripping into pieces in the middle of the Gobi Desert.
Right now and for the last 3 years I’ve been pretty well set up with Wolfman Rocky Mountain Saddlebags, Kriega OS6 Crashbar bags, Giantloop Zigzag handlebar bag, Wolfman Blackhawk tank bag and a North Face duffel bag dumped on the top rack. All of these items are bulletproof and spacious.
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The reliability of this bike is absolutely mind-blowing. I’ve covered 96,000 miles through extremely rough terrain and I haven’t had a single mechanical fault on it. In all honesty, I’m not proud of it, but I haven’t been too kind to this bike either in terms of maintenance.
It’s just been a constant warrior, always starting, always running and still sounding like it’s just come out of the factory. The only issues that have popped up in my almost 100,000miles of ownership have been self-inflicted. Firstly, after being submerged in the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, several of the fuses blew which was a 25 pence fix in the next town, and again the Bolivian salt flats have made the electrical wiring a bit temperamental, but some electrical tape has fixed that for the moment.
Regardless of these, the bike only has very few electrical components on it, all of which are not integral to the motorcycle functioning, so it really hasn’t made a difference – even when these fuses have blown. Other than that, damage is purely cosmetic and usually as a result of me doing something ridiculous.
The handbook states oil and oil filter change every 8,000miles, Valve clearances and air filter change every 12,000miles. So on that basis that means I’ve missed the last 7 valve clearance checks. But for a modern bike these are seriously long intervals, making it perfect for long trips. If riding through arduous terrain, high temperatures or mountains, Honda recommend to change oil and oil filter more regularly. I try my best to stick to this advice, but sometimes on the road, it just hasn’t been possible.
Maintenance and parts
I’ve found parts for this bike absolutely everywhere around the world. Fortunately, Honda use universal parts for some consumable parts, and for the others, they just unexplainably appear in every Honda garage in Indonesia, Chile, Costa Rica or anywhere else in the world where I’ve ever looked. That’s a huge selling factor for a round the world bike, which I only found out in hindsight.
Long distance comfort
I do find this bike very comfy to ride long distances. The stock seat resembles a church pew more than an actual seat, so a seat cover is a must. But the extra ride height from the Rally Raid upgrades and the upright riding position are perfect for me.
Good and Bad
Everything! It’s a bulletproof, lightweight adventure bike that can be mended with a hammer and a piece of string, if you are ever unlucky enough to break it. Parts are available everywhere for a pittance and the fuel economy is monstrous, even when filling up on Unleaded 72 Octane poured out of a 2 litre Coke bottle in the middle of a Desert.
The windscreen and the seat. They aren’t terrible, but they are irritating. The stock windscreen is fitted on with rubber grommets and as these wear down, its likely to fly off after a big bang or continuous corrugations, ending up in your lap or on the road. I’m sure you can change these fittings, but it’s something to be aware of. As for the stock seat, it feels like it’s been made of wood, just change it or cover it. Or if you have grown fond of having a numb backside, ride on at your own peril.
This bike is absolutely perfect for a RTW trip. It’s not as popular as some BMWs and not as powerful as a Tenere, but it’s extremely light weight, has remarkable reliability and fantastic off-road performance (thanks to the Rally Raid upgrades). This in my opinion, make it unmatched for an adventure bike. It will quite simply get you anywhere in the world. And more importantly, it’ll get you there comfortably and with a bit more cash left in your wallet. What’s not to love?!
About the author
After serving in the British Army for several years and then studying for a degree in History, I sold all of my possessions in 2017 and set off on my round the world motorcycle journey that summer. Riding my Honda CB through over 50 countries and 6 continents so far, I’m currently riding Africa and hope to spend many more months on the road before finally turning homebound. Just taking life one day at a time and doing my best to keep the journey going.
You can follow my travels on Instagram here: @LukePhill17
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9 thoughts on “Honda CB500X Review”
Hi there Luke,
thanks or this review – this bike (probably a 2019 onwards model for me) is on my rather short list of RTW bikes; for the most part, I am already pretty sold on it (suspension mods etc needed of course). Your review further affirms my thoughts.
But here are some questions that I still have on this bike, for a long overland journey:
– brakes, especially the single front disc – is it good enough as stock, or needs some upgrading
– do you have the ABS on-off switch installed, and is it worth installing
– how easy is it to service (ie oil and filter change, air filter); do you need to remove any of the guards/bash plate to do it
– have you added a fuel filter for areas that have poor quality/”dirty” fuel
– I also use a Tutoro oiler on my current bike (F800GS); what do you use for the lube when the original oil runs out (unless you are able to buy the Tutoro oil as you travel)
I may have other questions, but can’t think of them right now. Appreciate any input you have on the above questions.
Ride safe, happy travels….
Thanks for the message mate.
Glad you liked the review!
The 2019 version is wonderful, Honda have done a great job!
– I’ve found the stock front brakes have been good enough as standard
– I don’t have an ABS Switch, but I would recommend one. To be honest, I don’t clean the bike often, and any amount of sand that gets in there seems to get in the sensor anyway. So the warning light flashes on and the ABS turns off. Then as soon as I rejoin pavement for extended periods I’ll clean it down to get the ABS back on (call it a manual override lol) but an ABS switch would be better.
– services are extremely easy, to change air filter it’s a two minute job. It’s just under the battery. To get to the oil filter and drain plug, you just loosen two bolts on the sump guard and unbolt the centre stand bolt, then the sump guard just angles down and forms a handy slide for your oil to go into a pan. I do carry an oil filter tool under my seat, just because the round oil filter can be a hassle to take off by hand.
– as for fuel filter, I’ve never needed anything. If I get to a particularly cheap country and have frequently filled up with questionable fuel, I’ll go to a Honda garage and ask them to clean the fuel pump. But I’ve only done this twice in four years and it’s only cost me less than £20 each time. I don’t think it was really needed anyway, just saw it as an opportunity to give some care to the bike.
– as for the Tutoro chain oiler, if I run out, I use Hydraulic mineral oil, with a high iso. It’s found everywhere and usually used in tractors. It does fling off a lot more than the Tutoro oil though, so I’d recommend taking a couple of litres of that with you to last as long as possible. I just message them and ask to put it in the thin 250ml bottles. Tutoro are really good though and will send you oil out anywhere you need if you have the time.
Any more questions, please feel free to ask!
thanks for the responses to my questions – very useful info.
Perhaps I can ask a slightly different question on the choice of RTW bike – acknowledging what you have already stated in your review….
Have you every owned / ridden a BMW F800GS; if so, how would you describe it as a potential RTW bike, in particular in comparison to the CBX ( having rented a 2014/15 CBX a couple of years ago in Thailand and ridden around solo for a week, I am aware of some of the more obvious differences – lower weight, lower COG, better fuel economy, even simpler than the GS which is not an overly complicated bike; but then less power and grunt, less suspension travel/ground clearance, less capable offroad in stock form)….
No worries if you have not ridden the 800GS…..just asking coz I own one and want to eventually make as wise a decision as possible between sticking with the GS and improving my skills on this rather tall bike (i’m 57, 61kgs, 174+cm), and switching to something like the CBX.
As the owner of a 2019 CB500X, I really enjoyed your article.
About maintenance: you pointed out that you haven’t checked the valves for quite some time. What about the sparkling plugs? How many times have you replaced them? I know it is not an easy job and might require some special tools. Here in the UK replacing them is almost as expensive as checking the valves.
All the best.
Hey man! So after this article I got a bit of help from Honda and they did a free full service. They checked the spark plugs and valves. Valves needed no adjustment after 100,000 miles and spark plugs were OK too. They were replaced anyway as they went through the effort to take them apart. So yeah in total im on my third set of spark plugs. But all of the times they’ve been replaced, they didn’t really need it. As for maintenance in the UK, it’s a difficult one, but when I return I’ll try and take better care of the bike as it’s getting on a bit now and will aim to do spark plugs and valve check myself. I find the UK is just too expensive for labour costs and this bike is extremely easy to take apart anyway. It does take time to check these things, but it’ll save you £400/£500 and UK garages tend to be so busy anyway you’ll have to leave it with them for a week to complete.
Thank you for taking the time to reply Luke. Appreciated.
How would the cb500x go if you used the standard suspension , as i have ridden one and it doesn’t seem very good suspension modes especially rally raid are very expensive.
Hi Luke, great having met you a few months back (Flying Brick, CT), and now following your travels. Thought I’d drop you a line that our 1st Honda CB500X’s arrived in South Africa just 2 weeks back, and there is a lot of interest in them.
A customer loaned one of our suppliers one, to measure & then manufacture crash bars + pannier racks + bash plate, since the SA Rand is not the strongest, so we make those locally. Our pannier racks are manufactured with a fuel-carrying mount, etc, something we offer as standard accross ALL pannier racks.
Cheers, and travel safe!
Chris & Team
What is ground clearance as set up? How is bike for rolling on throttle to pass a truck on an incline; Is it a given ability or something that needs to be very deliberate?