2013 Honda CB500X Long-Term Update — Month 4

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2013 Honda CB500X

The Good
Pirelli Scorpion Trail tires are an excellent match for the CB500X’s versatility, working equally well on broken surfaces in the city as they do on mountain roads in the rain or even in sub-freezing temperatures. Over 3,000 miles in, they’re about one-third worn and haven’t yet begun to square off.

All day comfortable. I chose the CB500X over the other bikes in our garage for a reason. It might be small, but it’ll cruise all day on the highway without complaints from you or it.

Great brakes. The additional 20mm of fork travel, grippy tires and ABS help here, as does the relatively light (for the ADV class) 430 lbs (wet) weight. Whether you’re trailing into a corner with two fingers or grabbing a handful in panic, the CB500X’s single front disc and sliding caliper deliver outstanding feel and are reassuringly strong.

The 31.9-inch seat height delivers a spacious riding position, but keeps the bike accessible for most riders. Even for us tall guys, it makes getting on and off the bike easy, even while loaded down with luggage.

Handles a passenger surprisingly well. Passengers report good comfort on shorter rides, but wouldn’t want to do an all-day trip on it. Outright handling ability at high lean angles does suffer, but normal riding doesn’t.

The parallel-twin sits at a relatively high 7,000 rpm at an 85 mph cruise, but it’s so smooth those revs don’t lead to vibrations or any other negative effects. Because of that relatively short gearing, it pulls surprisingly hard. No, you’re not going to be overtaking liter bikes, but it’ll haul you and your luggage up The Grapevine as well as anything.

2013 Honda CB500X
The 2013 Honda CB500X’s swingarm, chain and linkage obscure access to the pre-load collar.

The Bad
I still haven’t found the right tool to access the link-type monoshock’s pre-load collar, so it’s stuck on the stock setting. The swingarm, chain and linkage combine to “hide” the collar from access.

Over the life of the bike, our average fuel economy is stuck at just 52 mpg. Doesn’t seem to matter if we’re commuting around town, trashing it in a canyon or cruising on the highway, it always delivers 52 mpg. That’s good, but not as great as we’d expect from such a small motor.

The fuel gauge reads empty long before you reach the tank’s theoretical 230-mile range. We’ve yet to strap on a Jerry can and test it, but none of our fill-ups has totaled more than 3.8 gallons yet.

2013 Honda CB500X
The 2013 Honda CB500X’s clocks are distinguished by an amber cover.

The Price
The CB500X is $500 more than the CB500F, but the same price as the CBR500R. We think that premium over the F is justified by the much more spacious riding position, protective fairing, longer tank and unique forks. The X is our pick of the 500 range.

That price also hugely differentiates the CB500X in the wider market. Comparing the ABS model to the Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS, the Honda is $2,050 cheaper and is our pick for both city and twisty road riding. It’s also 40 lbs lighter with a lower center of gravity, making it much easier to manage.

2013 Honda CB500X
There are plenty of places to tie things down on the 2013 Honda CB500X.

The Verdict
The Honda CB500X is an astoundingly capable motorcycle. Riding it, you don’t think $6,000 and 471cc, you think comfort and feel. That said, you mostly just think about the ride, because the bike gets out of the way, just doing anything you ask of it. Need a commuter that can double as a toy on weekends and handle the occasional road trip? Look no further.

RideApart Rating: 10/10

  • Ayabe

    Not sure if you’re doing it the old fashioned way or not but the MPG reading from the ECU on the 500′s is inaccurate and will report higher than actual usage. That being said, I question some of the owners reporting mid 60′s plus, maybe if they’re 120lbs with full gear. At 180lbs I’ve not gotten more than 56 on my F just putting around – but never less than 48 even when flogging the hell out of it for extended periods.

    The mandatory valve adjustment at 600 miles can be pretty expensive depending on the available dealer options where you live, expect $250-400. That cuts into the economy a little bit and caused some heartburn for the uninformed.

    • Aaron Baumann

      I’m in a similar boat on my CBR250R. Look at fuelly and you’ll see people with bikes in the 80′s. I’m happy to get 65.

      • Yellowjacket

        Glad to hear I’m not the only one. I usually get 60 to 65 regardless of how I ride. When I first got it I was getting around 70 but I was also new to riding and mainly putted around. The motor is really fun to keep wound up.

        • runnermatt

          Me too.

      • Ben W

        One factor: some folks live in areas where they can get fuel without Ethanol. That can make a significant difference.

      • runnermatt

        I average about 67 on my CBR250R, but I have gotten 74 mpg. Low has been 64 mpg. That said I’ve found that at these fuel economy levels even the slightest difference in the amount of fuel you can fit in the tank can throw off the numbers. Lets say you get 145 miles on your tank of fuel. You fill it up and it takes 2.0 gallons, that is 72.5 mpg. But suppose you overfilled the tank the previous time and burned 0.2 more gallons than your current fill up shows. That 0.2 of a gallon will drop you gas mileage to 60.5 mpg. Miles divided by gallons = mpg.

    • Jeremy Alvarado

      i’m averaging about 46 mpg :(

    • Adam

      I am a bit confused by that $1.25 in maintenance comment when he has clearly needed the first service which includes oil & filter…not typically free even if he can DIY the valve clearance.

      • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

        Maybe it already had miles on it and was past the break-in service?

    • runnermatt

      It also depends on how your dealer charges for service, i.e. time spent vs. time alloted for by manual.

      I skipped the 600 mile service on my CBR250R, but had the dealer check the valves at the next service at 8000 miles. The dealer found the valves fine at 8000 and no adjustment was necessary. The 8000 mile service checking the valves with oil and filter and cleaning my chain cost $125.

      I advise people to check how their dealer prices their services or just learn how to perform the maintenance themselves.

      • Ayabe

        That would be ideal but for the first one if you don’t have it done by a dealer it voids the warranty. So there is a chance of a hassle there. Oil changes and chain maintenance can be done by anyone, putting shims in can’t. That’s especially important on a bike geared towards first timers.

        Thus far I think most people have just had an inspection and not needed an adjustment so most likely skirting it is fine. Mine were within spec.

    • Honda Cbr

      I suspect the wind protection (or lack of on your F) makes a difference on fuel economy. On my X, I’ve yet to get less than 65 mpg (US). I do take it pretty easy most of the time, and I weigh-in at 140lbs.

  • brittonx

    I tried to post a link to the tool and the post disappeared. So, the rear preload adjust tool is readily available. Part number for the tool and the recommended extension bar are:Tool: 89202-KY1-700 Bar: 89217-KGH-900

  • Adam

    If the NC700X DCT ABS could be had for $500 more, would you still get the CB500X?

    • Bruce Steever

      Yes. Twice.

      The DCT is great if you need it (injury, handicapped, etc) but that’s about it…

      • Adam

        Interesting. I’m hung up on getting ABS on my next bike but I dont need/want the DCT. Ill probably end up cruising craigslist looking for a CB500x or waiting a year until I can get a good deal on it or a 2014 Versys ABS. Sadly I just cannot get over the looks of the V-strom even if it fits my other criteria.

        • appliance5000

          The honda engine will surprise you – it’s some kind of wonderful.

  • Sentinel

    If only this bike were an 800!

    • Bruce Steever

      Tell Honda!

      If Honda could manage to keep most of the 500′s attributes intact but shove a 750cc powerplant in there…good times…

      • Jase

        What, like the new CB650 bikes from Honda?

        • Bruce Steever

          Well, i haven’t ridden it, so i can’t say for certain, but i’m imagining that the new 650 will be more of a refined roadster in the Bandit mold. Power will be smoother and the bikes weight will damp the agility that makes the 500 so much fun. Still, i do hope the 650s come here, because i loved the Hornet 600.

    • metric_G

      Well, if you are looking for a street oriented 800, get the Yamaha FZ09, or the BMW F800R, if you are looking to go touring/adventuring you can get the BMW F800GS, or the Triumph Tiger 800 or 800XC, there are plenty of 800cc bikes are out there, doing everything better.

      • appliance5000

        Rode a bmw f800st – that engine is a real dog compared to the Honda – faster maybe – but livelier no. Was happy to get off it – and very happy to get back on the Honda.

        The tiger 800 is kind of huge – by that I mean it’s huge. It may be good but it looks like a plumber’s project.

        The fz09 is small – maybe an F upgrade but no abs – it’s 2013 and no abs on a new model – f*ck that.

        If I was to upgrade – ktm990smt (discontinued) – hyperstrada – do re mi – but sweet.

        If the cb650s came here I’d look at those first.

      • Sentinel

        I know, but I’d like to see “Honda” come out with an 800cc version of this bike. But since that’s not happening anytime soon, I am indeed considering the Tiger 800, and I’ll be seeing how the new Suzuki V-Strom 1000 turns out. Right now those two are at the top of my buy list. If the new V-Strom 1000 turns out to be as good as it seems, then I couldn’t really imagine going for the Tiger 800 when the new V-Strom 1000 is listing for only $1,700 more.

        • Piglet2010

          Adding a 3rd cylinder and keeping the same internals would make for a 706cc engine – plenty for 2-up in most cases.

    • Chris Cope

      Go to Canada and get a CBF600SA. It’s got 76 bhp, using a detuned CBR600RR engine. Gets roughly 50-55 mpg and ticks most of the boxes of the 500X (antilock brakes, screen that pushes wind to shoulders of a person who is 6-1, comfortable for passengers, etc.). There is also a 1000 cc version. I have the 600 and I love it.

      • Sentinel

        Those Hondas look nice, I didn’t even know they existed. Two bikes I’m really pissed off at Honda for not bringing to the US are the new VFR800F and the CBR650F.

        • Piglet2010

          Add the CRF250M* to the list.

          *To be replaced by a CRF300M?

    • Afonso Mata

      Erm… NC700X?

  • Marley71

    That rectangular section swingarm should be abolished. I wonder how much they are saving compared to the thoughtfully designed ones you see on KTMs.

    • appliance5000

      Ktms cost a fair bit more (but lovely machines), and while their swing arms look all industrially – the Honda’s actually is. Embrace the extrusion and it will embrace you.

    • BigHank53

      Don’t knock that swingarm until you have it on a scale. Those lovely single-sided things are beautiful, but not very light. I’ll bet the Honda one weighs less than eight pounds.

      • Marley71

        The swingarm on the KTM 390 is an example of what I’m talking about. I doubt the cost or the weight is much higher. That nasty rectangular piece on the honda looks like cheapness personified.

        • BigHank53

          No, the cost for the KTM unit is considerably higher. The whole thing is a casting. Casting a metal part is a well-established technology, but it’s a lot of work to get things just right…and you really don’t want to get a swingarm wrong. The extrusion, while hideous, is stronger than the casting. Weight…I don’t know. KTM has a higher budget, so they can afford to throw out more bad swingarms during manufacturing. Honda has to make sure they work, and that they keep on working during the 80,000 miles that the 500s will see in Europe and Asia. KTM can afford a shorter mean time between failures, because more of their motorcycles are toys.

          I’m not actually disagreeing with you. I hate the nasty mig-welded mild steel frames that are, well, everywhere. But they work really, really well, despite being soft and overweight. Honda could put a sexy swingarm on the CB500, and it would cost a couple hundred bucks more, and while the swingarm would get a couple thousand people to buy, the higher price would send fifty thousand across the street to see what the other dealer had.

  • Piglet2010

    How does one ride in freezing rain – or was the ground still warm enough that the road was wet and not icy?

    In our Upper Midwestern winter freezing rain, you would not be riding a motorcycle without studs, as it gets so slippery that one can barely walk.

    • Hooligan

      Smoothly is the answer to that one.

    • Jason

      He wasn’t riding in freezing rain as he states that the temperature at 5200 feet was 42 degrees and we all know that water freezes as 32 F. I think he means that he was freezing as in he was very cold.

      I grew up in Michigan but currently live in Alabama. I’m amazed at the number of people here that believe bridges can ice over when the temperature is in the 40′s. But since anything colder than 50 degrees is down parka weather; temperatures in the 40′s feel like it is “freezing” to the the locals.

    • Justin McClintock

      If the rain is truly freezing rain everywhere, aka on the streets to, the simple answer is: you don’t. Again, these SoCal boys have a slightly different view of weather than the average midwesterner might. By “freezing” rain he probably simply meant that it was raining and very cold. If it was freezing on the street, we’d have a new 10 step article on what weather to not ride in.

      • Piglet2010

        I have driven in freezing rain on rural freeways in central Illinois (i.e. straight and flat). Went about 20 to 25 mph to keep from going off the road. Also drove on 18-foot wide farm-to-market roads with deep ditches on either side in freezing rain – then I kept speeds to under 10 mph.

        • Justin McClintock

          You are a braver (or quite possibly crazier) man than I!

          • Piglet2010

            Well, hitting something at 10 mph will not even set an airbag off.

            Not that crazy – I would not try to ride on ice without tire studs, except in an empty parking lot or well frozen lake.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      The ground was warm enough that it was just wet and cold.

      And I’ve been around the world a few times, I know what weather is.

    • mjc_iv

      Maybe he meant sleet?

  • David Magallon

    I think I regret not riding one of these during the demo days. Or maybe I should be happy I didn’t, because I don’t see how this could be better than my Weestrom. Good job Honda

  • Webbiker

    I humbly admit being seriously interested in both this and the NCX despite my venomous previous comments.

    But to the point. How is the build quality when looked closely? Rust in unexpected places etc., paint peeling ?

    The NCs apparently suffer from some build quality issues regarding paint peeling and such if the forums are to be believed.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      You’ll find something negative about every single bike out there if you search forums. People with negative experiences are just louder then the people who are satisfied.

      So far, we’ve been pretty tough on this bike. It hasn’t been washed, it hasn’t seen a lick of prevention, it’s been ridden in rain, snow, mud etc and continues to be absolutely faultless.

  • Riedl

    Does anyone else not get why a great low maintenance bike like this has chain drive? My HD has 60,000 miles on it and a piece of gravel has gone completely through the belt at one point (I dug it out the opposite side with a pocket knife). I’ve never touched the belt and don’t ever expect to. I can see the appeal on dirt bikes or race bikes where frequent gear changes are crucial but not on a near entry level bike.

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Chain drive is lighter, cheaper, more efficient and really, seriously, honestly very low maintenance.

      I lube once every 1k miles or so (5 minutes max) and adjust as needed (10 minutes).

      I’d rather put in a few minutes of work every month or so than deal with additional (unsprung!) weight, torque reaction and difficult/expensive repair should something on shaft drive go wrong.

      • Riedl

        I agree if you are comparing to shaft drive. However, on a daily driver type bike I would take belt drive every time. The maintenance may be fairly pain free but over the life of my bike I would have replaced the chain/sprockets at least 4 times, lubed the chain 60 times and adjust at least 12 times. Not to mention getting covered in grease every time I pull the rear for a new tire. All of that versus literally doing nothing on my belt drive.

        • Stuki

          In my experience, the biggest advantage to belt drive is that the large diameter of the “chain rings” required to prevent too sharp a bend in the belt has the side effect of reducing driveline slack and jerkiness. Aside from that, chains are just so common and well understood, and has such wide applicability, that their miniscule downsides just aren’t worth bothering to change them out for.

  • Piglet2010

    My biggest gripe about this bike is that it was not around a few years ago when I got back into riding.

    Maybe some sense is coming back to the market, and people realize that bigger is not always better.

  • markbvt

    68 degrees is chilly? Seriously? If that’s your threshold, around here you’d only get to ride for a few weeks a year. Personally I’m happiest at 55-65 degrees, and fine with 35-40 if it’s sunny and dry.

    So I guess the obvious question for those with no tolerance for cold is, how well can this bike’s electrical system handle heated gear? What’s the alternator output, and how much of that is excess available for accessories?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      sarcasm….

  • 200 Fathoms

    One color only for 2014—white with that horrid X? Ugh.

  • Steven Wray

    Couple of thoughts on the 700 or so miles I put on mine before it was totaled by an absent-minded left turner… I was getting 65-70mpg and I’m 200+lbs. 600 mile service was $224.27, and the next time the valves need adjusting is 8000 miles according to dealer. The US tool kit is an insult containing only a sponge, allen wrench & helmet cable. Had to order the spanner to adjust rear suspension, but it didn’t come before wreck to experiment. Less buzzy and quietest bike I’ve ever ridden, even if highway speeds could use a tooth or two drop in the rear sprocket to lower RPM at speed. Frustrated at lack of aftermarket parts especially for mounting hard luggage. SW-MOTECh & Honda’s were the only ones I could find in stock & neither fit my needs well. So I loved the bike, but if insurance doesn’t hurry up and pay-off I’ll look elsewhere cause I don’t like the white of the 2014. Shallow I know.

  • CB

    First of all, this article makes me want to buy this bike. Secondly, this article makes me want to move to California, because “a chilly 68 degrees” is summer here.

  • Honda Cbr

    I’m surprised by the fuel economy reported here. This deviates significantly from the average of CB500X’s on fuelly.com. I wonder if your bike needs a valve-adjustment?

  • Shmac96

    Is the ABS version really worth it and or a must to have on this bike?

    • isaac salas

      if you have to opportunity to test ride them both do it and see for yourself the ABS is very unobtrusive you never really know its there until you need it! so if possible go for it.

      • Shmac96

        Thanks for response!
        Don’t think im going to get the chance, seeing as my local dealer only has one in stock and its non-ABS. Bummer cause im thinking I would like to have it.

  • Rich Wentz

    I thought these were “okay”. Then I saw and heard one with an aftermarket pipe. Despite the fat dude riding it the thing took off pretty quick and the sound of one of these with a real pipe on it was quite nice. Sounded more v-twin than parallel twin ( the NC700x sounds a lil better IMO ) . Price to capability I’m actually considering one.