CB500X Rally Raid Level 3 – 7000km service review

Honda CB500X Rally Raid Review

CB500X Rally Raid Level 3 – 7000km service review

Next week my Rally Raid CB500x receives its 7,000km service and this service interval represents a good time to share my thoughts on this awesome bike. So welcome to my Honda CB500X Rally Raid Review – 7000km service edition!

During the last 8 months of riding the bike has been ridden 30% off-road, including parts of the UK, French, Belgium and Netherlands TET (Trans Euro Trail), as well as hitting the trails in the Alsace near where I live. I can say that with the bike between my legs for this number of kilometers I have got to know the bike and, most importantly for now, know my opinion.

Impressions

My opinion on the bike is very very positive, and to avoid skepticism I have no relation to Rally Raid other than being a customer. To understand my feedback it is important to understand how I use the bike. I like touring and enjoy the long adventure trails of the TET as well as doing trails in the forest near where I live including some single track.

I find the CB500X is a really great platform for this style of riding given the engine capacity and the “mid-weight” size. The bike cruises at 130kmph easily on the German and French motorways and the gearing is such that at low speeds the parallel twin will chug away delivering enough power to tractor through most things. When I have dropped it on the trail I have never had any problems picking it up. It is not a light bike but there seems to be something about the dimensions and weight balance that create a lever to get it off the ground. That said, I am 95kg and in my distant past could squat 120kg but sadly not anymore. I am strong enough to pick up a CB500X which is a feat I am not sure I could do this with an Africa Twin or BMW GS 1200!

This bike is not a high performance Enduro, that is clear, but with the wheel and suspension mods it will get in and out of most places. It is an easy to use bike and with the racks can carry plenty of luggage and camping gear for multi-day or multi-week adventures.

The main reason I bought the bike is because it plugs a gap in the Adventure Bike market between the 250’s  (like the CRF 250 Rally which is adventurish even though all the plastic parts are made of pudding and needs money spent to make it offroad ready) and between the 1000cc plus bikes. The Rally Raid CB500X fills this gap in terms of weight, engine capacity and price. The only competition I can see in this mid category is the AJP PR7 which is a very interesting model at a very interesting price point. I will be buying a couple of PR7’s for rental this summer and am interested in putting them through their paces and doing a proper comparison.

Negatives

Lets start with the negatives: ummm.. I don’t really have any major ones. The worst issue encountered with the bike were the stock Honda rubber nuts that hold the windscreen in place. These things had the holding power of a new born infant and at the first violent vibration they would disintegrate leaving my windscreen to flap around on the front of my bike. This is nothing that a couple of zip ties cannot fix in the field, but the longer term solution were some washers and brass wing nuts and now the screen stays in place. Sometimes the old solutions are the best.

Another gripe is that after many hours of riding I do find the position a bit cramped. The CB500X has a single seat with a raised rear section for a passenger. Given my height my butt wants to extend behind the lower section but the raised rear section gets in the way. This is not too dramatic and would not stop me from buying the bike again, but does become noticeable after a few hours of highway riding. Also the shift from sitting to standing is a bit cramped as my feet are right underneath me, again not huge issues, but at the end of a long day does get noticed.

The final gripe are the tyres, but this gripe is not particular to this bike, but common in the ADV bike market. The TKC80’s do a good job on 80% of the terrain I ride. They are comfortable on the freeway, good on dry and loose dirt. Where they fail are in mud and wet clay where I find the grip isn’t there and on the clay they tend to slide all over the place. I would prefer a T63 style tyre which is an onroad/offroad tyre but with a more aggressive Enduro style pattern. I had these on a CRF 250 and found they worked pretty well off-road in all conditions even if they did scream on the freeway. When I wear through my current tyres I will try the Mitas E-09 on the rear which seem to get a good rap, and maybe the Pirelli scorpion’s on the front just for a change.

Positives

Now for the many positives of the Honda CB500X Rally Raid. Apart from the obvious Rally Raid additions of the wheels and suspension, my favourite feature are the foot pegs. These pegs really are amazing as they provide an excellent platform while standing and add to the overall control of the bike. Even when my foot has not been positioned correctly on the pegs I have never had any problem with grip or slippage. The pegs dramatically improve the control of the bike and I would recommend these even for people who have not made the full Rally Raid conversion.

I am 6’2″ or about 190cm high and the standing position is super comfortable. While standing the tank sits just below my knees and I have a comfortable stance while gripping the bike with my inner calves. I will go into more detail on the cockpit below, but the bar risers means that standing is not fatiguing nor do I get pains in my back, arm or shoulders. Manouvering is very comfortable, and once you get used to the bike it can zip in and out of trees and around potholes quite nicely.

The only gripe I do have about the pegs is that the standard brake pedal is a bit low. I watched a recent review on the new Rally Raid BMW 310 conversion and there was a mention that they had the same issue and Rally Raid had built a brake pedal to compensate for the extra height of the pegs. I need to follow this up on the Rally Raid website to see if it exists as it will be an excellent addition to the bike. To brake hard I need to bend my knee and drop my weight over the right hand side of the bike which is a bit uncomfortable and means there is a slight delay in an emergency braking situation.

http://www.rally-raidproducts.co.uk/honda-cb500x-cb500f/honda-cb500x-heavy-duty-footrest-pegs-black-

The cockpit set up is another area where Rally Raid have done an excellent job. I opted for the Renthal Fat bars with the top triple clamp and GPS holder. This gives me a 12V Auxiliary Socket, 2 USB connections and my Montana GPS mounted on top of the handlebars.

With the cockpit configuration I have a plug for the electric tyre pump, I can charge a phone and Go Pro batteries while riding and also keep my Go Pro remote constantly plugged in while strapped to the handlebars.  This means that flat batteries are never a problem and, again, contributes over all to the enjoyment of riding the bike.

The positioning of the GPS has a pro and a con. My Montana GPS is positioned on top of the handlebars and this is not such a great location for riding on the road as I need to look almost straight down while navigating which takes my view completely away from the road. A better position for road navigating would be behind the windscreen. That said, the location is perfect for navigating while standing off-road. The GPS screen can be seen perfectly while standing and makes it easy to follow tracks. An ideal set up would be to have 2 GPS locations, but given the majority of my riding is on the freeway and off-road, road navigation is not a top priority and I am happy with the location.

http://www.rally-raidproducts.co.uk/honda-cb500x-cb500f/honda-cb500x-top-triple-clamp

The Engine Guard deserves a worthy mention as it is clearly within the beast category. The guard is strong and provides excellent protection of the full engine and can take a beating. You may want to watch MAD TV’s Youtube review of the CB500X where you will see the guard in full ploug mode which demonstrates the ability of this thing.

The Engine Guard is made of steel tubing and has a steel plate underbelly which attaches to the frame. The claim from Rally Raid being that the frame attachment minimises “any stresses going through the cast engine cases”. Having driven this thing into mud, hard packed dirt and getting stuck on top of a log I can attest to its strength. A tip for new players, when cleaning your bike get in there with a hose and wash all the mud out 😉

http://www.rally-raidproducts.co.uk/honda-cb500x-cb500f/cb500x-engine-guard

Finally to the wheels and suspension which are the most noticeable part of the conversion and are the parts that turn an adventure styled city bike into a real off-road adventure machine. When you first jump on the bike after getting it converted (Rally Raid did my conversion) it is surprising at how much of a rise there is in the bike. The standard CB500X felt quite small and nimble yet with the suspension mods it feels like an offroad beast. It is a cool feeling and very unexpected. If there are any skeptics out there I would say don’t let go of your skepticism but see if you can take one for a ride and see what you think afterwards.

As I said above, I am quite tall, but I find I am on tippy toes most of the time where some foot work is needed. The first time I took the bike out I dropped it because when I put my foot down on the ground all I found was air. The ground was there but about 2.5 inches below where I was used to it being.

I have not adjusted the suspension settings yet but after 2500 off road kilometers I am ready to play around with them. The Tractive suspension has a multitude of settings and this will be an education for me as I have never had the luxury of a remote reservoir and pre-load adjustment before. This is another advantage about the bike is that the front and rear suspension can be adjusted and the bike can be set up to the riders preference.

Conclusion

Trans Euro Trail (TET) Belgium & Netherlands
Happy owner with his CB500X Rally Raid

That is it for now even though there is plenty more that could be said about the bike. I got the bike in August last year and it spent most of winter in the garage. With spring here now it has had 5 of the last 8 days in the dirt and those numbers will continue to grow. I am very happy with the purchase and can recommend the bike to people who are looking for a manageable, affordable, off road capable bike for some real off road motorcycle adventure touring.

 

2018 Enduristan Gear Shopping

2018 Enduristan Gear Shopping

So yesterday I met Marc from MMD Adventures  and picked up some new gear. In this year’s stuff there is allot of Enduristan gear. Enduristan is a brand I have seen on the internet but one that I have never owned. That has now changed and I have a bunch of their stuff.  I will come back later this season and let you know how it performs, but at first glance, this is good looking, high quality and well thought out products.

My bike changed last year to a CB500X Level 3 Rally Raid.  I have the tail rack and side soft luggage racks on the bike with Rotopax. I was using Giant Loop Horseshoe bags and tank bag but the horseshoe bag no longer fits with the luggage racks and rotopax and, well, the tank bag is being binned.

The Giant Loop tank bag is was a disappointing purchase. There are many good things about this tank bag but those damned zips made it nearly unusable. At times I found it nearly impossible to attach the bag to the bike as the zips are very hard to align and I would find myself taking 5 to 10 minutes just trying to line them up. Another issue was quality, the zips started to get pretty tattered within the first week of use and contributed to the problem. I have experienced quality issues with a number of US brands, so lets see if the Swiss do any better.

So here is what was on the shopping list and links to the Enduristan website if you want to see more product shots and info.

Enduristan Tail Pack & Tornado Roll Bags

Enduristan Tail Pack
Marc from MMD Adventures showing the CB500X L3 Rally Raid with Enduristan Tail Pack and Tornado 32 litre Roll Bag

To replace the horse shoe bag and still have room for the roto packs, I have opted for the Tornado Roll bags. I bought the Large (51 litres) and the medium (32 litres).

Tomorrow I head off to do some of the Belgium and Netherlands TET and will be staying in hotels. The medium bag is fine for a change of clothes with plenty of room to spare.

The 51 litre bag is sitting on top of my cupboard at home filled with my camping gear (tent, sleeping bag, cooker, etc) and should be sufficient. The Giant Loop Great basin bag has a max volume of 68 litres and had sufficient volume for all the camping gear etc. for a week or so. The Enduristan bag is clearly shy of this, but with the tail pack added (that I could not have with the horsehoe bag) I have a total of 59 litres, which is not far off, we will see on my first camping trip of the season later this month.

A couple of the features I like are a) the shape: is a normal bag, so easy to arrange and access gear inside, b) Red lining: which makes it easy to see what is inside the bag as opposed to, say, a black lining, c) plenty of attachment points d) four closure points and roll top so is thoroughly waterproof.

One of the features I am not a fan of is the clear window on the side of the bag which is designed for a luggage tag. From one point of view it is quite clever as it allows you to add a name tag from inside the bag which ensure that your name tag is water proof. From a “toughness” perspective I think the clear window may be the most obvious point which will break and allow water inside the bag. We will see.

Link to Tornado Roll Bag
Link to Tail Pack

Enduristan Hurricane Backpack with HP03 Hydrapak

Enduristan Hurricane backpack
Me modelling the Enduristan Hurricane 15 litre backpack

This is a cool backpack! So a couple of quick features.

a) Waterproof: they use high quality zippers and the thing is completely waterproof.

b) Good fit and the straps are loooong! This allows you to put it on over any jacket and pretty much any body shape. Even John Candy could wear this one. The straps are well designed and fit to the body almost perfectly. Again, this is first impressions and I will give an update once I have worn it for a few days, but seems to be an excellent fit.

c) The water bladder sits outside the back pack (between your back and the bag) in its own liner. This means that god forbid you spring a leak, all your belongings stay dry.

I bought the 15 litre bag as it is a good size for a day ride. When the volume in the back pack is combined with the tail pack and the tank bag there is plenty of room for toolkit, go pro, food etc for a one day trip.

Link to Hurricane 15l Backpack

Enduristan Tool Roll

Enduristan Tool Roll
My partially filled Enduristan tool roll

Finally the tool roll. This is a great little product. Plenty of attachment points for tools, a zippered area with mesh for smaller items, and one feature which is very useful.

The panel on the right hand side is magnetised. This makes sure when you put a bolt down it will be there when you go to pick it up. But I am sure you know how magnets work.

Link to Enduristan Tool Roll

 

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan – Too slow?

2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan

The 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan has recently caught my eye. This is the first year it is for sale in Switzerland and at first glance it looks like Royal Enfield have listened to the market and built a bike that ADV riders want. The design is raw & utilitarian with no excess plastic fairings. It creates an impression you can take the bike in rough terrain and it is tough enough to handle it. It has good engine protection. The bottom of the engine and the oil sump is well protected by a sturdy engine guard. On paper the specs are good geometry, weight and dimensions.

So the question is “will the 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan dominate the light adventure bike category in Europe and America?”. To save you the suspense my answer is no, well at least not now.

In another blog post I will show you some graphs comparing the bike to the Honda CRF 250 Rally, the BMW G 310 GS and the Honda CB500X, both the stock model and the Rally Raid Level 3 edition. The Himalayan comes out quite favourably in a number of areas, especially given the price! So where does the Himalayan fall down?

Where the 2018 Royal Enfield Himalayan falls down is top speed!! Struggling to achieve a top speed of 100km per hour (about 60 miles per hour) this bike cannot be ridden safely on the motorway. Given ADV riding in the USA and the EU usually consists of some hours on the motorway to get to your off road destination, this bike is almost useless for this purpose. The bike comes with good luggage racks, and it is possible to load it up for a long adventure, however, unless you live right next to the off road area you either have to travel the back roads, trailer the bike, or ride the motorway and hope no one hits you from behind or sit in the slip stream of slow moving truck traffic.

What I don’t understand, and I am looking to the Engineers or Mechanics here for answers, is how you can have a 411 CC engine that has a power output that matches, for example, the CRF 250 Rally at about 18kw. I owned the CRF 250 Rally during the 2017 season and it could sit quite comfortably on 120kph and on the flat ground with the throttle open you could travel at 130kph, keeping up with most traffic. Headwinds and hills brought the top speed down, but the highway was no problem. Royal Enfield have built a bike with 1.6 times the engine capacity but with a lower top speed. The next comment is a bit tongue in cheek, but you either need to be a bad engineer or a very good engineer to do this, thus Engineer and Mechanics can anyone explain what is going on here?

When you look at the Royal Enfield home market the bike makes perfect sense. Indian roads are not built for speed, nor for comfort. And if you look at some of the military roads in the North of India which are popular with tourists, these things don’t require a bike with speed, especially if you are picking your way through a washed out section of road with a vertigous drop off to one side.

I would like to believe that once you are offroad the bike will actually offer good performance. For example, the 21 inch front wheel is a proper offroad sized wheel. The ground clearance at 220mm is actually quite acceptable. Delivering torque at relatively low rpm might work quite well. The low seat height and excellent geometry for my 190cm frame (I can stand on the bike and don’t need handlebar risers). And as mentioned above, the standard protection seems to protect the bike quite well.

So here is my dilemma… to Himalaya or not Himalaya? I am thinking about getting one and giving it a spin this summer. I live on the border with the Alsace and it is a short ride on back roads to lots of nice trails. Anything further afield I can stick in the back of the Dodge Ram, or put on the trailer and hit the highway.

As it is a new entrant to the market I am interested to see if Royal Enfield have built a durable, quality bike that give the adventure rider the experiences we are are looking for. It is impossible to judge a bike by the specs on a website, the only way to really know the good, the bad and the ugly is to spend significant time in the saddle.

I have survey below. If I get one hundred “go buy the bike”, well I will go buy the bike.