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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
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.
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.