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Reviewed: Honda NX500

Honda NX500 Rider

Honda’s CB500 range has been a huge success since its launch over a decade ago, coinciding with the introduction of the then-new Europe-wide A2 licence laws.

First introduced in 2013, the CB500X was one of three models in the initial line-up, which also included the fully-faired CBR500R and naked CB500F. The trio proved very popular and the platform has recently been expanded to include a cruiser (CMX500 Rebel) and retro scrambler (CL500).

For 2024 the CB500X has been updated and rebranded as the NX500, while the CB500F becomes known as the Hornet 500. Now the NX prefix isn’t exactly one of Honda’s most famous. Older European riders like me will most likely know it from the NX650 Dominator, a single cylinder enduro styled machine from the late 1980s which gained something of a cult following, although it has been used on other models around the world too. Personally I think it’s a shame Honda haven’t given the NX500 a proper name. With the reintroduction of the likes of the Africa Twin, Hornet and Transalp badges in recent years, I think they’ve missed a bit of an opportunity to spice this one up too. Anyway, two letters and numbers it is – and while it might not have the marketing sizzle of an evocative name it doesn’t detract from the ownership experience in any way.  

And while the £6799 NX500 is essentially a mildly made over version of the old CB500X, it has enough about it to warrant review as a new model. Headline changes, as well as the new designation, are restyled bodywork and headlight, new TFT dash, lighter wheels and the addition of traction control.

The venerable two-cylinder 471cc remains largely the same, no surprise considering it has been engineered to deliver bang on the 35kW (47bhp) power output allowed to be ridden by A2 licence holders, but a new ECU tune has been developed to give improved acceleration, while the traction control (or Honda Selectable Torque Control, to give it the official title) is a good safety feature.

The chassis also gets a mini makeover, with much of the good stuff also happening under the skin. The CB500X got a decent upgrade for 2022, when the Showa big piston forks were introduced alongside the twin disc front brake set-up, and this remains the base for the new NX.

 

Honda NX500 Front of bike

 

New wheels may not seem like a big deal, but the five spoked design is lighter than the seven spoke items found on the old CB500X. This is particularly important as less unsprung weight contributes to lighter feeling and more agile handling. The 19” front wheel is 800g lighter than the one found on the old model, with the 17” rear shaving off a further 700g. Other modifications to the bike sees the NX500 weigh in at a claimed 196kg, 3kg less than the bike it replaces. Suspension, sourced from leading supplier Showa, has been recalibrated to take advantage of the new package, while the twin front disc brake set up comes from another respected supplier in Nissin. Tyres come from Dunlop, with the deep tread Trailmaxes contributing to the adventure bike styling while being most at home on the asphalt.

The styling is mildly revised, with the wind tunnel developed bodywork said to improve stability. The LED headlamp is also new but perhaps the most obvious upgrade, especially when sat aboard, is the 5” TFT dashboard, which is the same as the one found on the more expensive Transalp. It offers smartphone connectivity and is operated by a simple to use four-way toggle on the left-hand switchgear. The general finishing feels a step up from some other Honda 500s we’ve ridden, with all the cabling and hoses neatly routed and (mainly) hidden away.

 

Riding impressions

While the 830mm seat height may put off some shorter and less experienced riders, it really shouldn’t. Climbing aboard the NX500 is a doddle and the relatively narrow and well shaped saddle, combined with a bit of suspension travel, makes getting both feet down possible for most riders.

 

Honda NX500 Display

 

The ease of use continues when you thumb the starter and pull away. The controls are light and I was surprised at how easy it was to ride at slow speeds. I certainly wasn’t expecting a difficult machine, but the tight turning circle (quoted as 2.4m) makes city riding and turns in the road a cinch and even easier than I had envisaged it to be. For all their Goldwings and Fireblades grab the headlines, these are the kind of bikes I think made Honda famous. Producing simple utilitarian transport for the masses has always been the heartbeat of the company and the 500s fully embody that philosophy. This is a perfect example of that put into practice.

Sure, it’s easy to criticise, especially smaller capacity bikes which are at the less expensive end of the market, and the NX500 is no different. Our test route takes in a lot of bumpy B roads, and the ride could get a bit choppy from time to time, while the engine gets a bit buzzy when worked hard, manifesting itself as a slightly unpleasant vibration through the footpegs. These ‘issues’ only really come to light when riding the NX500 hard and outside of its usual parameters. If that’s the kind of riding you regularly take on, Honda will happily sell you a Transalp or Africa Twin to give you a plusher ride and smoother motor. That said, it’s hard to fault the NX500 for doing the basics well. We rode the bike in some pretty high winds and found it to be stable and, for two-up riding I can’t think of a better A2 bike on the market. The front suspension is not adjustable, but there is some preload adjustment at the rear, which should help when carrying a passenger too. Honda says that the ECU recalibration results in stronger acceleration in the latest model, and while it is hard to confirm this without riding the NX back-to-back with its predecessor, I was pleasantly surprised by how lively it felt to ride. I made no notes on the tyres or brakes. They did exactly what you’d expect from them, without standing out as particularly good or bad.

 The NX500 has been given a spec upgrade along with its name change, although it remains a simple machine. Other than the dash/app combination, it is quite basic. I don’t have a problem with that, in fact I quite like it, although one disappointing omission is the lack of a USB charging port. Years ago these were seen as a nice-to-have option but these days not having one is a bit of a black mark, especially as bikes increasingly have smartphone connectivity. The new dash is compatible with Honda’s RoadSync app, which connects to your phone and allows for turn-by-turn navigation to be shown on the screen, while also allowing the rider to take calls and listen to music on the go. It’s a useful addition, and what today’s riders expect, but the lack of somewhere to charge your phone while riding does feel like an oversight.

 

Honda NX500 Branding details

 

There is an option to add an underseat 12v socket and although the base spec is pretty basic, there are at least a very long list of accessories to help modify the NX500 and tailor it to the rider’s individual needs and preferences. Honda market four accessory bundles for the bike, which can be combined to turn the 500 into a highly-specced light tourer. The Comfort Pack includes the aforementioned underseat charger, heated grips, air deflectors and a tank bag, while the Travel Pack consists of two 16.5 litre panniers and a 22-litre bag for the pillion seat. The Urban Pack adds a big, 38-litre top box and centre stand, while the Adventure Pack covers a host of rugged off-road inspired components, including an engine bar mounted pair of fog lamps, knuckle guards and some cosmetic tweaks in the form of a tank pad, wheel stripes and smoked windscreen. Loading up an NX500 with all four accessory packs adds over £3300 to the on the road price, although in reality riders looking for such a fully specified motorcycle are probably better served by other models in the Honda range. We rode a completely standard Grand Prix Red NX500 for our review, with the images showing a Pearl Horizon White example fitted with the Adventure Pack. A third colour option, Matt Gunpowder Black Metallic, is also available.

And while the NX500 isn’t really a full-blown adventure bike in the way a Transalp is, the ergonomics make it a very comfortable and enjoyable road bike which is capable of racking up decent miles in a single hit. The ride may not be the most refined, nor the engine the most relaxed, but the seat is comfortable and the screen (which is not adjustable) worked perfectly for me. Official fuel consumption is quoted at just under 80mpg, which ties in with our experiences with a wide variety of bikes from the Honda 500 range. With a generous 17.5 litre fuel tank, 200 miles between stops should be easily achievable.  

 

Honda NX500 in front of lake

 

Conclusion

I think a lot is made about the fact that these bikes are built to A2 licence regulations and are therefore made almost exclusively for young and inexperienced riders, where in reality they’re just great all-round bikes for riders of all kinds.

And there’s not too much to directly compare the NX500 to. BMW’s G 310 GS and the KTM 390 Adventure are two other A2 adventurers from mainstream manufacturers, but they lack the presence and big bike feel of the Honda, while Royal Enfield’s popular Himalayan is more rugged but less refined. I’d argue something like Moto Morini’s X-Cape 650 is one of the few truly comparable machines on the market today, especially now the price has been dropped to £6399, although no one can doubt the reborn Italian brand’s dealer network and reputation has a long way to go before it can be compared to that of Honda’s.

The NX500 is everything you expect it to be: well built, easy to ride and coming with all the assurances a Honda product brings with it. Sure the spec sheet is still a bit basic, but there was a reason why the CB500X was a great seller, it wasn’t broke and Honda haven’t tried to fix it. The NX simply takes that formula and sprinkles a few new ingredients into the mix. Whether you want a first big bike which can do it all, an everyday workhorse, a light tourer or just an enjoyable all-rounder, there’s not much else to match the extremely worthy NX500.

 

 

Honda NX500 Bike profile

 

Honda NX500 specification

Price:               £6,799 (standard model, without accessories)

Engine:            471cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, eight-valves, parallel twin

Power:             35kW (46.9bhp) @ 8,600rpm

Torque:            43Nm @ 6,500rpm

Frame:             Steel diamond frame

Wheels:           19” front / 17” rear

Tyres:               Tubeless, front 110/80-19M/C (59H), rear 160/60 R17 M/C (69H)

Weight:            196kg wet

Seat height:     830mm

Fuel tank:        17.5 litres

Contact:           www.honda.co.uk

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