New (to me) CB500X fly and ride... SF to SEA

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by jconli1, May 13, 2019.

  1. jconli1

    jconli1 from the land of pleasant living...

    Sep 26, 2004
    North Bend, WA
    Just spent the last two years with a Tiger 800... amazing power, incredible on-road handling, surprisingly decent on gravel and light singletrack, comfy two-up... by far, the best bike I've ever owned. So naturally I sold it. (Honestly, the ergos weren't quite for me, the 38mpg Arrow tune got a little old, and I just found myself wanting something a little lighter, and a little crappier - had trouble justifying such a nice bike that I was barely putting 5k miles/year on.) I got it for a steal and passed that deal on to a new ADV-minded local guy anxious to step up from his Versys. Good bike karma always.

    So what next? Let's get weird. Beater Pacific Coast? R1150R? VFR800? But there's too much good gravel here. DR650? KLR? F650 Dakar? Would rather multi-cylinder for longer touring days. Can't be another Strom... nothing wrong with them, just had too many (4). Thinking back, some of my favorite rides have been on smaller, lighter, simpler bikes (VF500, Seca II, CB750). If only there were a simple, light, upright, smaller-displacement twin out there that had a decent range and could comfortably swing fire roads at a distance... a kind of "touring supermoto"

    I had totally forgotten about the CB500X.

    Good used ones seem rare, so I set up a few alerts and waited... missed a Rally Raid setup, but not sure I need that (yet). A few showed up with 30k+ or craptons of farkles... meh. Then this '13 pops up with everything I want and nothing I don't. Better screen, seat, honda bags, minor suspension upgrade... only 12k miles, all for a great price. Fire off an e-mail and find out I'm already #2 in a rapidly growing line. But eventually #1 falls through. Flight booked, don't think, just do.

    I've never had a bad buyer or seller experience on here, and this was no exception. Bob picked me up from the airport and was a great guy all around. Found we had similar tastes and riding styles, and the X had already spent time up in my neighborhood doing some of my favorite roads, making me all the more confident this was a good choice. It was better than described, freshly topped off, ready to roll. Titles were signed, hands were shaked, and off we go. Thanks again, Bob.


    Bay Area slab (US-101) on a Saturday... I love a place where everyone drives fast and with purpose. So much better than Seattle. I was a little worried about the X's highway manners, but it was quite happy and smooth at 70-75mph... sounded a little stressed out, but didn't feel that way at all. Obviously it doesn't have much headroom compared to the Tiger or 919 before it, but still enough to pass with some planning. Off to a great start, and at 5'7 on a good day, it fits like a glove.

    Brief social stop (and picked up another cheap, simple, bulletproof little mechanical object at the Bay Area's best watch shop - another hobby that involves frequent flipping) and into the big city for the ubiquitous glamour shot before continuing north into the fun stuff.


    Only had a day and a half to get back to Seattle, so tried to link together a couple of fun roads I haven't done yet... first off being CA-121 and CA-28 connecting the lower Napa region to Lake Berryessa. Took a bit to figure this bike out, kept turning in too hard, then trying to power through - brain was still calibrated for the Tiger. The X responds quickly to the lightest of inputs and is pretty damn spritely if you conserve momentum and just keep it smooth. It does get a little squirrelly with constant brake/throttle input, especially on uneven pavement... but what do you expect at this price point? Slow-bike-fast was all coming back to me... and this thing was happy to play. Unlike the tiger, where you think you're going a reasonable speed and see you're about 20mph past that... every time I thought I was *flying* on the X, I'd look down and see I'm actually at or under the margin-of-ticketability - a nice perk.



    Realized I hadn't been paying attention to fuel... I knew the X was supposed to get about 55-60mpg and had a 4.5 gallon tank, but at 150 miles the fuel computer was doing everything it could to get my attention and say we had a problem. The plan was to do the great Knoxville Rd through the hills, along the Berryessa lakeshore, then up to Lower Lake (about 65 miles), but the bike seemed to think we'd run out of gas in the next 20 or so, so I doubled back to Calistoga and filled up. Turns out the X is a bit of a drama queen. The indicated 47mpg was actually 55, and the indicated 4 gallons of fuel used was just over 3. Useless.

    But it wasn't all bad, that allowed me to take the most excellent CA-29... further sharpening up on slow-bike-fast. Would have loved to take some pictures of that glorious piece of asphalt, but was too busy having fun.


    The sun was getting pretty low as I cruised through the scenic (if somewhat... disconcerting for some reason) Clear Lake area... really hitting a groove with the X on the rolling sweepers along the north side of the lake on CA-20.


    Dusk was settling in slowly and I wanted to make it to Fortuna by 10 to hit the highly recommended Eel River brewery, so I decided to just sample a little taste of CA-20 through the Jackson State Forest west of 101 to get the last of the twisties out of my system. Again, wish I took more pictures, but was just having way too much fun. This felt the best of SE Ohio or parts of West Virginia... but the sun was dropping fast, so I turned around at Dunlop Campground then headed back to US-101 North.


    Found a local kid in a diesel brodozer who was determined not to get passed... excellent. He had better lights than me, knew the road well, and would far more easily be seen by any CHP. Flew through the rapidly increasing darkness dodging redwoods, changing elevation and temperature around every corner, watching a Dodge Ram 2500 defy all laws of physics from a safe distance behind, and fully ignoring the fuel computer's dramatic flashing and warning... not that it matters as there are zero gas stations the last 50 miles before Fortuna anyway.

    Sure enough, pulled into Eel River Brewery (just next door to a Shell station and my hotel) 15 minutes before closing time, ticking just over 240 miles on this tank, with the engine still running. (the next morning, put in 4.3 gallons in making it roughly 56mpg even on that very spirited evening stretch)

    A few fresh porters and some excellent fish and chips were earned. Eel River is highly recommended for a reason.


    Day 2 was a little more sedate and predictable... US-101 back north in and out of the trees, fog, thru traffic, and occasional small towns for a few hundred miles, all the while averaging *61* mpg this tank. It was a misty Mother's Day morning, so not much going on anywhere and surprisingly light vacationer traffic. Came across this little elk herd hanging out, and thought it would make a good pic. Soon heard a very angry man yelling in the distance... the man whose private driveway I stopped on to take said pic. I noticed the No Trespassing sign shortly therafter. He sped up in a golf cart, thankfully unarmed, offering a number of opinions on my character. I apologized, noted that I was on my way out anyway, and hoped that he'd have nice day. "NO! I WILL NOT! AND I HOPE *YOU* HAVE A *TERRIBLE* DAY!" Sorry man, no way that's possible.


    The (rather homely) Madstad setup and winglets did do a very good job deflecting the chilly air and mist... so much so I doubt I'll even put handguards on here. Just kept zooming through the beach views, redwood stands, and cliff climbs. Even tried out the X's fire road legs... found a couple of rocky/gravelly paths leading to some decent beach views. It's no purpose-built dual sport, obviously... but the ergos and gearing are great for slow climbs and occasional standing up/weight shifting. A bash plate is a must regardless of the future Rally Raid decision...


    Eventually, tragically, I headed over to Eugene to pick up I-5 and get home before midnight. On the real freeway, the Madstad continued to mitigate most buffeting and boominess, allowing just enough wind noise to cover any manic engine tone. (It's not the most exciting exhaust note anyway so I'm glad the stock can makes it pretty quiet even at speed.) Again, to my disbelief, the vibration in the bars/seat/pegs was minimal at 75, even smoother than the Tiger. As a shorter guy, the ergos were spot-on, with barely any upper back or neck pain even after 1150 miles... (and being a bit out of practice)

    I expected to like the X, especially for such a good price. And certainly, having a day and a half across some of the best riding in the US didn't hurt either. But I really wasn't expecting to be this happy with it. It's quick enough for any realistic mission, undeniably fun, comfortable, incredibly cheap to insure and keep running, and a little bit of a throwback in spirit (the only overtly modern part of the bike - the fuel computer - is utterly useless anyway)

    I hate to use motorcycle-review clich├ęs like "honest" or "humble" to describe the X, so I'll go back to my original thought - it's a touring supermoto. It's pretty great as it is... the lure of the Rally Raid setup is strong, for sure, but for now I think I'm going to leave it be and just enjoy the hell out of it.
    Pleinmont likes this.
  2. jconli1

    jconli1 from the land of pleasant living...

    Sep 26, 2004
    North Bend, WA
    One little aside... needed to make a pit stop after some time on I-5 and pulled into Portland. Thought I knew where I was headed but went the wrong way and found myself climbing a pretty scenic Burnside Ave into a part of town I'd never been. Saw a sign for "Pittock Mansion" and noticed it pointed up a nice twisty hill, so I figured what the hell, let's go check it out.

    Turns out it's got one of the best views of the city. Got there for the very last few seconds of "magic hour" as the sun went behind the coast hills... wish I had more than a cell phone with me, but it did pretty well considering.