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... Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2004
    Oddometer:
    253
    Location:
    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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...

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    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 clichés 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.
    #1
  2. jconli1

    jconli1 from the land of pleasant living... Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2004
    Oddometer:
    253
    Location:
    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.

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    #2
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  3. CCitis

    CCitis Been here awhile

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    Jan 13, 2013
    Oddometer:
    524
    Location:
    Beautiful BC
    This is a fantastic report, really enjoyed reading it. I was very curious about the 500x. I worry it wouldn't have enough power, but seems to be fine.
    #3
  4. Jedi5150

    Jedi5150 Road Warrior

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    817
    Location:
    Central California
    Great photos and a fun report! I know exactly where that cranky elk crossing area is, but thankfully, I’ve never met him.

    And I loved hearing about your ride to and from Berryessa. I’ve never been on those highways, and have absolutely no excuse for it...I’ve ridden every major highway surrounding it many times, and completely missed it. I always tell myself, “I need to check that out sometime”, and then sometime never comes.

    Congrats on the new bike!
    #4
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  5. jconli1

    jconli1 from the land of pleasant living... Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2004
    Oddometer:
    253
    Location:
    North Bend, WA
    Oh, I definitely miss the top end rush now and then (and still shifting into 7th a lot), but its pretty smooth and stable cruising at 75 in the mountains with luggage, and I've been impressed with just how fun it is on the backroads just due to the sheer lightness. Feels much faster than it is, which has its own benefits. I also already find myself riding it more frequently to do quick errands... some strange psychological quirk with me, but with it being lighter and more simple than my last few bikes, I'm more likely to just hop on and go and not think of going riding as a production.

    It's funny how that works... I know that region of CA really well, but have yet to really explore some of the great things two hours east of my house. (aiming to remedy that shortly)
    #5
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  6. jconli1

    jconli1 from the land of pleasant living... Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2004
    Oddometer:
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    North Bend, WA
    Epilogue -

    The 500x is settling into life in the PNW quite well... the 80mph commute on mountainous I-90 is no problem (though I'm back in the habit of finding the long, meandering routes home again). It is a riot in the city... slices and dices through traffic, dives into alleys, romps over most potholes, all while sitting comfy and upright.

    Today, I finally spent more time cautiously taking it on some extended Forest Service trails... started out really ginger and careful because 1) it had been a while for me, and 2) I was pretty concerned about clearance issues and the unprotected underside. After a while, I realized X sat just high enough not to have to worry about most reasonable ruts (though a bash plate is still definitely the first thing on the list), and the slightly upgraded suspension only bottomed out a few times when I wasn't paying close enough attention and whomped into a crater.

    Here's the lightly edited but continuous ride from my house, across town past the Genie Lift Factory (all those blue things parked in formation), over to the new Middle Fork Road (Snoqualmie River), then onto NF-5620 to the gate just before the Alpine Lakes Wilderness... it's a pretty fantastic little ride for being just out the front door.




    My previous Tiger and Stroms were far better set up for off road duty with better clearance, more power, larger wheels, and functional accessories - but the 500x just feels... easier. Really light, compact but not claustrophobic... similar spirit to the F650 single, but smoother. Now I'm extra intrigued by the idea of the full Rally Raid setup, but for the time being I'm happy it can do basic FS/fire road duty no sweat.


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    #6
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  7. Wind_Rider

    Wind_Rider Been here awhile

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    Mar 6, 2006
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    907
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    Idaho
    Enjoy the X. Great little under rated bike.
    the nice thing about Rally Raid is that you can add a piece at a time and customize the bike to your needs.
    #7
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  8. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    Nov 27, 2009
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    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    It seems that everyone who has this bike loves it. Well done. Sometimes less is more.
    #8
  9. imherefortheride

    imherefortheride Rain or shine.

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    Mar 25, 2015
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    Santascarobleton
    I recognize your bike when it was in the flea market. Good find and congrats! I enjoyed reading your ride report. Makes me want to take a ride on one of these :)
    #9
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  10. rodr

    rodr Been here awhile

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    As a former V-Strom owner and resident of Solano county I'm very familiar with those roads around Lake Berryessa. Then I sold the house, car and Strom, moved with my wife to Australia, and stumbled onto a great deal on a lightly used 2016 CB500X. Thanks for the report - I can relate to your enthusiasm!
    #10
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  11. Motogasoline

    Motogasoline Been here awhile

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    Feb 8, 2018
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    Location:
    Conway
    Much like you, I have owned bigger bikes yet find the CB500x to be just right. It's easy. It's smooth. Your review is spot on. My computer has always been accurate though it does start flashing a bit early, I suppose about 50 miles before empty. I bought mine new a couple years ago and have ridden it 14k miles. Ive done a few over night trips, a ton of day rides, and daily rides to run errands. I couldn't ask for a better bike, one you don't worry about so much and really can expect it to never break down. Enjoy!
    #11
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  12. Duanob

    Duanob Been here awhile

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    Jul 22, 2015
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    Seattle
    Nice write up! We're practically neighbors in the wide world view. I was looking at CB500x for a while and ended up with a MotoGuzzi Breva 750 from a guy on Bainbridge Isl. Like you I am height challenged and there are few bikes that fit so there were few bikes I was looking at. The X, the Breva, the F650GS. I think they're all a similar feel to them, such as power, weight, size, etc.

    Curious, don't you find the drivers around the Pugetropolis absolutely clueless and self centered? I was in LA a couple of months back and rented a baby beemer (G310R) for a few days. I was completely intimidated to ride in the LA traffic but after a while I found the drivers, while fast, actually knew I was there and kept an eye out for riders. I never had a close call down there, maybe I got lucky. But in Seattle it's constant, I get tired of it. I'm actually going to be moving to Spokane at the end of the summer so i can't wait for empty rural two lanes every where!

    So this weekend I'm doing the Cascade Loop over HWY20 to Cashmere and then over HWY2 back home. I guess I should take some pics and put up a weekend ride report of my own. :)
    #12
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  13. jconli1

    jconli1 from the land of pleasant living... Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2004
    Oddometer:
    253
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    North Bend, WA
    Curious what year yours is... mine displays 15-20% lower mpg and consumption numbers than actual/calculated, so it starts flashing about 65 before empty. A little annoying, but not the end of the world, may just be a quirk with the first few off the line.


    Yep, I grew up in the mid-Atlantic where 10mph over the limit is pretty much the rule everywhere... (and the troopers do 25 over) it was a real culture shock coming to western WA where 5 *under* is the norm and the troopers will nab you for 5 over, but that's only if the self-appointed holier-than-thou Civilian Lane Sheriff doesn't employ their own blocking tactics and road rage first. Then there's the person who changes into your lane for absolutely no reason in the middle of the night on a wide-open 5 lane interstate. Or the far-right lane always being wide-open on the morning commute for passing while everyone's crowded up on the left. Then my personal favorite... STOPPING on the ramp waiting to be "let in" to the interstate... it's pretty amazing.


    Sweet - always a nice ride, especially this time of year with a bit of snow still up there.
    #13
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  14. Motogasoline

    Motogasoline Been here awhile

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    Mine is a 15. Any idea if your counter sprocket was replaced with a taller one?
    #14
  15. jconli1

    jconli1 from the land of pleasant living... Supporter

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    Nope, still stock chain/sprockets... speedo is dead-on. A few other '13 owners have said similar on other forums, think they may have just used the same software as the R and F for a while despite the add'l capacity
    #15
  16. Phipsd

    Phipsd Older but not wiser.

    Joined:
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    West coast British Columbia
    You've discovered what I also discovered too late in my riding career. "Better' isn't always better. The 500X was my second choice when I was shopping for a replacement for my 02 V-Strom. Since this was likely to be my last bike I decided to spring for a new V-Strom 1000. It was a wonderful motorcycle, so much more power and better handling than what I was used to but I found with our local gridlock, it wasn't always fun. A good ride on a 500F in the twisties was a revelation. It was the most fun I'd had on a motorcycle in years. Unlike the big beast, it was just so effortless. With the comfort, smoothness and wide spread of power, it was a small bike that rode like a big bike minus the stress and effort. I realized pretty quick that I had made a mistake.
    #16
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