Random Roads on a CB500X

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Cro59, May 8, 2018.

  1. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Near Alpine, Arizona

    One more day of riding to go. I’m camping tonight in the Sitgreaves National Forest, and yes I do have cell service.

    Great ride today. Riding out of Roswell, I remembered why I love the southwest. It is beautiful country.

    I’ll catch up tomorrow but will leave you with a picture of the mighty CB500X at the Continental Divide.
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    #61
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  2. Manray

    Manray Killing Time

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    Juno, you have the handguard arms mounted backwards. They should be in this orientation.

    barkbusters.jpg
    #62
  3. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Made it to Tucson.

    Days: 6
    Miles: 2,560
    Lost Kriega straps: 1
    Near death experiences: 0
    Bugs smashed: 236,118

    I’ll catch up the ride report soon.
    #63
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  4. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    New Mexico

    The last two days of the ride were the best. This was when I most wished I could take my time, wander around, and check out the towns, curiosities, and historical sites. Even as a kid the desert southwest had a powerful pull on my soul, and setting off from Roswell in the morning felt like coming home. The diversity of the land is amazing. You can go from wide open prairie, to painted mesas, to lush river valleys and forested mountains in just a single day.

    I made it as far a Lincoln, NM, before I stopped. Lincoln is part of the Billy the Kid saga, although now there are only fifty full time residents (including the six kids) and much of the town is part of the national monument.

    I highly recommend the coffee shop/gift store across from the museum offices. I had to have a second coffee so I could sit and watch the hummingbirds.
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    A few miles down the road, in the town of Capitan, I had to stop and pay homage to a rather unique American hero.
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    Smokey was kind of a big deal when I was growing up, maybe even bigger than JFK or Nixon.

    But time waits for no one, not Billy the Kid or Smokey the Bear, and certainly not me. It was time to put some miles behind me, so I opened the throttle and enjoyed a wonderful mix of twisting mountain roads and high desert straightaways. After a short stretch on I-25, I hopped on US 60, NM 12, and then US 180 as I wound my way across the western half of the state. These are some amazing roads with beautiful scenery and should definitely be on your bucket list. Not a lot of photos, because pictures never capture the majesty of the land and you really need to go see it yourself.

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    The Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array is a centimeter-wavelength radio astronomy observatory. Time was against me so I didn’t stop at the visitor center. I did, however, stop for photos of a flock of vultures dining on a cow carcass. Regrettably, they flew off and all I managed were a few flowers.

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    It’s hard to capture landscapes with an iPhone.
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    I really enjoyed the last few hours of this ride. Western New Mexico and Eastern Arizona are amazing country and full of top notch motorcycle roads. You owe it to yourself to visit.

    Anyway, I rolled into Alpine, AZ, near dusk, grabbed dinner, and rode to a spot in the Sitgreaves National Forest for the only night of camping on this trip. It’s hard to complain about life after days like this.
    #64
  5. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Alpine to Tucson

    It was dark by the time I finished dinner, so I decided to camp at the same spot I’d spent the last night of my Utah trip. It was close and I knew I could get there on street tires. I built a small fire, but the miles were catching up to me and I didn’t even finished the beers I’d convinced the bartender to sell me. Wrapped up against the cold, I tried to watch the stars for a while and then fell asleep listening to the mountain voices.

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    After breakfast in Alpine, I headed for Junk n Java in Springerville. At this point, I felt like I was cheating on the VStrom, because I took this same picture with her.
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    From Springerville, I took 260 to Show Low and jumped back on US 60 to Globe. These are two more can’t miss roads. If I stay in Arizona, then I’d seriously consider moving up here. As the miles passed, I dropped out of the mountains into the heat, but the views and canyon carving made up for the climbing temperatures.

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    From Globe it was familiar roads back to Tucson and a most welcome shower. Six days and 2,560 miles. I was tempted to keep going to the Pacific, but the siren song of a Rally Raid suspension was calling my name, and just like that the trip was done.

    I’ll follow up tomorrow with a few thoughts on the experience, and then the wrenching begins.
    #65
  6. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    A few final comments to wrap up the cross country ride.

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    The Bike:
    I was very impressed with the CB-500X as a solo touring bike even in stock condition. Granted that the bike wasn’t loaded down (probably 230 lbs between me and my luggage), but I had no issues with the suspension on rough roads or twisties. Comfort and wind protection were adequate for a smaller bike, and I never felt like I was lacking in power. There isn’t a lot of room to move around with luggage on the back seat, but I never felt cramped, even with the short seat to peg distance. Even the seat was surprisingly comfortable during the ten+ hour days. For reference, I’m 6’ with a 32” inseam, and weigh about 190 lbs. Personally, I think the stock 500X would be fine for a RTW trip, and if it wasn’t for my off-road aspirations, then I’d think the Level 2 Rally Raid upgrade was overkill. I’d probably still upgrade the forks and shock, just because used models can be had cheap enough that there’s no reason not to. There are things to tweak for personal preference, such as bars and position, windscreen, seat, electronics, but you could easily buy and ride with some throw over luggage. Shop well, don’t go crazy with the mods, and you could have a 500X as a RTW touring bike for under $5K.

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    The Ride:
    My only complaint is that I didn’t have more time. Yeah, it was hot and I got a little rain, but I also got to feel the storms before they hit; smell flowers blooming and fresh cut grass; ride through the desert surrounded by the awesome star filled sky; and, enjoy the simple pleasure of a single cloud that drops the temperature by ten degrees by drifting in front of the sun. Being in the elements is part of the appeal of moto travel, because all of your senses are engaged. Traveling by car the experience is primarily visual, while on a motorcycle your entire body and being are part of the experience.

    I averaged 430 miles a day. That’s too much, in my opinion, because I was forced to sacrifice the random and serendipitous stops and encounters that add richness to these trips. My preference would be to plan for no more that 250 miles a day. That gives you plenty of time to talk to interesting people and see the sites, and you can always add a couple of 500 mile days if you need to make up time.

    Bottom line is that it was a great experience. I had an inexpensive, stock bike, rudimentary luggage, and virtually no plan, but the shear simplicity of it made it even better. The more I do this, the more I smile at the thought of the Long Way Round mentality. You don’t need much. A cheap bike, some dry bags strapped to the back, and a wandering spirit will take you just as far, if not farther, than that massive, $20K, adventure bike with the cool panniers and fancy electronics. If I was on a budget and was going to splurge anywhere, it would be on my riding gear and helmet. As far as the rest of it, use the money you save to extend your trip.

    Okay, that wraps up this chapter. Now I’ve got to get moving, because it’s surgery time for my bike.
    #66
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  7. Night_Wolf

    Night_Wolf Leg Humper

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    I'm 5'7" with a 32" inseam & went with a National Cycle screen & get no buffeting but for the life of me I don't know how you can find the stock seat comfortable. Maybe my ass has gotten used to the Corbin after having one on my last Wee Strom, but within 100 mi I was in pain on the stock seat on my 2014 500X.

    Looking forward to the build with the RR stuff
    #67
  8. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    I won’t say the seat is like a feather bed but I found it manageable. Might try something else later. The windscreen definitely needs help.
    #68
  9. Night_Wolf

    Night_Wolf Leg Humper

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    While I like the Corbin, have seem many good reviews on the Seat Concepts one that you install on your stock pan, & it's at least 1/2 the cost of the Corbin

    I love my V-Stream shield & get no buffeting using the stock mounts, while most are not that lucky. I use the 18" tall version but linked the taller one for you to have a look at, as you have 5"s more than me in the wind stream
    #69
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  10. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Build is done. Took about 15 hours total, including the engine guard and luggage racks. Pretty straightforward, but there were some thinking moments, and I’m glad my buddy was around with a second set of hands and a second opinion.

    More later, but here is the before and after.

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    #70
  11. Merlin44

    Merlin44 XR400R & Africa Twin

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    The bike looks great. And even better, glad you had a good trip, and such a good experience with the bike!
    #71
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  12. Night_Wolf

    Night_Wolf Leg Humper

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    Very nicely done & it's always handy to have a buddy for those times you need 3 hands
    #72
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  13. Perazzi

    Perazzi Adventurer

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    Cro59,

    We are close to the same age. Dimensions identical. Military brat - father a career Air Force pilot.

    My 2018 XABS carries Caribou panniers and they are truly excellent. Lockable, not too small or too large. They mount a touch high creating a small bucket in the seat behind me, a secure perch for all the misc. I keep looking at the RR kit but find myself so content with the few farkles I have on the bike. The seat and suspension work for my style of riding - 90% on road. Madstad took care of any remaining discomfort. For now, all my trips have been short. Soon to change. I'm an ex-DL rider and appreciate my CB more, every time I turn the key.

    I'd like to express my sincere appreciation for your taking the time to log and share your trip. Excellent Sir. GREAT, inspiring read!!! If you ever get up into the Asheville NC area - the Blue Ridge Mtns - you have a place to stay. Ride safe and thank you for your service.

    Cheers.

    Perazzi
    #73
  14. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    The Rally Raid kit is transformative. I put 75+ hard dirt miles on it today in the way back to Tucson and I was very impressed. That said, I was surprised how nice the stock bike was during my cross country ride. It doesn’t “need” anything beyond the normal seat and wind screen mods for distance touring. You might consider the Level 1 suspension. It would definitely improve road handling, but it isn’t a necessity in my mind.

    Thanks for the invite and ride safe!
    #74
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  15. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Here’s a better post surgery picture.
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    I’ll write up the build and my initial impressions later.
    #75
  16. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    OK, let’s talk about the Rally Raid build. First, I should say that I’m not a mechanic. I have general mechanical aptitude, have worked on cars as a kid and houses as an adult, but have never dug into a motorcycle before this. Once I got started, I never felt like I was over my head. The build is well documented, and other then removing the damn bodywork the job was straightforward.

    I had planned two days for the work. Unfortunately, thanks to my procrastination procuring tires, I spent most of Saturday driving back and forth from my buddy’s (very remote) ranch and getting the tires mounted on the new rims. It was after 4 pm before I actually got to work. As my friend pointed out, the tires were a success in and of themselves, otherwise with the holiday weekend I might not have got them mounted until Tuesday. By the end of day one, I had tires mounted and the engine guard installed. Not great, but not tragic either.

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    (I apologize for the picture quality. My workspace was half shaded and I can’t be bothered to edit the photos.)

    Day two began with the rear suspension. No major issues swapping the parts, other than remembering where I put the damn socket I needed.

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    Side by side of the old and new. I opted to pay for the remote preload adapter. The quality difference is obvious.

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    The hardest part about the rear suspension was the tight workspace in the guts of the bike. The instructions were clear and there weren’t any head scratching moments, except for fitting the new linkage plates. I couldn’t get the holes to line up until my buddy pointed out that I needed to cut the zip ties on the swing arm. Duh! (I zip tied the swing arm to prevent any stretching of the brake lines.). If you are careful then the brake housing will stay attached to the swing arm. This is important because there a few clips and bits that must go back together just right. The next challenge was reinstalling the rear tire. This was a first for both of us. Let’s just say that this is best done with seven hands, and I hope I never need to do it alone on the side of some remote road.

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    Next, it was time to tear apart the front. This is where I curse all involved in designing motorcycle bodywork and fairings. This is also where Rally Raid’s instructions and YouTube fall short. Rob knew what was coming and disappeared every time I touched a piece of bodywork. He was not about to accept responsibility for what came next. Smart guy. It looks simple. Just a couple of screws, pull back the fairing, and snap! Bits of broken plastic flying everywhere. Well, shit, I hope that wasn’t important. I’m pretty sure I did it wrong, but must not have broken any critical hooks because it held up for a rather rough ride hope. Here’s the thing, the front side panels don’t come off of the nose section. One you get things loose, there are two bolts on a metal bracket that hold the whole nose section (including the dash, lights, etc.) on the bike. Remove those and you should be able to remove the whole thing without any bits breaking. Yeah, good luck with that.

    The front end wasn’t overly difficult, but it was the most time consuming part of the job. There are a lot of parts to remove and scatter around the workshop. I recommend a good supply of ziplock bags and a marker to help keep track of the smaller pieces. Just follow the instructions and you’ll be fine.

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    OEM fork internals on the left and the upgrades on the right. Note the difference of the spring lengths. It’s hard to tell from the picture how much engineering went into the RR parts. Of note, if you have the newer fork caps that allow preload adjustment, then you won’t need the little clip washers in the upper right of the picture.

    One final tip. When you are fitting the forks into the triple tree clamp, install the axle to get everything lined up right. Rob figured that one out.

    Once the forks and triple tree were done, it was just a matter of reassembling the bodywork, installing the luggage racks and muffler, and adjusting the chain and suspension. I set everything at the standard settings and found them fine during my test ride.

    All in all, the build took about fifteen hours. (Engine guard, front and rear suspension, pegs, exhaust, luggage racks, radiator and rear brake cylinder guards, Double Take mirrors, and swapping the wheels.). An experienced mechanic could do it in less, but considering the amount of work that isn’t too bad. I still need to install the short levers, wire the electric outlets, and rig my Mosko Moto luggage.

    Overall, this was a six out of ten on the difficulty scale. If you are on the fence just give yourself plenty of time, make sure you have the right tools, and follow the instructions. I’m glad I did the build myself because it really familiarized me with the bike and demystified motorcycle maintenance.
    #76
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  17. Night_Wolf

    Night_Wolf Leg Humper

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    Good write up; which levers did you purchase? Once installed please let me know how they work with the brake light. Seems any levers I try to install on any of my motorcycles always results in the brake light being "on" all the time
    #77
  18. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    First Impressions of the CB500X Rally Raid Adventure

    In a word, amazing. The CB is a great bike in stock form, I loved it during my cross country ride, yet the Rally Raid upgrades transform it completely.

    First, the bad. The higher seat height means that I can barely flat foot the bike and it’s harder to move it and turn it in tight spaces. I haven’t dropped it yet, but the higher center of gravity makes it harder to control lateral tipping when stopped or a very low speeds. It kind of feels like pushing the VStrom now. Honestly, if I wasn’t planning to do a lot of off road riding, then I’d do the Level 1 suspension to keep the original geometry. Even that would make for a better off road bike than the stock VStrom.

    Fortunately, the improved performance more than makes up for the higher CG. This bike is a tank and inspires confidence even with my questionable off road skills. Leaving my friend’s house entailed a water crossing with sand and rocks (always a crowd pleaser), several steep hill climbs, and several miles of hard pack with patches of gravel and sand. Coming in on the stock bike was sketchy and had me questioning myself, but leaving was a blast.

    Returning to Tucson, I planned a familiar route with 75+ miles of Arizona dirt roads. For those of you not familiar with Arizona, that meant anything from hard, graded roads to wash outs, loose gravel and sand, baby heads, and eroded, rock steps. Let’s just say that my baby took it all like a champ! I’ve ridden these roads many times on the Suzuki, rarely without a drop. With the Rally Raid enhanced CB, it felt like cheating. This bike rocks!

    The suspension soaked up the washboards and embedded rocks like they didn’t exist. I blasted over sections that would have had me crawling on the VStrom. Plus, with the new foot pegs, I could steer the bike with my weight so much easier. (Although, those sharp, right turns still give me problems.) I hit one wash and one rutted, rocky climb that would have ended with me dumping the VStrom, but the CB tractored through. Honestly, the only sketchy moments were because I hesitated and eased up on the throttle, but even with my flailing legs, wide eyes, and white knuckles, I never dropped the bike. That’s all I have to say about that.

    Oh, and I love the Scorpion muffler. It has a nice, sweet, deep growl. You know, the kind of sound we expect from motorcycles, not that sewing machine hum that Japanese manufacturers seem to favor.

    The bottom line is that this is now the bike that I had hoped the VStrom would be. It’s not a dirt bike, by any stretch of the imagination. I’ll get her weighed, but I’m guessing she’s right around 450 with a full tank. That’s still a lot of weight for the rough stuff, however I am confident she can get me where I want to go. I believe the stock CB500X is a great, RTW capable, touring bike. With the Rally Raid Level 2 modifications, it is almost that unicorn that we are all looking for.

    Hope this helps. I’m off again on Sunday for some vacation time in Croatia before another three months in the sand box. I won’t get a long trip on the bike before I leave, but I should be able to log a couple of days. If nothing else, I’ll take her up into the Rincon Mountains onto dirt roads I’ve ridden on the VStrom in order to validate today’s experience. Thanks for following along!
    #78
  19. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    I bought Rally Raid’s billet levers. Damn, Rally Raid took a chunk out of my bank account with all of the bits I bought!

    I didn’t put them on yet because I didn’t want to mess around with possibly adjusting the brakes and clutch. Not sure I’ll install them before I leave, but I’ll let you know how they work.
    #79
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  20. Cro59

    Cro59 Been here awhile

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    Vacation time disappears much too fast. Between travel, transporting the bike, and doing the upgrades, I’m rapidly approaching the halfway point. I managed to finish my critical errands by Wednesday morning and decided I needed a couple of days on the road. The plan was to head towards Flagstaff by the backroads and a bit of dirt.

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    She turned five on the way out of town.

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    Willow Springs road is just north of town and provides for a nice diversion on the way to Globe. Most of it is hardpacked dirt with occasional gravel patches. A good warmup for a noob without recent dirt time. But, the sand! Oh, the sand! There were several washed out sections full of nice deep sand. I managed them all well enough, but I must confess that I duck walked the longest and deepest one. No drops, though, so the tires, suspension did the trick.

    I made my way through Globe on the tarmac and decided to finally go to Young, AZ. I’ve tried to get there a couple of times, but always turned back on the VStrom due to road conditions. Not this time!

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    Salt River Bridge on AZ-288.

    It was an amazing ride. Stunning scenery, winding tarmac, and mostly good dirt roads. There were quite a few sharp, loose turns, with nothing in the way railings, so I kept the speed on the low side.

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    The town of Young is situated at 5,200’ in a wide valley surrounded by mountains and National Forests. A true outdoor lover’s paradise.

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    Stopped for coffee and a snack, and made a friend.

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    No gas here, but you can get it down the road.

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    It was getting dark before I dropped out of the mountains. I thought about sleeping up there, but all I had for food was a bag of jerky so I decided to push on. After dinner in Payson, I pressed on into the Verde River valley and set up camp down a Forest Service road.

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    The CB-500X taking a well earned rest.

    All in all a great day. Between the extra weight and the panniers sticking out into the wind, I did notice that my fuel consumption and top speed were affected. I love the Mosko Moto bags, but the CB doesn’t have much in the way of fairings and the bags are like anchors sticking out the sides. Might have to experiment with some other alternatives.

    OK, time to hit the road.
    #80