Honda CL500 test: Introduction, positioning and rivals
If anyone thinks that the Honda CL 500 (47 HP, €6,750) is late to the scrambler thing, they should know that the 250 cc Honda CL72, the golden wing brand’s first scrambler, was presented in 1962. The acronym CL were Honda’s nomenclature for off-road motorcycles equivalent to the CB models (at that time the road sports range).
In the advertising campaign at that time, two pilots with CL72s drove along the entire Baja California peninsula (Mexico). The success of the campaign was such that it led to the creation of the famous off-road Baja 1000, which is still in competition for all types of vehicles.
So scrambler motorcycles began as motorcycles derived from road models that could travel off-road. And so it is with our protagonist today, because the CL500 comes largely from the Honda Rebel 500 or CMX500. In fact, it neatly confines itself to the postulates described by Honda in 1962, in the sense that it inhabits essential minimalism to the point of being Spartan, in search of simplicity and lightness.
That is why the Honda CL500 cannot be judged through the prism of the usual equipment on a utility motorcycle, and yet it is a very desirable motorcycle to be used every day.
If Honda was a pioneer in the scrambler segment, it was not the first brand to sign up for the rebirth of the segment or “Scrambler Revival” which we have been witnessing: just as happened in the 60s, scramblers emerged as a reaction from the industry to the preparations made by individuals.
So it was to adapt the motorcycles to the use they were given; now in part too, but I fear that in many transformations of the last two decades, the aesthetic factor has weighed more. This is not the case with the Honda CL500, really adapted to be able to make excursions beyond the asphalt.
Paradoxically, among its rivals there are some that use engines practically identical to that of the Honda CL500, Honda’s eternal 500 cc parallel twin. Things about globalization, but it gives an idea of how reliable the design of an engine is, when it “inspires” so many manufacturers.
In the CL500, the engine is designed and manufactured by Honda. And who are the rivals? Some brands even have two rivals. The Fantic Caballero Scrambler 500 (40 HP, €7,290) matches in displacement, while the Fantic Caballero 700 (75 HP, €9,990) does so in number of cylinders.
Husqvarna proposes the Svartpilen 401 (44 HP, €6,369), also single-cylinder, like the SWM Six Days 440 (30 HP, €4,995) or the Triumph Scrambler 400 (40 HP, €6,095), which will arrive as soon as 2024 begins. And as direct rivals, the Benelli Leoncino 500 (47.6 HP, €6,590), Brixton Crossfire 500 (47.6 HP, €6,289). This is the A2 war.
Honda CL500 test: Technical characteristics and equipment of the Honda CL500
With the necessary adaptations for the new requirement, the engine is the well-known 471 cc DOHC twin-cylinder that equips the entire Honda 500 range and delivers a power of 45.6 HP at 8,500 rpm and a declared maximum torque of 43.3 Nm at 6,250 rpm. The declared average consumption (3.6 L/100km) is quite close to the real one and with its 12-liter tank, it frequently has 300 kilometers of autonomy.
The chassis is diamond-type steel, like the Rebel 500, but the subframe is higher, to accommodate two shock absorbers with 145 mm of travel and 5-position preload adjustment. The swingarm is also made of steel tube. The front fork is a conventional Showa with a diameter of 41 mm with 150 mm of travel, equipped with practical bellows that extend the life of the seals.
The seat height is an affordable 790 mm, which together with the narrowness of the motorcycle and a really soft clutch lever, make up one of the least intimidating motorcycles of the A2 to the touch. The curb weight remains at 192 kilos, but they seem less when maneuvering while moving and standing still.
The 19-inch front wheel measures 110/80-19 and has a 310 mm brake clamped by a 2-piston caliper. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s more than enough for the use the bike is intended for. Behind it he rides 150/70-17, both wheels on Dunlop Mixtour, more asphalt than country. The rear brake is a 240mm disc, bitten by a single piston caliper.
We have already said that you cannot judge this bike by the amount of equipment. In fact, it only has a watch with a TFT screen, in which the information is reduced to speed, gear engaged, trip, consumption, clock, fuel level and the flashing lights (self-canceling), lights and reserve. It doesn’t have a lap counter, but as you will read later, you won’t miss it.
What is strange is that, unlike most motorcycles on the market, the information is better read in sunlight than in the shade. It’s not that it looks very good in the sun, but in the shade you can barely read the information, a point to review.
Neither cargo capacity nor duo riding are priorities for the CL500. The enormous silence that runs to starboard is responsible for reminding us of this. Yes, it can carry an occasional occupant, but the passenger footpegs are not designed to offer comfort and welcome.
Regarding the load capacity, it can be solved with the Travel Pack (€453), which includes a 14-liter capacity saddlebag on the left, its support, heated grips, 12V charging socket, adjustable brake lever and protector. deposit. You can also add a kit with Top Box (€574 with supports) with a 38-liter capacity that solves the problem, but the line of the motorcycle loses the discreet charm of simplicity.
There are two other packs that our test unit is equipped with: the Adventure Pack (€335), which consists of a high front fender, hand guard, shock absorber cover and Rally footpegs. The Style Pack (€268) includes the rear number, the headlight visor, the flat brown seat and various stickers.
The lighting is full-LED, but you will not find electronics or connectivity on this bike, simply because it is not needed. Of course, the brake light is also progressive depending on the intensity of the braking. safety first.
Honda CL500 Test: How the Honda CL500 Goes
Aside from whether or not a motorcycle performs objectively well, testing motorcycles requires analyzing whether a product fulfills the purpose for which it was designed. The Honda CL500 has a playful approach based on simplicity and lightness. Go ahead, these objectives are more than met.
The really remarkable thing about this bike is that it seduces you, to the point of convincing you that it is the perfect bike for every day, whether you have the A2 license or the full power. At this point in the test, you will have detected that I like this bike.
Sitting on it does not require any adaptation. The ergonomic triangle grips-footrests-seat is the most natural and restful. Our unit was equipped with the optional flat seat of the Style Pack which, although somewhat higher than the standard one, does not prevent me from reaching the ground with both soles of my feet, including a large reserve of leg flexion.
The length of the seat allows many sizes to adapt to it. At 178 cm, I wouldn’t change any ergonomic features. Just standing on the footpegs you feel that the handlebars are a little set back, but it is adjustable with an allen key.
Once you locate where the key is inserted (on the left, in the chassis) there are no complications. The pineapples have just enough, as does the speedometer. Once you start, you feel the pulse of the twin-cylinder, not vibrations, because it is a very smooth engine. But for smooth, the clutch lever. I don’t remember ever having tried such a soft handle, it’s a joy. Until we test the operation of Honda’s upcoming “eClutch” automatic clutch, I can’t think of an easier gearbox (DCT aside, expensive and intended for heavier bikes).
The turning radius is very good; With a wheelbase of 1,485 mm, maneuvering with it is child’s play. At this point and if you move around the world with a backpack, you realize that it is a joy to move around the city, because everything is easy and good manners.
Without realizing it you start to shift up the gears, because it is the natural way the motorcycle moves. The thrust is at low and medium turns and the bike asks you to shift soon. The motorcycle stretches and is capable of giving you good acceleration when starting from a standstill, but the ergonomics of the motorcycle do not invite this, but rather require a pleasant and fluid ride.
And you can ride very fast, without revving the engine, because the bike allows for high cornering. The suspensions prioritize comfort; You will detect movements in the rear axle if you decide to accelerate acceleration and braking, but you will not take the bike to these terrains out of pure conviction, persuaded by the smooth manners of the CL500.
When exiting onto expressways we encounter the aerodynamic limitation. The headlight visor hardly takes anything away, but it is also true that up to the legal speed limit (120 km/h), it is bearable. From there (because the bike travels much further), you enter a battle against the wind that you will not be able to win and the CL500 once again convinces you to ride at the pace it proposes.
You soon realize that it is a motorcycle that, beyond being pleasant, is nice. You want to get on it in the morning, whether you have to run an errand or just to enjoy yourself. Put into this, riding on twisty roads at a fluid pace provides that pleasure that only motorcycles that touch your heart give, because they stage the idiosyncrasy of the pleasure of riding a motorcycle.
The title that heads this test is not coincidental. It is a motorcycle designed for leisure, but its multipurpose capacity is comparable to that of multipurpose knives, which, as you know, can be very simple or have many accessories, at the cost of weighing a lot and taking up half a pocket. This motorcycle belongs to the simplest multipurpose knife, which is also the most practical, because it is the one that you are not too lazy to pick up. Plug & play They call it now.
The Honda CL500 is the last model to hit the market of the entire range that features the fabulous twin cylinder with the golden wing, but without a doubt it is the first on my list of preferences.