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Honda CMX500 Rebel Review

Motorcycle Test by Jock McLauchlan – Images by Geoff Osborne

What is a Bobber? What is Bobbing? I have to admit, I don’t really know… but when I think of bobbing I think of something floating aimlessly in the ocean, with no particular place to go. I guess generally floating about sums up bobbing in the motorcycle sense quite well.

Honda's CMX500 offers what the brand describes as 'heritage, swagger and rebellious presence'.
Honda’s CMX500 offers what the brand describes as ‘heritage, swagger and rebellious presence’

Honda has a slightly different take on bobbing with its 500cc CMX (also known as the Rebel 500 in other markets), saying it has an edginess that expresses its heritage… A heritage that goes back to 1984 when the first 450 Rebel twin rolled off the production line.

Honda also says the new CMX has an ‘animal pulsing heart’ and looks that ‘delivers swagger and trumpets rebellious presence’. Okay, so they didn’t quite say that and I’m paraphrasing the words a little… but I think they could be over-selling it just a whisker.

Honda CMX500
The Honda CMX500 certainly looks the part

However, there is no denying the CMX looks the part, and the engine is a little stunner that is just so easy to use every day. It also goes like a cut cat if you rev it. And rev it certainly does; hold it wide open and you will be rewarded with a surprising turn of pace that won’t endear a friendly relationship with the local constabulary.

The CMX500 has enough power to trouble the constabulary, while offering a package that will endear for commuting
The CMX500 has enough power to trouble the constabulary, while offering a package that will endear for commuting

The bike’s sweet nature at lower speeds in and around town, on the commute, or just bobbing down for the daily coffee fix will endear it to all comers. Truly, the 471cc, liquid-cooled, four-valve, DOHC parallel twin engine is a little gem.

It’s totally seamless in power delivery with a very wide spread and has an easy, forgiving manner. This motor is close to perfect for ‘bobbing about’. The smooth-shifting six-speed gearbox has nicely spaced ratios that offer a gear for everything the CMX is likely to encounter.

The CMX features a 471cc liquid-cooled, four-valve, DOHC parallel twin engine with six speed gearbox
The CMX features a 471cc liquid-cooled, four-valve, DOHC parallel twin engine with six speed gearbox

The chassis, riding position and fat tyres also contribute to its comfort, practicality and ease of everyday use. Starting with the chassis, a 28° castor angle offers relaxed steering that suits the machine well, while still enabling reasonably agile and confident manoeuvring.

41mm forks are featured on the front, with dual rear shocks offering preload adjustability
41mm forks are featured on the front, with dual rear shocks offering preload adjustability

The 41mm forks with 122mm of wheel travel are soft but controlled, and offer a comfortable ride. We adjusted the five-step preload twin shocks to full hard using the C-spanner in the tool kit… while muttering about firming it up for ‘larger riders’.

It worked too, with only 100mm of travel they worked well and not once did they deliver a bone-jarring jolt to my spine, while still remaining compliant – not something I can say about many short travel bikes.

A low 690mm seat height joins relaxed ergonomics
A low 690mm seat height joins relaxed ergonomics

The seat is a low 690mm from the deck and quite comfy. Leg room for me was not great, but not too bad either. The right footpeg is directly below the clutch cover, which sticks out a bit and blocks the inside of the peg a little. This annoyed me to start with, as I could only get my boot easily onto the outside half of the peg. But I adjusted to the feeling quite quickly, accepted it and then forgot about it.

Handlebar placement it quite high, they’re fairly straight and narrow – I really liked the setup as it’s a great, commanding riding position offering excellent visibility, just perfect for commuting.

Narrow handlebars also lend themselves to lane splitting while commuting
Narrow handlebars also lend themselves to lane splitting while commuting, with a commanding view of what’s going on

Anyone who regularly commutes on a motorcycle in many areas will know the lane-splitting drill. The ideal bike has an upright, comfortable seated position for great visibility and easy handling. The chassis needs to have relaxed stability, while still being nimble and accurate enough for obvious reasons… you have perhaps a metre of room to play with and you must get it right.

From that, a narrow bike width at the handle bars is very helpful too. I hate lane-splitting when the panniers are wider than the handlebars for example; it leaves me with no confidence to go for the gap! Then, a torquey, smooth and manageably quick engine is your perfect accomplice.

Honda CMX500
The CMX500 also offers good stability over road inconsistencies and cats eyes, no doubt partially thanks to the chunky tyres

You can see where I’m going with this can’t you… yes, the mighty Honda CMX is genuinely ticking these boxes. And one more too, that I’d never really considered until I noticed the difference – the mildly fat tyres, 130/90-16 front and 150/80-16 rear with the standard low-ish air pressures just love banging over cats eyes like they’re not even there.

This is a marked difference to some bikes that really do notice each and every one they hit. Some bikes even react a little to cats eyes, particularly in the wet… so this truly was an unexpected bonus from the little Rebel.

Brakes are adequate with a single disc at each end
Brakes are adequate with a single disc at each end

I’d say the brakes are adequate at stopping this 182kg beastie, no more, no less. They simply get the job done. With single discs at each end, the front is 296mm in diameter and the rear is 150mm – both are gripped by Nissin calipers.

Like most bikes with average brakes they’re strong on feel, but to stop in a hurry you will have to pull on the front lever fairly hard. However, in fairness to Honda, it is not designed to be ridden in anger… we are bobbing about here after all, so the brakes are actually fine.

The Honda CMX500 impresses largely thanks to the excellent powerplant
The Honda CMX500 impresses largely thanks to the excellent powerplant

On balance The Honda CMX is a decent machine. The engine is excellent, it’s a handsome-looking machine if you’re a cruiser/bobber fan and the 11.2 litre tank will offer a reasonable range for this type of bike.

An LCD dash also offers plentiful information at a glance
An LCD dash also offers plentiful information at a glance

I liked the single, all LCD dash as it’s a modern take on a traditional analogue dial, but with a heap more information… Speed, tachometer, trip, fuel, temperature and clock, plus warning lights – so, pretty comprehensive.

If you’re in the market for a commuter or bobbing about bike that is comfortable, practical and super easy to ride with renowned Honda reliability then the CMX is worth a test ride at the very least.

The Honda CMX500 is certainly worth considering and testing if you like the bike's looks
The Honda CMX500 is certainly worth considering and testing if you like the bike’s looks

Honda CMX500 (Rebel 500) Strengths & Weaknesses

  • Plus – Looks the part; great engine; pleasant to ride.
  • Minus – It’s not North American… so can it really be a Rebel?

Honda CMX 500 (Rebel 500)
Honda CMX500 (Rebel 500)

Honda CMX500 (Rebel 500) Specifications

Engine  471cc, liquid-cooled parallel twin cylinder, DOHC, eight-valve four-stroke
Bore x stroke  67 x 66.8mm
Compression 10.7:1
Power  35kW (47hp) @ 8500rpm
Torque  43Nm @ 7000rpm
Ignition Computer-controlled digital transistorised with electronic advance
Fuelling  Honda PGM-F1 EFI
Clutch  Wet, multi-plate
Transmission  Six-speed, chain drive
Frame  Tubular steel with load-bearing engine
Rake/trail 28°/110mm
Suspension 41mm diameter conventional telescopic fork front; twin spring/damper units, spring pre-load adjustment rear
Brakes  Single 264mm front disc and twin piston Nissin caliper front; single 240mm disc and single piston Nissin caliper rear;
Tyres  130/90-16 front; 150/80-16 rear
DIMENSIONS 
Seat height  690mm
Wheelbase  1488mm
Fuel capacity  11.2 litres
Kerb weight  190kg
Price  $7,999 +ORC
Visit Honda Motorcycles

Honda CMX500 rear brake and exhaust
Honda CMX500 rear brake, shock and exhaust

Honda CMX500 swingarm
Honda CMX500 swingarm

Honda CMX500 (Rebel 500)
Honda CMX500 (Rebel 500)

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