Let’s talk Honda’s new CL500 Scrambler for 2023, built on the Honda 500 parallel-twin platform, with some obvious shared DNA with the CMX500 Rebel. However this bike is taller, runs a dual-purpose clad 19-17 inch wheel combo and the telltale tall scrambler exhaust that suggests that river crossing isn’t such a bad idea after all.
Add fork gaiters, tall bars, an inviting 790 mm seat height and the CL500 seems like an accessible option for most riders, in a package that’s slightly different to the CB500, CBR500R, CB500X and Rebel.
So let’s run through the specs, a parallel twin engine producing 34.3 kW to stay under the A2 restrictions in Europe, or 46 ponies, alongside 43.4 Nm of torque. Naturally it’s a six-speed, with slip and assist clutch. This is a modern bike afterall and I’ve always found the Honda 500s fun to ride and capable of delivering the thrills in a no fuss manner that’s ideal for new riders and will keep experienced riders who don’t demand heaps of performance happy.
The tubular frame is matched to 41 mm forks and preload adjustable rear shocks, so nothing earth shattering there, with it up to Honda to produce a setup that’ll work in varied conditions, for various weight riders. Whether the dual shocks perform better than the more common monoshocks we see now will be interesting to see, but meets the scrambler theme.
A single 310 mm front rotor gets a dual-piston caliper, and is linked to that 240 mm rear rotor and single-piston caliper combo, with ABS providing further backup. Not ground breaking but it can be argued that enough brake is probably better than too much on anything likely to be ridden off the tarmac by new riders.
That dual-purpose rubber is a set of Dunlop Mixtours, run as a 110/80 front on the 19 inch rim, and a 150/70 rear on the 17 inch. Notably Honda have retained the alloy wheels, aligning with a fairly light expectation of off-roading more suited to simple trails.
Not that that’s a bad thing, much of the appeal is just being able to get a little more adventurous, where you might second guess yourself on a pure road machine, even if you could probably manage it.
Tying into that is the 155 mm of ground clearance, and 150/145 mm of ground clearance front and rear respectively, which measures in as a little more generous than your average road bike. Not significantly different to say the CB500F in clearance, but boasting 30 and 40 mm more travel.
With the exception of the CMX500, the CL500 also has the lowest Honda 500 seat height at 790 mm, with non-cruiser motorcycles not generally getting any lower than this, and ensuring a wide variety of riders should feel comfortable on the CL, especially new riders.
The tall handlebar likewise is a fairly upright and neutral seating position with wide upper body stance, that’ll feel commanding and maximise rider vision, confidence and control.
Electronics are pretty basic however, no ride modes, no traction control, ABS is not cornering either. What we’d expect with a Honda 500 but possibly a sticking point for some riders. Arguably traction control can be a double edged sword on a scrambler however.
The dash is also just an LCD, no TFT here, with full LED lighting all round, and the ESS system which flashes the blinkers if it thinks you’re doing an emergency braking manoeuvre. That’ll boost visibility, so it’s hard to complain about.
A 12 L fuel tank while not enormous also offers a range of over 300 km, so well within reason, and at almost 28 km per litre, the bike sips fairly meagrely.