Exploring the Unknown

Exploring the Unknown
Representing the 99%!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Honda CB500X Rally Raid Level 3 Kit & Accessories Review and Installation By Jenny Morgan and Blancolirio Part 2

Picture © Rally Raid
In part 2 we get first hand insights into the longevity of Rally Raid's kit and accessories including ease of installation. Although Rally Raid's kits and accessories come with comprehensive online installation instructions, Blancolirio has kindly created several instructional videos on how to install said accessories and level 3 kit. Having travelled with said upgrades, Jenny Morgan also shares her thoughts on how the Rally Raid products held up n the wild during her adventure through the Trans America Trail (TAT). Inevitably, for anyone who has ever wanted to work on their own bike but was too afraid to try, don't be. Rally Raid has made an approachable product not unlike Blue Collar Bobbers.

Perfect for Rotopax Fuel Cans!
Picture © Rally Raid
Accessories are just part of the goodies that comes with purchasing a motorcycle. Whilst I am not generally a fan of most racks, I cannot deny that Rally Raid has done a superb job fabricating something truly unique looking whilst also being very practical. They offer an array of products that allows you to make the CB500X into your own that suits your style. Whilst we will be discussing the Level 3 kit and some of the accessories that Jenny(& Piglet) and Blancolirio have used, you can opt instead for a Level 1 Suspension Kit or a Level 2 Adventure Kit from Rally Raid. Keep in mind that the Level 3 Adventure Kit includes all of the parts found in the latter two plus some sharp looking 19 inch spoked front rims and an 17 inch rear spoked rim painted in Matte Black of course. For pricing in the United States check out Giant Loop, Rally Raids partner in crime.

Engine Guard Review By Jenny Morgan
Engine Guard Installation Video By Blancolirio 

You Must Remove Your Center Stand!
Picture © Rally Raid
The Adventure engine guard worked particularly well... yes the side wings did bend under a really heavy impact (and by that I mean the full dead weight of the bike dropping onto uneven rocks, and similarly my crash in Nevada), but the tubular wings are designed that way to essentially absorb the hit, rather than transfer it into the rest of the skid plate - and if needs be the wings can be bent outwards again with a little leverage. As for the actually belly protection (the primary purpose of the engine guard), I hit it a number of times over steep rock steps etc. (although not as many as you might imagine, such is the benefit of just a couple more inches ground clearance of course) and it was excellent - simply sliding over and not compromising the sump at all.

Yep, that was a close call!
Picture © Jenny Morgan
Similarly the front shield for the oil filter (and the exhaust shield) did their respective jobs very well - it did collect mud around the headers, but this was only on the two or three occasions (once in Colorado heading east, and again in Mississippi and Oklahoma on the return leg) when I'd removed the front fender because the mud was so sticky and claggy that there was a danger of the front wheel jamming - and subsequently the front tyre threw up the mud onto the front of the engine and the radiator. In that regard, I don't think a high fender would actually be of much use in such circumstances (other than to help protect the radiator perhaps), although it would stop mud packing under the low fender of course.

Foot-Pegs Review By Jenny Morgan

Picture © Rally Raid
The heavy duty foot-pegs were awesome - if you've not changed your stock ones yet, buy some - they really do make a world of difference to how the bike feels (off and on road), and really allow you to steer the bike by simply weighting them with your feet.

Shorty Levers Review By Jenny Morgan 

Picture © Rally Raid
The shorty billet levers are also incredibly strong (or I'm incredibly lucky), as I dropped the bike three or four times on both sides in Moab with no hand-guards fitted, and the levers survived intact.

Wheels & Suspension Review By Jenny Morgan
Wheels & Suspension Installation Video By Blancolirio

Picture © Rally Raid
The wheels themselves were also top-notch. They are built strong of course (using thicker rally gauge spokes etc) because it is still a 200Kg bike being used off-road, but they stayed perfectly true throughout the trip - and I was hitting some big steps in Moab and Colorado, together with some wash-outs at 40-50mph or even more sometimes. Initially I would wince when I hit a washout at a speed that was perhaps higher than prudent (obviously you do your best to shed some speed as soon as you see a hazard, but at the same time it's important not to hit the depression with your suspension compressed - particularly with only 170mm to play with - rather it is better to let off the brakes and let the suspension soak up the hit - which it did very impressively I have to say!), and similarly, there were occasions where maintaining momentum over rocky terrain was more important, to ensure you maintained traction and stayed upright... Again the wheels (and suspension) soaked all that up with no drama.

Picture © Rally Raid
The new suspension is sublime - especially in comparison to the OEM units - and it really does transform the way this bike rides... Honestly, it now feels like a big rally bike in the way it simply soaks up the terrain while staying controlled and composed the whole time. It really does allow you to take a lot of liberties, and not once did it ever feel like it would catch me out or spit me off. Perhaps the best illustration (and something I never got tired of during the trip) was how the bike seamlessly transitions from one surface to another - you can be riding on the highway at 50-60mph, and when you see that 'Pavement Ends' sign, you can simply carry on at the same speed onto the dirt with no drama.  With regard to slower and more technical riding, again you can actually feel the suspension working on your behalf - allowing you to pick the like YOU want, and letting the bike absorb what is in the way. Initially I was a little nervous of doing this, as it is a big heavy bike if you get it wrong, but I was always impressed at how the machine would just tractor over some pretty gnarly terrain if you just pointed it where you wanted and rode the bike on the throttle. The traction is marvellous.

Picture © Rally Raid
At the same time none of this has compromised it's on-road manners and handling - indeed, I'd say the geometry changes (with the 19" front wheel) have actually improved it's composure and handling on-road as well. It feels rock solid, and simple goes where you point it, while not getting upset by undulations or rough surfaces.  The new fork springs and damping have essentially eliminated all that harshness you used to get half-way through the stock travel, and you can really appreciate the progressive nature of the valving at work - if for example you are riding a rough road/trail with rapid undulations, then hit a rock or wash-out for example. It really is very controlled right up to the limit of travel, and even if you do manage to bottom out the suspension it is never harsh.  Meanwhile the rear shock particularly feels like a high-end dirt bike unit (which in effect it is of course) - very plush in the way it absorbs/tracks small and large hits in the terrain, and allows the rear wheel to dig in and maintain traction.  

Picture © Rally Raid
The only thing I did notice, and which I was never fully able to eradicate by dialling the damping adjusters, was the tendency for the rear wheel to judder when accelerating over washboard surfaces. It didn't happen every time (as it is very speed dependent of course), and could often be avoided by either not accelerating at that particular point, or going corresponding faster or slower in the first place. I imagine this is due to a series of factors - a relatively heavy wheel/tyre combination (it's a big fat 150/70 remember) that is 17" rather than an 18" dirt bike diameter, and on a short-ish swing-arm, that in turn is on a pretty short wheelbase bike too.  Of course this can also happen on a full-on dirt bike too at the wrong speed, and I would add that it was only really noticeable when I was riding the bike much harder, faster and aggressively than is really prudent on an 'adventure' ride... I do this selflessly and on your behalf of course, purely in the name of research you understand ;o)

Picture © Honda
As for the basic bike itself - I think anyone who has ridden a CB500X will agree it already feels much greater than the sum of it's [modest] parts, and that fundamentally a seemingly lacklustre spec sheet really does not reveal just how 'right' this bike feels once you actually ride it?

Tail Rack Review By Jenny Morgan 

Picture © Rally Raid
The tail rack was ultimately an issue right at the end of the trip (as I've explained in a previous post), but it is a simple enough fix for RRP to just incorporate some additional welds to the underside between the brace and the top plate - consider that done.

BarkBuster Storm Hand-guards Review By Jenny Morgan 

Picture © Jenny Morgan & Piglet
I chose the Barkbuster Storm hand-guards with the dedicated CB500X fitting kit and what can I say, they fit* and work well - very strong, and I think complement the styling of the bike well too.  * note. The shields clear the screen on full lock if the screen is in the lower of the two positions, but touch slightly if the screen is in the upper position. I also found that if you fit the inner mounting brackets over the brake hose and clutch cable (rather than try to fit them under) then you get more adjustability for the levers and the shields protect your hands properly.

Double-Take Adventure Mirrors Review By Jenny Morgan

Picture © Jenny Morgan & Piglet
I actually found the OEM mirrors to be very robust on the first half of the trip (including a number of drops off-road in Moab) and offering a excellent rear vision without sticking up too high - I'd be more than happy to retain them if I were riding primarily highway and dirt roads. However, I did find that they could come loose and start to spin on their mountings, usually at the most inopportune moment off-road!  When I reached Colorado Springs on my outbound leg, I replaced them with the tried and trusted Double-Take dual-sport mirrors (the original round style) which worked very well, even at prolonged highway speeds - although they did occasionally droop when riding off-road at higher speeds (the vibrations causing them to move in their RAM mountings slightly).  During my return leg, I dropped in to see the guys at MotoMinded/Double-Take again, and was privileged to be offered a set of their brand new 'adventure' style mirrors to test, that are wider and more stable (less vibration and don't droop) than their original design, and yet retain the same unbreakability and foldability for use off-road. Recommended!

Radiator Guard and Shock Sock Review By Jenny Morgan

Picture © R&G Racing
Picture © R&G Racing
Rather than try and produce something similar, Rally-Raid are happy to recommend the R&G Racing radiator guard as a no-frills and cost-effective solution - and similarly, I fitted one of their Shock Socks once I'd got to Colorado Springs, which again fits perfectly, does the job, and is good value for money. note. We also really like the R&G shorty tail-tidy for the CB-X which gives the rear of the bike a slightly more aggressive and dirt appearance - I'd have fitted one if we'd had time before I left ;o)

R&G Racing Tail Tidy Kit - Honda CB500X Installation 
By Blancolirio

- fin -

Picture © Jenny & Piglet
I am not sure if I would personally go for the R&G Tidy Tail Kit to be honest. However, as for the rest of the kit, you can bet I'd be setting up my Honda CB500X similarly to what Jenny (& Piglet) and Blancolirio have done to their motorcycles. Overall, one could argue that this is the bike that Honda should have come out with from the get go. However, we would have nothing to wrench on if they did so maybe we shouldn't be too hard on them. I was recently quoted $7000 OTD here in my neck of the woods for a 2015 CB500X! Even if you add $3500 CAD for the Rally Raid Level 3 Adventure Kit, the bike is still much cheaper than the new Honda Africa Twin or any other big adventure motorcycle out there at the moment. Regardless, I love that that there seems to be a growing trend towards smaller displacement motorcycles again. After all, it's not the size that matters but how you use it...

Special Thanks to Jenny Morgan (& Piglet) and Blancolirio for sharing their thoughts with us! 
Don't hesitate to contact them directly with any questions regarding the CB500X - RR.

Partial Write Up @ Jenny Morgan & Piglet
Instructional Videos @ Blancolirio


  1. Is really raid still shipping cb500x kits. Seems nothing is in stock. I have finally managed to come up with enough money to do the build if it's still available.

  2. Anyone do a level 3 build on a cb500x in the last six months. Looks like rallyraid is out of stock and giant loop dropped the line.

    1. Hello Adventure Greenhorn!

      I would check out the original post on Adventure Rider: http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/trans-am-500-the-seven-year-itch.1061450/

      The link brings you to the original thread. Jenny will likely respond as well. The vendors also participated in said thread and there are a lot of helpful comments and opinions on this kit.

      I am sorry to hear that there is little stock and that Giant Loop dropped the line. Unfortunately, I think that the kit came out too late as the Honda Africa Twin really stole the show so to speak. Had it not been for the latter, I think the kit would have been very successful.

      Still, don't give up. Let me know if there is anything else that I can do to help you.

      Happy New Year!

    2. Gonna order kit direct from rally raid. 4-6 weeks lead time. Iam sure it will be worth the wait. I love my cb500x can amt wait to do the up fit!

    3. That sounds great! Take plenty of pictures and if you like, share your story with us here on this blog! I was actually at my local Honda Dealership today and saw the 500x and was thinking about you and the kit for this bike. I am very tempted to do it myself, maybe next year! Have fun and stay in touch!