Bikes

2023 Honda CL500 First Look

The CL500 is a flashback to the Universal Japanese Motorcycle, something Honda invented with its 1970s CLs/CBs. (Honda/)

You might remember that back in May we said Honda was planning to enter the street-scrambler market with a new CL500. Now here it is, a low-cost take on the retro-scrambler scene using the Rebel 500 as its base.

The bike itself is pretty close to patents filed way back in 2019, which showed the main frame and engine of the Rebel 500 transposed into a bike with more rearset footpegs, a high exhaust, and a tall, flat seat. When Honda filed for trademark rights to the CL500 name earlier this year, it was clear such a machine was getting closer to production. Additionally, since then, Honda has also filed for CL300 trademarks, so an even lower-cost single-cylinder version may be coming soon.

The new CL500 has all the styling attributes of a street scrambler.

The new CL500 has all the styling attributes of a street scrambler. (Honda/)

In Europe, where the CL500 has made its first appearance, the bike is aimed at riders who are legally limited to no more than 47 hp thanks to the tiered-motorcycle license system operated throughout the European Union. Since the Rebel 500 it’s based on is already offered in The States, and the original CL street scramblers of the 1960s and ‘70s specifically targeted the U.S. market, it makes sense that the new CL500 will come here eventually.

The 471cc engine is borrowed from the Rebel 500.

The 471cc engine is borrowed from the Rebel 500. (Honda/)

The CL500 is powered by the familiar 471cc twin used across the CB500 range and in the Rebel 500, a mainstay of Honda’s middleweight lineup for so long that it’s had the dubious honor of being widely copied by Chinese companies stepping up from Honda-clone singles to Honda-clone twins. There’s no doubting its value as a low-cost, reliable workhorse of an engine. With 46 horsepower on tap, the CL500 perfectly slots into its intended license class and musters a respectable 32 lb.-ft. of torque in the process. With an essentially “square” layout, with the bore and stroke almost equal, it’s a design that prioritizes midrange over peak power. In the CL500, it drives through the Rebel’s six-speed transmission via an assist-and-slipper clutch, but gets revised mapping and a larger 41-tooth rear sprocket to enhance acceleration. While it lacks the 270-degree crank angle that’s popular in more modern twins, the engine’s flat balancer-assisted 180-degree crank is a smooth runner.

Although similar to the frame on the Rebel 500, the CL500’s rear section has been modified for the new riding position.

Although similar to the frame on the Rebel 500, the CL500’s rear section has been modified for the new riding position. (Honda/)

The frame it’s bolted to is instantly familiar as a derivation of the Rebel’s chassis, with an identical layout at the front, but it’s not a carbon copy of the one from the cruiser. To accommodate the street scrambler’s taller seat there’s a new subframe section, which is welded, not bolted, to the main frame, and sits substantially higher to provide repositioned top mounts for the twin rear shocks. Along with the flat seat and the high-mounted exhaust silencer, it transforms the bike’s proportions from a low-slung bobber to high-rise scrambler. Gaitered fork tubes and twin shocks are a nod to the past, while the 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels (up from 16-inches each on the Rebel) boost ground clearance to 6.1 inches.

The front end has a standard, upright fork, a single twin-piston brake caliper and disc.

The front end has a standard, upright fork, a single twin-piston brake caliper and disc. (Honda/)

A simple tubular steel swing arm is controlled by a pair of preload-adjustable shocks.

A simple tubular steel swing arm is controlled by a pair of preload-adjustable shocks. (Honda/)

Where the Rebel’s fuel tank is a slightly odd-shaped design, tall at the front and dropping off rapidly to the low seat, the CL500′s is a more low-profile affair with rubber knee pads to give a retro flavor. Ahead of it, the headlight with four LEDs in a circular housing is straight from the Rebel, topped by a simple, circular LED instrument cluster. Behind the tank lies a ribbed seat that, despite being four inches higher than the Rebel’s, is still only 31.1 inches off the ground.

The circular headlight features four LED bulbs and is borrowed from the Rebel 500.

The circular headlight features four LED bulbs and is borrowed from the Rebel 500. (Honda/)

In fact, that seat is so low that where other bikes are often offered with the option of a lower saddle, the CL500′s accessories catalog includes a high seat option, raising it by 1.2 inches. Other options include a scrambler pack with a high front mudguard, knuckle guards, rear shock covers, and rally pegs; a café racer pack with a headlight cowl, rear side covers, and stripes for the wheel rims and tank; and a travel pack with a single saddle bag on the left-hand side (opposite the exhaust), heated grips, and an accessory socket. A top case is also on the options list. There’s no price yet, even in Europe, but given that the Rebel 500 that it’s based on costs $6,699 with ABS, the CL500 isn’t likely to be far off of that.

A rider’s eye view of the cockpit and the simple LED instrument cluster.

A rider’s eye view of the cockpit and the simple LED instrument cluster. (Honda/)

A closer look at the ribbed, flat, 31.1-in. high seat.

A closer look at the ribbed, flat, 31.1-in. high seat. (Honda/)

A single high exhaust silencer is up and out of harm’s way.

A single high exhaust silencer is up and out of harm’s way. (Honda/)

The orange color option.

The orange color option. (Honda/)

Blue color option.

Blue color option. (Honda/)

Matte green color option.

Matte green color option. (Honda/)

Matte black color option.

Matte black color option. (Honda/)

A view of the rear end and LED taillights.

A view of the rear end and LED taillights. (Honda/)

A close-up view of the LED instrument cluster.

A close-up view of the LED instrument cluster. (Honda/)

2023 Honda CL500 Specifications

MSRP: TBA
Engine: Liquid-cooled DOHC, 4 valve/cyl
Displacement: 471cc
Bore x Stroke: 67.0mm x 66.8mm
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Transmission/Final Drive: 6 speed / chain
Claimed Horsepower: 46.0 hp @ 8,500 rpm
Claimed Torque: 32.0 lb.-ft. @ 6,250 rpm
Fuel System: PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
Clutch: Wet multiplate, assisted slipper clutch
Engine Management/Ignition: Electronic
Frame: Steel diamond
Front Suspension: 41mm upright fork, 5.9 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Twin shocks with, preload adjustable
Front Brake: Two piston caliper, 310mm floating disc, ABS
Rear Brake: Single piston caliper, 240mm disc, ABS
Wheels, Front/Rear: Cast aluminum alloy
Tires, Front/Rear: 110/80-19 / 150/70-17
Rake/Trail: 27°/ 4.3 in
Wheelbase: 58.5 in.
Ground Clearance: 6.1 in.
Seat Height: 31.1 in.
Fuel Capacity: 3.2 gal.
Claimed Wet Weight: 423 lbs.
Contact: powersports.honda.com

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