Honda has a long history of getting smaller capacity bikes just right for riders around the world. A combination of easy usability, useful engine performance, affordability and distinct individuality equal motorcycles that, over time, come to mean so much to their owners.
The CLs from the ‘60s and ‘70s were such bikes, proving that a lightweight bike with off-road dynamics was great fun around town. Latterly, the high-barred, high-piped style has become an iconic signature for many 21st century riders. Click forward 5 decades and in 2018 the A2 licence compatible CMX500 Rebel arrived in the Honda range. Its old-school meets new-school take on custom cool was an instant hit – and extremely customisable. And as a package – engine, chassis and styling – it’s proved irresistible to a legion of young riders and has quietly got on with the business of being the top-selling custom bike in Europe for the last two years.
Five years later it’s time for something new and for 23YM Honda has, once again, a bike proudly wearing the CL badge – for riders who like to be that bit different. The CL500 draws heavily on the formula of the original CLs. It’s got the right look, the right engine and the durability to go with the urban rough and tumble. And, as for customisation, an owner’s imagination is all that’s required. With this bike there is no limit.
The development concept used from the start of the CL500 project has been ‘Express Yourself’. Deliberately targeting a young, style-conscious demographic, it’s a bike designed to fit neatly into an owner’s lifestyle with the ability to handle the daily commute, a long weekend ride, or even some light off-road – and to catch the eye while doing it. Of course, and just as it should be for the younger rider, it’s also eminently customisable and there are a range of genuine Honda accessories ready to go that elevate personality, practicality and style.
The 471cc parallel twin-cylinder engine is Honda’s lively and popular A2 licence compatible powerplant that produces 34.3kW of power and a healthy 43.4Nm of torque. It has unique ECU settings for CL duty, and short final drive gearing serves up smart around-town acceleration both from a standing start and through the gears. The six-speed gearbox is managed by assist/slipper clutch. The tubular steel trellis-style main frame is both a style statement and foundation of easy handling. Long-travel suspension comprises 41mm telescopic forks and adjustable rear shock while the wheels – 19-inch front and 17-inch rear – wear block-pattern tyres. The
brakes front and rear feature ABS modulation specifically balanced for excellent performance on a variety of surfaces, including light off-road. All lighting is LED, the instrument panel a compact negative LCD, and Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) technology operates the rear indicators as hazard lights under sudden, hard braking.
The 23YM CL500 will be available in the following colour options:
Candy Energy Orange
Mat Laurel Green Metallic
Candy Caribbean Blue Sea
Mat Gunpowder Black Metallic
Styling simple and raw, just like the original CL
790mm seat height gives easy ground reach and legroom
Negative display LCD dash and underseat helmet holder
Full LED lighting and Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) technology for the rear indicators
‘Simple, Raw and Tough’ were the three words that set the tone and direction for the CL500’s styling team. The street scrambler style looks right wherever it rolls with the added benefit of ergonomics that make for a bike that’s very easy to ride in a variety of situations.
The combination of the clean, round fuel tank shape and upswept muffler – with stainless steel heat shield – strike the nostalgia chords hard. And all the lovingly-crafted details – the tank pads and rubber fork gaiters, the wadded, smooth outer seat skin with embossed Honda logo, high-level handlebars – combine to create a look that oozes charm. The paint options, all set against blacked out engine and chassis, make each colour ‘pop’ vibrantly.
Seat height of 790mm – alongside a slim mid-section – offers easy ground reach and ample legroom. It’s also designed with sides that cover the frame rails for standing up and low rear section for easy pillion access. It also detaches easily with the ignition key and, tucked away, a helmet holder. The high handlebars not only look good, they’re angled precisely to provide leverage both when standing up or sitting down, with off-road style grips and internal weights to reduce fatigue. The tanks pads provide another contact point for the legs when standing; steel footpegs are wide with rubber inserts for comfort.
The low-set 175mm diameter headlight has classic form but houses four LED bulbs with thick inner lenses for a distinctive frontal signature. Small, 55mm circular LED indicators feature classic looks and sit either side of a thin, ovalized LED taillight. A neat, 100mm diameter circular display houses the negative LCD dash. Simple and uncluttered information delivery includes gear position indicator, fuel consumption and individual indicator arrows.
Hard, sudden braking operates the standard equipment Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) which flashes the rear indicators to alert road users behind, before auto-cancelling. With fuel economy of 27.7km/L a 12L capacity delivers potential range of over 300km.
The tubular diamond-structure steel frame provides the handling ability, ride comfort and foundation of style for the CL500. It’s beautifully simple, with strong tubes and loop-shaped rear subframe. Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) was employed to get the rigidity and weight balance optimised perfectly. A scrambler-style bike has to cope with it all – from rough city streets to uneven dirt roads and the goal for the chassis was to create light, responsive handling with suspension that can absorb the hits. Ground clearance is 155mm; rake is set at 27° with trail of 108mm and 1,485mm wheelbase. Kerb weight is 192kg.
Up front, 41mm telescopic forks feature 150mm travel and wear classic black fork gaiters. While adding period style they also protect the legs and seals from dust and damage. The top and bottom yokes are CL-specific and enhance steering accuracy and feel. At the rear, an elegantly simple swingarm uses 45mm round tubing to muscular effect. Long-stroke twin rear shocks offer 145mm travel and 5-step spring preload adjustment (3 up from standard, 1 down). Damping at both ends is set to deliver a supple, comfortable ride no matter the road surface.
A two-piston front caliper works a 310mm floating disc through sintered pads. The hydraulic pressure between the front and rear single-piston caliper/240mm disc is balanced to provide hlgh levels of braking control on a wide range of surfaces. The ABS too is optimised for use on dirt tracks as well as asphalt. The wheels are a 19-inch front/17-inch rear combination for confident grip and light handling across varying terrain. Tyres are deep-groove Dunlop Mixtours, sized 110/80 R19 front and 150/70 R17 rear.
The CL500’s 471cc 8-valve, liquid-cooled parallel twin-cylinder engine is smooth, easy to use and thoroughly engaging. The hugely popular and durable unit has made its reputation in Honda’s CB(R)500 series and the CMX500 Rebel. For the CL500, it features revised PGM-FI fuel injection mapping, and a new intake and exhaust setup that deliver the engaging torque of 43.4Nm @ 6,250rpm and peak power of 34.3kW @ 8,500rpm. For crisper acceleration through each gear the rear sprocket uses 41 teeth, versus the 40 used by the Rebel.
It’s a power unit that strikes a great balance between physical size and flexible output, with a willing delivery of both mid-range torque and top end power that has made it one of Honda’s most-loved engines. Bore and stroke is set at 67mm x 66.8mm with compression ratio of 10.7:1. Internally the cylinder head uses roller rocker arms; shim-type valve adjustment allows them to be light, for lower valve-spring load and reduced friction.
A silent (SV Chain) cam chain has the surface of its pins treated with Vanadium, reducing friction with increased protection against dust. Friction is further reduced by the addition of striations on the piston skirt (a finish that increases surface area, introducing gaps in which oil can flow for better lubrication). The crankshaft pins are phased at 180° and a primary couple-balancer sits behind the cylinders, close to the bike’s centre of gravity. The balancer gears use scissor gears, reducing noise. The crank counterweight is specifically shaped for couple-balance and its light weight allows the engine to spin freely, with reduced inertia. Inlet valve diameter is 26.0mm with exhaust valve diameter of 21.5mm.
The crankcases use centrifugally cast thin-walled sleeves. Their internal design reduces the ‘pumping’ losses that can occur with a 180° phased firing order. A deep oil sump holds 3.2L. Slick to use up or down, the six-speed gearbox is designed to offer effortless changes, especially around town. An assist/slipper clutch helps with rear wheel control, lightens the lever operation load and reduces rider fatigue.
In iconic CL style the exhaust twin-pipe muffler is upswept and fed by 2-1 downpipes. The note is tuned for heavier low-frequency sound compared to the Rebel, with a similar pulsing feel.
The rear subframe is designed for easy fitment of cosmetic parts and the soft rear panniers; a rear rack also mounts the 38L top box. There’s also the option of a 30mm higher seat – finished in brown with black double stitching – for taller riders. Cosmetic additions to add classic off-road style include lightweight polypropylene side number boards, fly screen, knuckle guards and high front mudguard. Practical items include heated grips, ACC charging socket and rear shock covers.
For convenience, three specially designed packs are ready to go:
Knuckle guards, high front mudguard, rear shock cover, and rally footpegs.
Soft saddlebag, heated grips, ACC socket, adjustable brake lever and tank pad.
Head light cowl, cowl stripe, wheel stripes, rear side cover, rear side cover stripe and high seat.