Adventure riding has seen a massive increase in popularity over the past few years especially in the Philippines. If you head over to any popular big bike hangout spot early on a Sunday morning, you’re bound to see dozens of adventure riders gathered around either refueling, having breakfast, or simply chatting before taking off to head to their destination. Adventure riding is indeed tons of fun, as it usually involves going off the beaten path and exploring places you otherwise wouldn’t on a normal motorcycle ride.
The good old adventure bike hasn’t changed much over the years. What essentially is a big dual sport motorcycle better equipped for long distance riding has remained the same for nearly a decade. However, manufacturers have innovated and specialized their machines to cater to more specific types of adventure riding. Here we compare two popular adventure bikes in the local market: the Honda CB500X and the Royal Enfield Himalayan. Now, some of you may find this surprising as comparing these two bikes would seem like comparing apples to oranges. Well, as they say, variety is the spice of life, and these two machines, precisely because of how different they are, could in fact help you decide what type of adventure riding you’d want to embark on.
To start, there are quite a number of glaring differences when it comes to the performance of these two bikes. Let’s begin with the Royal Enfield Himalayan. This popular ADV is equipped with a 411cc single cylinder engine. Fitted with a single overhead cam, air cooling, and fuel injection, it pumps out a seemingly meager 24.5 hp. It also comes with a standard 5-speed manual transmission. Now speed and outright performance was never the game of the Himalayan. Instead, its solid construction and compliant ride make it a fun and confidence inspiring ride both on and off-road. Its bulletproof engine makes just enough power to make it adequate for highway use, while providing enough torque to trundle up some gnarly terrain.
Meanwhile, the Honda CB500X, with its 471cc parallel twin, makes a healthier 49 hp. It does this by employing a more high-tech engine which comes with dual overhead cams, an eight valve cylinder head, and Honda’s PGM-FI fuel injection system. That said, this bike is more suited for long distance riding that covers dozens of kilometers of highway. Additionally, the CB500X is equipped with a 6-speed transmission, making it capable of substantially higher speeds than that of the Royal Enfield. Another thing to note about the CB500X would be its incredibly smooth ride. Honda fits their 500-class parallel twins with beefy counterbalancers which do a great job of drowning out the vibrations of the engine. That said, the CB500X would definitely make for a better road-going adventurer.
On the feature front, the Royal Enfield Himalayan comes with charming accessories which serve both as functional and nostalgic pieces. For instance, it features a compass—something not found on other bikes out there. The 2021 iteration of the Royal Enfield Himalayan even comes with tripper navigation, a simple turn-by-turn navigation system which pairs to your phone. It also retains a predominantly analogue display cluster which is very well built, and looks like a vintage timepiece. It comes with no LED lighting whatsoever, which is understandable given the bike’s overall retro styling. ABS comes standard with the rider bearing the ability to disable the rear ABS when traversing some gnarly terrain,
The Honda CB500X, on the other hand, comes with a digital LCD instrument panel. It does, however, miss out on smartphone connectivity at the moment. To make up for this, it does come with LED headlights, tail lights, and turn signals. Dual-channel ABS is standard, and just like other adventure bikes in the market, the option to switch it off on the rear end is available. Lastly, the bike comes standard with an adjustable windscreen, allowing the rider to toggle how much wind buffeting they receive based on their preferences. Overall, the CB500X boasts Honda quality craftsmanship.
Now, moving on to capability, each of these bikes have their own niche when it comes to adventure riding. To start, the Royal Enfield Himalayan is more at home off-road. Thanks to its low revving, torquey engine, as well as its 21-inch front and 17-inch rear spoked wheels and knobby tires, the Royal Enfield Himalayan gobbles up terrain like nobody’s business. It comes equipped with non-adjustable telescopic forks at front which feature a massive 7.9 inches of travel, while a preload-adjustable monoshock out back is good for 7.1 inches of travel. That said, the Himalayan will struggle on long stretches of highway, as it only has 24.5 horsepower and a 5-speed gearbox. It can hold 100 kilometers per hour consistently, however, power noticeably tapers off in excess of 110 kilometers per hour.
The Honda CB500X is much more refined and capable of long distance riding. As a result, it gives up quite a bit in terms of off-road capability. For starters, it comes with a 19-inch and 17-inch front and rear wheel respectively. Unlike the Himlayan, the CB500X features alloy wheels and tubeless tires—a lightweight combo, but not as robust when it comes to the gnarly stuff. Additionally, the CB500X only gets 5.5 inches of suspension travel. Nonetheless, this bike can still ride off-road, just don’t take it to really jagged sections of trail, or you run the risk of damaging your wheels or suspension components.
As far as pricing is concerned, these two bikes occupy very different places in the pricing bracket. For starters, the Royal Enfield Himalayan comes with a sticker price starting at P299,000 for the base model. The top of the line variant which features panniers comes in at P326,000. Not only is the Royal Enfield Himalayan one of the most affordable adventure bikes in the market, it’s also one of the most affordable expressway-legal motorcycles in the country.
The Honda CB500X on the other hand, with its premium components and high-tech engine, comes at a premium price of P413,000—more than P100,000 more than the Royal Enfield. That said, this premium is justified by the bike’s more long distance ability as well as its refinement.
At the end of the day, choosing the right adventure bike boils down to preference. Assuming you have the budget, both these bikes make amazing choices when it comes to adventure riding. The Royal Enfield Himalayan guarantees a confidence inspiring ride no matter the terrain, while the CB500X guarantees long distance comfort and of course, Honda reliability.