A Closer Look At Honda's 2023 CL500 Scrambler

a closer look at honda's 2023 cl500 scrambler

A Closer Look At Honda’s 2023 CL500 Scrambler

Once a product of necessity, scramblers have recently become all the rage again. Back in the 60s, when dual-sports weren’t a real thing yet, regular folks would take a standard bike like the Triumph Bonneville, slap some knobbies on them, raise the exhaust a bit, and go jumping off into the Baja desert. Or a forest path. It didn’t matter really matter where, as long as it was off-road.

Around the same time, some of the manufacturers got wise to the whole thing and started producing machines with all of those modifications as standard, straight from the factory. And Honda, being a shrewd, forward-thinking company, seemed to have gotten an early jump-start on the whole game in 1962 when they released the CL72. Fast-forward to the modern era, and despite a thriving dual-sport and adventure markets, scramblers are back at it again. Triumph has its own line with Scramblers 900 and 1200. Ducati, arguably, may have saved themselves with a very lucrative Scrambler lineup. Moto Guzzi had one, as did BMW with an R Nine T variant. The list goes on and on. Even Yamaha tried to turn one of their cruisers into one. And now it’s Honda’s turn. Perhaps taking a page from Yamaha’s book, the manufacturing giant took an already successful platform, the Rebel cruiser, and gave it a proper makeover.

This Rebel 500 Is Ready To Scramble

Honda seems to be doing everything right to give you an authentic street scrambler. They gave it a 19-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear, and then wrapped them in Dunlop Mixtour tires, which certainly look like they’re ready to tackle some gravel.

The seat has been raised from a cruiser height to a more respectable off-road ready 31.1 inches. It has twin rear shocks with preload adjustability and a front upside down fork with roughly 6 inches of travel. The ground clearance is adjusted as well to give you 6.1 inches to play with. It weighs about 432 lbs wet, which is a bit on the heavier side, but what scrambler is truly that light? Honda also raised the exhaust which is what really gives the CL500 its scrambler looks. And other than the fork gaiters and revised gas tank, its Rebel foundation is pretty much still there. Which isn’t a bad thing, considering that the new Rebels were designed really well to begin with. Yamaha found out the hard way that simply slapping on some scrambler bits to a cruiser doesn’t guarantee you success when they transformed the Bolt cruiser into the SCR950. Honda seemed to have learned the same lesson by really considering how to modify their Rebel skeleton into a proper scrambler.

Honda Reliability And Performance

Riders of all ages come to Honda for many reasons. They make motorcycles of all kinds, from Adventure Bikes to Cruisers to Dual-Sports and much more. They’re also known to be one of the most reliable manufactures of motorcycles in the world. Their engines have lasted for decades. Just look at the amount of CB750s that are still out there on the roads today. There’s a reason why they’re the chosen platform for Café Racers. And it’s presumably no different with the CB500. The 471-cc parallel twin has been around for quite a few years and seems to have performed well for Honda in multiple chassis. It produces a respectable, for its size, 46 hp and 32 pound feet of torque. No, the speed won’t be blistering, but you’re meant to ride it in an urban environment and an occasional dirt road. The CL500 isn’t meant for the racetrack, after all. The 3.2 gallon gas tank will take you there and back many times between refills, and though you’ll only have Nissin brakes with single rotors front and back, they do come standard with ABS, and they’ll get the job done.

No Frills Modern Technology

The CL500 is shaping up to be an inexpensive bike. There’s no pricing available for the American market, at the time of writing, but judging from what we’ve seen from across the pond, it’s most likely going to be somewhere around $8,000. If true, that’s downright reasonable. The technology that comes in this package isn’t on the bleeding edge of anything, though it’s thoroughly modern, and is already available on other Rebels. You get the single digital display that includes a speedometer, dual trip meters, fuel level and consumption gauge, clock, gear position, and shift up indicator. All the lighting is LED. The brakes have ABS. And that’s about it. But that’s more than you get with a typical dual-sport, and as we all know, those aren’t as fun or comfortable to ride on pavement.

A Compact And Playful Urban Scrambler

Some may look at the spec sheet of this motorcycle and not give it a second thought. But Honda was very deliberate and intelligent when they chose to modify the Rebel 500 into a scrambler. The Rebel series of bikes is very popular, especially with the younger, newer and shorter riders. When most scramblers come with seats over 32 inches in height, the CL500 is, above all, accessible. Its engine is approachable, with enough horsepower and torque to keep things lively and interesting no matter what surface you may find yourself on. The technology is modern, useful and unobtrusive. And the raised suspension gives you plenty of ground clearance, with the dual-sport tires ready to take you on an adventure.

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