A quick chat about the BMW G650GS versus the Honda CB500X to determine which one you should get, and why.
What’s the best budget adventure motorcycle?
Ahmed R 786 on YouTube asked:
Thanks for the video mate. I didn’t know this bike (BMW G650GS) existed. Everyone talks about the 800, 850, 1200 and 1250. I was looking for a f800gsa but this seems like a better and more affordable option. Would you consider this over the CB500x ? My riding level is average. I currently ride a Honda 919 and love the bike. Want to add an adv bike but cannot makeup my mind. I know cb500x has a rally raid option for off-road adv riding. What I am looking for is a reliable easy to work on Motorcycle. Thnx and subscribed!!
We’ll be discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the Honda CB500X and the BMW G650GS to determine which is the best budget adventure motorcycle for you.
Cover image by Wobblycat
A close friend was buying a budget adventure motorcycle at the start of last season and wanted help choosing one. We were looking at the same two options: the BMW G650GS and the Honda CB500x. I don’t think you can make a wrong choice between these two motorcycles, but we needed to pick one motorcycle.
I was also more personally invested in this because we found one that was basically brand new, and our plan was for her to ride it for a season or two and then sell it to me. I’ll get into why we went with the BMW.
The BMW G650GS is a 652cc single cylinder motorcycle. “Big singles” are known for being buzzy, but also for making a lot of torque. The BMW’s counter balance shaft helps to reduce vibration, but it’s still quite buzzy. The good news is it’s also quite torquey.
The Honda CB500X uses the same 471cc twin cylinder motor as it does in the CBR500R and the CB500F. The displacement is much smaller, but having two cylinders means each cylinder has less work to do, and can rev a little higher.
Because of these differences in the motor, the BMW makes 48 horsepower at 6,500 RPM, while the Honda manages to pull off a respectable 42 horsepower up at 8,130 rpm. The big performance difference between the two motorcycles is the BMW’s 44 lb-ft. of torque at 5,000 rpm, compared to the CB500X’s 29 lb-ft of torque all the way up at 6,500 rpm.
The BMW is more powerful all around, but especially when making use of the single cylinder’s high torque nature.
The BMW G650GS came stock with liquid cooling, fuel-injection, hazard lights, and heated grips. There are also numerous BMW factory accessories including side cases, top case, tank bag, engine guards and bash plates, power accessories, and more.
The Honda CB500X does come with liquid cooling, fuel-injection, and hazard lights, but does not have heated grips. It does have a good selection of Honda factory accessories, including side cases, tank bag, power accessories, and more.
Overall, both the BMW G650GS and the Honda CB500X come with a decent selection of factory features and upgradeable accessories from factory. The BMW gets the slight advantage for features included with the motorcycle stock, and for the depth of factory parts available. Though it should be pointed out that the G650GS hasn’t been made in several years, so factory parts may be more easily available on the Honda. Ask your local Honda and BMW dealerships for info relevant to your specific location.
Both motorcycles come with a variety of aftermarket accessories. The BMW G650GS has great support from Touratech, SW-Motech, and of course no-name Chinese G650GS parts. Honda CB500X has great support from Rally Raid. There are a good variety of aftermarket seat options from companies like Seat Concepts for both motorcycles.
The Honda CB500X has a good assortment of aftermarket options. You’ll find everything you need. However, you may not have the same depth and breadth of options as you would with the BMW. BMW’s GS lineage has been synonymous with adventure motorcycle riding for decades before the Honda 500X was even available. It’s no surprise to see more aftermarket selection with the BMW.
The BMW G650GS and Honda CB500X are both very reliable motorcycles. Honda’s reputation for reliability is well deserved with the CB500X. Likewise, the BMW’s lineage in this motorcycle dates back decades of continuous improvement, meaning they’ve had time to make improvements over the years.
The differentiating factor between the two motorcycles, where maintenance is concerned, is that the oil change on the Honda CB500X is very straightforward, whereas it can be a bit more complicated on the G650GS.
Both the Honda CB500X and the BMW G650GS have contingencies you should know about, which can greatly improve your off-road motorcycle riding experience.
If shopping for a Honda CB500X and off-roading is high on your priority list, you should consider 2016+ year models. These newer CB500X motorcycles received some tweaks aimed at improving off-road performance, including a 19″ front wheel. Off-road performance can be further improved with parts from Rally Raid.
The BMW G650GS came in two variants: the base model G650GS, and the Sertao edition, designed specifically for off-road use. It includes more off-road oriented tires, suspension, seat height, ground clearance, and other off-road oriented performance. There are other further improvements you can make including Race Tech Gold Valve Cartridge Fork Emulators.
BMW has little touches, like a low first gear designed specifically for off-road uses. Some riders say they find the BMW to be the more natural motorcycle off-road. A Honda CB500X can also be a decent off-road motorcycle, if you’re willing to spend enough time and money on it.
Both the Honda CB500X and the BMW G650GS are very beginner friendly motorcycles. They are light weight, well balanced, non-aggressive, and easy to handle.
The BMW G650GS has been designed with a great attention to detail in creating a beginner friendly motorcycle. For example, the fuel tank is located under the seat, to keep the center of gravity as low as possible. While on paper the 652cc motor may sound scary to new motorcyclists, the reality is that the motorcycle’s first gear is designed low for off-road use. This is a smooth machine that will not take off abruptly on the rider. It is one of the easiest motorcycles I have ever ridden.
The Honda CB500X still manages to only weigh 434 lbs wet, which is only 13 lbs more than the BMW. The 471cc parallel twin is as unintimidating and bland as they come.
I would not hesitate to recommend either of these motorcycles to a beginner motorcyclist. The G650Gs and the CB500X are both very beginner friendly for any motorcyclist 5’9″ or taller. For shorter riders lowering links are available.
The BMW’s advantage is that it has a huge aftermarket and a cult-like following. That comes from decades of BMW GS adventure heritage. I don’t want to rule out the Honda because you can never rule out a Honda, they make fantastic machines. In my opinion, if for $1,000 less, you could get the CB500X with the same kilometers and same options as the BMW G650GS, then I would get the Honda and spend the $1,000 difference on the upgrades you want. You’ll have a really amazing motorcycle. But if all things were equal, dollar for dollar, I see the BMW as the better foundation to build a budget adventure motorcycle on.
Before anyone accuses me of being a BMW fanboy, or a Honda-hater, I just want to point out that I recorded this video wearing my 1980s Honda motorcycle jacket. I’m not anti-Honda or pro-BMW. I’m pro-good motorcycles, and anti-uninformed decisions. My goal is only to arm you with the information that you need to determine what deal is best for you. I prefer the BMW, but there are deals to be had on both motorcycles, and they are both excellent budget adventure motorcycles.