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Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 Adventure: Adventure Tourers Comparison Test

19 January 2022, 06:30 PM Vikrant Singh

Introduction

Honda CB500X Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 ADV

Meet the Honda CB500X and the KTM 390 Adventure. The Honda retails for a smidgen over Rs 8 lakh, while the KTM 390 Adventure is priced at a little under Rs 4 lakh. A huge difference in price, no question. But, both bikes here promise to take you to the far away land, and if want arises, off the beaten track too. But, not so far off the track wherein rocks begin to replace gravel; or hard packed mud gives way to slush; or you lose cell network, and with it your ‘social’ life. 

However, before we get into the thick of things, some disclaimers are called for. 

One: This isn’t a ‘should you buy this or should you buy that’ kind of traditional comparison test. It’s more of a ‘you can buy this, but should you spend more and get that’ kind of story. And two: The KTM 390 Adventure you see here - our long term test unit - is slightly decked up.

So, the lovely Martini graphic job, the wider off-road spec rider footrests, the tail rack, and of course, the MotoWings exhaust, are not part of the standard kit. And yes, these changes have altered how the bike feels, but not enough to turn it around on its head.  In that sense then, this 390 Adventure still works for this story.   

What's the story?

Honda CB500X Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 ADV

Our attempt here is to answer a simple question starting with the premise that you want an adventure motorcycle. Now, ideally you’d like the BMW 1250GS, but since you went ahead and got married, bought a car, maybe even a house, there’s isn’t enough EMI to go around to afford something as brilliant as the GS. Did I mention you aren’t exactly rolling in money? Well, that too.

Honda CB500X

Honda CB500X

  • Displacement471 cc
  • Max Power(bhp)46.93 bhp
  • Kerb Weight199 kg
  • ;

Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 6,32,249

So, a typical Indian motorcycle enthusiast in his or her 30s.

Now, your budget allows you to pick up the 390 Adventure with some change to spare. But, if you take the EMI route, and rework some expenses with your spouse, the 500X becomes within reach too. The question then is: Should you stick with the KTM, or try and land yourself the Honda? But to pick the Honda, it better offer you a lot more in terms of riding experience; after all, it’s not going to be easy to get your spouse to toe the line.

The Comfort

Honda CB500X Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 ADV

A road-going motorcycle in our book must be comfortable. And three things get it there - seating ergonomics, ride quality, and ease of riding.

In terms of seating ergos, the Honda CB500X is a clear winner. Like the KTM, it has a tall set handlebar, though it isn’t as wide as the 390’s. The 500X also has the softer, lower set seat. And the rider footpegs aren’t as further back as on the KTM. Overall, this makes the Honda feel immediately more comfortable, and nicer to spend time on.

Honda CB500X Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 ADV

The 500X also seems to have the better ride quality, at least initially. It gets preload adjustment for the regular way up front forks, as well as for its linked rear monoshock. And once dialled in, it manages to deliver a good balance between handling corners, braking, and poor roads. The 390 Adventure only gets preload adjustment for its rear monoshock, but no adjustment at all for its upside down front forks.

Honda CB500X Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 ADV

On the road, the difference between the Honda and the KTM isn’t as stark. Yes, the KTM feels stiffer at slower speeds while the Honda is perceptibly more comfortable. But, pick up speed and the Honda struggles to offer a consistent ride. Courtesy its fast damping characteristics, it struggles to settle down over a series of bumps, almost feeling harsh at times as a result. The KTM feels more sure-footed in comparison, which also makes it the more fun to ride bike around a twisty road.

Honda CB500X Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 ADV

As for commuting on the two motorcycles, we prefer the 500X. With its fatter, wider slab of torque, a super light clutch, and quite a bit of steering lock, it is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre through traffic. The KTM is more frantic. And you more often than not need to be in a lower gear and higher rpm compared to the Honda to make similar progress. As a result, it’s clearly more work.  

The Features

Honda CB500X Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 ADV

The 390 Adventure has the Honda beat here. If you like your motorcycles tech-laden and current - not to mention with good bragging rights - the KTM is the one. It has better instrumentation, and  it offers adjustment for both the clutch and brake levers. The Honda only offers it for the brake. 

Honda CB500X Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 ADV

What’s more, the KTM gets an adjustable windscreen, traction control, ABS that can be turned off  on the rear wheel, split seats, and a bashplate and knuckle guards, all of which is missing on the Honda.

No doubt here about who wins this round.  

The Performance

Honda CB500X Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 ADV

Much like the ride quality, I was expecting more from the Honda engine. That said, it is clearly the better motor here. To begin with, it’s a two-cylinder engine compared to KTM’s single cylinder layout. It’s also less over-square in its dimensions, which means more torque coming in early in the rev range. Now, horsepower figures for the two bikes might be close, but in terms of torque, the Honda’s parallel twin does pack in a gutsier punch.

Honda CB500X Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 ADV

On the road, it means the Honda is more effortless to ride. One has to shift less, then be it during overtaking, or getting back to your three digit cruising speed post an intersection, or even when tackling elevation changes when riding in the mountains. Just roll on the throttle and get there; even from as low as 2,000rpm. On the KTM, however, the closer you are to 4,000rpm, the higher the chance of getting a desired result. Otherwise, the more you let the revs drop, more the jerking, more the struggle, and more the frustration.

Honda CB500X Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 ADV

The Honda also has better NVH. But, it’s more in terms of noise than vibration. And that’s where it fell short on my expectations. It sounds better and less stressed, instead of a racket, which is the KTM. But in terms of vibes, honestly, I can’t pick one over the other. Yes, one rides the Honda at a lower rpm for the same given speed compared to the 390 Adventure. Plus, you are almost always riding the KTM in excess of 4,000-4,500rpm to get good purchase from the engine. But, ride the Honda at 4,500rpm, and it doesn’t feel all that different from the KTM in terms of vibes.      

The Conclusion

Honda CB500X Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 ADV

Let’s break this down into three broad usage patterns we believe these bikes will be subjected to - commuting, touring, and mild off-roading. The Honda with its torque and light controls, and good weight distribution makes for a nicer commuting machine than the KTM.

It is also the nicer touring option with its comfier seating egos, a more relaxed and nicer sounding engine, and plusher ride quality (for most part).  And as it turns out, it’s not half bad off-road either. So, the better bike, the 500X most certainly is. But, is it twice as good? No way. In fact, apart from the engine which makes it easier to ride and live with, the Honda and KTM are actually quite close. 

Honda CB500X Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 ADV

Our answer to the simple question asked earlier then is this: If you have the money to buy the CB500X comfortably, go for it. It’s not a decision you will regret. But, if you need to put yourself in an uncomfortable position - adding more EMIs, moving to curd rice from sizzlers, and having to convince the spouse - to buy one, don’t. Go with the 390 instead. And use the spare change to spruce up the KTM.

   

Final Scores

Honda CB500X Right Side View

Photos by Kaustubh Gandhi

Gallery

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