A middleweight motorcycle is ideal for entering the world of big bikes. To understand what makes mid-capacity bikes so special, we look at two of the best in the business – the Scrambler Ducati and Honda CB500X.
‘There are only two types of people – those who ride motorcycles, and those who dream to ride motorcycles,’ read a bumper sticker on a car (ironic, isn’t it?) that I saw during my last visit to Leh. As amusing as it was, it was also quite telling. Motorcycles . . . well, they’re like a drug. If you’re addicted to motorcycling, you can’t possibly have enough. And if you are not into them, well . . . good for you. Because, as I said, it’s like a drug – the more you have, the more you crave. It’s that simple!
And this brings me to the topic of big motorcycles. You see, once you’ve spent enough time with a small-capacity motorcycle, you would develop a craving for something bigger, more powerful, and more exciting. Now, not too long ago, upgrading to a big motorcycle in India was a bridge too far. I still remember the time when Yamaha first launched the R1 in the country, roughly 15 years ago. At that time, if you were a sports bike enthusiast looking for an upgrade, you had only two choices – either you continue riding your R15 or switch to a monster litre-class motorcycle and scare the living daylights out of yourself. It was like a junkie switching directly from weed to crystal meth – except, the R1 was legally available.
Over the years, things have, thankfully, changed for the better – today, there are scores of mid-capacity motorcycles available in the market. Not to mention, there is a lot more variety to choose from – ADVs, streetfighters, sports tourers, cruisers, and what not. What’s more, a middleweight motorcycle is perfect for our road conditions – the performance isn’t too explosive, but they’re thrilling enough to keep you grinning from ear to ear. Most importantly, these bikes introduce you to the world of ‘big bikes’ without launching an outright assault on your senses.
The question is – what makes a middleweight motorcycle perfect? Well, there are many ways, and bikes, to answer that question. But we’ve decided to do it by comparing the two most sought-after middleweight motorcycles in the country right now – the Ducati Scrambler and the Honda CB500X.
While buying any big bike is exciting, buying a Ducati to enter the world of big-capacity motorcycles will always be more special. With its Italian lineage, exotic design, and brutal performance, a Ducati somehow is more exciting and special than others.
The Scrambler is your entry ticket into the world of Ducati. At present, it’s the most affordable motorcycle from Bologna in India. Not to mention, it’s the best-selling motorcycle for the brand in the country. Since its launch in 2015, the Scrambler has mostly remained unchanged from the original model. Recently, it was given a mild update for its BS6 avatar.
The Scrambler now features a flatter saddle, new 10-spoke machined alloy wheels (similar to that of the Scrambler 1100), Ducati Multimedia connectivity, a fuel gauge, and a gear-position indicator. The engine casing is finished in black and features brushed aluminium fins.
On the mechanical front, the Scrambler’s 803cc L-Twin motor is largely unchanged, which is no bad thing, for it’s a gem of an engine – a hooligan’s dream. The bike’s throttle response is snappy, with grunt everywhere in the rev range and mild vibrations in the top-end, which gives it even more character. With 72bhp and 66Nm on tap, the Scrambler won’t scare new riders, but it’s not short on thrills either – there’s just about enough oomph for all occasions.
Even though the Scrambler’s design is inspired by dual-sport or motocross bikes from the early sixties, it’s still very much a street bike. It’s nimble, easily manoeuvrable in traffic, and has great brakes. And the light clutch operation only makes it easier to live with on an everyday basis. What’s not good? The ride is still a bit firm, and the engine overheats a lot in stop-go traffic. Owing to its 18-inch front wheel and meaty Pirelli MT60 rubber, the steering can be slow at times to your inputs. However, the turn-in is progressive, and the Scrambler leans into corners with a surefooted feel.
While fully-faired and naked motorcycles are evergreen machines, ADVs are all the rage these days. And since riders in India are more educated and more aware of motorcycles than ever, a lot of first-time big bike buyers are opting for ADVs. If you ask me, I find a fully-faired sports bike very appealing, and I love riding a powerful street-naked around town. However, if I were to spend big bucks on a big bike today, I’ll without a doubt go for an ADV. Given our road conditions, I’d prefer an ADV with long-travel suspension and a cushy ride. Plus, ADVs today don’t handle like a boat either. With an able rider behind the bars, they can give even sports bikes a run for their money on a set of twisty roads.
The all-new CB500X is all that and more. Its high-pricing may be a downer – I feel it should have been priced below `6 lakh (ex-showroom) – but, good lord, it’s a phenomenal machine. On paper, you won’t find anything fancy about it – a 471cc parallel-twin engine, 47bhp, conventional 41mm telescopic forks, and the regulars. And, yet, when you put it on the road, it all comes together like a dream!
The twin-engine is silky smooth and has more than enough grunt to make every ride enjoyable. Plus, it revs quite freely. The throttle response is not as snatchy as that of the Scrambler, but a sudden twist of the wrist can casually pop the front wheel up without any drama. It’s docile but not boring. Overall, a perfect machine for beginners.
The handling of the CB500X is simply epic. It beautifully tips into a corner and tracks the intended line perfectly throughout the corner – the front end is almost telepathic. The X flows effortlessly on twisty roads – being an ADV, it’s not expected to do it, but it does it all the same and remarkably well, too.
With 150mm travel at the front and 135mm at the rear, the suspension is quite absorbent over broken roads. In fact, if you wish to do light off-roading, the X can comfortably do that as well. It’s not an outright off-roader, of course, but there’s no better motorcycle – or none that I can think of – that will introduce you to the world of big ADVs like this Honda. And that’s because it allows you to always be in control of things – the low-end grunt is strong, the steering is light, and the seat height is 830mm, which, along with its kerb weight of 199kgs, make it easily accessible for average-sized riders. The CB500X doesn’t scare you – instead, it holds your hand and allows you to have fun in a very non-intimidating way.
And if you like long-distance touring, the CB500X can comfortably cruise at 120km/h all day long. The upright sitting position and the large and cushy saddle make spending long hours on the road on it even more comfortable. And, last but not least, the brakes are amazing – the Nissin setup not only offers great feel and feedback but also an impressive stopping force.
Both the Scrambler and CB500X are amazing motorcycles and perfect for beginning your big-bike journey, but, as I am finding it out now, choosing one can be a bit of a head-scratcher. I, honestly, love the way the Scrambler tickles my senses, but at the same time, I can’t really appreciate the CB500X enough for being perfect in virtually every respect. Plus, the Honda will also be cheaper to maintain in the long run.
Without further ado, I think I’ll settle for the Honda, regardless of its exorbitant price, for it’s a motorcycle that’s greater than the sum of its parts. It’s just so hard to resist.
However, my decision to pick the Honda over the Ducati is also rooted in the fact that I consider myself to be more of a wanderer than a street racer. If I were to buy a middleweight motorcycle just for fun and giggles, the Scrambler is definitely the better option – it’s a harder drug with headier and more intoxicating effects than that of the Honda.
- Ducati Scrambler Icon
- Honda CB500X
Engine: 803cc / L-Twin
Power: 72bhp @ 8,250rpm
Torque: 66.2Nm @ 5,750rpm
Price: ₹8.49 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: An outright hooligan that looks stunning and doesn’t intimidate new riders.
Engine: 471cc / Parallel-Twin
Power: 46.9bhp @ 8,500rpm
Torque: 43.2Nm @ 6,500rpm
Price: ₹6.87 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: The best middleweight ADV for India – it’s light, comfortable, agile, and refined.
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