Back in the 70s, it seemed like each of Honda's small-displacement CB-series bikes had a CL-series partner. CLs were scramblers—essentially CBs fitted with unique reinforced handlebars, unique bodywork, high-mounted exhaust pipes, and knobby-ish tires. From the tiny CL50 to the mighty CL450, these bikes were designed for fun on and off the road and are pretty popular with collectors and 70s Honda stans (*cough*me*cough*) to this day.
The CL nameplate was phased out in the mid 70s with the cancellation of both the CL200 and CL360. No other dirt-eating, road-hogging Honda has borne the CL nameplate since. Until now, that is.
At the 2022 EICMA show in Milan, Italy, Honda announced the first CL-series scrambler in nearly 50 years—the new CL500. Based heavily on the Rebel 500—to my, admittedly jaundiced, eye it looks like just a Rebel with dual sport tires—the new Honda scrambler "combines retro charm with modern equipment and technology to create a totally new kind of modern urban naked in Honda’s line-up." according to Honda's press release. Okay, sure, but what exactly are you getting with a resurrected CL? What's Honda giving you for the money? Let's have a look.
The new CL500 is powered by Honda's trusty 471cc, water-cooled, parallel twin, the same one found in the Rebel 500 and middleweight CB500 series. It's not a straight drop-in, however. The CL's engine has different fuel mapping and a new intake that gives the bike a claimed 46 horsepower and 32 lb.-ft. of torque. In addition, the bike is equipped with a modern take on the CL-series' upswept high pipes. The power is routed through a six-speed gearbox to a rear wheel fitted with a 41-tooth sprocket, one more tooth than the Rebel.
Further deviations from the Rebel platform can be found in the CL's wheels and suspension. Forward there's a 41mm fork with 5.9 inches of travel, while the aft suspension consists of a pair of preload-adjustable shocks with 5.7 inches of travel. For those of you keeping score, that's a respectable increase over the Rebel's 4.8 inches of front travel and 3.8 inches of rear travel. Combined with the CL's bigger cast wheels—a 19-inch hoop up front and a 17-inch one out back—the CL500 boasts just over six inches of ground clearance and a 31.1-inch seat height. Not too shabby.
For brakes, the CL500 boasts a single 310mm floating disc rotor forward grabbed by a two-piston caliper and a rear-mounted single-piston caliper grabbing a 240mm rotor. Two-channel ABS comes standard, and according to Honda, braking pressure between the two wheels is balanced to provide solid braking on both paved and dirt roads.
The whole package weighs in at 423 pounds wet, and honestly, I'm pretty impressed. While I don't care for its looks—the styling seems really low-effort and does little to set it apart from the Rebel—the CL500 looks, on paper at least, to be a pretty decent middleweight scrambler. Something good for city work and light off-road/dirt road shenanigans. If and when we can get our hands on one, we'll be sure to let you know.