Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced motorcycle rider, it’s important to understand which bike is right for you so that you can avoid making the wrong purchase decision. If you’re looking to step up from your first bike, it’s useful to know which are the best 500cc motorcycles.
The 10 best 500cc motorcycles are:
- Honda CB500
- Kawasaki Vulcan 500
- Kawasaki ER-5
- Suzuki GS 500
- Harley Davidson Street 500 ABS
- Kawasaki Ninja 500
- Honda Rebel 500
- Royal Enfield Bullet 500
- Buell Blast
- KTM 500 EXC-F
This list is just what we believe are the top 10 best 500cc motorcycles on the market. There are variations of each bike, and with so many options out there it’s hard to distil it down to just 10. However, below we’ll go into more detail about each bike so that you can choose the right one for you.
What To Look For In A 500cc Motorcycle
There are some key things too look for when picking any kind of motorcycle, with a few of the obvious ones being the brand, model and price of the bike. While brand always plays a part, and your budget is obviously a limiting factor, this list focuses on more of the technical aspects of the bikes.
Why Are You Buying It?
You first need to consider why you’re buying a 500cc bike. Is it to cruise along the highways? Or are you going to be doing more city riding? Do you want some off-road capabilities? Or do you just want a fast bike with a lot of power for the road? This is a crucial thing to consider before buying your bike.
Fuel And Practicality
Things like fuel economy and range will come into play when you’re deciding for what purpose you’re buying the bike. If you want to go on long road trips, a bike with a bigger fuel tank is key. But if you’re just looking for an everyday commuter bike, you’ll probably put more value on other factors like a lower seat height for putting your foot down at lights, and maneuverability at low speeds.
Seat height in general is a key consideration, as it will go a long way towards the comfort factor of the bike. For longer rides, you want something that puts your body in a natural, comfortable position. Handlebar height and the overall size of the bike also come into play here.
Power And Speed
You’ll also want to consider power and speed when buying a 500cc motorcycle. These two factors may be quite intimidating if you’re coming to the 500cc table from the lower ccs, so you’ll need to consider your own experience level. But once again you also need to think about why you want the bike in the first place.
You won’t need too much power if you’re just going to ride around the city, but if highway cruising is your plan, you’ll want something that isn’t running out of steam as it gets above 50 mph.
You might also want to consider the tech that comes with the bike. Some of the motorcycles on our list are a little older, so they don’t have all the tech of the newer bikes. For those that don’t mind sacrificing instruments for simplicity, this isn’t an issue. But if you want lots of information at your fingertips, you’ll probably want to check out the tech on the bike you plan to buy.
Costs To Consider
Finally, let’s consider the cost of the bike. A lot of these bikes can be picked up fairly cheap if they’re second hand and older models, but it’s not just the cost of the bike you need to consider. How easy it is to get cheap replacement parts is key, especially if you’re buying a bike that’s no longer being manufactured.
We’ve gone for the bikes that tick as many of these boxes as possible. That means we’ve put the most value on factors like reliability, ease of finding spares, and overall comfort and performance. Which one is right for you will depend on personal preference, bearing in mind all of these factors. So, to help you decide, let’s take a closer look at our 10 best 500cc motorcycles.
The 10 Best 500cc Motorcycles
1. Honda CB500
First on our list is the Honda CB500. This is a well-known bike, and it’s popular with everyday riders, delivery drivers, and regular commuters. The bike is designed to be easy to maintain, and it’s quite easy to find parts for this bike too. This gives it longevity and means you can be sure that you won’t spend more money repairing the bike than you did buying it.
The Honda CB500 is a reliable bike, and it’s also very smooth in terms of handling and performance. You’ll be able to reach a top speed of 120 mph if you really want to, and in terms of range you can go about 200 miles on a full tank.
A Comfortable Ride
You should also be relatively comfortable for trips of that length, as comfort was clearly an important factor in the design, from the ride position to the seat. The bike uses a smooth parallel twin motor, which is famous for having low vibration.
The CB500 is recommended for beginners as it is quite easy to get the hang of, and its handling and reliability mean it’s not too intimidating for those making the jump from lower ccs up to the 500cc mark.
An Award Winning Bike
You’ll find various iterations of this bike depending on the year the specific model was manufactured, but most years didn’t see many significant changes. The latest model arrived in 2019, which is a replacement for the 2013 model, the CB500 X. The next iteration will arrive on the scene for 2022, but the most recent 500X won the MCN award for the best sub 500cc bike (at 471cc).
In terms of dimensions, the newest model weighs around 430 lbs, and you can get about 7 inches of ground clearance. This is ideal for commuters that perhaps have to bump up city curbs in order to park. They use Showa suspension, with seven-spoke Africa Twin style wheels.
When it comes to technology, you get just about everything you need with this bike. The LCD dash gives you all the information you need to know, like fuel consumption data, gear position indicators, and a peak RPM indicator that will remind you of a racing bike. You can customize your bike with heated grips, fog lights, and a 12 V socket, as well as a few other extras if you want them.
The price of the CB500 will obviously vary depending on the model you buy, if it is new, how many miles it has on the clock, and various other factors. However, a brand-new 2019 Honda CB500 X will set you back around $6,600. The CB500 is very ideal for those looking to make the jump up from the lower ccs.
- Reasonably priced when new
- Plenty of power and technology
- Comfortable ride
- OEM extras can be pretty pricey
- Not the most powerful bike (to be expected)
2. Kawasaki Vulcan 500
Next on our list is the Kawasaki Vulcan 500, which is another ideal bike for beginners that still packs a punch for those looking for a real upgrade from the lower ccs. One of the most important points about this bike is that it’s great as a cruiser. Offering lots of comfort, and great handling, this bike is great for both long drives while also holding its own in the city.
While this bike might look a bit more powerful and heavier than a 500cc machine, it still just comes in at around 439 lbs. Its engine is a parallel twin, liquid cooled four stroke, based off of the engine in the Kawasaki Ninja 500. This bike has a long wheelbase, which does mean it’s great for long-range, fast driving.
But this does make it a little bit difficult to perform low-speed maneuvers. It’s a fairly comfortable bike, even for somebody sitting in the back. However, this bike is noticeably affected by the extra weight of a passenger, so just bear that in mind if you plan to go 2-up through the hills.
The Kawasaki Vulcan 500 first appeared on the scene in 1990, but it was discontinued in 2009. While that means there are no new iterations of this bike to look at, it does mean you can usually pick one up for fairly cheap. There are also plenty of extras that you can add to this bike to really customize it, from chrome engine guards to side saddles, so you can make it look even more intimidating!
From a technical standpoint, the bike has a compression ratio of 10.2 to 1, and maximum power of 50 hp at 8500 rpm. It uses a wet plate clutch, with a 6 speed transition. With 36 mm telescopic front forks on the front, and preload adjustable dual shocks on the rear, the bike provides a fairly comfortable ride.
The seat height is around 28 inches, and fuel capacity is 15 liters. Overall, this is an ideal 500cc bike for those looking for a comfortable cruise with the ability to still take it into the city from time to time.
- Good for cruising and city driving
- Comfortable ride
- Reliable bike
- Suffers with a passenger
- Heavy compared to others on this list
3. Kawasaki ER-5
Next we have the Kawasaki ER-5, which is a very easy-going bike for those that just want to get from one place to another in a comfortable manner. This bike features a fairly low seat and decent ride quality, and it runs on a parallel twin 498cc engine. It won’t take you across the country and back, with just a 170-mile range, but you can expect decent fuel consumption of around 60 mpg.
A Simple Bike
This is a bike that is fairly straightforward, and it lacks some of the bells and whistles that come some of the more modern bikes. This is not the fastest bike out there either, but it does offer 48 hp that can take it up to a top speed of 110 miles an hour.
It’s fairly cheap to buy, depending on the mileage and age, and running costs are fairly low. Bear in mind that this is definitely a bike more suited towards single person riding, as it already struggles a little bit on the highways, and even more so with two people on the bike.
The ER-5 is fairly comfortable, but on longer rides you may want to consider upgrading the seat. It’s great for commuting, but not so good for cruising across the country, due to its fairly low range and the aforementioned uncomfortable seat.
In terms of the brakes, you get a disc on the front and a drum on the rear, and they are powerful enough to slow you down from speed. But if you’re buying a fairly well-used model, these are the first thing you may consider replacing.
The bike is fairly light, coming in at about 394 lbs, and it’s pretty easy to ride while still maintaining decent stability as well. The bike is usually quite cheap, and you’ll be able to pick one up for less than $4,500. The Kawasaki ER-5 makes a great choice for beginners that value rideability over functionality.
- Reasonably priced
- Easy to ride
- Cheap to run
- Not very powerful
- Seat can be uncomfortable on long rides
- Short range
4. Suzuki GS 500
The Suzuki GS 500 is a sports motorcycle, and it functions well both on the road and even off-road. There are a few different choices, notably variations of the E and F models, and so it’s worth doing your research to find out which one is right for you.
It’s a fairly cheap bike, and you can pick one up for $2,000 – $3,000 depending on the mileage. So, if budget is your main concern, this could be the 500cc motorcycle for you. The Suzuki GS 500 runs off an air cooled, four stroke parallel twin cylinder engine, capable of reaching speeds of 110 mph thanks to its 51 hp.
An Easy Ride
This is more than fast enough, and when paired with its fairly light weight of around 380 lbs, it’s a very easy bike to ride. Seat height is around 31 inches, and with a more upright seating position it makes for fairly comfortable long distance and short distance riding.
However, this is definitely more ideal for those looking for a commuter bike, as you may experience shaking and vibration when you get up to highway speeds. This bike is famously good for beginners, especially those who are used to riding a 125cc scooter or similar, and those that want to make the leap to 500cc. The bike is also fairly cheap to run, which is always good news for those on a budget
No Longer Manufactured
As you won’t find a new one of these anymore, you will need to be slightly careful when purchasing one. Some older models may exhibit rust or general wear, so make sure you find out all you can about the bike before you make the purchase. Overall, if you’re looking for a cheap bike that runs well, and is ideal for getting from A to B, the Suzuki GS 500 is definitely one to consider.
- Easy to ride
- Fairly cheap
- No longer manufactured
- Older models on the market susceptible to wear
5. Harley Davidson Street 500 ABS
The Harley-Davidson Street 500 is a brilliant ride for those that do a lot of city driving. The Harley-Davidson brand doesn’t need an introduction, and if you’re a fan of the brand, or want to become one, this is a great first bike to get your hands on. Because of the brand name, you will find this bike is one of the more expensive options on our list, with new models costing around $10,000.
The Harley-Davidson Street 500 runs off a liquid cooled Revolution X V-twin engine. This is capable of putting out 41 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. It should come as no surprise that this bike weighs more than 500 lbs, but the engine more than matches its weight, providing stability and performance.
The seat height sits around 28.3 inches, which is fairly low, making sense for a bike that is designed for riding in the street. Build quality is as expected from a brand with such a big reputation, but you can expect replacement parts to be a little bit more expensive than with some other brands. The bike may seem intimidating for beginners, but it’s actually fairly beginner friendly.
With a relaxed seat position, and being fairly close to the ground, you can be confident that you can get your feet on the ground fast in city driving situations, an important consideration for beginner riders. It has very responsive brakes and excellent suspension, making the Harley Davidson Street 500 ABS a great first cruiser bike.
- Ideal for city driving and cruising
- Excellent brakes and suspension
- Beginner friendly
- Very heavy
6. Kawasaki Ninja 500
The Kawasaki Ninja 500 first appeared in 1987. It ran until 2009, when it was discontinued for good. Throughout the years this bike has shown itself to be one of the best 500cc motorcycles on the market. Being lightweight, providing decent power, and offering a comfortable seat height, this is a great 500cc motorcycle for beginners.
You won’t find much instrumentation on this bike, so if you’re used to riding with plenty of information in front of you this may be a bit of a shock to the system. However, if you value simplicity, this is a good choice.
The Technical Info
The bike runs on a four stroke, DOHC parallel twin engine. It features an electric starter, great for those in colder climes. It’s liquid cooled, with a compression ratio of 10.8 to 1. It has hydraulic telescopic forks on the front, with a unique track system with a single shock at the rear, both contributing to a fairly comfortable ride at high and low speed.
You get a hydraulic disc brake on the front and a regular disc brake on the rear, capable of stopping this bike pretty rapidly from speed. You can expect this bike to last you a long time, and it offers fairly decent fuel economy and reliability overall. It comes in at under 400 lbs, which is somewhat on the light end of the scale.
A Sporty Option
This bike features a fairly aggressive riding position, and is clearly a sportier option. But it’s a stable and powerful machine, and if you can pick one up for a good price – they usually come in at around $3,000 – it’s a very good entry-level bike for those just getting into the 500cc mark.
- Not too pricey
- A very fun and powerful bike
- Comfortable ride
- Not much in the way of tech
7. Honda Rebel 500
Next, we have another entry from Honda. The Rebel 500 is a bike powered by a parallel twin, liquid cooled engine, with a DOHC valve train, featuring a fuel injection system for maximum performance and efficiency. Aside from these technical features, the Honda Rebel 500 also just looks like an awesome bike!
The Rebel 500 comes with a low frame and low seat height, which helps contribute to a smooth and comfortable ride at both low and high speeds. The bike weighs just over 400 lbs, and it’s ideal for both beginners and those already comfortable with 500cc motorcycles.
Not Too Cheap, Not Too Expensive
The new Honda Rebel sits about in the middle when it comes to price, coming in at around $6,500. It’s definitely designed with comfort in mind, making it ideal for those looking to cruise and for those looking for a comfortable ride through the city.
You get hydraulic discs on both the front and rear brakes, which are able to stop this bike in no time. Also contributing to the comfortable ride is the 41 mm fork in the front and dual shock suspension on the rear. It’s got a rather small fuel tank at just under 3 gallons, but at 67 mpg, you’ll still be able to get from A to B.
This bike offers a smooth ride, and enough power for almost every situation. You can expect some very easy handling, and it is very intuitive for beginner riders. The bike can be fun in the corners, and comfortable on the streets, making this a good choice for those that want a bit of everything.
- Comfortable ride
- Easy to ride for beginners
- Good all-round choice
- Small fuel tank
- Not very cheap
8. Royal Enfield Bullet 500
Next on our list is an option for those that just want the absolute basics, with limited technology and fancy extras. The Royal Enfield 500 comes in various different forms, such as the Trials and Classic versions, but each one is designed to provide a truly enjoyable two wheeled experience.
This bike looks as if it’s just come out of the Second World War, but it provides an experience very few bikes can. It has that classic air cooled cylinder head that features on all Royal Enfields, and so while it’s not for everyone, if you like that aesthetic, you’ll love this bike. It does come with ABS and fuel injection, but that’s about all the technology this bike has!
The Enfield is capable of around 22 hp, which varies slightly depending on the version you get. It comes with really skinny tires, but these handle quite well on the road and off-road. It uses old-fashioned drum and disc brakes, which are enough to stop you but definitely not up to scratch when compared with some of the other bikes on this list.
Its engine is a four stroke, single cylinder engine, and is capable of powering you to a top speed of 70 miles per hour. You can expect about 70 miles per gallon, and the bike weighs around 375 lbs, with a seat height of 30 inches.
This motorcycle is meant to be ridden at fairly low speeds, and is perhaps not the best for those looking for an everyday commuter. What it lacks in top speed, however, it makes up for with its retro look. It is fast enough for some relaxed cruising, and is fairly economical with its fuel consumption.
Maintenance of this bike is fairly cheap, and you can older versions up for around $2,000, depending on age and miles on the clock. New ones cost about $5,000. You’ll find spares pretty easily, and as long as you know what to expect with this bike, you will not be disappointed!
- Retro look
- Fairly cheap for used bikes
- Simple riding
- The look isn’t for everyone
- Very basic
9. Buell Blast
The Buell Blast is a fairly unique bike. While it has now been discontinued, it’s still a very good beginner motorcycle if you can get your hands on it. It’s a pretty basic bike, and you can’t expect to have the fastest and most powerful motorcycle if you buy one of these.
Great For Beginners
However, it is definitely still worth considering if you’re an absolute beginner looking for your first 500cc motorcycle. In terms of the technical specifications, the bike runs on a single cylinder, four stroke engine that produces around 34 hp. It’s a very light bike, which means it’s also very nimble in terms of the handling.
You’ll only get speedometer in front of you, so you also shouldn’t expect to have much information at your disposal. The transmission is known for being a little clunky, and reliability may be an issue for some. However, this bike can be found fairly cheap, with some on the market for less than $2,000.
Easy To Ride
Fuel capacity is also on the fairly low side, coming in at 2.8 gallons. But with 67 miles per gallon, you still get decent fuel economy out of this bike. It’s easy to ride, and is a good choice for those that want to get into 500cc bikes in the easiest way possible. It’s a bit like riding a 250cc bike in terms of the skill required, but with a 500cc engine at your disposal.
- Good beginner 500cc motorcycle
- Nimble handling
- Not much on the technology front
- Transmission known for being clunky at times
10. KTM 500 EXC-F
Last on our list is actually a 500cc dirt bike. However, don’t despair if you’re looking for a road legal bike on this list, as this one can be ridden on the road too. It’s the only 500cc model made by KTM, and the look of this bike alone is enough to attract anyone’s attention.
You’ll be able to ride this dirt bike through the woods, along the dunes, and through the mountains, but you will also be able to ride along the streets with ease. This bike is pretty pricey, coming in at around $11,000. However, if you’re looking for a brilliant dirt bike that you can ride home through the city, this is definitely one to consider.
The KTM 500 EXC-F offers great speed and power, with the acceleration being the real talking point of this bike. The bike only weighs 232 lbs, making it far lighter than the rest of the bikes on this list. Obviously, you’re not going to want to use this bike for cruising, but it’s comfortable enough for the ride home after your session in the hills.
The new model for 2021 comes with adjustable front fork suspension, offering consistent damping and easier adjustment for moving from the dirt to the road and vice versa. You get similar quality in the rear link-less progressive damping system. As this bike is a dual sport, it’s designed to be the best of both worlds.
Might Need Some Customization
This means that you may need to invest in different tires, and even play around with the gears to find something that truly works for you and your ideal riding setup. Overall, the handling of the KTM 500 is excellent, but it’s obviously only a choice for those looking to be able to ride their motorcycle in the street and the dirt.
- Great dual sport bike
- Quality suspension and power
- Looks great too
- Only good for those that plan to ride off-road
- Pretty expensive
When it comes to choosing your first 500cc motorcycle, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There are so many brands to choose from, and so many things to consider. However, our list above contains the best 500cc motorcycles for every situation, so that you can choose the right bike for your riding style.