We first met the 2024 Harley-Davidson X 500 in a learner-legal speed dating exercise in Sydney. Having been initially besotted with its smaller X 350 sibling the big brother (or sister if you prefer) has quite likely stolen that mantle.
We really liked the smaller X 350 the very first time we rode it, with its striking flat tracker looks and punchy little 353cc DOHC 4-valve liquid-cooled parallel twin engine that produces 27kW of power. More time with it, in real world conditions, saw that wane a little.
Enter the X 500, with a little more refined setup, and a subtle bobber style persona. Both bikes are manufactured in China, and provides the American brand an entry point to entice novice riders to Harley-Davidson.
It’s one they hope will allow customers to step up to larger bikes in the range, ensuring buyers stay brand loyal throughout their motorcycle journey. The learner-legal X 500 will go head-to-head with Royal Enfield’s 650 twins and Kawasaki’s 650 Vulcan.
We were pleased to find a few of the issues on the X 350 had been eliminated on the X 500, including the speedo (which in the case of the former lacks fuel range or gear selection, and is completely analogue).
The X 500, while still not providing a TFT screen, at least covers off on those basics. We’d love to see Harley-Davidson utilise the assembly used on the Breakout and Street Bob for future releases, it would provide a much better experience.
Apart from that, the X 500 features LED lighting all-round, and in general, controls are easy-to-use and engage. Self cancelling blinkers would be a nice addition. The proportions of the bigger bike are much more accommodating for a larger rider too.
The seating position is relaxed, providing ergonomics more suitable for longer riding adventures, while still allowing a great commuter option, with good body position for lane filtering. Its compact characteristics make navigating the urban jungle a breeze.
The suspension and handling on the X 500 work a treat and we enjoyed the predictability of the bike’s dynamics on our local twisty back roads. Up front, suspension duties are carried out by a 50mm upside down fork.
The rear setup features an oil and gas separation type shock absorber. In a nice touch, both front and rear preload are adjustable. Surprisingly, the X 500 features slightly less lean angle than the X 350, with 46.9-degrees to the right and 49.5 to the left.
On the road though, it feels planted, and is confidence inspiring enough to allow you to lean over all the way to the point where the foot pegs kiss the bitumen. Dual front discs and a single rear, with ABS, provide braking duties.
This setup works well and offers the rider plenty of brake feel, on the front and rear, which is something learner and beginner motorcyclists will appreciate. The 500cc donk feels smooth, with enough punch down low to be engaging for learners and commuters alike.
The DOHC 4-valve liquid-cooled parallel twin produces 35kW of power and 46Nm of torque, mated to a six-speed transmission utilising a wet-plate clutch. It shines through the mid-range and feels effortless to ride, all the way to the speed limit, and beyond.
The gearbox works well, with a firm click up and down gears. Like the X 350, we weren’t able to find false neutrals and never missed a gear. It’s worth noting that while this bike and its sibling are made in China, the built quality is very good.
Combined with the easy handling characteristics, the X 500 will find itself a decent fan base. A direct replacement for the Street 500, this bike is a huge improvement over what came before, in terms of performance, style and finish.
Harley-Davidson’s 2024 X 500 is available in four colours; Dynamic Orange, Pearl White, Dramatic Black and Supersonic Silver (as tested). It’s priced at $11,495 ride away and is backed by Harley-Davidson’s 2-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
For us, the X 500 provides good ergonomics (which are better than its X 350 sibling). It’s dearer than its direct rivals, which will bother some, but we reckon it’s well worth a look. We’re expecting both bikes to be a hit, just like the Street 500 was.
For more information on Harley-Davidson’s X 500, talk to your local dealership, or visit their website.
Our test bike was provided by Harley-Davidson Australia for review purposes.