American Honda has a long history of producing fun, well-performing scramblers. All the way back in the 1960s, the Japanese manufacturer brought us the stripped-down (in a good way) CL72 and CL77. Now, Honda has taken a look back in time and introduced a machine that brings the old and new into one—the 2023 SCL500.
The SCL500 sports all the stylistic cues of classic Honda scramblers. On top of the upright riding position, you have the round LED lights, block tires, plentiful suspension travel, and a flat double seat. And, of course, there’s the right-mounted exhaust—it’s not much a retro scrambler without one, now is it?
But what else is there? Let’s start with the engine. The SCL500 draws its power from a liquid-cooled eight-valve parallel-twin with 417cc of displacement. Sound familiar? It should, because it’s the same powerplant found on the Rebel 500 and the CB500X/F/R.
The engine has proven itself popular on those bikes, thanks to putting out strong torque at low rpm and producing a smooth, linear power delivery. Could Honda have come up with something special just for the SCL500? Sure. But if it ain’t broken, why fix it?
In addition to the engine, the SCL500 harvests its tubular steel frame from the Rebel 500—but not without some scrambler-y modifications. Honda has kept the frame narrow to facilitate easier and nimbler handling. The bike features a new subframe that can better support the double seat, which has a seat height of 31.1 inches. That’s considerably higher than on the Rebel (around 27 inches), but most legs should still reach the ground. The shock mounts have also been repositioned.
Speaking of the shocks, in the front we have a 41mm fork with 5.3-inches of travel. Twin shocks, with two-step preload adjustment, reside in the aforementioned mounts, offering 5.7 inches of travel. That’s more than on your average street bike, so we should be able to expect a smooth ride.
ABS comes standard on the SCL500. The 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels are bigger than on the Rebel to accommodate some light off-road action. To further highlight that this bike can do brief stints on dirt, the footpegs have removable rubber inserts. Put them on for street riding or slide them off to reveal off-road-ready toothed pegs.
The roughly 3.2-gallon fuel tank has rubber knee guards, as you’d expect from a scrambler-style bike. Fuel economy will likely fall into the 65 mpg range, so you will probably get some 195 miles from a tank, give or take.
The bike will be available in Candy Orange and Mattel Laurel Green Metallic. Of course, scrambler fans want to customize their bikes, so Honda will also offer a slew of accessories. The total OEM part catalog contains 25 entries and they’re bundled into Adventure, Travel, and Style packs.
So, who is this bike for? Honda seems to be casting a wide net and trying to make the bike appealing to both newbies and grizzled veterans (with more emphasis perhaps on the newbies). With an MSRP of $6,799, the SCL500 is looking reasonably attractive. It could make for a good entry-level bike, or a fun and cheap addition to a more expansive stable. The 2023 Honda SCL500 is available at Honda dealerships now.