Motorcycle riding has this magical ability to transport me from my day-to-day whirlwind full of the pressures of modern life to a time that almost stands still. No matter what has been going on in my day, as soon as the faceshield clicks down or the goggle strap settles on my helmet, everything else fades away. This is the beauty of two wheels and a twist of the throttle. Pretty much any bike has this effect on me, and the new 2023 Honda SCL500 adds that extra element of time shifting, as it evokes an era when life truly was slower and simpler.
- While the styling of the 2023 Honda SCL500 references the Honda twin-cylinder scramblers of the 1960s and early ’70s, it’s not meant for offroad riding. The SCL500 borrows the engine and frame from Honda’s Rebel 500 cruiser, then adds neo-scrambler cues such as a down-/up-swept exhaust, 19-/17-inch aluminum wheels with street-focused ADV tires, tank pads, and fork gaiters. While you can certainly take the SCL on a well-groomed dirt road without undercarriage protection or knobby tires, off-road riding is best avoided. That’s okay; you weren’t really going to do that anyway—you just want it to look the part (it does) while delivering a hugely satisfying ride on pavement.
- Ergonomics are all-day friendly. The SCL350’s upright riding position, the mid-position footpegs, and well-positioned handlebars keep your body relaxed as you cruise, er, scramble your way down the backroads. The comfy bench seat means you’re not locked into one position, and there’s room to invite a friend onboard behind you. Also, the seating position allows an excellent grip on the tank.
- The 2023 Honda SCL500 is novice-friendly, yet still appealing to seasoned riders looking for a more casual ride. The compact mid-size bike’s neo-retro look is non-intimidating and reassuring, inviting you to throw a leg over the seat in your dealer’s showroom. With a 31-inch seat height, it’s not low-slung like the Rebel, but is 1.6 inches lower than the Honda CRF300LS lowered dual-sport bike. A free-spirited scrambler personality requires some extra ground clearance, so the SCL has nearly six inches of wheel travel at both ends. The dual shocks are spring-preload adjustable because that bench seat is a buddy/passenger magnet.
- The SCL500’s non-adjustable suspension is nicely tuned and never felt unsettled. The suspension is firm enough for hard braking into tight turns in the canyons, yet it’s not harsh around town. While the ride is not plush, most of the bite of the well-worn urban/suburban landscape is decently reduced as the ribbed seat contributes to a comfortable ride.
- Smooth and torquey, the familiar minutely oversquare DOHC 471cc parallel-twin engine requires no managing. Pulling away from a stop is stress-free, as the forgiving engine has no hitches in the power delivery. The clutch has an assist function that lightens the pull—always good around town. Shifting through the six-speed transmission is sure, predictable, and without false neutrals. You’ll easily get 150 miles between fill-ups of the 3.2-gallon fuel tank, and maybe even as far as 200 miles.
- The 2023 Honda SCL500 has enough spunk for rousing rides in the canyons. While tooling down the backroads between the citrus groves on a summer afternoon is its own pleasure, the twin is ready to sprint along twisting asphalt when it gets the chance. Twist the throttle hard on the SCL, and you can enjoy the adrenalin boost that comes from pushing a smaller engine hard. The throttle response is good, and the handling is nicely neutral, giving you gobs of confidence to slalom through the switchbacks.
- Well-matched brakes with stock ABS boost self-assurance and let you explore your boundaries. The SCL500 has a single 310mm disc brake and traditional two-piston Nissin caliper to keep the speed of the 419-pound bike in check, and it is perfectly suited to the bike’s capabilities and audience. Response at the adjustable lever is dialed in just right for newer riders, with a soft initial engagement so no one is caught out should they over-grab the lever. Still, strong deceleration is available when you squeeze it firmly, enough to inspire a vigorous romp. The rear 240mm disc is similarly appropriate for its supplemental duties, and the ABS is unobtrusive. The slipper clutch is also at the ready to prevent rear wheel skipping should you downshift too aggressively.
- Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour tires look the part—vintage scramblers did not have knobbies—and are secure on pavement. Although Trailmax is in the name, the keyword is Mixtour, as these are ADV touring tires. The confidence-inspiring tires encouraged me to lean into turns without worry. I never had an anxious rubber-to-road-disconnect moment from the canyons to downtown.
- The SCL500 is freeway-capable, so scramble to work if you like. Surprisingly, the upright seating position, wide handlebar, and no wind-deflecting cowling don’t contribute to a large windblast. I had the SCL up to 83 mph on an overtake, and the bike felt planted. Commuters will like that the Dunlops don’t complain about the rain grooves on urban freeways. The mirrors stay smooth at higher rpm, giving an excellent view behind you. Not that this is how one spends quality time on the SCL, but it’s nice to know it can handle this duty.
- Modern touches blend with old-school styling. The round LED headlight throws a bright light, keeping you visible to surrounding vehicles, and the crisp LCD dash displays the necessary basics digitally. Speed, gear indicator, and time are appropriately sized for easy reading at a glance, along with a fuel gauge. You can scroll through trip meters and fuel consumption data.
- There are over 20 accessory items available. A firmer brown tall seat is available, adding an extra inch-plus to the seat height—for only $65. Other options address practical concerns (rear carrier, left-side-only saddlebag, top case), or you can lean into the off-road look (handguards, number plate/headlight cowling, and high-mounted auxiliary front fender). Cold-weather wimps like me can add heated grips out of the catalog.
- The 2023 Honda SCL500 is a lifestyle statement that’s also functional. The scrambler aesthetic resonates with those who grew up on the original scramblers, as well as a new generation of riders drawn to the relaxed vibe of a bygone era. At its core, the SCL500 is no different from a 1960s scrambler—it’s all about fun at a pleasingly affordable price.
2023 Honda SCL500 Specs
- Type: Parallel twin canted forward 21 degrees
- Bore x stroke: 67.0 x 66.8mm
- Displacement: 471cc
- Compression ratio: 10.7:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC; four valves per cylinder
- Fueling: EFI w/ 34mm throttle bodies
- Transmission: Six-speed
- Clutch: Wet multiplate w/ assist and slip functions
- Final drive: Chain
- Frame: Steel-tube trellis
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 41mm fork; 5.3 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Spring-preload adjustable nitrogen-gas shocks; 5.7 inches
- Wheels: Cast aluminum
- Tires: Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour
- Front tire: 110/80 x 19
- Rear tire: 150/70 x 17
- Front brake: 310mm disc w/ Nissin 2-piston caliper
- Rear brake: 240mm disc w/ Nissin single-piston caliper
- ABS: 2-channel
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 58.5 inches
- Rake: 27.0 degrees
- Trail: 4.3 inches
- Ground clearance: 6.1 inches
- Seat height: 31.1 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3.2 gallons
- Curb weight: 419 pounds
- Colors: Candy Orange; Matte Laurel Green Metallic
2023 Honda SCL500 Price: $6799 MSRP
2023 Honda SCL500 Review Photo Gallery