Rocking the boat: Can the new Chinese-built Voge DS525X rival the updated Honda NX500 on the MCN250?

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When it comes to the light/middleweight adventure motorcycle market, one machine has been dominating the show – Honda’s CB500X.

Launched in 2013 alongside its naked CB500F and fully-faired CBR500R siblings, the X was designed as a lightweight crossover that blended the upright riding stance of an adventure bike with the sporty handling of a naked.

Easy-going, fun to ride and practical, the understated A2-licence-legal X went on to become a European-wide hit and has since been regularly updated to meet the changing demands of this popular market segment. And for 2024 the CB500X has once again evolved.

In detail: Honda NX500 – £6799

2024 Honda NX500 static shot on side stand
  • Engine 471cc 8v DOHC parallel twin, 46.7bhp, 31.7lb.ft
  • Frame Tubular steel
  • Suspension 41mm inverted forks, non-adjustable. R: Monoshock, 5-stage adjustable preload
  • Front brake 2 x 296mm wave discs with two-piston calipers. ABS
  • Rear brake 1 x 240mm disc with one-piston caliper. ABS
  • Seat height 830mm
  • Kerb weight 196kg
  • Tank capacity 17.5 litres
  • Read: in-depth Honda NX500 review

The Honda NX500 is effectively a CB500X with a new set of clothes, flashy TFT dash, lighter wheels, retuned suspension and traction control (Honda’s HSTC system) added as standard. Hardly ground-breaking updates but as the established benchmark, there wasn’t much Honda needed to do or they’d have risked rocking the boat. But now there is a new player threatening to create a bit of turbulent water for the Honda, and we’re riding it today.

Voge Motorcycles are a subsidiary of massive Chinese motorcycle manufacturer Loncin, they are aggressively targeting the European market and they have Honda’s crossover bike in their sights with their latest offering, the DS525X.

In detail: Voge DS525X – £6199

2024 Voge DS525X static shot on side stand
  • Engine 494cc 8v DOHC parallel twin, 46.9bhp, 32.5lb.ft
  • Frame Tubular steel
  • Suspension KYB inverted forks, fully-adjustable. R: Monoshock, adjustable preload
  • Front brake 2 x 298mm wave disc with two-piston caliper. ABS
  • Rear brake 1 x 240mm wave disc with one-piston caliper. ABS
  • Seat height 810mm
  • Kerb weight 206kg
  • Tank capacity 18 litres
  • Read: in-depth Voge DS525X review

Powered by an all-new parallel twin, the DS-X is built to appeal to European buyers and that means plenty of eye-catching components alongside a low price. As these two bikes stand, the Voge is £600 cheaper than the Honda (but that’s not the whole story).

Looking around the Voge it is hard not to be impressed. You get Metzeler Tourance tyres, Nissin brake calipers, KYB suspension – all brands with tried and trusted pedigree behind them. Dig deeper and you discover the Voge comes with switchable traction control and ABS, connectivity, auxiliary lights, crash protection, brush guards, a centrestand, luggage rack, adjustable screen, spoke wheels, 12V and USB sockets and even a forward-facing camera as standard. That’s an impressive line-up for a bike costing £6199, especially when you start digging into the NX500’s optional extras.

Remember, the NX is built in Thailand, not Japan, so it is also a Far Eastern product but to add brush guards is £105, a centrestand £180, luggage rack £305, 12V output £60, crash bars £345 and accessory lights £600 – so a total of £1595, making it technically £2195 more expensive than the Voge. And you can’t have spoke wheels or a forward-facing camera. So while the NX does also have known-brand parts such as Nissin brakes, Dunlop Trailmax tyres and Showa suspension, it is noticeably lower-spec than the Voge in standard trim.

Honda NX500 takes on Voge DS525X on the twisty roads around Peterborough

Taking to the twisty B-road route of the MCN250, the NX feels effortlessly relaxed. It is pleasingly narrow and has a riding position with comfort at its core. Everything just feels right on the NX and even the new dash is intuitive and clear to read with just a single toggle switch to swap between functions. It feels like a bike that has done its time and evolved into a final and very compete package, which is exactly how it rides.

On the bumpy B-roads of our test route the Honda’s tweaked Showa suspension delivers a wonderfully plush ride with compliance to absorb harsh jolts yet still enough support to prevent the bike pitching around when you want to be a bit more spirited. It’s an absolute joy to spend time with, effortless in bends and provides the rider with lots of confidence thanks to quality tyres and light, manageable weight.

What is the MCN250?

It’s Britain’s toughest road test route. A fun but punishing mix of A- and B-roads, busy motorway, towns and villages. It’s all Britain’s road types compressed into one route. There are three sections and we combine the two that best test the bike’s character. On average we ride 450 miles per bike, per test.

Pulling over to swap for the Voge, I’m not sure how the Chinese-built bike can ever hope to replicate this overall feeling of completeness and balance. But fair play to Voge, they have had a very good go. The first thing you spot is the Voge’s physical size. Much roomier than the NX, it both feels and looks like a big bike. But it is all a bit of a mirage as there is only 10kg difference between the two adventurers (remember the Chinese bike is packing much heavier kit, such as a centrestand, crash protection etc).

Voge DS525X and Honda NX500 navigate the tiny towns of Northamptonshire

Cunningly, Voge have stuck oversized bodywork on a small bike to give the impression of something more substantial but without its associated extra weight. The Voge feels just as assured as the Honda. Quality KYB suspension (which has more adjustment than the Honda’s units) deals with the UK’s imperfect tarmac just as well as the NX’s Showa units while also ensuring everything remains nice and composed as it tracks through bends with precision.

You can ride the Voge hard and it gives loads of feedback (although its brakes are unpleasantly dead-feeling) as well as adding a bit more spice into the mix that the NX arguably lacks.

The Voge’s 494cc parallel-twin engine is much more eager to respond than the Honda’s 471cc counterpart, too. You can roll-on at 60mph in top when riding the Voge and overtake a car, where on the Honda you generally need to shift down a gear to gain a similar rate of acceleration. This extra zap is very welcome when required but overall, the Voge’s engine isn’t quite on the same level in terms of refinement as the Honda’s unit.

Which would you choose out of the Honda NX500 and the Voge DS525X?

There’s not much in it, but of the two the Honda is certainly the easier-going overall product. So should Honda, or indeed the rest of the middleweight manufacturers, be worried about the arrival of Voge on the European scene? If the answers uncovered by the MCN250 test route are anything to go by, they certainly shouldn’t risk resting on their laurels.

The Voge is cheaper, better-equipped and just as good to ride as the NX500. It’s not quite as refined as an overall bike but the NX has steadily evolved for the last decade where the Voge is still very much in its infancy. But it’s when you add the Voge badge that the issues arise.

Voge are still a fledgling brand in Europe but the DS525X is an indication of their intentions

Considering how big Loncin are it seems disrespectful calling them a fledgling brand but that’s exactly what Voge are in Europe and that brings with it some substantial hurdles that need to be overcome.

When Voge develop an established dealer network, and with this build greater consumer confidence and also better residual values, the story will be different – but as it stands, as good as the Voge undeniably is, the Honda is still the benchmark light middleweight adventure bike. And for a very good reason – it’s a fabulous bike that has been made even better for 2024.

The MCN verdict: ‘It’s still the benchmark’

The Voge proved a genuine surprise. As well as costing less than the Honda, the spec level of the Chinese-built bike is remarkable. And it is great to see Voge have invested in the components that matter, such as tyres and suspension, rather than cut corners and penny-pinch. But there is no denying it isn’t as refined as the Honda and there is always the worry about owning a relatively unknown model compared to one from an established brand.

The Honda NX500 is still the benchmark in the middleweight adventurer class

As good as the DS525X is, with a more limited dealer network as well as a lack of brand recognition, its resale value is always a concern. With the NX, there are none of these pitfalls and that’s why it is the safer investment and ultimately the winner.

The outgoing CB500X (which has won five-straight MCN Awards in the A2 category) is a brilliant bike and the NX500 manages to make it even more appealing. Better looking and with improved suspension and a cool new dash, it remains the benchmark in its class.

The Voge DS525X doesn't do badly, but it's not quite as good as the Honda NX500

While you’re here: How MCN tests bikes

Our highly experienced team of road testers grind out hundreds of miles, come rain or snow, on the UK’s pothole-ridden roads to decide which bike is best in a particular category.

Using years of riding and racing experience (on and off-road), our expert journalists are able to assess the capabilities of a machine and translate that into understandable language to help MCN’s readers make an informed buying decision. Pitching bikes against their main rivals, we aim to give a conclusive verdict on which bike is best for your needs and your budget.

Using their considerable knowledge of the motorcycling market and audience, they can put a motorcycle into context and deliver a verdict that means something to anyone considering buying a particular machine, whether it be a cutting-edge, 200bhp sportsbike, a tall adventure weapon or a low-capacity 125cc machine.

When we ride the bikes in the UK we tend to do at least one full day of riding on various different types of road and in varying conditions. Our testers will then spend another day riding the bike – with rivals – to get images and video footage for our print and online reviews.

We will also, often, weigh the bikes, speed and dyno test them to see just how accurately the manufacturer claims are in these areas to give a more empirical assessment.

Find out more about how we test bikes right here.