The Honda CX500

Under the Radar

  • honda cx500 ad
    "First into the Future!" Coming from anyone else, those words would just be more tired huckstering. But coming as they did from Honda's ad men announcing the new-for-1978 Honda CX500, they demanded at least a bit of attention.
  • honda cx500 specs

  • yamaha xs500
    The 1978 Yamaha XS500.
  • v50 monza
    1980 Moto Guzzi V50 Monza

  • honda cx500 ad
  • honda cx500 specs
  • yamaha xs500
  • v50 monza

Honda CX500
Claimed power:
48hp @ 9,000rpm
Top speed: 106mph (period test)
Engine type: 497cc overhead valve, liquid-cooled v-twin
Weight (dry): 441lbs
MPG: 45-55
Price then: $2,398 (1979)
Price now: $700 - $1,700

“First into the Future!” Coming from anyone else, those words would just be more tired huckstering. But coming as they did from Honda’s ad men announcing the new-for-1978 Honda CX500, they demanded at least a bit of attention.

In today’s world of massive, 1,800cc cruisers and 150-plus horsepower sportbikes, it’s easy to forget that middleweights once ruled the road. While there were plenty of big bikes around in the late Seventies, the middle ground of 400cc to 650cc machines was a hotly contested category where Japan’s Big Four pitched their wares to mostly newer, younger riders. By 1977, Yamaha offered four mid-sized machines in two- and four-stroke guise, Suzuki had no less than seven, Kawasaki six and Honda four.

The beefiest of Honda’s middleweights was the CB550 Four. A smooth, capable machine based on the Honda CB750 introduced in 1969, it was decidedly old-school and hardly the machine to entice a new generation of riders. Enter the Honda CX500.

Moving forward
Keen to preserve its reputation as a pioneer in motorcycle design, a reputation garnered most notably by the CB750 and the water-cooled, horizontally-opposed GL1000 introduced in 1975, Honda assigned the task of designing a new middleweight to Shoichiro Irimajiri, the man responsible for the Honda GL1000 and, later, the legendary six-cylinder Honda CBX.

Working from a clean sheet, Irimajiri and his team came up with a machine that drew almost nothing from the past and instead looked to the future of motorcycle design. What they came up with was unlike anything ever built by Honda: a water-cooled, shaft-driven V-twin. Water-cooling was hardly new, but it had never been applied to a V-twin. The same with shaft drive, but so far Honda had only used it on the massive GL1000. Yet Honda had never produced a V-twin, and this was to be a twin like no other.

William Spitzer
4/25/2020 2:44:09 PM

Bill 4/25/20 I am the original owner of a 1982 GL500 Interstate which has 18,850 miles on it as of April 2020. Those miles although low, were accrued in eight U.S. states and Ontario province (Canada). It has run almost faultlessly for me during that time with only two exceptions (in 38 years) when I needed to have a seal replaced on the final drive and the other needing a seal replaced that was leaking coolant. On touring, it was exceptional with full fairing and baggage with a passenger; it handled beautifully and was VERY comfortable even on long hour days. While not particularly a powerful motorcycle, it did have more than sufficient power for two-up touring; my only lament is that at 534 pounds and with full fairing, her handling was a bit sluggish (although her UNFAIR comparison is my [still currently owned] 1970 TR6R 650cc Triumph Tiger [the Triumph "touring" model at that time] which weighs 368 pounds and is very narrow configured).

11/24/2019 11:20:27 PM

1981 honda cx500. it was a free project. pulled the carbs because it has not run in 10 years. i have a few questions. 1. what size jets are you guys running for pods on stock pipes? 2. no spark problem. i pulled the carbs, hooked up a battery and sprayed starting fluid into the intake. it ran of the stating fluid on the first hit. then no spark at all. im very confused. send help please.

8/11/2019 2:02:41 PM

Had an '80 CX500 Deluxe in Red. Enjoyed every mile, 4 seasons, EXCEPT with snow & ice. ONLY problem I had was leaking around the thermostat housing & since factory warranty expired HONDA dealer would not cooperate. Kept it for several years, adding fluid as necessary, but never sought a permanent solution. See some modern resales asking a lot more than I paid for it in '80 brand new. Wouldn't mind having one now, but with age, it's impractical. Good memories, especially considering my first m/c was a 1-cylinder, 500cc NSU ..... an absolute BEAR of a motorcycle!

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