The Honda CX500

Under the Radar


| March/April 2008



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
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.

John
12/5/2017 5:31:33 PM

These bikes are awesome! The fit and finish, and engineering that went into them is excellent. A friend of mine has just recently bought an 81 silver wing. It's in excellent shape, but has been sitting a while, so needs some work to make it a runner. At 48 Hp, which is very good for a 500, it has plenty of power for even long trips. I"m looking forward to when my buddy and I can go riding with his bike. Next summer for sure! “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open ones's mouth and remove all doubt.” Confuscius.


John
12/5/2017 2:24:28 PM

Actually, it’s an awesome little bike that has some incredible engineering, fit and finish in it. A friend of mine just bought an 81 silverwing, and I’m anxious for him to get it running. It’s been stored for a while. Confucius said, “ Better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”


John
12/5/2017 2:01:15 PM

Actually, it’s an awesome little bike that has some incredible engineering, fit and finish in it. A friend of mine just bought an 81 silverwing, and I’m anxious for him to get it running. It’s been stored for a while. Confucius said, “ Better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”


John
12/5/2017 1:08:46 PM

Actually, this is an awesome little bike, with a lot of nice engineering features, and quality fit and finish. My buddy just bought an 81 silver wing that needs a little TLC, but is in excellent condition. I'm looking forward to the day we can get it on the road! This is a reasonably light bike and makes 48 HP, which is not bad for a 500. Liquid cooled, shaft drive, and many other refinemnents. Confucius said: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.”


John
12/5/2017 1:01:14 PM

Actually, it’s an awesome little bike that has some incredible engineering, fit and finish in it. A friend of mine just bought an 81 silverwing, and I’m anxious for him to get it running. It’s been stored for a while. Confucius said, “ Better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”


Skankhunter69
12/2/2017 4:25:54 PM

What An facking gay motor only for garbage guys and gaylords


Skankhunter69
12/2/2017 4:25:35 PM

What An facking gay motor only for garbage guys and gaylords


zeedoctour
11/13/2017 9:56:15 PM

I rode a CX500 fitted with a 3/4 fairing around Australia on a 2 year road trip that took in the red dirt roads of the outback as well as the blacktop and the eastern mountain passes. Simply wonderful machine and with a pair of conti style glasspack megaphones on the back of 2-1-2 headers, made a noise that many envied. Could be hustled through the bends if you were any good and had the best tires fitted. Good shocks helped, and the front end had been pre-loaded.


zeedoctour
11/13/2017 9:55:27 PM

I rode a CX500 fitted with a 3/4 fairing around Australia on a 2 year road trip that took in the red dirt roads of the outback as well as the blacktop and the eastern mountain passes. Simply wonderful machine and with a pair of conti style glasspack megaphones behind some 2-1-2 header pipes, made a noise that many envied. Could be hustled through the bends if you were any good and had the best tires fitted. Good shocks helped, and the front end had been pre-loaded.


zeedoctour
11/13/2017 9:54:27 PM

I rode a CX500 fitted with a 3/4 fairing around Australia on a 2 year road trip that took in the red dirt roads of the outback as well as the blacktop and the eastern mountain passes. Simply wonderful machine and with a pair of conti style glasspack megaphones on the back of 2into1into2 header pipes, made a noise that many envied. Could be hustled through the bends if you were any good and had the best tires fitted. Good shocks helped, and the front end had been pre-loaded.


geof.rey.evans
11/13/2017 9:54:25 PM

I rode a CX500 fitted with a 3/4 fairing around Australia on a 2 year road trip that took in the red dirt roads of the outback as well as the blacktop and the eastern mountain passes. Simply wonderful machine and with a pair of conti style glasspack megaphones made a noise that many envied. Could be hustled through the bends if you were any good and had the best tires fitted. Good shocks helped, and the front end had been pre-loaded.


rossibaby
6/3/2016 9:36:23 PM

I bought a brand new in the crate 1982 holdover GL500I Siverwing Interstate in 1984. I was a new father that needed a second mode of transprotation. I lived in North Florida and worked from Gainesville to Jacksonville to Tallahassee to Ocala. Rode 400 miles a week. Sold it in 1988 to buy a house in Houston. Bought another one in 2003 and gave it to my daughter and son-in-law when they needed a second mode of transportation. We still have that one and it has about 45,000 miles on it now. These are simply terrific bikes with great balance and smooth handling. Easy to learn on this bike and easy to keep running. And a very capable touring bike. I have loved it for over 30 years and my next generation loves it now. I have 4 bikes right now, but this will always be my favorite. And I'm sure i can keep it on the road another 20 years. Great article. Keep them coming. Ross McGrath


FlyinFinn
5/19/2016 8:57:58 PM

I still have an '82 CX500 in my garage and though I have passed that on to my oldest son, I store it for him and get it out on the road from time to time. I also had the CX's touring cousin, the '82 GL500 Silver Wing, for several years. Both bikes are reliable, but both would have benefitted from a six speed overdrive transmission and the GL500 suffered with a noisy mono-shock (Pro-link) rear suspension, which for my money would have been better off with the CX's twin shock set-up. Both deliver fantastic fuel economy and comfort for the money (each bike cost less than $900, even though they were in great shape and had low miles when I bought them). The light clutch, easy handling and relatively light weight made the bikes great day-trip machines. The rather odd, lumpy-looking engine once prompted a young onlooker to ask me if I built it myself!


MartinB
11/4/2015 2:28:27 PM

I too, used to own a CX500. I had tried out a Suzuki GS550, which was nice, a bit crude, and required real effort to lean it over into a turn. I then tried the CX500, and what a revelation! Smooth, instinctive cornering, wonderful low speed engine and transmission performance, and fast enough for my needs. It just felt like the most civilized motorcycle I had ever ridden. I was now free from the hated chain drive. I rode that bike for many miles and loved every one. Then I decided to add a fairing for greater open road comfort. What a disaster! I thought I had set it up right, but there was some buffeting. My mechanic brother offered to try it out on the motorway. At some speed over 100mph, the bike got into an unrecoverable weave, and he was spat off. Fortunately an ambulance was going the other way, and they scraped him off the road and took him hospital. He claims they were laughing at him the whole way, they said it was the funniest thing they ever saw. The next few months saw me getting the insurance settlement from the grumpiest old lady I had ever met "We don't want your sort around here" she told me. I then moved 400 miles away for work, and took the bike up country with a friend following me in my car. The mountain passes were so windy and cold I had to ride at a 45˚ angle and had to huddle over a plate of soup at the next cafe to warm up. My face was blue and I couldn't talk. I had severe illness the following winter and couldn't do much riding. When i could ride, the handling felt a bit off, and it just wasn't enjoyable. When finally the bike refused to even turn over after charging the battery, I was forced to sell it to a friend who was a collector (and yes, this happened to the next bike I bought, too…). My friend told me he had had to straighten out the forks, which was not done in the repair paid by the insurance company. Those utter bastards. But the CX500 will remain in my memory the way it was when I first bought it. The liquid cooling, shaft drive, even the push rods, all gave it a character of user friendliness, with little of the harsh crudity of standard bikes of the time. Something to just ride and enjoy, economical, smooth and with sharp handling. Long travel, soft suspension and a featherbed seat, gave it more comfort than any BMW, and it was just the right size. I wish I had kept it away from my brother, and not bothered with that stupid fairing. And I hate insurance companies with an undying passion.


PaulR
5/15/2015 11:16:20 AM

I bought one of the first 20 that arrived in the UK from a Honda main dealer. That was a good decision, and it lived up to expectations - great seat, comfy ride, chewed though the miles so easily. The bad things about it were not that bad - the original tyres were not up to UK standard - I kept them for 5000 miles then put Avons on it - revelation!! it actually handled - my mate put Continentals on his and the difference was astounding - mine fell into the corners, his felt an old spanish galleon was rolling onto a different heading! The anaemic exhaust note was cured with a new set of exhausts that were sufficiently loud and didnt have that distinctive farting sound, whilst the looks ...... well its mother didnt even like its looks, and in the UK the CX500 became known as the Plastic Maggot. Very friendly. Even so I loved the damn thing, and with a small fairing to cover up that binnacle and a couple of resprayed reworked Ariel leader panniers it looked OK, well to my eyes at least. Was it the fastest bike on the road?? no, not at all, but other than the Gold Wing it was the most comfortable, and that, the simple engine (relatively) shaft drive and good fuel economy meant they kept going for years and were a firm favourite of the dispatch riders around London. About 4 months after I got it I took it solo touring around France - about 2000 miles - it hadn't been released in Europe at that point and even drew a crowd every time I stopped - which was frequently as it was the worst weather for 26 years. And that highlighted the one un ergonomic part of it - if the spark plug leads were not put on well, when it got damp it would arc across to your knees and then from somewhere painful into the back of the petrol tank. I really loved it but ..... my dream of a Moto Guzzi T3 was quashed by the need to pay for the engagement ring, and the CX was taken away by a dealer to pay for the honeymoon a couple of years later (I had just finished my PhD so the bike was the only thing of any value I had). Such a sad day. One point about the cam chain - it caused a real fuss at the time. My engione blew at 6000 miles due to a failed gudgeon pin circlip and was rebuilt by Honda UK. It then failed again due to cam chain & gudgeon pin issues - this time I rebuilt it with parts supplied free by Honda and it ran flawlessly after that. The cam chain design was rubbish but it only needed a stronger spring - so if you are in the UK and driving around on a red CX500 reg number YLR151S, you will note that there is no engine number (I didnt bother putting it on the new crankcase) and the cam chain tensioner spring is from a 1980 Hoover washing machine. Enjoy.


thomas pauley_1
7/13/2010 12:21:51 PM

i, too, bought a used '78 CX500 with only 5k on the clock in 1979. Yes, it was smooth and reliable like any Honda. It was overweight, underpowered and topped out at around 91mph. Can't say that i miss it. I guess Triumphs and Harleys are more to my taste, although i built up a cb550 with action fours hi-compression pistons and cams. I never got beat, even by 750's! Currently i still have my '92 harley FLHT-Police bike. I would like to try the new Triumph triple one day.


Dana Johnson
3/1/2010 7:45:10 AM

The '78 CX500 as my first brand new bike, and fourth bike since I started riding in 1976. When I first saw it, all I could think was,"This is cool"! As part of the package it came with a Craig Vetter Windjammer fairing and chrome engine guards.In the following months I added: Vetter removable hard saddlebags that when removed had a handle allowing you to carry them like a suitcase,chrome spotlights,Fiamm horns,a custom king/queen seat(Honda did not reccommend a center tank),fairing lowers(which were great when it was cold or riding in rainy weather),a throttle friction cruise control,Jardine turnout mufflers,and a Cycle Sound AM/FM/Casette player. This bike was my primary mode of transportation when I was in the Navy at NAS Oceana assigned to VA-42. The 4.9 gal tank was great for trips getting 56 mpg!I eventually traded it in with 35,000 miles for a car. It ran great! Really wish I woulda kept it. It was nicely tricked out and was babied big time. I currently ride a '02 Harley Ultra Classic, but given the chance would add a CX to my garage !


Zeugitai
10/12/2009 1:59:26 PM

I also had a '79 Honda CX500 back in the day. It had the backrest and hard saddlebags. I sold it off in 1985 and for years forgot about it, but now I'm picking up an '81 that looks like the same bike I had. I remembered its flawless, smooth performance. I used it to make the round trip between Cleveland and Columbus Ohio almost effortless. I used it as a motorcycle courier around Washington D.C. between 1980 and 1982. I rode it to tour the east coast, and the southern tier of states. I rode it non-stop from Albuquerque to D.C. It never caused a problem or let me down. It was smooth and fast. It was too easy to take it for granted. I look forward to getting my '82 and getting it back on the road.


Larry Clark
6/11/2009 6:53:57 PM

I really enjoyed the article. I have a 1980 custom that I bought new. I loved the look of the bike. Rode it to Chicago and then back to Seattle. Did 850 miles in one day (from Bozeman). It was below freezing when I left Bozeman then over 100 in Spokane and finally raining in Seattle. Great ride. I am now starting to restore the bike for my son who tells when 'when I grow up be a man I ride the Honda'. So ... I have an 850 BMW standard which I also love. Same kind of bike. Great to ride and tough. Best wishes.


Steven R Cummings
6/9/2009 6:12:40 PM

I have owned a few mid-weight road bikes, ranging from 350cc to 750cc. My favorite was, is, and I am sure will be my 79 CX500. I put many a mile under that bike and she never let me down. Also it had the power to keep up with most 750s. Like a fool I traded it off for some fool thing and have regretted it ever since through many bikes. The best vacation I ever took was on that bike, from Illinois to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and across Cherokee N.C. into the Smokey Mtns. of TN. and then home. What trip, riding, camping and just lovin nature.


Steven R Cummings
6/9/2009 6:11:35 PM

I have owned a few mid-weight road bikes, ranging from 350cc to 750cc. My favorite was, is, and I am sure will be my 79 CX500. I put many a mile under that bike and she never let me down. Also it had the power to keep up with most 750s. Like a fool I traded it off for some fool thing and have regretted it ever since through many bikes. The best vacation I ever took was on that bike, from Illinois to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and across Cherokee N.C. into the Smokey Mtns. of TN. and then home. What trip, riding, camping and just lovin nature.


Trublu
3/5/2009 1:32:20 PM

GREAT article about a really great bike! My son and I just finished a rebuild on a '79 CX500 we got for a song! It had sat for 2+ years (in a shed) and was the ugliest shade of brush painted green one had EVER seen,(with only 28K miles on her) but after a little Seafoam in the tank, new plugs, change the oil and filter anda little carb cleanupand some coaxing and appropriate words, she fired right up. The more he rode her the better she ran until she now runs great on both cylinders and is an extremely easy to ride and dependable machine he uses for commutes and some weekend road trips.After a lot of elbow grease and patience a new mettallic Blue paint job graces her and she now looks as good as she runs! It was a great father/son project that we both thouroughly enjoyed. Ohh, BTW the price? Well, after we sold some of many spare parts that came with her we ended up with slightly under $200 in her!! NOT TOO Shabby for a great little bike that will last for years yet! They ARE out there folks ya just gotta look.


Trublu
3/5/2009 1:31:06 PM

GREAT article about a really great bike! My son and I just finished a rebuild on a '79 CX500 we got for a song! It had sat for 2+ years (in a shed) and was the ugliest shade of brush painted green one had EVER seen,(with only 28K miles on her) but after a little Seafoam in the tank, new plugs, change the oil and filter anda little carb cleanupand some coaxing and appropriate words, she fired right up. The more he rode her the better she ran until she now runs great on both cylinders and is an extremely easy to ride and dependable machine he uses for commutes and some weekend road trips.After a lot of elbow grease and patience a new mettallic Blue paint job graces her and she now looks as good as she runs! It was a great father/son project that we both thouroughly enjoyed. Ohh, BTW the price? Well, after we sold some of many spare parts that came with her we ended up with slightly under $200 in her!! NOT TOO Shabby for a great little bike that will last for years yet! They ARE out there folks ya just gotta look.


Larry Burich
9/18/2008 10:49:50 PM

Anyone one interested in old Honda, especially the CX500 would get a kick out of the video my son and I made. 5000 miles in Mexico on 2 CX500s. You can see the trailer here: http://www.filmbaby.com/films/3188


Larry Burich
9/18/2008 10:49:18 PM

Anyone one interested in old Honda, especially the CX500 would get a kick out of the video my son and I made. 5000 miles in Mexico on 2 CX500s. You can see the trailer here: http://www.filmbaby.com/films/3188


Ray Challenger
9/13/2008 7:06:54 PM

I just bought 78 cx500 used , just to play with and get back into wrenchin and ridin. So far its been a steep learning curve with more wrech then ride.Didnt know a thing about them till two weeks ago. Think its cool.


sbrogden
8/17/2008 8:14:59 PM

I ride a 1980 Yamaha XS850SG 3 cylinder, shaft drive. Just arranged to buy a 1980 Honda CX500 in need of some work. I'm looking forward to getting this old Honda back on the road.


semper39
6/24/2008 4:25:59 AM

I have a 1980 CX500C. I have modified it to my tastes (shorter, narrower bars and a MAC 2 into 1 exhaust). It's a fun and reliable bike (which cost me very little to buy and modify and very little to run).






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