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 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.

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!

6/23/2019 10:57:15 PM

Back in the 1980's the CX500 was the default London bike courier's ride. Absolutely bullet-proof, all-day comfortable riding position, and easily maneuverable in traffic despite the size. Sometimes it felt that half the "real" bikes in central London were CX's! You'd see rows of them parked outside bikers' cafes. I eventually went with a Monza. Loved the engine, the speed, the solidity, and handling (and, as a young man, the relative "hi girls!" factor of an Italian vs Jp bike), but the riding position was a killer over long distances and I eventually modified the bars and seat to a riding position that, in effect, mimicked the v-twin Honda.

Minn John
4/19/2019 12:42:45 PM

The CX was my first love. Got an 81 deluxe in mint condition with few miles five years ago and promptly put 70k miles on it. Replaced the CDI with an Ignitech, new fork seals, and it's still a charm. Not my fastest bike, but easily my favorite, and up here in Minnesota, I have ridden it on many long trips in all weather -- heat, cold, rain, snow. Still looks great and has one of the best exhaust notes of all my bikes, even with stock exhaust.

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