The Honda CX500

Under the Radar

| March/April 2008

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.

12/17/2017 6:46:41 PM

I went to university in Stirling, Scotland from 1980-1984. I went from a Suzuki GT185 to a Honda 400/4 (wrecked that like an idiot) to a CX500, which I rode for three years in the worst conditions you can even imagine. The CX was THE bike to have for a dead poor university student. It took such abuse that it should have broke down out of pure hatred of its owner. It never complained, and NEVER even hiccoughed at the ice that encased it each winter morning. Not the fastest, or prettiest, but there is a reason they used its motor to use as the was bulletproof.

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.

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.”

bike on highway

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