The vinceunlimited Honda CX500 Story
Those regular readers of my road tests will both by now know that I started with a small Yamaha trail bike before graduating to a rather uninspiring Honda CB200.
The choice of these bikes was helpfully determined by outside influences [Hi Dad] so my next upgrade had to be my own choice.
I decided on a Kawasaki 750cc 4-stroke bike.
However, the external influence raised its profile once more and I brought a 500cc Honda.
Something to do with him 'only' having a 360cc bike at the time and about to change it for a 650cc methinks.
Maybe that's a bit unfair.
Although my shiny new second hand Honda CX500 wasn't a Kawasaki nor 750cc it had many redeeming features.
Firstly it was as bulky as a 750cc. This provided the stability and comfort that bigger bikes give.
Secondly, Honda's were better built and more reliable than products from the Big Z.
And thirdly, well mainly really, it had a dashboard.
Yes, I agreed to the choice on the grounds that there were lights built in between the speedo and tachometer. Sad really.
The other exciting addition to this on-bike dashboard was a temperature gauge because the bike had a water cooled engine and believe me in those days that was cutting edge.
Only the Suzuki GT750 'Kettle' could boast this technology but that bike was styled in the dark and drank fuel like a whale filters plankton.
So I ended up with a red 'S' registration Maggot, for that is how I later understood that they were known.
The name wasn't unjustified either as the bulky water encased engine resided under a substantial spreading fuel tank and enormous padded double seat.
Everything seemed styled for a much bigger bike and I suspected that Honda had plans for a 750cc version. In fact, later incarnations took the size to 650cc and added turbos then a 750cc was made, so my suspicions were right.
The CX500 also took the mantle of tourer for those who didn't want or couldn't afford the magnificent 1000cc Gold Wing. As it happened in silly laid back style it later became the Silver Wing.
My version was the bog standard CX500, a purring water cooled v-twin.
It was only a couple of years old and in fantastic condition.
It became a weekend plaything, tourer and then reliable commuter and fulfilled all roles well. I reckon it is now still going, probably as a courier somewhere.
I first used the Maggot as a weekend plaything because I worked too close to my home to warrant using it much. In the three mile journey I barely had time to close off the choke before arriving at my destination and actually spent more time warming the engine than riding to work.
So the Honda was used for getting to the disco at weekends [hey, it was the early eighties] and impressing the sixteen year old girls. Nothing suspicious here, I was only a late teen myself.
The sheer bulk always made an impression and warranted due care when reversing off pavements. Once, I went too slow and got to the point where foot doesn't touch ground then side of bike does.
I also increased my radius of exploration exponentially over the previous CB200 and the Cotswolds and Wales became my hunting ground.
Funnily enough I don't recall ever going to the midlands or Norfolk - Can't think why.
Inevitably I wanted to travel further and my mates and I discussed a round Britain tour using all the coastal routes. This never came to pass but I still think it would be an adventure and will do the journey someday.
A few of us did settle on a tour into France, the evocative, exotic, topless French women of St. Tropez were the incentive so four of us planned to go.
As is usual in these cases circumstances changed and two of my friends, Jeff and John, taking advantage of their break from A-level schooling went ahead early and ended up settling on an island mid-way down the French west coast for the rest of the summer.
Spike and I had jobs, me full time and Spike as a paperboy or something, so we intended to follow on later.
The journey down through France was not as fun as it might be today.
We had never travelled abroad and the only preparations we made were painting our lights yellow and buying a map.
The map was poor and we got lost leaving Calais.
The French weather was burning hot and Spike, who had just purchased my father's Honda CB360 yellow banana, was obsessed with his motor overheating so insisted on travelling around 40-50mph.
At these speeds the air cooling effect must have been abysmal on his engine as it was hardly effective on my CX500's radiator. However being the one with the temperature gauge made me the one worrying about it.
It set a poor tone for the holiday and resulted in a disagreement half-way down France.
In essence Spike wanted to join Jeff and John and start 'pulling birds' and I wanted to motor on down to St. Tropez where I argued the real action was.
Spike won out by refusing to leave the camp we had arrived at and my topless French women dream was destroyed.
We never even met up with the others and from what I heard later that decision could have saved Jeff and John's friendship, but that's another story.
Another memorable long journey made on the maggot was one into Wales.
I had a met a new girlfriend, Inger, who had never been on a motorbike before so we both looked forward to our trip.
She had no more idea than me that we were to undertake a 400-mile, six-hour ride and it showed how versatile the big Honda was. In fact testament to the comfort of the seat that there was no complaint from either of us.
The amusing fact with Inger was that as she hadn't ridden pillion before I asked that she leave the steering to me and remain upright at all times. I meant perpendicular to the bike but she interpreted it as bolt upright.
Every time I leant into a bend she twisted her torso to remain upright.
I thought it hilarious, She was hardly big enough to destabilise the beast below so I let her carry on. I didn't tell her until we reached the Severn Bridge. And for that Inger I apologise.
Mind you I cannot recall going out with her for long but that was more to do with the fact that I fell for her friend Fiona than because of my riding.
Excuse me for one moment while I recall Fiona ... Thanks.
Fiona unfortunately didn't have the inclination to get on my bike. It wasn't because she only had eyes for Suzuki's or anything it was just that some people just don't seem to get the biking thing, mainly because of the sort of event that next happened on my bike. A car pulled out on me at a junction.
It was midday and I was taking a well earned lunch break.
Although I had crossed half of Southampton I only had a feint purpose in mind so was in no particular hurry. The sun was out and the roads in those days still clear enough in places to enjoy a midday ride.
I was travelling towards Portswood doing no more than a few mph above the limit when I noticed a car waiting to pull out to my left. I was on a main road so took little more care than at any of the other two-hundred or so filled junctions that I had passed that week.
The driver however didn't want to follow the crowd, opted for not seeing me at all and pulled out across my path. Naturally I braked. Very hard.
The car in question was a Citroën Dyane, a sort of [hardly] upmarket 2CV.
The driver, fool enough to pull out in the path of a huge red bike, added to his stupidity by stopping once he saw me.
Little tip, why not consider keeping going next time. If he had accelerated with all the pull his pathetic vehicle could manage I could have steered behind.
As it was he stopped slap bang in front of me across the whole road.
There were no steerable soft options and I braced myself for impact.
Now a fact known only to experienced bikers and the local Accident and Emergency departments is that many frontal motorcycle crashes result in damage to the bikers lower legs because when a bike hits a stationary object the rider slides forwards and imprints his knees into his own handlebars and stationary car.
Therefore in any bike accident, once it is inevitable, the golden rule is to get well clear of all metalwork. In the case of T-boning a car that means heading straight on over the top.
I slowed as much as I could leaving an impressive black streak of rubber and picked my point of impact. My heart wanted to hit the git square in his door but my head ruled that the bonnet would be a lower hurdle to cross.
The bike wedged itself behind the car's front wheel, I raised my torso and took up flying.
I cannot recall the flight but do remember the landing.
Sliding down the road my episode with the Gilera moped came to mind but this time I reacted differently, I quickly stood up.
Unfortunately, I did this too soon and went flying once more.
It seemed my shoes were not designed for thirty mph and their destruction was testament to this.
Thankfully, other than the two vehicles and my crash helmet my shoes were the only casualty.
My helmet was a write off because they always are in these situations. There seemed no damage to it other than a couple of round spots worn off the orange and green stripes at the forehead, but the car had a matching two-foot long parallel stripe on the bonnet. This is proof that helmets save lives and why I didn't need the ambulance that some witness called.
I went back to inspect the damage, such a long walk!
Despite the fact I had just invented unpowered flight I was in a better state than the driver, still sat quivering in his car. An old man, I doubt that he drove again.
His car certainly didn't, my CX500 was parked bolt upright three feet into it.
Annoyingly my motorcycle recovery specialist had just purchased a frame re-jigger and wanted to justify it's purchase and bend the bike back into position.
It was just a few pounds short of write-off and I was too inexperienced to insist on it to the eager insurance company.
I didn't even get compensation for my high speed shoes.
So, in effect the maggot wrote off a car and lived.
After the impact one of the replacement items was the forks, naturally.
Not that they needed a Citroën Dyane to make them flex, they were the weak point of the bike and were clearly not designed for the 'two-ton' weight.
Occasionally I would lean over the handlebars and look down the shaft of the forks whilst braking just to watch them bend back toward the radiator.
Other than that I couldn't fault the Honda.
It chugged along effortlessly at any speed I chose to travel at and for any number of miles.
Reliability was excellent and fuel consumption acceptable for the size.
It was big and red and comfortable. The v-twin throb was unusual, the modern era of popular twins hadn't yet started and when I fitted an aftermarket stainless steel exhaust it sounded good.
It worked in rain and shine then more rain, mile after mile with little attention other than basic servicing and the shaft drive kept the back end from looking like a freshly hit oilfield.
All this reliability came in handy because for the final few months it became the archetypal commuter as it took me into the New Forest day after day in pursuit of my new girlfriend, Karen.
Those late night return trips along an empty motorway allowed me to test its standing start quarter mile abilities. Can you imaging finding any time of day or night you could stop in the centre lane of a major motorway nowadays?
Mind you today's 500cc bikes, although water-cooled, would now pull wheelies under such conditions. The CX kept its front wheel firmly rooted to the ground.
It was eventually sold when I realised the Fionas started outnumbering the Ingers so I had to get a car.
I did a poor deal that involved swapping it for a Hillman Avenger that eventually got swapped for a bicycle that got nicked.
It was a sad end to a good bike.
But the key question is would I have it back?
With that repaired frame? No way. Other than for sentimental reasons. Parked up in a garage.
Author: Vince Poynter
Version m5.092 2 Apr 2018
First Published: Version 2.001 in Jul 2005
The first image is the author's Honda CX200 as originally purchased in late 1980. The engine protection bars and rear rack were non-standard fitments by the original owner [image first added in Version 3]
The second image is the rear view of the same bike at the same time [image first added in Version 3]
The third image shows the author sat astride his bike, along with Spike [wearing leathers] and his Honda CB360. The girl next to the author is a german friend met at the campsite. The other two guys were also at the site but the author didn't seem quite so keen on these two for some reason. The image was taken around Summer 1981
The fourth image, dated around late 1981 shows the author sat astride the bike with the new non-standard stainless steel exhaust. The other non-standard feature is the author's girlfriend of the time. The image was taken outside her, decidely non-standard, family home
The final two images and all captions were added in Version m5.092 2 Apr 2018