Thursday, 16 March 2017

Honda CX500

The front wheel twitched on the last piece of white line. The revs spun towards the nine grand mark. I fired a blast from the air horns as an elderly Escort poked its nose out of the line of Sunday drivers. Too little, too late, I thought as fifty horses kicked in and we shot past, giving the drivers poor wife an attack of the runs. I kicked it up a gear, with a flick of my wrist, in a beautiful clutchless change. Eat yer heart out, Spencer.

The bend approached and I concentrated on trying to make six hundred odd pounds of recalcitrant CX500 and reluctant wife change direction in a controllable manner Looks like a two-buttock job, I thought, and shoved my rear over the side into the slipstream. We lurched over like a galleon under full sail. Thank goodness I'd changed the fork oil to heavy duty, the ride is secondhand road drill rather than Mk.1 blancmange. We were away up the straight and into the next bend before the following convey came into sight.

A familiar succession of one buttock bends lay ahead and I concentrated on trying to get the right line. The bends seemed to flow together in a continuous wave of motion which pleased me as it can't be how Honda's designers had intended the bike to be ridden.

Our turn off appeared and we settled down to potter along in top at about two thousand revs. I'd been getting signs of disapproval from the pillion area and was glad to give my ribs a rest from the assault.

Quite comfortable really, I mused. The sun came out and the road shimmered and curled in the heat. The V-twin chattered and whined away happily. The sea appeared from time to time and the road snaked away under the front wheel; sheer enjoyment.

We stopped in a car park, feeling at peace with the world. Suddenly the scenery rotated and we capsized into a struggling heap on the floor. Is she all right, I thought, checking the bike anxiously. Phew, no damage. I turned to help my wife extract herself. Now my wife is a lady 95% of the time, the other 5% is reserved for moments like these.

Magically people began to appear as two dissenting adults freely expressed themselves. Why is there always an audience when I fall off? It took the two of us to lift the bike upright. It's at moments like this when you realise just how top heavy the CX is. Normally, you don't notice until you stop when you quickly learn to plant your feet firmly. I've also found the bike handles best with two on board.

I bought the CX a year ago and gave it a thorough going over, greasing everything that needed it and some that didn't, cleaning and checking brakes (I've never been happy about sliding calipers), until I was content that all was as it should be.

The across the frame V-twin is water-cooled and, despite the gauge going into the red, I've never had it overheat. The use of a chain driven camshaft halfway up the engine, and pushrods and rockers for the four valves per pot, is perhaps an unusual way of dealing with the valves but it seems to be acceptable. The clearances don't go out of adjustment very often, and you can rev the engine to over ten grand if you're mechanically insensitive without apparent damage. I've never had the need to wring its neck in this fashion as fifty hp at nine grand has always been adequate for my use.

There is a certain amount of vibration but this can be kept to a minimum by careful carb balancing. The brakes are spongy as stock (braided hoses help here) but stop the bike well. I've fitted a pair of air horns which will penetrate any driver's earhole and they have saved my bacon on the odd occasion. There is also a simple touring screen that I find very effective at keeping the H20 at bay - unfortunately I have been unable to get the screen at an angle where it doesn't cause buffeting to the pillion passenger at high speeds.

The bike was first registered in 1981 and hopefully has all the mods to stop it self-destructing, but it's only done 16000 miles so it may be too soon to be sure.

To sum up, do I like the bike? Yes I do. Does the pillion? No she doesn't - seat uncomfortable after an hour, rear pegs too high causing bad circulation and aching legs.

Conclusion: The CX is a dual purpose compromise that can be used for commuting (quite flexible and economy between 50 and 60mpg) or you can wind the revs up and use the fifty horses — I'm over forty now but I'm rarely overtaken when I'm in a hurry, especially in traffic. It may not be very pretty but I like it.

Michael Cobb

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