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Honda CB 500 in jogging suit

Honda CB500 in jogging suit

Of course, the Honda CB750 was the top. Or as they say now 'dah bomb'. And just as naturally, there were a lot of people who couldn't afford that powerhouse. Honda had found a solution to that. The Honda CB 500 (1971-1976) was cheaper, but more than 'real' enough. Because at that time a 500 was still a 'heavy' motorcycle. And with four cylinders and four exhausts you could be seen on it. They were very well thought out and generously dimensioned. And unlike the CB 750, the head could be removed while the block remained in the frame. Not that that was often necessary, but still…

The CB 500s belonged to the generation of 'universal' machines. As a 'naked bike' it was extremely versatile. With a touring fairing, a slightly higher handlebar and panniers, it was a civilized touring motorcycle for long, carefree journeys. Nevertheless, many of those CB 500s (and CB 750s) were often treated firmly straight from the crate or as a fresh occasion. Because in the seventies people often drove fast. And you really didn't need the 200 hp of such a brave Kawasaki H2 for that. But if you wanted to drive fast? Then you also had to look fast.

What you did need?


Faster looks. A low handlebar, a sporty lined buddy seat or seat, a four-into-one exhaust system where the systems with the most wonderfully curved bends were of course the best. And the muffler? That was also a clear thing: the more noise it made, the faster you were. The number of providers of alternative exhaust systems was overwhelming.

And because not every pipe bender and tube proletarian had Honda's knowledge of gas dynamics, there were exhaust systems that did little more than turn power into noise. But noise was party. In Renesse, for example. There it was important to drink yourself in first and then put the CB on its box late. Start it and give it full throttle. Until the valves started to float. And of course it had to be drunk again.

Oh, yes: you were also quite the man when you ditched the spoked wheels and put alloy wheels under your pride. With a set of Melbers or Lester wheels you grabbed handfuls of bonus points from your friends. And with such a Honda CB 500 adapted to your own sporting taste, you could easily be faster than a CB 750 pilot when it came to steering. Especially if the front fork was equipped with conical bearings, if the rear fork was also better mounted and if Koni shock absorbers were mounted.

For people with a more exhibitionistic character, there were the red Marzocchi dampers with 'piggybags' as on our photo model. Steering dampers were also popular options. And a second disc in the front wheel was often also a 'must' for people with a flexible right wrist. At Vos in Oss they came up with - before the factory did - a 650 version. It delivered 12 hp more than an original CB 500. And of course the market offered everything in polyester work and rearsets, so that as a Honda CB 500 rider you could also choose to position your feet knee-high and just in front of the rear axle, while your hands are comfortable were level with the front axle. Because you couldn't make it with an M steering wheel (a 'lop-eared steering wheel'). Clip-ons were all the rage. And quick throttle grips.

A very good motorcycle

That 'extremely reliable' in those fast times was seen as the same, or at least about the same, as it is now, we read in the Drivers' Report of the Honda CB 500 Four in Engine number 24 from 1973. That was at a time when the average annual mileage on these Hondas had 18.000 km. Some of the entrants reported that those kilometers were actually always driven at full throttle. We do not know by whom or how it was calculated, but according to De Cijfers an average motorcyclist now drives less than 4000 kilometers per year. And if you now drive 125 km/h in the Netherlands, you will pass everyone on the highway. The 'seventies' were a pretty wild time! About a third of the 68 participants in the study had never had any problems. The accuracy of the tachometers was one thing. The inflammation was moisture sensitive. Oil pressure switches and head gaskets sometimes broke. The dealers received different tightening instructions for the head gaskets. The paint on the welds was perceived as less good. The now available again – or rather 'for sale' at that price – mufflers became somewhat sensitive to rust. Especially if the four-cylinder drove many short pieces. The acidic residues from the combustion gases, together with the condensation in the dampers, then create a very corrosive environment. Also make sure that the condensation drain hole at the transition between the exhaust bend and the silencer is open. Still, 90% of the participants reported buying a Honda again. In other tests, those percentages were sometimes astonishingly lower.

This Honda is a barn find

You can see from all the details that the machine has been firmly and seriously "upgraded" since its youth. The frame is neatly sprayed. No spray cans have been used on the color parts. It is clear that this Honda CB 500 was a bike that made its owner proud. But everything comes to an end. Apparently he first stood for years with a caravan dealer as an unwanted trade-in. Something about “now that we have kids, that thing has to go!” Eventually he found a new owner. The owner then had the Honda completely restored. And then she didn't have time for it anymore. Alex heard about the bike and adopted it. With some help from the outside, the years old petrol turned out to be sufficiently flammable to run the engine on all four cylinders. Furthermore, it is only cleaned of dust.

Originally a sought-after classic

Now a Honda CB 500 Four - CB stands for Commuter Bike - in original and good condition is a valued classic. Machines that are perfect down to the last detail (restored) bring in serious money. And they are fantastic for the best rides. Those journeys may also be dynamic and long. Because cherishing is good. But to buy a motorcycle just as an investment and mothball it? You must have a sickly cold, perverted mind for that. The kind of motorcycles like the Honda in the photos are in a twilight zone in terms of appreciation and value.

He's wonderfully nostalgic.

But far from factory original. No matter how neatly the adjustments have been made and how 'easy' the Honda can be built back to the factory original. You just need some stuff for that. Those things are for sale. And they would make the engine much more expensive than it will ever be worth. A classic dealer friend once said: "Your restoration is your loss and my gain". With a CB 'with work' you have to take into account that the parts are expensive and a block overhaul is simply expensive. The presence of neat, original parts is very important. Paintwork is expensive. Think of amounts of about € 1.600 for the color parts, excluding the black stuff. Chrome parts are also expensive. A NOS tank costs about € 1.500. For a set of new dampers, about two grand can be tapped. On the plus side: The availability of NOS or good replica parts is good.

9 Comments

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  1. @ toby huizinga.

    The tub came from Eglass in Rijssen.
    The headlights that were in it came from US import cars and had to be replaced for these cars due to the inspection.
    They gave terribly bad light, but yes, apparently they were good enough for a motorcycle….

  2. In fact, the 500 turned out to be much more usable than the 750, which was often described as 'too unwieldy and ungainly'.
    And indeed; incredibly reliable, even though there was wear and play everywhere.
    The '500' is already getting pricey, the '550' has yet to be discovered (just like the '650'..).

  3. My 1st bike was a CB750F2, with the Comstar wheels. Of course 2nd hand, just like all other motorcycles since then. We drove quite a bit with that CB, including in '86 throughout Scandinavia (of course also the North Cape) and drove 2,5 km in 10.500 weeks, really wonderful. Later at a good time suddenly big problems with speed wobble and commute, all bearings fade and steering damper on it (no cracks found in chassis). That made a difference, but later got rid of it. Bought another motorcycle years later, the garage was full those years from building a Cobra. Then became a Suzuki GSX1100R, also ridden a lot and a nice smooth bike. After it was stolen, a Suzuki TL1000S came much later, cool thing and became addicted to 2 pitters. Oh yes, been through Scandinavia with this. Around 2011 there was an Aprillia RSV 1000R from 2006, also traveled through Scandinavia and it is still there (very cool thing). Nice reactions by the way to (dare to) drive there with such an Italian…
    Each engine had an increasingly sturdier chassis than the CB. But the CB will certainly continue to strike a chord when I encounter it again (actually only at classic fairs).

  4. Looks like some tinkering on the engine. Recognizable, so recognizable for that time, only I don't recognize the cockpit that quickly. It's not Rickman but so what, maybe later I'll say Oh yes ……. Egli maybe, I don't know. Then the tyres, in front of the RB2 and behind the K112.
    Plenty of exhausts, Janton, REMO, BSM, JAMA etc what was not for sale.

  5. I continue to be amazed that those things were so reliable. And that given that the red area on the rev counter only starts at thick 9000 rpm.

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