1979 Honda CX500 Review

At the time, I thought my CX500 was hot stuff. However, it was my first motorcycle, which is a pretty special and exciting thing, so I definitely viewed it with some rose-colored glasses. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but it wasn’t so lousy as to leave me entirely soured on motorcycling, so it did most things right.

Looking back objectively, I’d say the CX500 is a pretty good all-rounder. It’s not particularly fast, but not slow, either. It can get up to 90, maybe even 100 mph…eventually. Fueled-up and ready to ride, it weighs just under 500 lbs, and has a manageable 31.5″ seat height. It makes for a ride that, while not light and nimble, is not heavy or awkward, either. It’s kind of “just right.” It’s smooth, easy to ride, comfortable and in typical Honda fashion, robust and over-engineered enough to be more reliable than a 30+ year old motorcycle has any right to be.

The liquid-cooling and shaft drive each make a significant contribution to this indestructible reliability. The Comstar wheels also help, by allowing tubeless tires to be fitted to the bike and make for a maintenance-free wheel (compared to the wire spoked wheels of the era).

It also makes a pretty solid platform to be modified into café racers, scramblers, light tourers (which Honda did themselves with the CX-based Silverwing), or even bobbers or choppers. It’s such a great versatile commuter, though, I’m in favor of leaving clean running ones alone, and only doing transformative builds on legit hunks of junk.

It’s held back largely by being an old motorcycle. Even well-maintained, there are components and aspects that while they were fine relative to the time period of the 70’s and 80’s, aren’t up to snuff now. For starters, that means incredibly weak brakes; a single disc with a single piston caliper up front, and a drum in the rear which, while it’ll last forever, won’t do much outside of just locking the rear wheel up.

There’s also mediocre suspension, and sometimes fiddly carburetors to contend with. The CX series also has a fatal cam chain tensioner problem, though this only affected the ’78 models, and many of those got fixed under warranty/recall.

Finally, while the shaft drive is great for general reliability, it is heavy and sucks up more of the engine’s power output than a chain, which lends to the general sluggishness of the CX.

It’s also kind of weird-looking, with a lumpy engine, chunky radiator, and an all-around mismatched oddball look. The one I happened to own was the “Custom” model which did away with the plastic headlight cowl and swapped the larger gas tank for a smaller peanut-style tank, which adds up to a slight aesthetic improvement.

The CX500 is kind of ugly, but still looks better than a beat up Buick Century.

It’s fun to ride, but not exciting (there’s the Turbo model for that), but I don’t think anyone has ever accused Honda of making many exciting motorcycles. The transverse v-twin a la Moto Guzzi makes for a somewhat unique package, and gives the CX character and charm.

Final Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Doesn’t do anything special, but the easy laid-back ride is accessible to riders of any stripe or skill level. The funky engine adds character, and it all makes for a package that is a bit better than the sum of its parts.

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