My motorcycling life started with riding my dad’s Honda CB160 into the back end of his new Chevy Impala…I hate when that happens.
After that he decided it was probably safer to head back to Vietnam than teach me how to ride a motorcycle. He was a helicopter jockey in the Marine Corps.
Fast forward a couple of decades and Dad decides he wants to ride a motorcycle again. No matter how hard I tried to talk him out of it he wanted to ride. So, I found a Honda CB350 in somebody’s back yard for a hundred bucks that needed some love and gave it to Dad for his birthday. And from there everything went downhill….he loved riding.
After about a year and 5000 miles later he wanted something bigger so he could travel with me. I found a really nice Honda GL500 Silver Wing and again another birthday present. He and I did the Three Flags Classic (Mexico to Canada in 3 1/2 days) three or four times and he put about 50,000 miles on that Silver Wing. I rode it as well ( a tour of the Four Corner States) and absolutely loved it. Had to replace the rear air shock in Gallup New Mexico, deal with electrical issues in Glennwood Springs Colorado…but other than that, change the oil, put gas in it and go. Anywhere.
The GL500/CX500 is a really great motorcycle. I have written before that it takes the MotoGuzzi V-twin twists it around a bit to make it work Honda style, and then Honda put a Turbo charger on it, pumped it up to 650cc and then twisted it a bit and again made it bigger for flat track racing. It really is an incredible motorcycle. And in my opinion, an excellent platform for a Cafe Racer! Does that surprise anyone who knows me? No.
The Silver Wing Interstate is a wonderful middleweight tourer. The luggage is easy to use and big enough for one person to travel across the country with no problem.
The one I found on ebay today is in good shape, is aging nicely and has pretty low miles. The asking price is a little up there but not unreasonable. This is fly there fill the luggage and ride home.
Click on the pic below for more info
From Cycle World in 1980…
“Despite its exceptional handling and good looks, rest assured the V50
will never be a popular motorcycle. That’s part of its charm. It is,
above all else, an exotic motorcycle, available in much smaller
quantities than any previous Guzzi. Evaluated as an exotic motorcycle,the V50 is nearly ideal, its temperate nature being easy to live with and its individualistic features and style clearly telling any other motorcycle it is not just like anything else.”
Being a lover of small and mid size motorcycles, I’m always intrigued by the little exotics that show up on ebay or at swap meets. Also, I have this building need to have a Moto Guzzi in my barn. I have to finish two Honda 350’s, a Benelli 250 and Yamaha SRX however before any other two wheeled orphans show up.
The Guzzi V50 was brought out during the days of the gas price crisis here in the US. Guzzi head honcho Alejandro de Tomaso was sure that the growth of motorcycling would continue to spiral upward and mid size bikes would be leading the way. He didn’t understand the American motorcycle buyer mentality very well apparently. Few V50’s came to these shores when it first came alive in 1977 and sales never really met expectations. In the early 80’s the Lake Como factory brought the Monza out to capitalize on the more ‘sportbike’ oriented market.
There was really only one issue with the V50 that every magazine editor / tester brought up…lack of horsepower. The bike was lightweight, therefore easy handling, it has a great sound, comfortable in sporty way but…just down on power. Some reviews have put it into the class of not really freeway / highway capable. Again, I go back to the American mentality of bigger is better. I really don’t get it. At just over 400 lbs and pushing out somewhere in the vicinity of 40+ HP and…the ability to reach 100 mph, it is perfectly capable of highway travel. Well, it may take a while to get up to speed and that can make getting on some freeways (especially here in Southern California) a bit iffy.
So, here is why you buy the V50…its handling. If you live in an area where you have tight twisty roads, you are going to have a field day playing with bigger, modern sportbikes. Light, agile and exotic…what more could you possibly ask for? Cycle Magazine described it as “simply not a mass market machine for the casual or average buyer.” Well said.
The early V50’s were built at the main factory in Mandelo near Lake Como (one of the most beautiful places on earth), starting in ’79, the V50 was made in the Lambretta Scooter factory. The V50 adopted electronic ignition, linked brakes and cast wheels. There are quite a lot of good resources for vintage Guzzi information and parts. Start with Mick Walkers books, then find your way to www.mgcycle.com or www.motointernational.com Guzziology and spend way too much time cruising the forums. If you do buy a vintage Moto Guzzi there is so much help out there and parts are much easier to find than you might think.
I found a very clean ’78 V50 on ebay this morning that is a great bike for someone to get into vintage Italian motorcycles or Moto Guzzi in particular. With only 4483 miles on the clock, it’s barely broken in. Even though the owner says it starts and runs just great, I would still pull the carbs and give them a good going through, junk the ‘original’ tires and spoon on a set of modern rubber….AND most importantly, get rid of that UGLY seat. Other than those little details, the bike looks great. Paint is good for it’s age, chrome is great. Nice bike. Click on the pics below for more details.
It’s no secret that I really like the Honda CX500, the Japanese version of the Baby Guzzi’s. I got one for my dad, he rode it all over the Western US and Canada, and after he moved on to a Gold Wing, I rode it all over the Sierra’s. I loved that little bike. Like most all bikes it had a few flaws, the first that comes to mind is the styling, and a couple of hiccups with timing chain adjusters and the cooling system, but those little things were fixed in later models or through a re-call. There are quite a big number of the CX series bikes out there that have pushed well past the 100,000 mile mark with no troubles whatsoever. All in all, the CX500’s are really fun motorcycles to ride.
It was a good seller for Honda during it’s fairly short life. At first, magazine reviews weren’t all that kind to the little CX, mostly because of its looks, but once they put some miles on it were actually quite impressed with the middleweight twin. It wasn’t the fastest 500 by any stretch of the imagination but it handled quite well (much better than expected) and was quite enjoyable to ride day to day.
Honda continued the development of the CX series; setting it up for touring,(fairing, bags and trunk) calling it the Silver Wing, turbo’ed it, and even twisted the motor around to make it an AMA Grand National Flat Tracker. Police departments around the world chose the CX500 due to its rideability and reliability.
Over the years the CX series has gained a certain ‘cult’ status, not so much because of its performance, but more because of its uniqueness. It’s a really good motorcycle that just never really found a mainstream home. The photo to the right proves my point.
One place the CX series has found a good home is in the Cafe Racer world. Good handling, fast enough and easily customizable…what more could you want? And yeah…it’s just weird enough. I found this very nice CX500 on ebay today, only 20K miles, runs great, has been serviced, some nice upgrades and custom touches…just needs a tail light and some blinkers to be completely legal. Wait..a cafe racer that’s completely legal???…what’s wrong with that picture? Anyway, this is a really cool little bike that will be great fun to ride. A set of Dunstall type mufflers will finish the bike off just right. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
Economical, reliable, easy to ride, comfortable and a little odd looking. All those and more describe the Honda CX series of motorcycles. When thinking about the CX motorcycles, the first question is why? Honda already a fantastic middleweight machine in the CB550-4, so what was the need to build something new? The answer…because they’re Honda and they can.
Back in the mid 70’s thru the early eighties the mid size (under 650cc) motorcycle was king. Really. Each of the Japanese manufacturers had no less than five models in that class, and I’m not talking about the baby bikes either, freeway legal real size motorcycles. Remember, this was at a time when gas was expensive and motorcycles were being touted and bought as the real alternative to driving your gas guzzling car everywhere all the time. Mid-size bikes were also very sporty, the 2 strokes from Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki were easily quicker than than many of their larger brethren and fun to ride to boot. Eventually though, the desire, the need, and yes, the lust for more speed and power took over. The days of the easy to ride and economical middleweight motorcycle were numbered.
So, back to the CX500. The CX was designed by Soichiro Irimajiri, the man that penned the original Goldwing and later created the stunning six cylinder CBX. The CX was targeted at younger riders that were looking for something different and with the CX500, that’s exactly what they got. The CX has often been compared to the MotoGuzzi V50 from Italy and in a number of respects they are quite similar. V-Twin motors, shaft drive, close in power (both right around 50hp) and designed as an everymans motorcycle. But the CX went farther with water cooling and a more modern engine design.
When the first CX500 prototypes rolled out, testers commented that the motor was too smooth (no personality) and the carb’s tended to hit the riders legs, neither, a good thing. The V-twin motor got a bit of a redesign…the cylinder ‘V’ angle was tightened up to narrow the motor, the cylinders were twisted some so the carburetors wouldn’t bang into your shins and the exhaust was redesigned. Now you have the CX motor that we all have come to know and some of us to love. I think the CX has probably one of the most unique exhaust notes in all of motorcycling. It’s not a sound that will stir your soul or intimidate the driver in the car next to you, but it is unique and distinctive. Pooka,pooka,pooka,pooka…..
There is a lot you can do with a CX500 commute to and from work, ride it to school, travel the country on it, go after the bad guys or turn it into a really cool cafe racer. The CX has developed quite a loyal following over the years and deservedly so. It is a much better motorcycle than many think.
I found a very nice CX500 Deluxe on ebay yesterday. This 1980 model is completely stock in excellent condition with only 11,000 miles on the clock. There is no rust ,the paint is good and according to the owner, runs great. So what makes this a ‘Deluxe’ model? Not a whole lot really. They changed the rear wheel to a 16 incher instead of the standard 18″ rim for a more cruiserish look I imagine, changed the seat to accommodate the wheel change and to go with the new look, and Honda designers changed the headlight/ instrument cluster from the ugly unit used on the standard CX to something more normal and better looking. This bike does really look nice and at an asking price of $2495, a good value. The CX500 is a really well made motorcycle that, given basic care should give you many happy miles. Click on the pics for more info and more views of the bike.