I Bought a Thing: 1982 Honda CX500
It’s been a while since I made the trip out to Kankakee, IL to pick up this 1982 Honda CX500 from a retired engineer. He was the original owner, and the bike had just a tick over 4600 original miles. Why am I just getting around to writing about this latest addition to my stable now? Because motorcycle.
To many people (many sad, pitiful people), “because motorcycle” isn’t much of an answer. To other people (other happy, joyful people), all I have to do is point to where I live on a map while saying the word “motorcycle”, and they’ll immediately get it.
See, I live just outside of Chicago – but I work almost 300 miles away, in Oberlin, Ohio. What I’ve been doing out there has been largely hinted at in these pages, but that’s not relevant to the Honda. All that matters is the I80 view of Indiana’s (thankfully!) abundant farms, summer breezes, and sunny skies … not to mention rural Ohio’s country roads and the wicked S-curve on Bursley outside of Wellington, where Mike, Neil, and I test the handling limits of all manner of vehicles – from S-class Benzos to John Deere tractors to (apparently) vintage UJM metal like Honda’s CX500.
Why buy an old Honda?
I’m glad you asked, dear reader. There are really two answers to that question – but don’t worry! You’ll get both of them soon enough.
The first answer is largely personal. For years I’d had my eye on Honda’s CX series motorcycles. In their various forms, the longitudinally-mounted V-twins served as the basis for many of today’s modern motorcycling “classes”. To wit, the earliest Honda Interstate touring bikes were based on the CX, and have since evolved into the GoldWing type “road sofas” and their massive cult followings. The CX “C Custom” of the late 1970s evolved into the Shadow cruisers, which took the “weekend biker” fight straight to Harley-Davidson with more speed, better build quality, and superior reliability. It was a turbocharged CX650, also, that was one of the industry’s first true “superbikes”, setting the stage for Honda’s CBR “Hurricane” and all the Honda repli-racers that followed. Honda’s CX is a thing, in other words. This one – the “regular” CX500 – was Soichiro Honda’s attempt to build a bike that could do it all, take any challenge its rider threw at it, and excel.
When the bike showed up on eBay, for a price so low I feel guilty about it, there wasn’t much thinking to do. I hit the “Buy it Now” button within minutes of showing the bike to my friends, Tom and Alfredo (at Scooterworks USA), and getting a preliminary “thumbs up”. A clean, 1-owner CX500 became mine.
The SECOND reason – or (more accurately) second “line of reasoning” behind why I bought the bike is quite a bit more relevant to Gas 2’s usual stories. As we’ve said on these pages many times, the greenest car you can buy is a car that’s already been built. For some people, though, cars don’t make a lot of sense. For one thing, cars are tough to park in the city. They require expensive insurance policies that most bikes are exempt from. They require boatloads more natural resources to build in the first place and boatloads more to keep in service (from tires to windshield wipers to brake pads) than motorcycles – which use only a fraction of those compared to cars.
This CX500, for example, didn’t require the rare-Earth mineral mining that newer models like this bike did, or the heavy chemicals and massive facility that’s been built up around this one. It may not burn as clean as the electric racers Susanna’s been writing about lately, but my new/old Honda sure looks a lot more comfortable and long-distance-capable than the current crop of EVs (as you can imagine from the odometer photo, above, a limited range would be a huge problem for me). Then, of course, there is the most damning criticism of cars possible: they’re slow.
What I’ve got here is, in short, a dead-nuts reliable, shaft-drive vehicle that gets nearly 60 mpg and rips to 60 mph in about half the visual stimulus/physical response time of the average minivan driver. I get to enjoy the feel the wind and the road in a way that’s hard to explain to people who haven’t experienced motorcycle touring firsthand. I get to own a first-rate, classic vehicle that I can line up next to any vintage Porsche or Ferrari and not feel terribly out of place with … and I get all of that for less than the cost of a new 50 cc Lemonhead.
Take that, Tata Nano!
The summer is almost behind us, though, and I’ll be pulling the bike apart for a thorough cleaning, rebuild, and resto-modification over the winter. I’ll keep it simple, though – none of that cafe racer/hipster bullshit for me, thanks. Once it’s done, though, expect to see it again.
Recycled Hawtness, here I come!