1973 Honda CB500F
Very Original Bike, 3 Owners, 13K Miles, Great to Ride, Recent Maintenance
History of the CB500:
“The thinking man’s motorcycle.” That was Cycle magazine’s take on Honda’s half-liter four, the Honda CB500 Four. Smaller and lighter than its famous big brother, the trend-setting Honda CB750 Four, the new for 1971 Honda CB500 Four took all the 750’s fine attributes and focused them into a smaller, lighter bike that in many ways was better than its much-lauded forbearer.
Not that the 750 had many detractors. In its day, it was the undisputed king of big-bore bikes and was responsible for launching the Superbike category. Four cylinders, four pipes, electric start, no-fuss electrics and an imposing presence gave the CB750 Four a lead in the market that other manufacturers could only hope to match. But for all the good things the 750 was, it was one heavy machine. Tipping the scales at roughly 500 pounds all in, the 750 required a willing rider to wring the best from it. Ridden at five-tenths, it was serene, but at anything approaching attitude its slow steering, high center of gravity and ample weight combined to make it a bit of a handful.
Those issues disappeared with the Honda CB500 Four. Handling of the new “little” four was excellent, aided in no small part by an almost 80-pound advantage over the CB750 Four, the 500 weighing at a comparatively svelte 420 pounds. Additionally, the 500’s engine was significantly shorter than its big brother, thanks to its smaller displacement and over-square design (larger bore than stroke), which kept cylinder height down, giving a lower center of gravity. Where the 750 was often faulted for vague handling, the CB500 Four was lauded for being stable and predictable if perhaps still a bit slow-steering. Part of that stability was due to the 500’s frame, which drew heavily from the 750 but featured extra gusseting to tame frame flex. Honda’s excellent front forks helped keep the front wheel on the ground, but the rear shocks drew complaints, with one tester calling them “the weakest point about the 500,” noting the shocks on a test bike had failed after just 1,000 miles.
While top speed was lower than the 750 (100mph-plus versus approximately 125mph for the 750), it broke the “ton” with only two-thirds the 750’s capacity, and could post quarter-mile times a scant half-second slower than the 750. Cycle Guide recorded a best time of 14.13 seconds for the 500 versus 13.74 for the 750.
In many ways a scaled-down CB750 Four, the Honda CB500 Four engine did have some notable differences, including a Morse Hy-Vo chain to drive the transmission, and wet sump lubrication, eliminating the oil tank used on the dry sump 750. More than just simple specification differences, those changes made the 500 quieter and easier to service, qualities Honda knew its customers appreciated.
We recently purchased this CB500 from a gentleman who used the bike regularly to commute to his job over the last few years. We like bikes that we know have been riddenvand have proven themselves to be reliable. This is a very original bike with 13,450 miles, believed to be correct and original. We were told the bike has had three owners from new. The bike still retains its original 4-4 exhaust, many of which rot away and get replaced with aftermarket systems. Before we purchased the bike, the previous owner had completed the following maintenance:
New Petcock Gasket
New Clutch Cable
New throttle cable and assembly
The bike runs and rides very well. Does not smoke on startup, we have not had the floats stick once, and it delivers strong braking and good power. Shifting is smooth and the clutch feels very good. We just changed the bike from its stock US spec bars to Euro spec low bars with new grips and it makes a nice difference in the way the bike looks and the way it feels when riding.
Cosmetically the bike is just a rider, with wear and signs of age here and there, particularly the tank. The paint is faded on the top of the tank, as pictured in the photos. We thought about repainting the tank but decided to leave that decision up to the next owner. We like vehicles with patina because it tells about the history of the bike and gives it its own character that separates it from other bikes.
Of all the single overhead cam CBs of this era, the 500/550 series is by far our favorite. With a far more power than a 350 and less weight than a 750 (80lbs), they strike the perfect balance. This is a bike that will rev happily all the way up to its howling 10,000RPM redline carving up corners, transport you to and from your job, or on a weekend serve as a fun way for you and your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife/partner/friend/self to get wherever you want to go.
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