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Bike Profile - Posted 1st June 2009

Honda CX500, Part One
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Back in the day, Simon Lock was ready to move up to his first big bike. Eschewing leaky old Brits and electrically-challenged Italians, he opted to tackle the Japanese camchain challenge...

I am a sad motorcyclist: there is no question. Not only did I love my Superdream but, whilst blanking out the self-inflicted camchain rattle that haunted me around the lanes of Warwickshire, I dreamed of a better thing, a bigger thing, a classier thing to take me away across endless miles of A- and B-roads in search of whatever adventures might be found by the intrepid and pioneering motorcyclist that I knew I had become.

In short I dreamed of everyone's favourite mega-bike: a CX500. No Italian exotica for me, no solid iron horse from the forges of Britannia, no rumbling twin from Milwaukee either. No. I lusted after the Maggot: the Plastic Maggot, the wobbly pig, the camchain killer (mmm, see a connection?), the alternator eater, the squirter of coolant across the road a week before your honeymoon. Oh yes, what a good choice it was!

Come out on a Honda CX500. They said it... 1979 Honda CX500 advert

There, I've admitted it. Whisper it quietly but I loved the looks, the sound and also the prospect of the biggest, comfiest saddle this side of a Goldwing. Quite why my mind settled on a CX - and remains convinced that it was right - is a question that psychiatrists may ponder for decades to come. Maybe it was because the unreliability of a Le Mans was, thankfully, out of my budget by several thousand or, that with £325 to spend, I could only get to 500cc by buying a bike that might have come from Asda. Asda? I later discovered that Mr Previous Owner had got it in carrier bags which explained why some bits weren't where they should be, if they were there at all.

Having researched the market diligently prior to purchase it took me one phone call to find my first CX to look at and buy. You probably already know that this is the best way to get value for money as it prevents your cash burning a hole in your trouser pocket and adding the expense of new trousers to a new bike…

I arrived to look at the prospect on my clanky Superdream and marvelled at the sheer bulk of the machine. In fetching black and red, with a shaft drive (still smarting from the chain-snapping incident - shaft drive was a must) and just a leaking fork oil seal and a clattery engine this was obviously the one to buy. Why, the kind vendor even allowed a test ride. It wobbled up the road in a rattly sort of way but compared to the Wet dream it had astonishing acceleration. I was already transported to warrior status by the prospect of such a powerhouse. Pah, think how those riders of mere Superdreams would quake at my arrival at the pub astride a throbbing V-twin monster.

CXs were even cool in Holland
Honda CXs on eBay.co.uk

Obviously I bought it at once, before someone else in the long imaginary queue did so. Upon getting it back to my mate's house I quickly stuffed some tissue under the leaking fork seal's dust caps and got it MOT'd. It's simple when you know how! Riding the bike home to Hampshire presented a little difficulty though and I was forced to leave my new toy and return on the Superdream - which had suddenly lost all its previous appeal as bike of choice for the discerning Don Juan's of Hampshire.

A week or so later, with insurance arranged, I hitch-hiked up to Coventry to pick up the steed. As I pulled away and set course for home I distinctly recall the pleasure of riding such a huge machine out and onto the A-roads, sun setting on my right, moon high in the sky, a dry road and a summer of fun ahead. The V-twin burbled away happily in the distinctive CX way that I quickly learned to love - and the world seemed a fine place.

The first little cloud on my summer horizon came in the form of a job. Sadly I had to find one and the first one was as a toilet cleaner at some extremely posh offices in Silicon/Thames valley. This was very exciting indeed and I had to have my own security badge, with my name on. Not being overawed by the security checks I asked the security guard what would happen if I wrote Fred Flintstone on my badge. 'We'll sack you,' he said. So, Fred it was on the badge.

I rode happily to work each evening and parked up my CX by the main entrance so the security guard could keep an eye on it. Inside I quickly determined that in such a Yuppie establishment the appearance of cleanliness was the important factor to consider. This could be achieved by spraying copious amounts of polish onto the ceiling to provide day-long freshness and then cleaning the mirrors. My efficient approach worked well until the third week when Mrs Harridan, our 'team-leader' called me into the downstairs gents to point out that the floor was covered in dirty footprints. I duly explained that being an inexperienced bloke I had foolishly backed myself in a corner with the wet mop and had to walk over the newly cleaned floor to continue my work. That might have worked had the Harridan not spotted the badge. 'And your badge says 'Fred Flintstone,' she said. So ended my first period of employ.

Still, I wasn't bothered and a new job quickly materialised, a proper one this time as a sales engineer. You'd be amazed where an English degree and a passing knowledge of Ohm's law can get you! Now I had a decent ten mile commute I decided to 'improve' my CX. Life is a learning curve after all and I already knew about camchains: what else could go wrong on a bike?

This is probably how Simon imagined that he looked... 1979 Honda CX500 advert

Brakes, that's what. CX brakes were clearly an item amenable to owner improvement. I had learned enough about Haynes to steer clear of the camchain tensioner but the instructions on brake overhaul seemed easy enough. I dismantled the calipers, inserted new seals and rebuilt them to find that one leaked. No problem. The enterprising man amongst us simply blanks off that side at the union and rides with one front caliper instead of two, whilst he gets another seal. So, resolved not to overtake anything on the way to work next day, I set off in the morning... to find a three mile queue of traffic out of my village. Well, I'll just filter gently. Strange how that guy's indicating right. I've lived here for 23 years and there's no right turn there, I'll just pop past. Ah, a farm track.

Gulp!

Luckily for me the car driver had been checking his mirror and halted his right turn whilst I sailed past hands clamped over the brake lever in panic and no braking going on. Did I mention I may have dripped some fluid on the other caliper pads?

The first three weeks of big bike ownership saw me nearly wiped out three times. After the no-brakes commute came a nice slide on the approach to a wet roundabout that I corrected by releasing the rear brake in time; next was a nice S-bend beneath a bridge where I just pulled up in time to slide both wheels along the kerb. I did get better after those little scares, honest.

And so I started going to the pub on balmy evenings and enjoying my new toy, camping trips beckoned and it was all so idyllic. The little rattle went away and I enjoyed telling my bike riding friends at work about how even the camchain had calmed itself down. 'You really ought to have a look at that then,' they chorused. After a week or two of denying this inevitability I gave in and ordered the parts. A spotty parts monkey tried to sell me an oil pump drive chain but failed and so, armed with a large amount of parts, Haynes and a hopeful but nervous father watching I began my first major engine overhaul…

To be continued...


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