And now for something completely different.
I bought this bike about three years ago; it came with my ‘good’ Honda CX500. All good old motorbikes have nicknames – mine is The Ambo (on account of a white barn-door fairing it used to have).
Now, Honda CX500s are fun animals. They started in about 1978 (this one’s a 1981) and they have an across-the-frame VTwin engine. Yes – like Moto Guzzi. They have a reputation for being very reliable and robust – no speed racer, and fairly ugly of course. Their nickname is the ‘plastic maggot’.
I got two bikes – the ‘good’ bike is the 1980 CX500 Shadow. And of course, being 33 years old, it has had ‘a few issues’ as they say in the classics.
Anyway, in dealing with the issues of the ‘good’ bike, it is amazing what I’ve learned just by osmosis. My original plan was to sell this second bike as a project before it it mouldered further into its role as a two-wheeled garden gnome. I’d like to clear out the garage (shh, this is a ploy to get the space back so I can buy a newer bike for mile-chewing – 33 year old motorcycles are fun, but sometimes you miss something that was made in the last decade).
Now, however, instead of selling the bike as a project, I am going to recommission it. It’s not a path towards riches – if I’m lucky I’ll be about in the same position financially – but I would like to get some (gulp) mechanical skills.
This is the bike here, prior to my loving attention (although after a wash):
To be clear, this is a project bike. Looks tidy, but it’s a bit of a project. It was sorta-kinda running when I bought it off a really great bloke nearly three years ago. The optimist in me tells me that all it needs is new tyres, fresh fluids, fresh battery and a new front brake master cylinder to be ready to go. A new indicator relay and a carbie clean/new fuel filter too. Standard recommissioning stuff. And checking out the wiring.
After dealing with my CX500A for two years, the realist in me says nah, there’ll be more wrong than that.
It’s a complete bike. In the photos it’s missing a CX500 badge on the right hand side, but I do have that (fortunately, when I bought it, it came with two trailer loads of spare parts). New handgrips (brand new – my mechanical skills extend that far). Brand new speedo from David Silver (hey lookie there, says 0 kms travelled – mint!). Brand new Eagle Screen windshield. And two years ago it would fire over, and I believe it still would if I gave it a new battery.
However, in the journey towards garden gnomedom, several bad things have happened. The front brake master cylinder seems to have given up the ghost. During the floods last year my CX500A was sporting
the CX500B’s tank and it was cracked on a massive pothole, so the CX500B has another tank on it that I resprayed at home with rattle cans. It is proof that I am an accountant, not a spraypainter, but if you squint it looks adequate. Squint hard. Pretty sure the carbies will need a massive clean, and probably get the sludge out of the tank too (shouldn’t be too bad I suppose).
I am a little concerned there may be secrets lurking within the engine (stator, cam chain, water pump are all potentials I have learned) and gaskets and rubbery bits of all kind may have dissolved into a pasty mush for all I know. Cosmetically the CX500 badge and that sidecover panel need some love and attention if you want to bring it back to standard
One good thing – from my point of view – is that these bikes, despite being 30 years old, are going for fairly silly prices for just projects. A good running bike is worth about $2,500 to $3,500, depending on the day of the week.
Anyway, it’s my aim to get it to a running bike – road safety certificate, registered, that sort of thing. A recommissioning.
To that end, I have done a few jobs. I had taken the original CDI from this bike to keep my good bike on the road, so I have taken a CDI from a spare frame I had. The indicators weren’t working; that was a flasher relay problem. Again, took the flasher relay from the spare frame and put it in, works much better.
So this is how it looks at the moment, after I’ve attacked it (looks drastic, this is just the seat and petrol tank off, takes 5 minutes – most of which time is spent looking for the wrench):
The astute will notice I have no beer fridge in this photo. This is something that must be rectified.
This bike had about 70,000kms on it (and then the speedo died). Not that that matters much with a bike that’s 32 years old.
Since taking this photo, I’ve removed that dodgy master cylinder. Seriously, it cost like $50 for a new one. Not worth mucking with the old one.
Oh, and that’s the ‘good’ bike (The Ambo) in the background.
So I have removed the brake master cylinder and replaced it. I’d thought that would be difficult but was actually very simple. Unbelievably cruddy brake fluid inside, looked a little… well, the only visual I have isn’t fit for publishing. Anyway, that master cylinder can go to God. The new one looks very nice.
All the electrickery is sorted now; at least indicators, high beam, low beam, neutral switch and so on works fine. The licence plate bulb was blown, but I have replaced it. One of the indicator lenses was cracked – so I replaced it with an old one I had spare (I have new ones, but this old one has the same ‘patina’ as the other three). I may need to replace all the indicators, but they are all working with just a little surface rust and faded lenses.
Having bought two trailer loads of parts when I got this bike, I can usually find a spare. The tail-light lens was cracked and held together by duct-tape, so I just went to a spare frame I have and pulled it off that to replace it. A quick wipe-down and it looks better than ever (looking at it tonight, I think it’s better than the one on my good bike! Argh, the humanity!).
I discovered that somehow my original 8mm to 12mm spanners had gone walk-about, so I had to buy a new set from Super-cheap.
I have pulled the carburettors out. I had to get my Zen on to work the lock nut arrangement and undo the cables. Amazing what happens if you let a problem sit for a couple of days. Just as well I have four CX500 manuals – one of the four describes the procedure to remove the throttle cable. The other three say, ‘after removing the throttle cable, pull the carburettors…’. Grrr. If I knew what I was doing, I wouldn’t need a manual
As this bike is in fairly good nick, I think it’s just a matter of head gaskets, new oil, new coolant, carburettor clean, tune & sync, new tyres, new brakes front and rear, and cosmetic clean-up. Ha ha. Let’s see how that works out…
What, fork oil and shock absorbers you say? Pfft. And what, it mightn’t be the head gaskets but the water impeller seal? Sigh – that means an engine-out job doesn’t it. Hmmm.