Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

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Honda CB500X At 30,000 Miles

Blog Date - 07 January 2019

Well the not-so-old beast now has over 30 grand on the odometer. My shiny new CB500X is now coming on for 3 years old and - as far as bike shops and second hand values are concerned - is a dirty old high mileage hack. How do I feel about the bike and the ownership experience so far?

The odometer reads 30044 miles on Ren's CB500X
Look I was riding with friends at exactly 30,000 OK.

Before the 500 I had the CBF250, before that the Fazer FZS600. I tend to compare the 500 more against the Fazer because, well, they're more comparable I guess. 

I had a problem with the Fazer. It was a great bike, well made, reliable, powerful, comfortable, handled well and it was an all round jolly good machine in every way. And yet, for reasons I cannot fathom, I never clicked with it. I keep on asking myself why why why!? Was it the power? The scream of the 4 cylinder motor? The fuel consumption? I don't truly know.

Yamaha Fazer FZS600 with a lot of luggage
Damn good bike the Fazer. But but but?

Hondas have a reputation for being reliable and yet just a little dull. The CB500X fits this bill well. Everything about it is middle of the road, average, functional yet uninspiring, effective but unimpressive. The brakes work but only normally. The engine works but won't rip your arms out their sockets. It's like a 19mm spanner, damn useful but it is just a tool.

And yet I am happy with it. Perhaps it's a reflection upon myself. I'm average height, average intelligence, occasionally funny, middle of the road politically, not rich and not stony broke. There are a few people out there who would call me a tool...

Ren pulling sill faces while eating an ice cream
Tool? Who me? Never, surely not.

Logically speaking it would make sense to say the CB500X appeals to my frugal nature with acceptable fuel economy. I'd agree that it has enough performance for my mediocre skill levels. Being a wannabe adventure type its style nods in that direction. Being a little reserved and polite its price point doesn't scream "look at me I've got too much money!" It suits me.

Ren astride the CB500X looking very ordinary indeed
Does it suit me? 

But that, well these things are true but I don't think this is the real reason I like this bike. It's very mediocrity means it's a joy to ride. I can choose to press on or dawdle, it's manageable in town, fun in the countryside and the neutral (or uninspiring) characteristics means all this can be done over a long day's ride without wearing myself out.

So it seems it's a dull bike for a dull man. Perfect.

Before I leave on that seemingly quite negative point I'd like to speak in defence of the engine. It makes a humble 47bhp. Kawasaki's 2000ish GPZ500 twin made 59bhp. Honda's earlier CB500 made 57bhp. It looks like Honda is going backwards not forwards.

This motor was designed to make 47bhp - presumably for the EU A2 licence bracket. That's a fresh way to approach motorcycle engine design, usually it's all about peak power - faster faster faster sells motorcycles. From what I've read many of the parts are borrowed from larger 4 cylinder models and there's nothing radical or new within the cases.

Whatever was required to "reign in" a 471cc motor to 47bhp produced something Honda is not known for - character. It sounds like a soft single with it's 180 degree crank. It rarely pulls hard but it does always pull from low revs. It reaches any speed limit with ease and will remain there all day long. The engine also makes a perfectly legal and polite "chuff-chuff-chuff" noise with a mere hint of satisfying bass. 

There's only one thing I'm not liking about this bike. The task of getting to the tappets. Once within the motor it's not too onerous a task to change the shims as the cams can stay in situ. It's just GETTING to the shims. Guess what. That's my next job. 

Wish me luck! 

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Reader's Comments

Pocketpete said :-
I look at my 500x with almost contempt sometimes. I'm used to bigger bikes indeed I often look at new bikes and think I could afford that. That bmw 800 looks nice or that new vstrom seems tasty occasionally I've even looked at the odd harley ( wash my mouth out with soap) not for any reason other than simple cruising around without changing gear to often.

Just recently I have looked at the honda cub and a couple of other 125 scooters with a view to bobbing along to work.

Then something stops me and I think almost Ren like for a bit, why change it, it's paid for, it starts, it stops, it has ample panniers and topbox storage. It takes me anywhere I want to go. Nothing has gone wrong with it except for a chain and a puncture. Oh and the nearside pedal where I dropped it.

It takes me and paula without being low on power. I can overtake and sit at 80mph for 2 hours without being tired or to uncomfortable.

Hmm there is a new model with extra bits on it... but a few minor changes doesn't really warrant a new bike.

But my bike is nearly 3 years old but has only done 10550. Strange as I thought I had done more I was convinced I was due a shim job and had purchased a box of small round shim things for Ren to do for me. I was a bit early lol. But I have to do the brake fluid change and these shim things and also an mot by summer. Probably a service I've got the air filter ready and some oil and plugs in a box.

Or do I get rid just before I (Ren) have to do all this work. The bike is just so boring it's quiet and well just boring. It's bad when the only thing exciting about the bike is the red light on the heated grips. But I'm in my mid 50's and a grandad now so maybe boring is the way forward.

Maybe doing this maintenance on the bike will actually be interesting as I do enjoy checking the tyres and adjusting the chain. I have even changed the oil 3 times now.
7/1/2019 1:52:45 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Would we ever say a reliable car was boring? Probably not?
But I know what you both mean.
I've got no sympathy for you Ed with the shimming, empathy yes, sympathy no.
Although if you want to swap and do my expansion pipe replacement on the Pan, I'll swap ya. The pipes cracked due to age at the radiator outlet and whilst it allows coolant to leave the radiator it'll never find the expansion tank about 20 feet away. I can't wait to take all that plastic off and lose half the blummin fasteners. I think it may have to wait for warmer weather though.
Enjoy your tinkering and farkling.
7/1/2019 2:20:21 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Tappets checked. Fork me I mean it's a lot lot lot easier now I know what I'm doing but it's a blooming faff I can tell ya'll. Exhaust should be 0.27mm, I had 0.25, 0.24, 0.28 and 0.28. Inlet should be 0.16mm. I have 0.15, 0.15, 0.17 and 0.18. They're staying as the are. I suspect then engine has bedded in now. I've got some of it back together but I'll order and fit some new plugs before finishing the task.

Expansion tank pipe? Piece of cake my boy, piece of cake. Oh, no, I've never worked on a Pan but I'm sure it'll be dead easy. Pfffft, 5 minute job tops.

Pocketpete. If ya want the tappets doing we'll need to fix a couple of days. It *ought* to take a day but experience tells me things go wrong.
7/1/2019 3:36:41 PM UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Yes we should give the shims ago when your free I can perhaps take off the fairing before hand. That might save a bit of time. Then you can show me what these round shim things do. I've a box full of em. You might be able to use them on your bike as well.

Let me know when your free I can put the heater on in the garage as well as the bacon butties. Do I need to buy anything else like gaskets if the heads coming off.
7/1/2019 7:02:47 PM UTC
Snod said :-
I'd just like to point out that the GPZ500 came out in 1987, and that even the 1965 CB450 with rubbish early carbs and "near enough" points ignition managed 43HP.. Perhaps longevity has got better though!
7/1/2019 8:53:38 PM UTC
Rod said :-
The quoted bhp figures are the maximum peak power available. I would like to see a power graph to compare the earlier carb bikes with the more modern fuel injected bikes. I think the modern bikes would have a wider spread of power and this power would be more usable, more of the time.
I know my 250 is well down on peak power compared to earlier bikes like the ZZR250, but its power is smooth and will pull from 30mph in top gear.
7/1/2019 9:26:18 PM UTC
Steve said said :-
Read everything i can about the CB500x,like the write up Ren, sort of fits my requirement for a motorcycle.Is that the first time in 30k that the valves have been checked.?
I have a NC700x just now and its easy to work on but its getting heavy as i get older and its over 50k now, if i thought i could get a new cb500x and go 30k without looking at the valves that would swing it for me.
8/1/2019 12:19:44 AM UTC
Pocketpete said :-
I think the valves/shims are every 16k on the 500x. The early models were sooner as They were unsure of The new engine.
8/1/2019 7:57:18 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Pocketpete. You don't NEED a rocker cover gasket. Usually I'd take a look and decide on the day. I'd strongly recommend new spark plugs, might as well after all the effort of getting to them. I've just ordered some Iridium NGKs. Don't buy from a non reputable shop, there's quite a few fake spark plugs on the market. Patience is the thing you need and acceptance that we might find other things that need a dose of looking at as we're doing it.

Snod - yip, the CB500X (and CBR500 and CB500F) are a step back in terms of performance. But for a common or garden muppet like me I am more than happy with a "mere" 47bhp and an under-stressed motor.

Rod - I'm sure there will be graphs and charts out there that can prove or disprove your theory. Might take a while to find them though. From what I can see the ZZR250 was a twin? Simply put the more pistons you have the more power you have. The less pistons you have the more tractable grunt you'll have.

Yeah Pocketpete's right Steve, the CB500X'x shims interval is 16k, this is my third time of doing them as I did them at 8k, 16k and now 30k, I've over-egged the pudding. I looked very very VERY seriously at the NC750 when I was looking at the 500. I LOVE the low down grunty slow revving motor, it's an absolute peach. However it is heavier than the 500, more expensive than the 500 and the underseat 14l tank is what finally put me off.

I've seen a youtube video on how to do the adjustable tappets on the NC700/NC750 It appears a hell of a lot simpler than the 500. If you're a competent mechanic then the 500 is do-able but it is one hell of a faff. There's a guide on this website - use the search function in the nav menu.

8/1/2019 9:04:11 AM UTC
Steve said :-
I knew the CB500x clearances were due at 16k but have heard some folk missing that out on some models that are checked on the first early service if the engine is running fine. The NC is 8k on the early ones but after checking them at 16k i leave them now to 16k and then they are usually fine. (on mine at any rate) The NC is a easy bike to service and cheap to run, easy on tyres and never uses oil due to the low revs. Cheap to buy when high miles,seventy next year and the new cb500x with the 19inch wheel is tempting me.I'll keep watching how you get on.
8/1/2019 4:27:29 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Cheers Steve. I will always check the tappets "more than recommended" on a low mileage bike then probably "less than recommended" when the motor has bedded in properly. Once they've settled they're usually good but the first few services are important as this is when the most wear occurs and everything goes outta tolerance.

I could be tempted by a cheap high mile low age NC750. I...I just don't know what I'd do about the fuel filler. Quite often I'm loaded up with a tent on the back seat and it'd be a real bummer to have to keep on unbungeeing all that just to fill up. I do like the frunk though, handy.
8/1/2019 5:18:25 PM UTC
Pocketpete said :-
Oh i feel as if I'm neglecting my cb500x if you've done the shims at 8k and 16k.

I'm still not sure quite what they do they look rather an unexciting part of the engine but I'm sure it will all become clear one day.

I recently read an article about the previous cb500 twin which was really rated as a high mileage capable commuter bike. With many doing several hundred thousand miles without engine work.

Maybe the x is going to be a similar high mileage capable bike.
8/1/2019 6:19:06 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
P.P. I stand to be corrected, again, but when people come out with such nonsense (not you) that engines are good for hundreds of thousands of miles with no work, what they are actually saying is that they've changed the oil every 3000 miles, changed the pugs at recommended intervals, repaired the odd oil leak etc. No engine runs for several thousand miles without a lot of work. Engines afterall work very hard, even low revving ones.
Just saying.
8/1/2019 7:11:57 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
My CBF125 has done 79,000 miles with no work. Oh. Except for the broken clutch ring. And a new clutch. And regular oil changes. And the odd internal filter cleans. And 2 replacement stator coils. I, well I ignore all but the worst leaks. But otherwise no, nothing...
8/1/2019 7:54:21 PM UTC
Steve said :-
Just for you Ren, get an old rear seat and cut a hole like so, strictly solo travel though

8/1/2019 11:10:44 PM UTC
said :-

8/1/2019 11:12:19 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Aha!! Well that surely works. Is this your machine? Conti TKC80?
9/1/2019 6:36:05 AM UTC
Glenn said :-
Regular servicing as specified by the manufacturer counts as no work for me.
You knew what was required when you took her home.
Surprises, the unexpected is what counts as work for me.
Seal failures, bearing failures..... yada yada yada.
When someone talks about a bike lacking character, I hear reliable, competent, economical.
If you had a friend that let you down, couldn't front when he said he would and owed you money you weren't going to get back, would you describe him as having character?

9/1/2019 9:45:16 AM UTC
steve said :-
Yes my bike Ren, TKC80/Heidenau T60 for Morocco trips
9/1/2019 11:37:06 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
HA! Yes quite Glenn. A friend like that I'd call a pain in the backside.

Morocco Steve! I managed Faro once... I feel so inadequate :-)
9/1/2019 12:28:00 PM UTC
Tom McQ said :-
"I'm average height, average intelligence, occasionally funny, middle of the road politically, not rich and not stony broke."

Hahaha, how I laughed, when I read that bit
about you being average height :-) :-) :-)

16/1/2019 9:29:19 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I'll have you know my legs reach the floor!! Even when I'm stood up!!!
16/1/2019 9:39:46 AM UTC
Pocketpete said :-
So what we have here is 'triggers broom.

He had it for 30 years....

So a bike with 100k on the clock. Is still the same bike. Except for the tyres the brakes oil seals and assorted other bits that have been replaced. I wonder after 200k just what percentage of a bike is original.

23/1/2019 9:24:51 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
It's a fair question. My CBF125 has almost 80,000 miles on the clock. I'd estimate what, say 90% of the bike is still the original bike. Original fairings, tank, wheels, frame, engine, swingarm, rear seat, mudguards... I get the point though.
23/1/2019 9:52:58 AM UTC

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