Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

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CB500X At 40k And What Next?

Blog Date - 03 April 2024

The LCD display on Ren#'s CB500X show 40000 miles
Oh right. My new bike is no longer a new bike.

Well folks the CB500X is now at 40,000 miles. I purchased this CB500X in November 2019 which means it's been with me for 4 years and 5 months. I'm slacking. I really ought to be up to 50k by now however I have a "reasonable" excuse. We all enjoyed a little less motorcycling time during the 2020 - 2021 period due to a particularly nasty strain of the common cold doing the rounds. 

The regulars here will recall this is my second CB500X having traded in the first one at 39,000 miles. There's no shop closing with a good deal on the table this time round so I'll be sticking with this bike for the foreseeable future.

How is the now middle aged motorcycle doing? Fine, but not perfect. 

The silver 18 CB500X with luggage
It's starting to look a little rough around the edges.

I recall a comment of here, I can't recall who it was, but the gist of it was the the modern CB500s are noisy on startup and that it only clears when it's warmed up. My first CB500X was a little more "chuff chuff chuff" from the exhaust but I don't recall any mechanical noises worth worrying about. This one, well this one's always been that bit more rattly. On initial start there's a gentle tap for around 3 seconds until the oil gets around and a light flutter until it's warmed through. 

Camchain? Valves? All checked and within spec. Sharon's Peugeot 108 (aka Citroen C1 aka Toyota Aygo) rattles all the time. It's knackered innit. Then you listen to countless other 108s, C1s and Aygos and they all sound exactly the same. That's just the noise they make, they last as well as any other engine, they're fine, just rattly. Is it the same for my CB500X? I don't get the opportunity to hear many other CB500X/CB500F/CBR500/CMX500/CL500 at cold start to make a comparison.

The rocker cover is off the 500 showing the camchain and cam gears
It's not the quietest Honda out there.

I recall my training school's early CB500 (mid 90's), and CB400 Super Four, my NTV600 Revere, my NT400 Bros. All quiet as a timid mouse's sewing machine. The SLR650 was a clattery motor and I also recall both my CD200 Benlys ALWAYS sounding like all the tappets were loose and the camchain was falling out and yet both were fine. I'm paranoid I know I am. Imagine what I was like when I owned a diesel car.

Rust. No the X is not disintegrating before my very eyes but I am aware the best of Honda's build quality came from the 90s and early 00s Japanese built machines. The NTV600 Revere just refused to show any signs of aging at all despite my best efforts. This Thai built CB500X has endured winter weather with very little tender loving care and it is starting, just starting to show.

Around the welds on the frame there's the merest hint of rust in places, just a hint. There's a patch on the frame where the rear wheel's washout reaches and the paint is bubbling up a little now. The centre stand is almost all rust which is pretty bad. Even the motor's covering is losing it's integrity and soon the alloy will start to get crusty. Considering the level of abuse and lack of polish on offer most folks would say this is understandable and expected. The finish is fair, not excellent.

Other than that it's been fine. I've destroyed a tyre in '22 but that was a puncture, can't blame Honda for that. I had the creaky front end noise which, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, was tracked down to a loose engine mount. That's probably my fault after fitting the engine bars, can't blame Honda for that. I have a sneaky feeling the battery is on it's way out, the bike is just a little recalcitrant when starting after being stood for a few days. I could blame Honda for that but the battery is now 5 years old.

What I can blame Honda for is the terribly bad access to the tappets. I'm sure the Honda design team were extremely pleased with themselves with the packaging of the CB500-X-R-F range. They managed to neatly ensconce the evap control, pair valve, computer, coils, pipework, tank breather, other electrical gubbins, and a bird's nest of wiring under the tank quite neatly. Well done folks, well done.

What they neglected to do was allow anyone a logical simple path for the removal of their work to get underneath it all to work on the engine. Thanks. I have recently been unreliably informed the Transalp 750 and Africa Twin are both equally miserable for the same reason. Can anyone confirm this?

Honda is in the business of selling new motorcycles. People like myself who service their own motorcycles are bad for their business and bad for their retail outlets too. I am not the target market. Ideally I ought to purchase their motorcycle, have the initial 600 mile service (probably over £100) and the 8,000 mile service (oil and filter change, probably £200), then chop the bike in for a new one. We are not supposed to reach the 16,000 mile tappet service before we buy a new bike. Silly me. Sorry Honda.

Beyond this annoyance I am still perfectly happy riding my CB500X, having now completed 79,000 miles between the 2 bikes. It handles well enough for my skill levels, it has more than sufficient power for my skill levels and aging reaction times, it is perhaps the most comfortable ride I've experienced on 2 wheels, and it generally suits me just fine.

But. There's always a but.

The CBF125 that I ran up to 100,000 miles is I suspect not going to (dis)grace our roads any more. I've done what I hoped to achieve on the bike and I've kind of lost interest now. I like having 2 motorcycles as if one is in bits I can ride the other one. I have a hankering for a second bike.

Now Sharon's gotten the Z400 her Z250SL has been languishing in her shed. How about I take ownership of that? It would mean if Sharon's Z400 is in bits she can use the Z250SL, if mine's in bits I can use the Z250SL. Having ridden it this weekend it needs a new camchain but other than that it's a smashing bike and cheap to run.

Sharon's Z250SL when it was still quite new
It's small but perfectly formed the Z250SL.

However it's not right for ME when it comes to touring. It's not the size or the performance, it's the lack of luggage options. You've seen my bikes when we're off camping. Tour-A-Plank works for Sharon but she doesn't take the tent and the cooking kit as well as the regular stuff required for living on the road.  I have the 500 for touring? Yes but in a perfect world I'd like a "backup" bike also capable of touring. I think I'm at risk of being greedy. 

I have considered a NC750(X/S). Plenty big enough and I've been liking them for eons now. I can't help but feel it's too similar to the 500 though. A nice older example with say 25,000 miles can be had for around £3,500. Not an insignificant dollop of wonga but achievable.

Honda NC700 in silver
I test rode the 700 (not 750) back when it was first released. Nice.

I'm still rather sweet on the CB300R. If that's the case then I might as well use the Z250SL? Similar performance, similar characteristics. There are luggage options available for the CB300R but for the cost of one in good order it'd be not too much of a jump to the NC750 range. Sharon's Z250SL does rather put a spanner in my thinking.

CB300R at the showroom in Wigan Honda
CB300R? Nice bike but why not just use the Z250SL.

How about an old Deauville of even a NTV600/650? Good solid reliable bikes, plenty good enough for touring. Cheaper too, much cheaper if you get a rough one. Fuel economy's nowhere near as good though and I wonder if parts will be getting harder to source. 

NTV600 Revere with camping luggage in Spain
I know the NTV600 Revere can carry a load.

Speaking of which I'm considering an older bike, old enough to be tax and MOT exempt. But then I put myself in the position of struggling to find parts? I don't surely know because I've never ran a bike that old. I know it'll be easier to fix without electronics I suppose.

Anyhow I am indeed happy with my CB500X, there's no quandary about that, it's what I acquire as the "spare" bike that I'm considering. I'm happy to listen to your advice but be warned, I'm a stubborn old mule, I'll listen but it's doubtful I'll take it onboard.

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Reader's Comments

Bogger said :-
'the bike is just a little recalcitrant when starting'

Indeed! You have obviously read many a UBG magazine to come up with that phrase. Cotcha.

03/04/2024 21:42:10 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'll take that as a compliment Bogger, I was a big fan of the UBG back in the day. Mind you it would put you off almost any motorcycle much as modern online reviews will put you off any purchase. I don't recall any bike had an entry that stated "nothing goes wrong, lasts forever, totally reliable". Of course the idea was to give those in search of a used bike hints and tips of what to look out for on each model, but after reading you'd want none of them.
04/04/2024 07:44:00 UTC
nab301 said :-
Quote Ren

"This one, well this one's always been that bit more rattly. On initial start there's a gentle tap for around 3 seconds until the oil gets around "

Ren, I can confirm my '21 CBR 500 depressingly sounds the same since new but presumably confirms that it's not a problem ? Annoying , because the Y2k version I had back in the day was whisper quiet in the valve train area from new with just a hint of chain rattle when cold after nearly 100k miles. Cam over bucket always is quiet though. ( I'm guessing there's a price to pay for easy (once dismantled ) valve adjustment .
It's hard to read what sort of second bike you're looking for, bargains are usually spur of the moment things that suddenly become available, do you want a single , twin triple , four?
My suggestion, buy another 500X or one of the Honda 500 range, maybe the naked version , interchangeability of parts might be useful or maybe an F/G 650 single BMW, carbed ones are quite old now , fuel injected ones are much more economical and you have 3 dedicated specialists / breakers in the UK , and loads of luggage availability.

07/04/2024 16:02:33 UTC
Snod said :-
Woah woah hold up - the Z250SL needs a new cam chain?? What mileage? How often was the oil changed?

Some interesting stuff is becoming tax free now, very early GPZ900s or BMW K100s or CBX550/750s. Heck even the VMax came out in 1985!
07/04/2024 19:17:41 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Snod - The Z250SL now has about 36,000 miles on it. I cannot be sure... if it's the very well know KLR/KLX 250 camchain rattle due to the weak tensioner spring OR if the chain is "gone" which is again quite well known for this engine. I've removed the spring and pushed real hard on the tensioner ratchet, gotten a click out of it and the rattle is less but still there. It feels as though if I fitted a manual tensioner I'd have to put a lot of tension on it to take the rattle out - hence me thinking it needs a camchain. Oh, the oil's been done every 4 to 5 thousand miles. "Proper" motorcycle oil, Motul and Shell if I recall.

Thanks nab301. I figure with bucket over shim there's not a lot to actually rattle! With followers there's bound to be some shenanigans moving around in the motor. I've seen folks running the CB500X up to 240,000 miles so it can't be that bad. I'm paranoid, I just fear mine's the Friday afternoon motor...

Another 500X? Yeah that would help with any testing because you'd swap parts until the problem goes away, therefore diagnosing the problem part. BMW? I've never tried the 650 singles, I'll have a gander. Snod - the K75s have an excellent record for reliability - dunno what they're like to ride. I can't own a BMW surely? Sacrilege?
08/04/2024 08:03:24 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
Ren said" I can't own a BMW surely?".
When I got my stop gap BMW over 5 years ago I was surprised how good it was. I remember saying to my son that I always thought they were an old man's bike. He replied " You were right then ".
Maybe you are getting older than you think Ren.
08/04/2024 10:13:49 UTC
Bogger said :-
Yesterday I MOT'd my BMW R1200ST. I'd not ridden it for 4yrs. I'm going to sell it.

But not after my trip to the MOT station. The Bee-Emm is just ace. Smiley face.

09/04/2024 17:59:52 UTC
Bros Steve said :-
Interesting comment about looking at NTV 650/ Deauville. Tt that age of bike suspension/carbs will need refreshing amongst other things so might get pricey. service items readily available but things like coolant hoses are scarce if not unobtainable. I'm still running Bros(s) with similar problems obtaining parts. Methinks a newer bike may suit your needs better but each to their own
12/05/2024 19:10:35 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I owned (and was almost killed on) a NT400 Bros back in 2002 Bros Steve - it was a fabulous bike! I haven't seen any Broses about for ages, shame really. From a reliability and rideability point of view I'd jump at the chance of another 400 Bros, but they are rare here in Blighty, you can't get things like racks or crash bars easily so I take your point.

That's another thing I'm liking with the CB500X, they've sold well and the aftermarket is still buoyant with options.

The NTV range that was sold in the UK is still supported (mostly) but if you're struggling to get coolant hoses it appears that this is coming to an end. I seem to think the original NTV600 Revere came out around 1988 so these are still a ways off coming under the "classic" regulations (no MOT, no tax) so there's no benefit there.

I reckon the NC700/750 are the natural descendants of the NT/NTV range, I have a leaning towards these. Hmmm, food for thought thanks.
13/05/2024 08:05:22 UTC
nab301 said :-
Ren , I wouldn't let (lack of) coolant hose availabilty put you off purchasing an older bike . Motorcycle coolant hoses are generally small bore so lengths of automotive heater hose in various diameters are generally available in 10mm 12mm 15 mm etc and with something like "Gates Unicoil" an external spring allowing 90 deg bends without collapsing the hose.
13/05/2024 12:22:32 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'm sure there's plenty of "off the shelf" hoses that can be made to fit nab301 - I suspect the point Bros Steve is making is with the age of the NTV range that parts in general, though not unobtainable, are less available than they might be for newer models. We see Ian for example sourcing parts for bikes from way way WAY back in the day but it's not like he can pop down the local BSA dealer and order a new set of handle bars or footrest mounts.

I now await Ian to return with a link to a website where all such parts are readily available and probably at reasonable prices... DOH!

Tyres must be interesting as models get older and older. My 500 runs 120/70-17 and 160/60-17 and these are very popular sizes and there's a huge range to choose from. The NTV range's applications are still around but I wonder how folks go on with tyres for early 80's bikes or even stuff from the 30s and 40s. Ian?
13/05/2024 13:09:46 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
As it happens I do have a BSA dealer (C&D Autos) a mere couple of miles down the road, and a generic "classic" parts place the same distance in the other direction. As regards cooling hoses, people like demon tweeks supply silicone hoses and accessories so you should be able to make virtually anything provided you don't mind blue (although I think other colours are available).

Tyres? I have actually noted there is a distinct shortage at the moment. My bikes tend to use fairly conventional sizes - 18 or 19 inch, 90/90 or 110/90 profile and so on. In fact there is a company that sells a lot of obsolete sizes but they're expensive.

Interestingly (or not) the little Yamaha is very poorly served as it was never imported here. There are only 12 in the UK according to howmanyleft. Some parts are available from CMSNL in the Netherlands but I've just paid £50 including postage for a drain plug, oil filter and a couple of O rings. I have seen people talking about buying parts from Japan but that may be beyond me. Much stuff - brakes etc - is generic and some parts shared with other models eg the 250 Virago - but that wasn't sold here either.

There's usually a way round most problems.
13/05/2024 15:15:28 UTC
Bros Steve said :-
Sadly the hoses for the NTV/Bros have bends formed. I have looked into alternatives at great length including talking to Samco who would happily make them for me but I would have to pay around £1000 to get the pattern pipes made & tested.
Not trying to put anyone off a purchase of said bikes, just raising awareness. The last NTV 650's before the deauville were made in 1995 so Honda's policy of discontinuing parts manufacture after 10 years applies.
15/05/2024 20:03:12 UTC
Bros Steve said :-
1997 for last NTV 650 my mistake
15/05/2024 20:05:24 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I daresay most motorcycles have specifically formed pipes of all kinds. The CB500X has at least 2 coolant pipes that are not generic bits of pipe with a curve in them. I've had a look on CMSNL and while they list most of the coolant parts there's 2 pipes that are not available!

I'd be happy to fudge, bodge and hack a generic pipe to work but I do understand there's a lot of folks out there who would find this act somewhat repugnant. Not everyone wants random misshapen pipes on their bikes, nor do many folks appreciate my home made handguards.

You're right to raise the point though Bros Steve. Maybe I can live with wobbly pipes but what if I need something I can't bodge? Rocker cover gaskets, tensioner guides etc for example. This MUST apply to any and all older motorcycles and the older a bike gets the less available the parts must be. But then you only need to look to the classic community to see how these folks do it. Autojumbles, old stock etc is a good start, then there's an abundance of small business who seem to be able to create almost anything... for a fee.
16/05/2024 07:52:06 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Steve - do you have a pic of the bends? I can't imagine it's not possible to make them up given the wide range of bends etc that are available, even if they're not precisely like the originals.

Rocker cover (and other) gaskets are easy to make - the material is widely available and better than the cornflake boxes we used to use. Tensioner guides? May be tricky but as Ren says there will be somebody somewhere who can do it.
16/05/2024 10:44:11 UTC
BrosSteve said :-
No problem Ian. Will look later after work. Incidentally there are 2 hoses hidden away which should be able to replace wirh generic auto hoses. Honda don't list a part number for these.
16/05/2024 13:12:26 UTC
BrosSteve said :-
Fair comment Ren. Depends what you want and if you are a lunatic who has 4 x Bros bikes in my case.
I'm a stubborn git though so instead of thinking of moving them on and getting something newer than 30 years old my approach is to increase bike collection...
Please send help
16/05/2024 13:19:26 UTC
BrosSteve said :-
Pics fo hoses these are dor the Bros. NTV similar
Posted Image
22/05/2024 11:41:51 UTC
BrosSteve said :-
For the Bros! Builders thumbs
22/05/2024 11:42:33 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
I can't see any reason why you can't make these up using bends and straight connectors from demon tweeks or similar. For the straights I'd use stainless tube from my local friendly steel merchant - I've just bought some to extend the exhaust on my B-Zuki. OK might not look like original but who cares?
22/05/2024 12:39:40 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Oh, the stainless tube is from here:
22/05/2024 12:40:53 UTC
BrosSteve said :-
Thanks for the links Ian. Will have a look
22/05/2024 12:52:25 UTC

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