1985 Honda VT500E

Summary:

They are rubbish, so do not bother with them

Faults:

Shaft snapped.

Radiator leaked.

General Comments:

The Honda 500’s which are most famous in the courier field are the CX500 and the VT500, and a special mention can be given for the CBX550, which is more or less a 500.

It was way back in 1982 when I wanted a new motorcycle. My first choice was the VT250 as I had read it was good for 100mph. However it would not get near 100mph, so I took it back to the garage and part exchanged it for a CBX550F2.

The F2 had a half fairing fitted, which did a good job one of wind protection for the rider. This bike was in another world of performance, which I had not known before. The smooth 4 cylinder engine had 4 valves per cylinder and a double overhead camshaft. It produced 63hp and would do 130mph. Driving around the east of England that summer was a pleasure.

It had fully enclosed disc brakes - an innovation the VT500 also had. These had been invented as discs did not work well in the wet at this time.

It was a low bike fitted with smaller wheels than normal, so suitable for someone with short legs. I ran it for 3000 miles and then sold it on wanting a cheaper machine to use as a courier bike. This proved a false economy, as the XS750 I bought next was appalling in comparison to it.

It was not until 1984 that I got to ride a VT500. I rented them for £70 per week from Scootabout. It had a smart v-twin engine with a low centre of gravity. It answered all the problems of the CX500 plastic pig or maggot as it was known. As I had never driven one, I was to find out about this later.

The 50hp engine provided good performance and was pleasant to ride in town, on the open road or the motorway. 50 mpg was easily possible. It made a good courier bike. So good you would have thought I would stick to them, but no I was doing so well I upgraded to a FJ1200!

As you can imagine, the FJ1200 is over the top as a courier bike, so it was traded in 6 months later for a CX500 Euro Sport. This was a big mistake as it was like stepping back into the stone-age after the FJ. Performance was very poor in comparison. Handling was in the world of a pig on roller skates. I had rolled the dice once more and lost.

The FJ was it turned out, in need of major repairs. The 2nd gear started popping out when I traded it in, so this could have made the CX a stop gap. But no, the CX is so unpleasant it is the last place you would want to be. So after a few months, I sold it for a £950, a drop of only £150 on what I paid for it, so not to be complained about.

Later I would come into contact with the CX500 in the early 90’s. Britain had descended into recession. There was no longer any money in the courier game. I had not heard of housing benefit, so had to work for a living, and the only job available was as a courier. I went to Chas Bikes and rented an old original CX. As you can imagine, these bikes were clapped out old tractors. But they just keep going if bodged up. I ran it for a few weeks and then dumped it by the side of the road when the radiator sprung a leek. Another CX snapped its shaft drive as I pulled away. Renting these bikes meant you changed every week, as it would be left at the garage to be bodged up.

The good points of a CX are it is a big bike, so is comfortable over long periods of time, and it has adequate performance, so can keep up with the traffic even on a motorway. Top speed is around the 110 mark and 50 mpg is possible. This was until 1992, when I gave up on the CX and started on a GT550.

These were the Honda 500’s, beloved of by the courier industry. Normal punters can do better unless very hard up. Compared to modern bikes like the Honda Hornet, they are rubbish, so do not bother with them.

Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 24th July, 2006

4th Jan 2008, 05:37

I have had 7 of these bikes, yes I love them. If you want a low maintenance bike with good power and economy, then buy seven of these over 24 years. The last one I bought, 18 months ago, had only 10,000kms. It now has 30,000kms. I'm glad so many people don't like them, I have had cheap and reliable transport all these years. I think it's because they are white {all I've had} and real men don't ride quiet, white bikes. There is a lot of sheep out there.

THANK YOU HONDA FOR MAKING SUCH A GREAT BIKE.

First 2 bike regos WZ 797 and AD 968, and 5 is my number, can you crack the code? Dennis

27th Jan 2011, 19:04

Almost any Honda 37mm forks (from the era) will fit; I replaced some with an FT500 front end, and it just slipped in, and only had to bleed the brakes!

16th Oct 2011, 07:21

Time is up. W is the 4th last and Z is the last letter in the alphabet: so 4+1=5 797 added = 23 2+3=5 Next bike was AD 968. So A is the first letter and D is the 4th so 4+1=5 then 9+6+8=23, 2+3=5. One bike was registered in the 12th month and the other in the 6th month. Both bikes were in my driveway when I remembered being told about the first, and then I realised I had the second. So all this on a VT500E. V is 5 in roman, T does stand for twin and E is the 5th letter in this alphabet.Don't know what it means, but it is one hell of a story.

1987 Honda VT500E

Summary:

The motorcycle equivalent of a Labrador!

Faults:

The exhaust rotted and was replaced by a Motad system for under £250.

The electrics can be temperamental, sometimes resulting in a loss of the rear lights.

General Comments:

This is a great little shaft drive bike with quite a punchy 500cc V-twin engine. VERY easy to ride and also quite forgiving, but the pegs touch ground a little too early for my kind of riding.

I like it so much I am now converting it into a cafe racer with drop bars and rear sets, and some nice custom made bodywork. I now have another bike too, but cannot bear to sell the VT as it has been very reliable.

Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 8th January, 2005

10th Jul 2006, 23:09

Hello. I'm in the process of purchasing a VT500, and noted that the comments were generally positive, but that braking was rated very low. Can you provide more information on braking please? Thanks.

25th Jun 2007, 15:43

Having owned my Honda VT500E for 20 years, it has never let me down. I have only done 36,000 miles, but it still has the original exhaust.

I used to have a top box, but this affected the bike's stability a lot; my advice to anyone with a top box is take it off and use panniers.

This bike is not economic, only does 40 mpg; that's probably because it is old.

Carl.