4th Oct 2010, 10:10

My favourite motorbike has always been the NSU 250 Max I once had. If only the CX I later rode for thousands of miles all over Europe was as easy to handle. It's not the weight, but the c of g. The NSU had a very low c of g, and practically stood by itself. The CX was a pig to handle at in parking lots and petrol stations. Dropped it twice in the Fulda Gap after riding in the cold rain for hours, stiff and grumpy, stopping for petrol and a HOT coffee. Once it lent more than 7-8 degrees there was no holding it! And the time in the Alps somewhere... (didn't actually know where I was!) they had to come out and lift it off me when I lost it at a petrol pump and was trapped underneath!

But by god, loaded with camping gear it never flinched at cruising at 90mph as long as there was petrol, never even got hot and bothered. Tank it up again and it simply asked for more of that, please. The only thing was the handling, greasy surfaces were instantly felt under the tyres (and I always used good ones, Metz or Mich) and it was obvious the bike didn't like it. A scratcher the CX wasn't. But I never dropped it when riding, not even on the crap-covered roads back of East Germany (first spring after the wall fell). As long as you planned your lines and didn't take risks, it was great.

A mechanic in Hamburg told me 250,000 miles wasn't unusual if you looked after the bike, and didn't rev it like a road-racer in the gears. His personal CX was on the way up there in miles, and was still using the original cam-chain! "Only tension it after it has stood overnight in an 18 degree garage, and don't force it, overtighten. And check it more often than the book says. Revving too hard in 1st-2nd isn't good, but if you want to take the fan off, and also the little plates around the radiator to let more air through (it makes riding in hot weather a bit hot for the rider). I only rev hard in 3rd on up".

I met an engineer from K and N Filters, who's personal bike was a CX... until the guy who designed the CX, the same man who designed the Honda racers of the 60's, was over on a visit to SoCal and test-rode the slightly-modded bike. As it was one of a batch of test-bikes K and N used to develop the V-twin speedway bike around Honda still theoretically owned it. The firm never had to return such bikes, they were written-off... but come the day, a van turned-up at this guys house... and the CX was on it's way back to Japan.

The Japanese engineer kept out of the Yanks sight thereafter!

Sticky tyres, Brembo discs, CB 900 Honda fork internals (it's the same fork) Koni's on the back, rear-mount footpegs, the bike looked standard. But when this guy raced the canyons up to a place called Alice's Restaurant, every other rider scratching up pulled over and let him past. For the CX had modded exhaust-pipes, big Dellorto's, K and N filters, modded airbox, better ignition... and developed 60bhp.

It was the fastest bike on the twisty canyon roads.

The K and N engineer, a flinty-eyed 50-something ex-military man by the look of him, was obviously a competent rider himself.

K and N's testing had shown the original CX engine was slightly 'starved' in the inlet and exhaust, for noise and emissions reasons, and the 44.5bhp they had measured on the dyno, at the gearbox outlet, wasn't the 55bhp the engine was actually designed to develop! The Dellorto's and ignition were the icing on the cake. The engineer told me (we were at the German bike show in Cologne, mid 80's?) that with a slightly sharper cam 65-70bhp was easily on tap, and this with an engine still as mild and reliable as the original.

"The CX engine was the best we ever tested, all categories. It would run on the dyno for 24 hours at a stretch, and beg for more. No other Japanese engine we ever tested would do that." (I imagine they hadn't tested the Gold Wing, was it on the market at this time?)

Apart from the high c of g, the CX was a great bike.