Honda CB 500T


Make Model

Honda CB 500T


1975 - 76


Four stroke, parallel twin cylinder, DOHC, 2 valves per cylinder,


498 cc / 30.4 cu-in
Bore x Stroke 70.0 x 64.8 mm
Cooling System Air cooled
Compression Ratio 8.5:1


Keihin carburetor


Battery induction
Starting Electric & Kick

Max Power

34 hp / 25 kW @ 8500 rpm

Max Torque

29.5 Nm / 21.8 lb-ft @ 7000 rpm


5 Speed 
Final Drive Chain
Frame Semi-double cradle

Front Suspension

Telescopic hydraulic forks
Front Wheel Travel 121 mm / 4.7 in

Rear Suspension

Swinging fork
Rear Wheel Travel 79 mm / 3.1 in

Front Brakes

Single disc

Rear Brakes


Front Tyre


Rear Tyre

Wheelbase 1410 mm / 56 in
Seat Height 860 mm / 31.0 in

Wet Weight

293 kg / 425 lbs

Fuel Capacity 

16 Litres / 4.2 US gal

A decade after the CB450 Black Bomber had dwindled into legend, Honda resurrected the medium-size parallel twin with their 500T of 1975. This handsome motor cycle shared the old 450's specification — on paper — in having an all-alloy engine with twin overhead camshafts. The resemblance was more than superficial in at least one respect. Both had a 70mm bore, the stroke of the 500T being stretched from 64.8 to 67.8mm to give a full 499cc.

Having a 180° crankshaft arrangement and none of the trendy aids to smooth running, such as balancers and counterweights, the 500T was somewhat vibratory at any speed under 70 mph in top gear. It was more than somewhat vibratory in the 80s and 90s.

This together with obtrusive backlash in the transmission, which made traffic-threading something of a chore, ruled out any chance of the Honda impressing as an all-rounder.

But handling was good, the bike looked good (the well-finned cylinder head with massive camboxes being especially attractive), and it was decently quiet both mechanically and on the exhaust.
Overall, though, it goes down as another of Honda's few marketing mistakes. It did not appear in the range after 1978.



ONCE upon a time Honda used to make very good vertical twins, Starting with the (CB72 and passing through the delightful little l25SS. CB250 and CB350, they all had their own characters and, frequently, were the top of their class. Perhaps less successful but considered by many to be underrated was the CB450, the "Black Bomber'', Which brings us to the CB5OOT . The logical successor to the 450, it somehow turns out to be nothing of the sort and, if its ancestry is to be considered, then the current CB360 would seem to be its close brother.In fairness, we do not really think that it has any present-day antecedents for it appeared on the American market at about the same time as the (CB260 and the rest of the range associated with it.
We're waffling really, waffling to avoid plunging into the nasty business of saying that in our experience the CB500 is one of the least attractive motorcycles to come out of the Honda stable. One of the ironies is that it looks so right.
The finish is dark brown with matching seat-a colour that sounds awful yet looks great.

The motor is just rugged enough to give It character, a decent-size engine that looks like a 500. It was, of course, completely oil tight and retained its pristine new gleam. Keeping it that way is going to take reasonable effort but will be worth the trouble. Obvious point of comparison with the CB500 is the old CB450 and, indeed, if it helps to trace the heritage of the CB500 at least it shares a 70mm bore !

The stroke is increased to 64.8 from 57.8 to give the extra 54cc.Weight has gone up by a mere 6 kg to ! 93 kg (387 lh), which is reasonable by today's standards, The looks, have of course, changed with the times and the old "Bomber'' tank with the pointed front has given way to one that is more European than the Europeans. The motor remains the same relatively simple double overhead camshaft vertical twin with no "artifical aids'' to eliminate vibration, . with the result that, not surprisingly , it vibrates ! Mildly below 40 affecting the mirrors, more between 40 and 60, with the speedometer suffering the shakes, enough to be felt through the grips below 70 and considerably, by Honda's standards, above 70. Below 60 It was merely irritating in its affect on mirrors and instruments, above this speed it was tiring after a while. Perhaps time has dimmed our memory a littie but we do not recall the 450 being like this; in fact the later version of the450 was notable for its smoothness.

But it was not the vibration that troubled me but the transmission backlash. A common enough Honda occurrence but more noticeable on the 500. Perhaps it is because the motor is less flexible than others in the range, not being at all happy at low rpm. This is very much a machine that has to be revved and. to its credit, it was more than willing to do that. Response to the throttle was immediate, the tachometer needle shooting backWards and forwards as though it were directly connected to the twist grip.
It was difficult to decide whether this was a virtue or vice for so delicate was the control that it needed above average concentration to maintain, say, smooth progress in traffic. On the other hand the bike had a very quick  reaction when it was needed. Engine and exhaust noise were very low, the exhaust particularly so and it was easy to take the odd liberty without giving offense.

The transmission : five-speed, an easy-to- find neutral and silent operation of all gears, including bottom. A good gearbox to use but, as mentioned earlier it did have this backlash ! It showed itself particularly in 2nd gear when, say, we were just a little lazy going around a slow corner. If we failed to engage bottom, the transmission objected noisily, whirring and clanking as though the gears had lost the odd tooth or two. This applied in all gears, excepting bottom, but got worse the lower the gear.
All these criticisms, Isn't there any good in the bike? Yes, More than we expected, really, considering our initial incompatibility with the bike. The handling for a start, was good. The single-down-tube cradle frame loops back up to about the centre of the dual- seat. A pressed steel welded sub-frame serves to locale the pillion footrests and silencer mountings. Suspension is conventional telescopic front fork and adjustable swinging arm rear, with the difference of being somewhat firmer than usual on Japanese machines.

 The result is a machine that handles very well indeed with no wallowing, and with precision-but with a slight loss in immediate comfort. In our experience softly sprung bikes often become uncomfortable after a time. Not so the CB500.


The brakes, single disc front and drum rear, were superb and in this they had the unexpected bonus (non-standard) of British Dunlop TTl00s, 3-25 x 19in front and 4.10 x l8in rear. Japanese Dunlop tyres are good but these were even better.
The electrics, too, earned high marks. The headlight was up to Honda's usual standard, the horn was way above it, being unusually strident. The stop light worked, as is common nowadays, off the front and rear brake and the flashing indicators reflected the growing trend to use lights that were adequate by day or night. Finally, there is the electric starter that spun the motor easily and always started the Honda at the merest caress of the button. Provided, of course, one had set the cold-start lever first when the motor was cold . . . and remembered to switch the engine stop button on !

The controls were just about as good as we would have wished, with Honda at last moving the ignition key to the centre of the steering head where it can be easily reached. The left lever housing contained the horn/pass light, dipswitch, which was in the inside position- perhaps the only point of criticism for we would have preferred the dipswitch to be nearest the thumb, a position reserved for the direction indicators. We imagine that it is impossible to satisfy everyone with the position of controls and we don't really feel strongly about it. On the right side was starter button, lights on and off and of/on/off switch on the top. When will they learn to isolate the starters well as the coil with this switch ? It is such a civilized way of letting the rider know that he is switched off, far better than flattening the battery !
When it comes to looks, as we have said the 500 rates with the best, Which is of course, purely a personal view. Others might think differently. The addition of above average amount of chrome, on the headlamp brackets, rear carrier, fork stanchions, speedometer base and mudguards has not cheapened the looks of the bike and it complements the brown finish well. Extras include the standard helmet and steering lock, twin mirrors, toolbox under the seat (which was empty !) and a very neat compartment set into the seat for documents and handbook, One "extra'' that we would have liked to see is a generator warning light. Modern bikes throw a great weight on their electrics and it would be nice to know if they were not still working. Come to think of it, we've never had generator failure on a Japanese bike so perhaps their confidence is not misplaced.
The Honda was unusually quiet, its exhaust note giving the bike a flatness that implied that it was not going very quickly. In fairness, for a 500 it was not unduly quick, its just over 90 m.p.h, top speed being about par for its class, a little below if you include the hotter two-strokes. It was really at its best in the 40 to 80 m.p.h range which is after all the area where most riders will be needing it. It responded almost like a two-stroke in this speed, the tachometer needle flying around the dials but, as we have said, the revs needed to be kept up if the motor was to give its best, Above 5000 for decent performance, a bit less if more sedate motorcycling was acceptable.
Fuel consumption for the test averaged 53 m.p.g, Is that good ? It depends what one is used to, we suppose. It is thirstier than the Honda 750 but more economical than a hot two-stroke three. It seems to us that 53 isn't really brilliant for a 500 but we have almost come to accept it as fair. Of the Hondas that we have tried over the past few years the CB500T perhaps shares with the CB360 the spot as the one that appeals to us least. It is no coincidence that both are in the same mould, having all their performance at the top end, a fair degree of transmission back- lash and more vibration than we wished. On the credit side they looked and sounded good, were reliable and were simple to work on which certainly puts them one up on the fours. Many will find and our complaints niggling and, indeed, we know many riders who own the CB500T and think it is a terrific bike. We'd sooner have the cheaper CB400F.  1976


Honda CB550F, CB500T, Suzuki GT380, GT550, Yamaha RD400C, XS500C, and Ka­wasaki KH400 Triple comparison

Other than the predictable responses that always follow the publication of a Cycle Magazine street-bike comparison test ("You guys are full of it!"), the most persistent—and plaintive—comment is, "Do one on the Middleweights." So here one is—a Middleweight Comparison Test, including two entries from Honda (CB550F and CB500T), two from Suzuki (GT380 and GT550), two from Yamaha (RD400C and XS500C) and one from Ka­wasaki (KH400 Triple). The bikes we've selected for this comparison may or may not jibe with your idea of what constitutes a proper Middleweight, but we feel that the selection process was valid and re­sponsible. To fanciers of the Honda CJ360T, Honda CB360T, Kawasaki KZ400 and Yamaha XS360C, we say, too small, too econo-oriented. To those loyal to the Hercules Wankel 2000, the Benelli 500 Quattro and the Laverda 500 Twin, we say, too exotic.

At the center of our Comparison Test was a 1300-mile toot from our Westlake Village offices out across the desert, then Northwest following the Sierra mountains to San Jose, then down along the Pacific Ocean and home. The trip lasted for five

days, during which time each of our test­ers rode each bike five separate times, and had a chance to sample every bike in every kind of terrain. At the end of the ride, the testers were asked to fill out score-sheets. Categories in which the bikes were evaluated were Overall Engine Per­formance, Overall Comfort, Fit and Feel, Overall Noise Level, Vibration Control, Suspension Compliance, Mountain Road Handling and In-Town Ease of Operation. Possible scores ranged from zero—unac­ceptable—to nine—outstanding. The final results in each category were determined by averaging the scores of all the testers; the overall rank order was determined by the category scores and by the staff's subjective opinions.

Accompanying those members of the staff still able to get around after the Great Dirt Donk Expedition were three outside experts: Bob Johnston, who had been with us on the Donk trip and the "Eight for the Open Road" comparison (August, 1975); Marty Dickerson, Bonneville record holder and motorcycle mechanics in­structor at the West Valley Occupational Center in Woodland Hills, California; and Bill Ocheltree, former Motorcyclist Maga­zine staffer and currently a freelancer. They were invited hopefully to offset the hell-raising tendencies of the staff; as it turned out they raised more hell than we did, even though all three of them are between 40 and 50 years old.
Capsule Summaries



• One-time progress is a one-time thing; if ever a mechanism bore testimony to that idea, it's the Honda CB500T. The bike came to these shores in the mid-Sixties as the second largest-displacement Jap­anese motorcycle (the 650cc Kawasaki was first) of all time, and was trick beyond belief. It was a vertical parallel twin four-stroke with double overhead cams, tor­sion-bar valve springs and the most com­plex cylinder head casting anybody had ever seen on a motorcycle. It was ugly; Honda fixed that in short order, and by the early Seventies the 450 was generally held to be superior in all regards: it was fast, handled well, was easy on maintenance, had a disc front brake and was a marvel of smoothness when matched against other bikes of the same general description (the Triumph 500 and 650 among others).

Had Honda clung to the 450 as we knew it then and simply dragged it forward year after year with no significant changes, chances are that, in the face of giant strides made by Honda's now-plentiful competitors, the bike would not have fared well. But it would have done better than the current 500T, because the old 450 was a better motorcycle.

The 500 is a cosmetic masterpiece; the T-bike is lovingly painted, plated, styled, trimmed and striped Its appearance is its message; once you plunk your buns on the saddle and fire up the engine, it's all downhill. The center console vibrates it­self into a blur; the footpegs and stands all stick out too far; the bike leaps ahead and falls back with a will of its own; the brakes on both ends need to be improved; the rubber-mounted handlebar does little to shield your arms and hands from the engine's incessant quaking and shaking.

Well, you're thinking, it's probably cheap. Wrong-o. It costs $1610, sug­gested retail, or $400 more than the RD-400C or the Kawasaki KH400. Well, maybe it's fast. Guess again. Does it get good mileage? Yes—just under 40 mpg over the duration of our comparison.

Only under the most carefully chosen set of circumstances could the 500T be presented as an admirable motorcycle; it does look good, probably won't break, and will be economical to operate and not especially fussy. But in this displacement range, you can do so much better—as our comparison will clearly show.


• A stunning blonde appeared on Cycle's June 1971 cover along with the first CB500 Four, and a bold description which read "The Honda Magic Lantern Lights Again." After electrifying the industry in 1969 with a 750 Four, Honda was back at it two years later, injecting a massive dose of technical class and good motorcycling into a rather ordinary collection of mid­sized street bikes. The miniaturized 750 offered smaller people with smaller bud­gets the same prestige, technology, re­liability, comfort and grand-prix exhaust note that the heavier, more expensive 750 had used to unseat the reigning kings of motorcycling. Reduced size gave the 500 an important advantage over bigger bikes—agility, nimbleness and better han­dling—and a strong appeal for those who could appreciate subleties.

The little Four was a brilliant motorcycle and a big seller. Within two years Honda updated it to performance levels reached by other brands reacting to the original CB500, and thus the 550 was born in late 1973. The extra 50cc brought the dis­placement up to Suzuki's 550, helped justify a price hike from $1500 to $1600 and ensured that several other costly im­provements would not go unnoticed. For 1975's model year the CB550 four-piper was joined by the bike in this test—a sportier-styled CB550F which featured a four-into-one exhaust, a new tank, center key location, different seat and the im­plication that Café styling and even higher pricing might be accompanied by more engine performance. It wasn't. The bike still has more horsepower than any other in the test, and engine performance equal to everything but the RD400C's accelera­tion and the GT-550's top speed.

As a five-year-old basic design, the 550 is mature by Honda standards, and that means there aren't any detail problems left. Its tiny features have come to be expected from the Japanese, and they're there in droves on the 550F. The bike's maturity also means you're stuck with its shortcomings, which are drive-train snatch and dragging chassis hardware in fast right-hand corners. The gearbox, still clunky and uncertain after five years, is another item you'll have to put up with.

Nothing else about the bike requires tolerance. Mostly the CB550F is delightful, but it comes at a price ($1825)—the high­est in the group by 8 percent. Neverthe­less it will still sell more units than any of the others because more dealers have it, because it's a four-stroke, and simply be­cause it's a Honda.


• The KH400 is the best of all Kawasaki three-cylinder two-strokes. To appreciate that, you have to understand where Ka­wasaki was coming from in 1968, and where they're coming from now. In the late Sixties it became evident that Ka­wasaki, which had always seen itself as a performance company, was prepared to take no prisoners in the drag-o-derby. The H-1 500 was a menacing little monster: quick, unstable, unpredictable and terrifyingly fast. The 750cc version debuted late in 1971, and was even better—or worse—than the 500 because it was faster. But the 350cc triple, presented in early 1972, was somewhat tame. It was quick and quirky, in that fine Kawasaki tradition, but it showed the first signs of the company's willingness, having be­come "established," to view restraint as a not altogether unacceptable quality. Shortly thereafter Kawasaki introduced the Z-1— that factory's first, quality, non-disposable motorcycle—and their bikes have been getting more attractive ever since. The bike in question here, the KH400, is significantly different from its predecessor and continues Kawasaki's quest for more-decent and less-flashy equipment.

It has been freshened-up in many areas for 1976. Its air inlet system is new, its chassis is more liberally gusseted, its muffler has been re-engineered for better sound control, gearing has been stretched to help mileage and reduce cruising engine speed, and the KH has been fitted with a CDI ignition system to prolong plug life.

But even with its little package of developments and refinements, the KH re­tains the kind of character that had it highly-placed in several of the perfor­mance-intensive test categories, and ranked down near to the bottom in the categories that emphasized comfort. It's light (the lightest in the test at 378 pounds with a full tank), inexpensive ($1239 suggested retail) and has the kind of power-to-weight ratio (12 Ibs/hp) that guaran­tees invigorating acceleration. It is also, in keeping with the larger-displacement Kawatriples that preceded it, a bit harsh in terms of finish, styling and myriad details which other factories handle more deli­cately. But crude or no, the KH is a genuinely fun motorcycle to be around— as long as you're tuned into good han­dling and hot engines.


• The Suzuki GT380 Sebring was the first sub-400cc street bike to break away from the 350cc class rating. It was also the first mid-displacement multi-cylinder roadster from Suzuki. In the wake of the perfor­mance bikes of the early Seventies, the Sebring navigated in a very different direc­tion, and moved toward serene perfor­mance and exceptional comfort.

In designing the GT380, Suzuki's en­gineers mixed fresh concepts with proven parts. The bore and stroke of the Sebring are the same as Suzuki's 250cc street twin. By adding one cylinder the displace­ment was bumped up to 371 cc. Mild port timing, low compression and small car­buretors level out the 380's power and separate it from pipey, performance-type two-stroke engines.

The six-speed gearbox is also of the same design as the GT250 twin's. Gear spans are progressively tightened up in the higher cogs and there's nothing un­usual about that, but it does allow a rider to find a gear in which the GT380 is absolutely smooth on the highway.

For all intents and purposes the engine has remained unchanged since its release in 1972. The Ram Air System has proved efficient in increasing engine heat dissipa­tion, and more importantly, reducing oper­ating noise. The low compression motor runs trouble-free on regular grade gas­olines. Suzuki's intricate oil injection sys­tem lubricates the pistons and crankshaft bearings individually and includes a re­cycling arrangement which removes fuel mixture accumulation from the crankcase areas and feeds it directly into the com­bustion chambers.

In 1974 a number of major changes were made to the chassis, carburetor intake, exhaust and instrumentation. The chassis was completely redesigned to im­prove handling and ground clearance. Better fork internals, shock dampers and springs delivered a better ride. New instru­ments were joined by the digital gear read­out and larger warning lights.

Bell-crank operated carburetors re­placed the cable-actuated mixers and the mufflers were moved up and in for addi­tional ground clearance. Modifications to the intake system reduced objectionable in­duction drone and relocated footpegs and controls increased comfort.

Suzuki built the Sebring with a front drum brake only in its first year, moving to a disc in 1973. Rubber engine mounting is unchanged, having proven effective in eliminating vibration. The conventional tri­ple-point ignition system is driven from an independent idler gear to prevent timing fluctuation associated with crankshaft flexing.

Initial saddle and gas tank designs have gone without alterations. Minor design improvement changes have been made to the GT380's through its five model series, but few are visible. Suzuki believes in improving the breed from the inside out, not the outside in. The GT380 has suc­cessfully survived four tough years, and Suzuki appears willing to retain the Sebring indefinitely.


• There is little new and nothing uncon­ventional about the '76 Suzuki GT550

Indy. It is a four-year old motorcycle that was designed to ride the waves of prog­ress, survive as a seasoned veteran and never get out of date. Paint scheme alone identifies the 1976 Indy as new.

Suzuki's innovative design of the Ram Air cylinder head shroud system has en­dured, unchanged, since the beginning. Ahead of its time in 1972, the RAS provides dual benefits. The scoop in­creases air-flow activity over the fins, and also functions as an excellent sound-deadener to minimize the amount of top-end piston noise.

There have been no performance changes made to the cylinders or pistons since the Indy's inception. The low-com­pression two-stroke triple was designed for durability and runs as happily on low-or no-lead fuels as it does on premium. Unchanged since the GT550's original design is its exceptionally effective rubber mounting system.

Only one chassis change has been made to the GT550 through the five-model series. In 1974 a number of major up-dates were built into the Indy—mostly to subdue noise and improve handling. The carburetion, intake and exhaust sys­tems were modified to reduce operating noise levels. The exhaust pipes were tucked up closer to the frame, the side stand and center stand were moved in and the foot pegs relocated to give the Suzuki additional lean angle clearance. The frame changes amounted to nothing more than relocating foot controls and brackets to which they attached.

New instruments were fitted to the Indy in 1974 and included Suzuki's popular digital gear read-out and bigger idiot lights. The five-speed gearbox is identical to the transmission in the big 750cc Suzuki LeMans. The 550's clutch and primary drive are equally robust.

Suzuki went to the disc front binder in 1973. The rear drum brake and wheel have remained unchanged, as have the tire sizes.

Electric starting was in the first 550, and has remained without alteration. Most of the electrical components are the same as those used in the 750s. The plush saddle

and four gallon gas tank have been changed in very minor ways—a new piece of vinyl here and a fresh paint stripe there. Minute internal modifications appear in the parts books of each new Indy, but the motorcycle remains pleasantly the same. Unlike most re-vamped new models the GT550 has lost seven pounds since 1974 and the price has escalated only moder­ately. As Suzuki's most successful road bike, the GT550's reputation for depend­ability is a matter of record.

Source Cycle World