1983 Honda XR500R
As I’ve mentioned previously, in my family Car Lust frequently manifested itself in the two wheel form (so yes, technically not a car). One of those lust of mine still lives in my father’s garage. This bike is as much beast as it is motorcycle - raw off-road delight.
I don’t even remember when the bike found its way into our garage or the circumstances thereby. But it was in the mid '80’s that it showed up in all its glowing Flash Red glory. The XR500R is a purpose built bike made solely for off-road riding. It comes with no turn signals and no electric start. Yes, it fires on the power of your right leg.
This is a cycle for the brave or crazy, certainly not a bike you want to learn the ropes on. First, it is quite tall making it somewhat difficult for short people to even get their leg over the back to get astride the bike – the seat height is 37.4 inches, so if you have a short inseam, good luck. The total travel in the suspension is 11 inches of abuse absorbing range. You’d think that would mean it absorbs a lot of the bumps and ruts as you ride (and it does) but you certainly still feel them through the bike into your body. And while you don’t think about it if you’ve only ridden on a road bike, the hits and bumps do begin to add up and punish your body if you spend long periods off-road. Add to that the 267lbs dry weight and it is a bike that will make you work if you are going to push it hard.
Where the beast really roars (and can get quite scary) is when you reach for a handful on that right side. A quick blip of the throttle can quickly bring a grin from ear to ear or inspire sheer terror. Truth be told, 498cc is a bit excessive for nearly all recreational off-road adventures. Sure, it can go fast, but on most trail rides that is the opposite of the objective. And without precise throttle control, that power is often wasted throwing rocks at the heads of the riders behind you.
The engine is a single cylinder air cooled four-stroke that produces 36 horsepower out of 498cc of displacement. By any form of math that is significant horsepower from that engine, and then when coupled with the limited weight of a purpose build cycle with no extra frills and you can be assured that it will go in a straight line ridiculously quickly. The limiting factor being keeping the front tire on the ground if you are going to push it that hard. The sound the single cylinder makes is a manly “thump” at lower RPMs and a fierce roar when you give it a bit more. While it is a pleasant tune, it does assure that you aren’t going to be sneaking up on anyone in the woods.
And while the horsepower is impressive, it really is the torque that the engine produces that gives it the scary factor. Indeed the tires appear like they could change the rotation of the earth when they hook up. But the torque is such that you can still quite readily over power the available grip and the bike starts to walk sideways in ways that aren’t fun at speed. Back to what I mentioned above, not a bike for beginners (nor the faint of heart, nor the short…).
The handling is really the Achilles heel for this bike. It is a purpose driven off-road cycle, but because of its size – both weight and length with the height not helping – it doesn’t carve the corners like you would like. I do truly love this bike, but it is a ride to enter into a relationship with eyes wide open.
The Honda Ad comes from AdsPast.com.