When I got back from James Bay in 2008, the trusty venerable steed known as the CB500T (the bike with no name) was somewhat whipped. You know that a flat tire on the Trans-Taiga led to an impromptu brake fix on the side of the road, which was fixed and chronicled here. Add to this a snapped tachometer cable, a sheared fender support bolt, a wobbly rear wheel, stretched chain, and metal bits in the oil. Of these aforementioned maladies, none was more troubling to me than the metal bits. Metal bits in the oil are bad. They can lead to instant death in any machine, especially a treasured motorbike. With the death of the Ninja (which we mourn for not) attention is now focused on the two seventies twins in my stable which, in addition to the CB500T, includes the equally sacharin 1975 CB200T.
I neglected to change the oil in the 500 during the run to Quebec’s northern lands.
I changed it immediately before I left and wound up doing about 3200 miles round trip before I was able to change it again. I felt tremendously guilty about those extra 200 miles, psychologically flagellating myself the whole time from the moment the tripmeter ticked over 3000 miles and truth be told, I have been doing so in the back of my mind ever since. Such is my relationship to my machines. I care for them as children.
So, naturally, I was crestfallen at discovering a little piece of metal in the catch in the oil drain plug. I put the CB500T off to the side for a while, knowing that this problem would have to be addressed at some point in the future. The future is now and while that original metal piece is long gone, it has been twirling around in my mind’s eye ever since, rotating like a 3-D model so I can see every angle of it. I figured out what it was from long ago, but it still rotates.
The CB500T, for all its faults, is a beautiful machine. Know that seventies Hondas are the essence of quality. Their build quality is remarkable, replete with thick chrome and chunky metal parts that bespeak to a certain something that has long since expired in any mass production machines, be they cars, motorbikes, or toasters. As a caveat, know that there are a couple things that one might take exception with. Anyone who has owned a seventies Honda knows that the worst design component that is inherent to nearly ALL Honda bikes made from that era is the pathetic weakness of the starter button. It’s internals are made of brittle plastic and will always fail at some point. Of course, this is a minor complaint and because it is such a minor complain when compared to the rest of the bike, this issue becomes more of an affectionate quirk than some serious flaw. While this adorable flaw cuts across all models, know that each individual model will have some other quirk that makes it even more adorable. In the case of the CB500T, there is a design flaw within the electric starter system that casuses the internals to work themselves loose, due to the vibration of the engine, and rattle around in the crankcase. If you don’t know about this, and fix it before it self-destructs, it has the potential to wreak havoc with your bike.
I didn’t know about this quirk. My bike stopped starting on the first day of my trip, when I was in the Adirondacks. After stopping to get gas, I thumbed the starter button and was treated to a delightful crunching noise followed by a whirring of the starter itself without it actually spinning the engine. Minus the crunch, this had happened before and I thought nothing of it. The CB500T comes with a kickstarter and I’ve just been kicking it over ever since. The crunch I heard was a piece of the alternator rotor being sheared off. A couple more attempts to start it with the button led to a couple more crunches and couple more teeth being shorn off along with a piece of a stop plate designed to prevent the starter clutch from moving out too far out(see pics).
That’s a lot of shit to be floating around in your engine.
However, such is the thoughtfulness of Sochiro Honda’s design that these bits did not destroy the CB, nor leave us stranded on one of the most isolated stretches or road in the world. Of course, I will need to improve on Mr. Honda’s original design and send in the fix if the CB500T is ever to be considered an appropriate means of pre-apocalyptic transport.