I’ve been riding since I was about 12 and love early UJM bikes. I’ve rebuilt several pre-80 Hondas and my first was a 71 CB500K that I absolutely love and have never been able to get rid of and have been riding for nearly 10 years. She is generally quite reliable but breaks down a few times a year (I usually put about 3k miles a year on her) seeing as she is 46 years old. It takes a couple weeks to get parts and then a few more to fix so my wife finally convinced me to buy a new bike.

So 2 months ago I bought a 15 CB500x that is a lot of fun and just starts every time I get on it. About a week before I bought it I took out my old CB500 and it ran the best it had in years with a new Dyna igntion on it, it made me seriously reconsider buying a new bike. Since I want to take longer trips I listened to my Wife and bought the bike (and got a hell of a deal).

The two siblings side by side

So this week I crested 600 miles on the new bike and haven’t had time to change the break in oil and wanted to ride so I pushed the old CB500 out of the garage. Turned on the petcock (watched for leaks) turned on the choke, flipped the key, opened the throttle and kicked. She fired right up and seemed to want to go for a ride. My wife asked “Are you sure you shouldn’t take your new one?” I replied that “it should be fine, she fired right up”.

Advertisement

That startup sequence alone felt so strange compared to the “throw a leg over and hit starter button “on the new bike. But I let her warm up and put on my helmet and gloves and pull out of the driveway. It took a minute to get used to the old controls and ergonomics but by the time I reach the hill in front of my house it was feeling like an old pair of worn in Jeans.

I get about a mile from my house and it’s feeling good, leaning into the turns, listening to the open headers wail and all of a sudden the damn thing loses power. This has happened before and usually jiggling the ignition switch will fix it (46 years old remember).

I slow to a stop on small 2 lane with no shoulder that people drive too fast on (including myself). Concern sets in, I have in earplugs so I can’t hear cars coming. I quickly pop off the left side cover and wiggle the main power connections and try the key again, still dead.

Advertisement

The helmet comes off and the earplugs come out. It is 95 degrees and humid out and I’m wearing full gear. I dismount the bike as a car comes around the corner and slam on the brakes screeching tires. The guy gets out of the passenger seat to check on me (fellow rider) and offers to help push the bike. I thank him and decline as I turn around the bike and begin to jog with it back to the house keeping a watchful eye behind me so I can drop the bike and jump into the ditch if a car doesn’t see me.

About now I see that the ignition switch is still on and smoke is coming out from under it confirming my suspicions, I flip it off and keep pushing. Thankfully the smoke stops after about 30 more seconds and hopefully not much damage was done. 

So by the time I make it back to the house I’m cursing at this bike that has decided to act like a jealous older sibling and throw a tantrum and just about overheated. I come in the house (with my wife surprised to see me back) and strip off my gear and grab a large bottle of water and begin cursing the old bike.

Advertisement

In the 9 years I’ve owned this bike this is the first time it has even stranded me. I’ve always been able to limp it back to the house under its own power. I will be pushing it to the back of the garage as I’m heading to Chicago for work this week and will tackle it with a multimeter sometimes in the next couple weeks to see what failed. I was hoping for a relax hour or so on the bike before a long boring drive to Chicago and a week long training, no joy though.

When everything behaves, old machines are wonderful, but they don’t with much more frequency than new ones. Things were manufactured to much looser tolerances and decades of use, abuse and neglect definitely take their toll.

Well that ended up rather rambling tale. Hope you all had a less eventful Sunday afternoon than I did.