Clymer Manuals took a close look at this custom built desert sled, based on a 1975 Honda CB500T at the 2013 Heart of America Motorcycle Enthusiasts show and rally. This once street only bike has been stripped down, lightened, and fitted with knobbies to make short work of fire roads and dirt paths.
Clymer Girl and the crew didn’t have to go far to attend the HoAME show and rally, as it was just up the road at the Kansas City Airline History Museum in the Downtown Airport. The show was packed with classic vintage and antique motorcycles representing the best of British, German, Japanese, Italian, and American manufacturers. Some of the brands on display were Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, BMW, Harley-Davidson, Triumph, BSA, Norton, Indian, Cushman, Vespa, Laverda, Lambretta, Ducati, Matchless, Zundapp, Moto Guzzi, and more. There was everything from 100% perfect restorations, to well worn bikes daily riders, to full-on customized cafe racers, choppers, bobbers, dirt bikes, road racers – any type or style of motorcycle you could image. As part of the museum’s permanent exhibits, there were also vintage propeller driven passenger planes, including a Douglas DC-3, a Martin 404, and, the pride of their collection, a 1958 Lockheed Super Constellation.
Just like they had done with the small bore bike, Honda over engineered their first big bike, and equipped it with advanced features typical at the time of racing machines. In fact, at first the DOHC 450cc parallel twin was disqualified from production racing because of its exotic valvetrain. Not only were there two overhead cams, but instead of typical valve springs, there were torsion bars, with indexed lever arms working to return the valves to the seats. With 200 fewer cubic centimeters of displacement this big little Honda made just 3 fewer horsepower than the hottest Triumph 650 Bonneville of the time (or less, depending on whose figures you believed).
Shortly after its introduction as the CB450 in 1965, Honda actually made a dirt friendly scrambler version of their big, cutting edge DOHC twin. Brought out first as a kit known as the CB450D, the Honda was heavy when compared to Triumph or BSA off road bikes, but no less powerful. In 1968, there was an improved version, called the CL450, featuring an upgraded motor and transmission.
The Honda CB500T came out in 1975 and lasted two years in America, and was only ever offered as a street bike. The motor still featured the unique torsion bar valve springs that allowed the 450 to rev past 9,000 rpm, and make nearly 50hp. The 500cc version was stroked, so it was not as happy to rev, but low end power was improved, and it still featured that classic twin look and sound.
Read more about the Honda CB450 on Wikipedia
Clymer’s manual for the 1965-76 Honda CB450, CL450, and CB500T is exactly what you need to restore one of these bikes, or build a street tracker, cafe racer, or desert sled.