Opinion: Honda CX500 vs GL500 Silverwing?

for those of you that have M.B.S. (multiple bike syndrome) and have the "silver wing" models.
as our sponsors also have supplies for those bikes and they are popular with the "wing" crowd.

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Dr. Frankenstein
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Opinion: Honda CX500 vs GL500 Silverwing?

#1

Post by Dr. Frankenstein »

I just freed up some room in the garage getting rid of some parts bikes (nothing Goldwing-related) and am currently hunting a 1978 Honda CX500 I used to own, and Loved it...I sold it to a friend of mine with the stipulation he sell it back to me if he ever sold it, and of course he Did sell it, just not to me! I'll find it...somewhere...

Anyway, it got me to thinking about the differences between the CX500 and the Silverwing GL500...my '78 appeared to not have the cam chain tensioner fixed on it; the bikes were recalled for a dealer fix in '78/'79 because the cam chain tensioner bolt was known to sometimes rattle itself out into the gearbox, causing "catastrophic damage to the engine" - and the rider too, I would imagine.

But it got me to looking at the GL500 because they're basically the same bike...and while I mourn the disappearance of my CX, if I'm going to get another one I thought maybe the GL500 is a bit of an upgrade from the stock CX, with also maybe a lesser chance of it killing me. Do any of you have a GL500, or can compare the two? Did the GL500 have the same tensioner problems as the CX, do you know...? Which is the better bike?
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Re: Opinion: Honda CX500 vs GL500 Silverwing?

#2

Post by Sidecar Bob »

The tensioner problems were in early models and Honda dealt with them by changing some parts inside the engine to the design that all later production had so it is very unlikely to find one that has the problem.

The biggest differences between the CX500 and GL500 are
- The CX has twin shock rear suspension and the GL has Pro-Link.
- The CX has Capacitor Discharge Ignition (CDI) powered and triggered by special windings on the alternator stator. The GL has Transistor amplifier Ignition (TI) with the same spark units as the GL1100.
---The CDI stators have a fairly high failure rate, as do the CDI boxes (if you replace the CDI with an ignition system from Rae-San or Ignitech you can upgrade to the non CDI stator).
---I have heard of very few failures of the TI system and plug & play replacements for them are available. Stator failures happen at a more normal rate (how many 40 year old cars do you know of with their original alternators?)

The CX500 came in several flavours, standard (the original model with the plastic headlight nacelle), CX500D (Deluxe) and CX500C (Custom)(note that the '82 Custom came with TI). They also made the CX500T (Turbo) and the CX500E (Eurosport - not imported to the US or Canada). The GL was available naked or Interstate (same fairing as the GL1100, different bags & trunk). The trunk (which latches on in place of the passenger seat and came in 2 heights) and bags were available as accessories for the naked model.

Camchains do wear on them (often a result of neglect even though adjusting the tensioner only takes an extra 10 seconds if done while checking/adjusting the valve clearances) and the tensioner blades eventually harden and have been known to break.

And then there are the 650 models (made for '83 and '84 but the US didn't get them in '84), GL650 naked and Interstate, CX650C and CX650E (imported to Canada but not the US). The 650 engine is similar to the 500 except larger (673cc) displacement and it has the automatic camchain tensioner adjuster (GL500s outside North America had the auto adjuster too). It is generally believed that the manual tensioner adjuster is a superior design (as long as it is adjusted regularly) because it has a longer range of adjustment and when the chain wears past the auto adjuster's range limit it slaps around and breaks things (including the tension adjuster itself). A few people have experimented with converting 650 engines to the manual tensioner adjuster. The 650 models also have electric fans (the 500s have mechanical fans on the camshaft).
Last edited by Sidecar Bob on Sun Feb 21, 2021 5:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Mr. Honda ('83 GL1100/Dnepr) summer New Engine Thread
The Famous Eccles ('84 CX650EI/VeloUral) winter Never Ending Build (CX500forum)
Click: Colour schematics for all GL1000 & GL1100 and GL1200 standard models plus instructions on how to download the full size version
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Another guy with two sidecars..... Hmmmm... must be something to that....
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Re: Opinion: Honda CX500 vs GL500 Silverwing?

#3

Post by Missourimike »

I've had the 500C and GL500 both, at different times, but the best is the 650 models, in my opinion. What I hate about the 500s is the rpm being 1000 per 10mph. The 650 runs less rpm at the same speeds, as it doesn't need to run high, has more torque, can pull like no 500 can. The 650C models are the easiest handling bikes, a pure delight to ride.
The difficult can be done in a day. The impossible takes a little longer, if you don't know it can't be done.
'75 GL YelloWing, '73 Norton Commando, '79 CB750, '80 Fiat Spyder, '83 Silverado w/ BB Cad, to name a few.
'79 Black Hondaline/Vetter bagger Tourer
'76 Yello Café to be
'83 CX650C Needs Work
'83 CX650C #2 Daily Rider
'79 Yamaha XS750
10 others in the project/parts pile
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Re: Opinion: Honda CX500 vs GL500 Silverwing?

#4

Post by Sidecar Bob »

Having had both and having had the automatic camchain tensioner adjuster smashed by a chain that would have been fine for another 15,000 Km if it had the range of adjustment of the manual adjuster, I'm happy that the engine I have in the bike now is from a GL500.

BTW: I realized after I posted that it is the '82 CX500C that has TI (the '81 still had CDI even though the GL500 and CX500E had TI in '81).
Mr. Honda ('83 GL1100/Dnepr) summer New Engine Thread
The Famous Eccles ('84 CX650EI/VeloUral) winter Never Ending Build (CX500forum)
Click: Colour schematics for all GL1000 & GL1100 and GL1200 standard models plus instructions on how to download the full size version
"A guy with two sidecars can't be all bad." - Cookie
Another guy with two sidecars..... Hmmmm... must be something to that....
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Re: Opinion: Honda CX500 vs GL500 Silverwing?

#5

Post by toomanybikes »

I currently own an '82 GL and a $25 '80 CX backyard special that is still in project mode. In the past I owned a '79 CX Custom and an '83 GL650. Probably should have kept the 650.

The seat and position of the current CX in the garage seems to fit me a little better than the GL. I changed the shock on the GL and tweaked the forks, but haven't ridden the CX enough to know which suspension is better. I've built up a spare seat for the GL, so maybe i'll switch over to that.

Once the CX is done I'm not yet sure if I'll keep them both or sell one. Probably depends on how nice the CX turns out and my need for garage space.

Current GL. 5k miles
IMG_20200806_125222.jpg
Current CX 10k miles. I have the front fender, just not mounted
PXL_20201107_192919516.jpg
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Stable as of 30Aug21:
Honda: '81 GL1100, '82 GL500
Triumph: '98 Adventurer, '10 Bonnie
Others: '81 Suzuki GS550T, '14 Moto Guzzi California
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Re: Opinion: Honda CX500 vs GL500 Silverwing?

#6

Post by Sidecar Bob »

It says CX500 Custom but the tank and seat look like they are from a Deluxe.....
Mr. Honda ('83 GL1100/Dnepr) summer New Engine Thread
The Famous Eccles ('84 CX650EI/VeloUral) winter Never Ending Build (CX500forum)
Click: Colour schematics for all GL1000 & GL1100 and GL1200 standard models plus instructions on how to download the full size version
"A guy with two sidecars can't be all bad." - Cookie
Another guy with two sidecars..... Hmmmm... must be something to that....
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Re: Opinion: Honda CX500 vs GL500 Silverwing?

#7

Post by toomanybikes »

Sidecar Bob wrote: Sat Mar 13, 2021 12:50 pm It says CX500 Custom but the tank and seat look like they are from a Deluxe.....
Yes, it's a Deluxe, and this is an "after" picture when it reached roadworthy, but not yet done. When I picked it up the side panels were missing and the hbox and mufflers were toast. I bought Custom panels, aftermarket hbox, and some Harley pipes I had on hand. The tank and seat were in very good condition, but the tank had some paint damage from sitting underneath pine trees. I'm in the process of stripping it down.
PXL_20210307_161322088.jpg
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Greater Boston MA, USA
Stable as of 30Aug21:
Honda: '81 GL1100, '82 GL500
Triumph: '98 Adventurer, '10 Bonnie
Others: '81 Suzuki GS550T, '14 Moto Guzzi California
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Re: Opinion: Honda CX500 vs GL500 Silverwing?

#8

Post by toomanybikes »

and speaking of tanks, the CX has the benefit of ...
1.) more bikes were sold so more replacement tanks are available if needed
2.) the design of the GL tank lets gas/water accumulate below the petcock, so rusting is more likely. Pic below is a prime example
IMG_20200530_104704.jpg
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Greater Boston MA, USA
Stable as of 30Aug21:
Honda: '81 GL1100, '82 GL500
Triumph: '98 Adventurer, '10 Bonnie
Others: '81 Suzuki GS550T, '14 Moto Guzzi California
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Re: Opinion: Honda CX500 vs GL500 Silverwing?

#9

Post by Sidecar Bob »

True, but thanks to the cafe racer crowd the prices of Deluxe tanks are almost what a complete running bike was worth a few years ago.

BTW: My GL500 tank rusted out in that area (one of the reasons I keep recommending draining the tank for storage). I had it epoxy lined at a rad shop and it is still OK 19 years later.
And I've had tanks that didn't have those pockets that were rusted out along the bottom edge too, probably from the tank not being drained for storage so the water from condensation &c that couldn't evaporate eventually found another way out.

I'd rather deal with a rusty tank than have to replace the CDI &/or stator when (not if) they fail.
Mr. Honda ('83 GL1100/Dnepr) summer New Engine Thread
The Famous Eccles ('84 CX650EI/VeloUral) winter Never Ending Build (CX500forum)
Click: Colour schematics for all GL1000 & GL1100 and GL1200 standard models plus instructions on how to download the full size version
"A guy with two sidecars can't be all bad." - Cookie
Another guy with two sidecars..... Hmmmm... must be something to that....
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Re: Opinion: Honda CX500 vs GL500 Silverwing?

#10

Post by toomanybikes »

Sidecar Bob wrote: Sun Mar 14, 2021 12:00 pm BTW: My GL500 tank rusted out in that area (one of the reasons I keep recommending draining the tank for storage). I had it epoxy lined at a rad shop and it is still OK 19 years later.
Do you think an epoxy lining would cover the holes and damage shown in my previous pic? I still have the tank and except for the rust hole it's in better condition than my current GL tank, which has some dents and internal issues. Depending on the cost of lining, I might get it done and switch tanks.
Greater Boston MA, USA
Stable as of 30Aug21:
Honda: '81 GL1100, '82 GL500
Triumph: '98 Adventurer, '10 Bonnie
Others: '81 Suzuki GS550T, '14 Moto Guzzi California
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Re: Opinion: Honda CX500 vs GL500 Silverwing?

#11

Post by Sidecar Bob »

Holes that big would need to be soldered in (or patched by soldering thin brass sheet over them) before the lining was applied.
From the size of those holes I would say that happened during extended storage with the tank full. If it was drained for storage the water would have evaporated before it did that much damage and if it was in regular use the leaks would have been noticed when they were pinhole sized (like the ones on my GL500 tank). Which means that if it didn't have those pockets it would probably have rusted out on the bottom anyway.

One thing not to do is Bondo over the holes to fill them. Glass mat and resin would be OK (I'd want the whole tank lined anyway because there are probably deep pits in other areas getting ready to start leaking) but not lightweight body filler.
The tank in the pic below was patched with lightweight body filler; They did a nice job so I didn't notice until it was in my garage for about a week and I started smelling gas every time I went past it. It took that long for the filler to become saturated with fuel and become so soft that I was able to remove it with a putty knife
TANK1.JPG
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Mr. Honda ('83 GL1100/Dnepr) summer New Engine Thread
The Famous Eccles ('84 CX650EI/VeloUral) winter Never Ending Build (CX500forum)
Click: Colour schematics for all GL1000 & GL1100 and GL1200 standard models plus instructions on how to download the full size version
"A guy with two sidecars can't be all bad." - Cookie
Another guy with two sidecars..... Hmmmm... must be something to that....
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Re: Opinion: Honda CX500 vs GL500 Silverwing?

#12

Post by Shadowjack »

I've had a GL500 and a CX650, and they're both good in different ways. A GL650 is the sweet spot: the plush ride of the GL frame (the forks especially were the most compliant set I ever had), and the grunt of the 650 engine. Only problem is, spares are pretty much non-existent.
And you should probably have grown up with small-engine bikes to be able to ignore a 1000-rpm-per-10-mph high gear. I always used to snicker at forum posts where a guy would get one of these, having only ever been around big twins, and lose his mind about the rpm.
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Re: Opinion: Honda CX500 vs GL500 Silverwing?

#13

Post by Sidecar Bob »

That would be a CX650C you had. The CX650E's suspension is more sport oriented but you yanks didn't get them (you didn't get the CX650C and GL650 in '84 either). The E has more sporting wheel & tire sizes too, the rear giving it slightly higher overall gearing.

BTW: One of the fellows on cx500forum just converted a GL650 to the manual camchain tensioner adjuster. He said the automatic adjuster had about 10% of its range left but he didn't replace the chain because the manual one has well over 50% of its range to go with the same chain.
Mr. Honda ('83 GL1100/Dnepr) summer New Engine Thread
The Famous Eccles ('84 CX650EI/VeloUral) winter Never Ending Build (CX500forum)
Click: Colour schematics for all GL1000 & GL1100 and GL1200 standard models plus instructions on how to download the full size version
"A guy with two sidecars can't be all bad." - Cookie
Another guy with two sidecars..... Hmmmm... must be something to that....
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