1983 Honda CR 480
Power: This motor had tons of bottom end, and flowed into a very strong mid-range hit. There was no top-end whatsoever. The best thing about the 480 motor was its mellow power! Not your typical arm-jerking open bike, the 480 oozed power in a manner that's completely unintimidating. Plus, it never pinged when jetted right, ran just fine on pump gas and went for years on a set of rings. The 5-speed trans was a fantastic idea and the shifting was super smooth, even though the shifter was positioned too close to the footpeg. A heavier flywheel was a good investment as the engine was a bit stall-prone.
Suspension: Honda never had the greatest suspension in the early 80's. The forks had too much compression damping and not enough rebound. This combination hurt the pilots wrists on landings, while still acting like a pogo-stick. Luckily, there was a fairly easy fix that can be made to the damping rod. (Ask your local shop or suspension service company.) The shock had adjustable compression and rebound; however, that didn't help the fact that it was an overdamped unit. Even with both clickers on the lightest position, the damping was too stiff, especially on rebound. It can be tolerated, though. If one race this bike, the shock will fade after about 10 minutes. The best way to fight this is to change the shock oil periodically.
Brakes: Fairly strong! But compared to discs, they're less predictable, and grabbier. The rear brake pedal was really well tucked in, making it a bit hard to find in those panic situations.
Handling: A little finicky, but once the owner set the suspension correctly, this bike turned under just about any other open bike. The rear sag needed to be set just right (about 3.75") in order for the front end to bite. Too much sag and the bike didn't want to turn. Too little sag created big-time headshake! When properly set-up, the CR cornering abilities were excellent, even by modern standards. The 480 weighed as much as 20 pounds less than the competition in 1983 too!
Reliability: Overall reliability was usually excellent. Some of the early CR480's off the assembly line had bad ignitions that caused top-end misfires. Eventually the bad igintions fritzed altogether. Honda reacted quickly and got a better unit for subsequent 480's.
Odds & Ends: Compared to most brands, Honda quality (fit and finish) was outstanding. In 1983, there wasn't much aluminum on other brands, but Honda made extensive use of it to reach their target weight. The kickstarter was placed very high on the left side. Add the compression factor in, and this old Honda takes some serious leg to start.
Minor gripes aside, the CR480 was a great open-class bike! Far ahead of its time, the 480 brought finesse in a class where it didn't exist. Today, it is great bike for trail riding, with smooth power and gobs of torque. It's also an excellent mount for vintage racing as well, provided your local organization runs the "decade class".
If you're interested in buying an old Honda open bike, don't even think about the 1984 CR500...buy the 480. They're better in almost every respect, and the engine won't blow to smithereens every other ride! Honda sold gobs of 480's, making them a good bargain that can still be found fairly easily.
Contributed by Marty Estes. (Y'know, the guy that designed Honda's web site!)