by: Jag Dhatt
When deciding on which motorcycle to include as this month’s classic ride, I reminisced about some of my first motorcycles. The one that jumped to mind was my first motorcycle ever, a red and white 1981 Honda CBX 550F, which I had named Betty.
I had purchased my CBX 550F, Betty, when I was in second-year university and I was fortunate enough that it was from the original owner. The red and white paint gleamed in the sun and it was one of the most beautiful motorcycles I had seen (okay, fine, I’m probably biased with that comment).
The 1981 CBX 550F was built to be a sports bike and Honda took the steps necessary to make it feel like one. For example, the footrests were mounted well back and high so that it gave a leaning forward riding stance. The handle bars were positioned further from the rider, but slightly angled back to ensure good handling. There was also an optional front fairing that could be added for that extra sporty look. Many people mistook the 550F and the CBX 400, so don’t feel bad if you did too; actually, most would argue that the 500F was the hotrod version of the CBX 400.
Though the CBX 550F had a continuous dual seat, it was still considered a true sport bike. It came equipped with an air-cooled, four stroke 4-cylinder engine, with four valves per cylinder. Base horsepower was rated at 65, which was quite impressive for an early 1980’s motorcycle. With respect to suspension, there were air-assisted telescopic forks up front, complete with anti-dive and, Pro-link air assisted shocks at the rear. Ride quality on the CBX 550F was very good, whether riding solo or with a passenger. The bike was very agile for riding around town; it also helped that the seat position was quite low, at only 29 inches. On the open roads, the bike became lively as you opened the throttle, with max torque set pretty high on the rev band. But that meant you could really redline the bike without causing damage to the motor. Braking was good due to unique discs designs front and rear; Honda claimed that the new design protected the pads and rotors from getting wet, thus increasing stopping power.
Even though the Honda CBX 550F was made for a couple of years, it has a special place in my heart because not only was it my first motorcycle, it was also my first sportbike.