UPDATE: 6/28/2019- The Honda GB500 will be our entry into the People’s Choice Euro Bike Night SHOW at Hofbrauhaus Columbus on Saturday June 29th, 2019! Thanks to your votes on our Instagram Stories over the last two weeks, we whittled down which bike we would be entering into the contest, from our stable of 11+ bikes!
Thank you for VOTING and we hope to see you at the SHOW from 12-5p!
The 1990 Honda GB500.
It’s one of the later bikes we have, but it still fits into the vintage aesthetic. Throttle Company purchased this bike at the Vegas Mecum Motorcycle Auction in January 2019. You can see the video of it’s delivery here!
Being an air-cooled, single cylinder race bike, it always garners a second look when you see it. This bike is a world-wide favorite and it’s easy to see why. While firmly a late-80s, early 90s bike, the retro styling hearkens back to earlier British 500cc singles.
Though a Japanese designed and produced motorcycle, the “GB” stands for Great Britain and it boasted a top speed of 108 mph.
The “Tourist Trophy,” or TT, designation found on the side cover is a nod to the iconic Isle of Mann race, which says something about the sporty design of this machine and lends style points to the stripes and solo seat. Considering its sporty design, no aesthetic detail was missed, either. The pin-striping on the body and clip on handlebars add to the vintage look, while adding to the impression of speed. The clip on handlebars also lend more comfort for the rider, given the more compact fit on the bike. You can see the resemblance to the iconic “Boy Racer” first introduced in 1948 and competed successfully throughout the 50s and 60s. The AJS 7R, was a 348cc single cylinder and its “brother” The Matchless G50 was 500cc a theme clearly carried on in the design of the GB500.
When people first see the GB500 a common (and understandable) mistake is to assume the 2 exhaust pipes means the bike is a 2 cylinder, but this is because the single cylinder has 4 valves (2 intake and 2 exhaust). The basic engine architecture comes from the Honda XR600 off-road motorcycle. The GB500 is a sleeved down version reducing displacement from 600cc to 500cc, and some non-US variants use the same basic engine with a 400cc displacement
While this bike was only produced from 1985 to 1990 (with US imports only 1989-90), it still acquired worldwide acclaim. Unfortunately, like most works of art, it was not exactly appreciated at the time. As the motorcycle audience becomes more accustomed to seeing vintage style bikes, the appreciation for the GB500 grows. It was a factory “cafe racer” way before its time.
One can’t help but wonder how things would be different if Honda had introduced the GB500 in today’s motorcycle market. With many major manufacturers producing very popular cafe models notably the Ducati Scrambler Cafe, Kawasaki Z900RS Cafe, and the BMW R9T Cafe Racer
Photos: Nicole Coleman and Dylan Paul