Category:500cc displacement motorcycles

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500cc displacement motorcycles.

As beginner motorcycles[edit | edit source]

With the nearly complete demise of the 350-400cc class, 500cc (30 cubic inch) motorcycles are now the next common step up in displacement from the 250's. A 500cc street bike used to be a large middleweight motorcycle. Marlon Brando rode a 500cc Triumph Speed Twin in the seminal motorcycle movie The Wild Ones, which was inspired by the Hollister incident back in the 1950's. Not many outlaws today ride sweet 500cc twins!

Once the most competitive class in sporting street bikes (much as the 600cc class is today), the 500cc class has become sort of a sales backwater. Nevertheless, there is a reasonable selection of both new and used bikes available.

The typical 500 has most of the same advantages possessed by the 250's, only more so. A 500cc bike offers more of everything compared to a 250, including greater weight. The adult beginning rider of average or larger than average size, strength, and confidence will be well served by a 500cc machine as long as he or she has a reasonable amount of self-control. The average weight of the 500's discussed below is 388 pounds, 88 pounds more than our average 250.

A 500cc bike is fast enough to run with the big boys, although it will be working harder at any given speed than a larger displacement motorcycle. This is very attractive to most prospective buyers, but bear in mind that a beginner can also get into trouble more quickly than he or she would on a 250. Until 2001, 500cc was the maximum displacement allowed in Grand Prix racing (there are also 250cc and 125cc classes). So while a 500 can be among the most versatile of motorcycles for the solo street rider, it can also be a very high performance motorcycle.

A typical 500cc street bike probably has a top speed of around 100 mph, and can cruise for extended periods of time above the legal speed limit on the highway. It is still light enough to be a good commuter bike in the city, and easy to park. Most 500's have enough acceleration to blow away all but the quickest cars in an impromptu "stoplight Grand Prix." 500's traditionally have the handling and brakes to back up their acceleration and speed, if the rider has the experience, self-control and judgment to use them properly.

New 500cc class bikes are available from Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha in Japan and Royal Enfield in India (formerly of the UK). Buell (a defunct subsidiary of Harley-Davidson) in the United States used to provide the Buell Blast. The same brands are prominent on the used market. The major European manufacturers no longer offer entry level 500cc street bikes, which is a pity. (500cc Grand Prix race replicas are not good first bikes!)

The Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD is a typically styled middleweight cruiser. It shares the same basic 498cc dohc inline twin as the Kawasaki 500cc sport bike, but the Vulcan's motor is tuned for more midrange torque and less high RPM horsepower. The transmission has six-speeds. Fuel/air mixture gets to the engine through two 32mm carburetors. The frame is a conventional mild steel cradle. Suspension duties are handled by telescopic front forks and twin rear shocks. The wheels are laced, and the brakes consist of a disc in front and a drum in back. The Vulcan 500 has a teardrop shaped gas tank that holds 4 gallons of gas, and a tank mounted speedometer. Seat height is 28.1 inches. Claimed dry weight is 439 pounds.

From Suzuki we have the long running Suzuki GS500E sport-standard. It is powered by a 487cc dohc inline twin fed by two 33mm carburetors. There is a six-speed transmission and chain final drive. The frame is a perimeter type, and conventional telescopic forks and a rear mono-shock handle suspension duties. Disc brakes front and rear stop the three spoke cast aluminum wheels and tubeless tires. The gas tank holds 4 gallons. Seat height is a rather tall 31.1 inches. Claimed dry weight is 372 pounds, and the wheelbase is 55.5 inches. The Suzuki GS500E is one of the best equipped bikes in the class, and it is usually quite reasonably priced on the used market.

Yamaha's Virago 535 cruiser, discontinued after the 2001 model year, is more radical looking than the Kawasaki Vulcan 500. A smooth 70-degree sohc V-twin engine that displaces 535cc powers the chopper-esque Virago. This engine is fed by two 34mm carburetors. Power reaches the rear wheel through a five-speed transmission and shaft final drive, the only shaft drive in the 500cc class, a big plus. The backbone type frame uses the engine as a stressed member. The raked front forks share suspension chores with dual rear shocks. A disc brake in front and a drum brake in the rear stop the laced wheels. Self-canceling turn signals are both a convenience and a safety feature. Dual shorty slash cut mufflers enhance the chopper image. The 28.3 inch seat height allows most riders to reach the ground with both feet. The 401 pound dry weight is average for the class, and the low center of gravity makes low speed maneuvers less stressful.

All of this sophistication and style once put the Virago 535 at the top of the 500cc cruiser class. It remains one of the best beginner bikes in the class, and it is still available on the used market.