Most motorcycle problems are caused by the nut that connects the handlebars to the saddle.

Honda ('90s) CB500 and Laverda Montjuic

Share
avatar
trevor machine
the 900
the 900

Posts : 1186

Honda ('90s) CB500 and Laverda Montjuic

Post by trevor machine on Mon 05 Jun 2017, 6:14 pm

Through a mixture of boredom and curiosity I was recently reminded once again that it's only really in quite recent times that 500cc bikes have all but disappeared from consideration - by racers, buyers and manufacturers, etc.

But back in the early '80s one bike in particular seemed to pique the interest of middle-weight enthusiasts - especially those into more exotic stuff. This was Laverda's Montjuic. It's interesting to compare specs for that and the '90s CB500.

So far as I can tell, the Montjuic was regarded as a relatively hot-blooded bike - which, being an air-cooled half-litre twin, seems strange now. But I suppose this was at the beginning of an era when continuous development brought about swift and dramatic changes - so that by the late '80s, bikes like Yamaha's FZR1000 were making nearly three times the power for twice the cc and 30kg extra weight. But the Montjuic came at the end of the previous era of air-cooled engines, and a time when the half-litre class was still relatively popular.

To my eye, the Laverda looks like a fun bike - even if I probably couldn't get on with the clip-on style bars and lack of arse comfort (I prefer it without the handlebar faring - but the version with is the one that people probably remember):









Specs-wise it turns out there isn't much in it between the Italian and Japanese bikes. They're both four valve twins with 180 degree cranks - and their respective weights seem to be within a kilo or two of each other. Both bikes make 58bhp (as ever, precise data is a bit hard to locate).

The Honda is slightly more over-square (73x59mm against 72x61mm), which I'm guessing accounts for the difference in torque figures - the CB's max being 47nm @ 8k and the Laverda's 47nm @ 5.5k. Fuel consumption is also comparable - figures for the CB edging it slightly ahead, according to one source (51 miles per gallon against 48). I can't find details for the Montjuic's wheelbase length or its rake and trail geometry - which is sad because I'd liked to have compared them too. However I will quickly note that I think the weight figures I quoted above are possibly on the high side for the Italian bike - reading reviews from the time, more than one journo seemed happy to talk about the Laverda as feeling more like a 250cc bike. Not something you could realistically say about the CB500 - let's be honest. I suspect the Montjuic probably was a bit more svelte than stated.

It's funny - and another reminder of how quick development was occurring - because in the space of some fourteen years a 50+bhp 500 twin apparently changed from quite an exciting prospect to a mundane utility bike. But, from another angle, it's like Honda's designers cast about for something to achieve, regardless of where history was heading. Almost as though someone said what's the best four stroke 500 twin ever made? Suggestions may well have included the Montjuic, and so Honda studied its virtues and equalled or bested them! So let's celebrate. We're basically riding an Italian classic with a bit more on top! Indulge me guys, I know it's a bit of a stretch - it's just that the numbers seemed so on our side. ; - )

Oh yeah - one other thing. This damn Montjuic thing was apparently a right raucous old dog - and eventually seems to have been banned as noise restrictions tightened. Which again doesn't seem entirely out of character with the CB500, at least for those bikes with the fabled (and de-baffled) Fuel end-can.

Okay - really, the last word now. Whilst reading about this particular Italian bike, I did have to smile at the comments of one journalist who claimed that "The Laverda was far from ideal for any form of commuting or touring, but for pure enjoyment, fast road work or even a touch of club racing, or 'track days', in 1980 no half-litre machine could compare with the Montjuic. Its nearest rival was probably the 350 LC Yamaha water-cooled two-stroke twin, which was very slightly larger and heavier than the Montjuic."

Lighter and smaller than a 350LC?? Lol - yeah, having trouble believing that. What with it being summer, I've been seeing a fair few of those about - there was a clamour of them all gathered in the same square of Squires car-park the other Thursday (not sure what the collective noun for RD350s is btw). And to my eye they looked small, even compared to a CB500. The idea that an RD350 is heavier than the Laverda is even more difficult to swallow, imo.
avatar
ANDYC
the 900
the 900

Mechanic
Posts : 772
Location : Windsor

Re: Honda ('90s) CB500 and Laverda Montjuic

Post by ANDYC on Mon 05 Jun 2017, 9:06 pm

The 'monty' was the inspiration for my track bike project.
avatar
trevor machine
the 900
the 900

Posts : 1186

Re: Honda ('90s) CB500 and Laverda Montjuic

Post by trevor machine on Mon 05 Jun 2017, 9:08 pm

Sweet!
avatar
ZekeVal
Barry Sheene
Barry Sheene

Posts : 97
Location : Auxerre, France.

Re: Honda ('90s) CB500 and Laverda Montjuic

Post by ZekeVal on Mon 05 Jun 2017, 10:29 pm

Nice write-up! 
Didn't know about this bike. 
The specs indeed show a strong lineage with the CB and it would be interesting to see how similar they ride (or not) in real life.
avatar
trevor machine
the 900
the 900

Posts : 1186

Re: Honda ('90s) CB500 and Laverda Montjuic

Post by trevor machine on Tue 06 Jun 2017, 3:05 pm

Yes - I reckon riding them back-to-back would reveal all kinds of differences. Many of them quite fundamental, I should think! The CB would probably feel like an armchair in comparison - I'd also anticipate significantly higher levels of refinement generally. Conversely this could be couched in terms more favourable to the Italian bike - e.g. the CB might said to be "soulless", "bland" and uninvolving, etc. Possibly feeling heavier, and somewhat broader of beam.

To be fair to the Montjuic, or at least Laverda, an arguably more representative basis for comparison would be the Monty's predecessor, the Alpino - the 500 twin from which the sportier Montjuic was derived (courtesy of UK importer Roger Slater's tuning and re-styling). Apparently, the Alpino was the first non-Japanese production bike to have a six-speed gearbox. However, it's (wet) clutch was said to be overly heavy and fatigue-inducing for the left hand. Note too that although I haven't labelled the images posted in the OP, the second one is actually not a Monty, but the Alpino. I'm now quite sure that all Montjuics had the handlebar faring - and any standard lit versions were those introduced by owners who had read (or perhaps even experienced) the bike weaving at higher speeds - a phenomenon said to be due to the Slater Brothers' faring.

The Alpino's ergonomics would of course be much more like the CB500s - i.e. quite sensible (!). But what would inevitably differentiate the two would be performance. For instance, the former did not even perform as well as a Honda 400 twin. The Alpino is said to have made 44bhp at 9.5k revs nor did the bike usually ever exceed more than 45 miles to the gallon.

So it seems obvious from this that even though the CB500 might seem more like the Alpino - a staid, sensible option - it actually has the performance of the latter's sportier, lustier younger sibling. Basically, it outclasses it in most senses of the word.

muttley1
the 900
the 900

Posts : 760

Re: Honda ('90s) CB500 and Laverda Montjuic

Post by muttley1 on Tue 06 Jun 2017, 4:14 pm

Good write up there. I think the montjuic is air cooled too so perhaps more comparable to a Suzuki GS500 (that engine was around then as a GS425!).

I grew up a couple of miles from one of the very few Laverda dealerships and they did look pretty neat bikes, certainly not as developed as our CB5's but for the roads back then probably a top choice. I'd have had one.

Seems 500 twin development stopped about 1995, the cb5 was new, the GS5 a reincarnated everyday bike and the Gpz5 marketed as the sporty option.

muttley1
avatar
trevor machine
the 900
the 900

Posts : 1186

Re: Honda ('90s) CB500 and Laverda Montjuic

Post by trevor machine on Tue 06 Jun 2017, 5:04 pm

muttley1 wrote:Good write up there. I think the montjuic is air cooled too so perhaps more comparable to a Suzuki GS500

Exactly what I was thinking about an hour ago. And this is true of the Laverda's dimensions too - e.g. I'm always a bit surprised when you see a GS500 (especially when it's in close proximity to a CB500) just how comparatively small it is. Some of this is down to styling (the Honda's radiator covers are strictly speaking needlessly large, and the same could arguably said of the tail section). The GS lacks these (artificial) enlargements. But yes - its lack of a radiator plays possibly the biggest part in all this. Perhaps the lines of Suzuki's different frame design - a more rigid alloy duplex cradle - also make the bike seem smaller?

Sponsored content

Re: Honda ('90s) CB500 and Laverda Montjuic

Post by Sponsored content


    Current date/time is Tue 24 Oct 2017, 3:17 am