Living with a legend: 1998 Honda CR500 supermoto

Visordown talks to Josh; the owner of a 1998 Honda CR500, which is more affectionately known as the ‘Ping King’.

Most bikers have dreamt about taking a CR500 for a spin, but they are super rare. We speak to one rider who has owned and lived with the legend itself.  

CR 500 Brief History

In 1984 Honda introduced the first iteration of the monstrous CR500, nicknamed the ‘Ping King’. Back then its 491cc 2 stroke motor produced a ridiculous 60-64 HP, but in 2001 when the CR500 was discontinued the HP had mellowed to around 56. The CR's power figure is more than enough to rival new off-road bikes today, but that’s not what made the ‘Ping King’ so special.

What made the CR500 so legendary was its humongous 38mm flatside carb, brutally small power band, and dry weight of 101kg - making the bike accelerate like a rocket ship. And much like the fragrance by Diesel ‘only the brave’ would ride it, as the throttle was like an on/off switch.

The seed was planted… 

For Josh (owner) that bravery came at fifteen years old when his dad's friend offered him a buzz on a 1996 CR500 around a local MX track. Needless to say, Josh was scared riding the thing in the pits - and who wouldn’t be? 

It was from that short, but ever so sweet moment, the seed of one day owning a CR500 of his own was planted.

Fast-forward eight years. Whilst scanning the interweb Josh found a rare 1998 CR500 supermoto for sale, literally down the road from his South East London address.

However, this ol’ legend was showing its age and needed a lot of work. After haggling the seller down from £3k to £2.5k, the deal was done. 

Josh knew from the start what he was getting himself into, parts for CR’s are as rare as a unicorn, with a hefty price tag attached to them once sourced. Nonetheless, he was determined to get the sucker running and restore to its former glory, or as he put it “get it back to mint”.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Work begins

A complete strip-down, clean and assessment was required of the bike and the motor. Although the bike looked aesthetically tatty, the frame and bodywork were in pretty good nick. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the engine internals. 

The removal of the head revealed a cylinder with deep scratches. And after splitting the bottom cases apart it was clear that the gear selectors were unserviceable. 

The gouged head was sent to Langcourt where it was bored out to 90mm (from the original 89mm) and the gear selectors, after consultation with FireFox Racing, had to be sourced directly from Honda Japan - setting Josh back about £300 each. 

After resolving these issues and fully rebuilding the motor (replacing the piston and other critical components) it was good to be kicked over. 

Honda CR500 1998 Road Legal SM Specs

•90mm bore cylinder (Langcourt cylinders)

•ProX piston

•ProX crank

•Full engine rebuild (Fire Fox racing)

•Full Hinson clutch

•Vforce 3 reed block

•38mm Lectron carb

•FMF gnarly chamber/FMF shorty silencer

•Electric worx heavy flywheel + stator rewind

•Powder coated engine cases 

•CNC Front sprocket guard (off Cr500 gokart conversion)

•Braking 320mm disc and calliper bracket 

•JT rear disc

•Excel supermoto rims/ Talon hubs 

•Pro Circuit fork internals + spring (sm set up, lowered and stiffened)

•Hel braided brake lines

•As3 performance coolant hoses

•MXPUK oversized radiators 

•Magura hydraulic clutch 

•Asv levers 

•Boyesen clutch + flywheel cases

•MDR rear brake pedal +shifter

•Honda Factory graphics 

•Polisport plastics 

•Pro bolt full bolt kit

•Genuine Honda bearings (Engine and frame, swing arm etc)

•Genuine Honda ECU + loom

•Powder Coated frame (Oem white)

•Works Connection frame guards 

•Renthal Sprockets/D.I.D chain 

•Renthal bars + grips

What’s it like to ride? 

As the bike was rebuild project, it took two years to get to this point, with Josh working on it in his spare time. 

The big-bore bugger started on the second stamp of the kick-starter. and finally, Josh could relive that fond and scary distance childhood memory of riding the ‘Ping King’ - this time on his very own 1998 CR500 supermoto. 

He said: “if you ride the 500 at anything under 30mph the bike feels like it will stall”. Other things he noted was how heavy the hydraulic clutch was, experiencing arm pump after an hour in the saddle. And yes, it vibrated like a mofo - with the effect still being felt hours after dismounting.  

However, the lightness and rapidness of the CR500 outweighed all its bad bits. It felt like no other bike Josh had ever ridden, made him feel more alive than ever, and had a brutal beauty about it. A loveable adrenaline machine - despite it trying to kill him at every opportunity. 

Was buying the ‘Ping King’ it worth it?

After two years of building (with plenty of setbacks) and £12k spent (£4k on the engine), Josh regrets nothing. It was his dream to build and ride a CR500 supermoto, and with some hard graft, he made it a reality. 

Sadly, the CR love story was not to last as it had to be sold due to urgent vet bills. Josh told Visordown “he would sell every bike he has ever owned, just to have it back”.

Overall, it was a love-hate relationship, as the CR was a pig to ride and would overheat at every opportunity. But, For Josh, the whole build was a life-changing experience and riding the thing a handful of times was the cherry on top. 

At least he can tick owning and riding a CR500 off his bucket list. 

Check out Josh’s new project here.

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