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Old 30th December 2009, 11:51   #1
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Default 2007 LB500, Second owner’s review

After searching for a used CI500 in vain, I finally gave in and bought a LB500 with ~9000 kms on the ODO about 2 months ago. I reckon 2 months and 700 kms is long enough to post my experience and impressions. Make no mistake, I am continuing to look for a CI500 and I will buy it in a blink if it’s a stock green, but that is another story. My ownership experience has been rocky and difficult, so pardon me if the narrative is a little long winded and somewhat opinionated.

Entirely possible that my experience was thoroughly colored by my earlier ownership of a std350 and occasional riding of a CI500. Secondly, my bike came with serious carburetion issues. It started and idled perfectly. It was smooth over 60 all the way to 90-100 and it felt like it could cruise all day and forever at these speeds. But, in the crucial midrange it had a flat spot, the bike would sputter off the line. No amount of warming up cured this problem. Whenever it sputtered, I would grab the clutch, build up the revs and to get over the flat spot. Needless to say, it was no fun riding this thing in stop-go traffic.

I took the bike to a local mechanic, who replaced the L shaped rubber manifold behind the air filter that was torn. As it turns out, this bike had been run just 600 kms in the past year, so the rubber had become brittle just sitting in the shade. The replacement did slightly address the sputtering issue but not fully. I noticed a profound reluctance on the part of the mech to open the carb and clean it up, I would notice the same reluctance at the company operated service center later. The common refrain is that “it is a factory set item”. Soon after this, the bike started making a sound like a gunshot when throttle was closed at speed. Since I had read that the RE operated service centers were the best for the LB500, I decided to give my bike a tune up at the service center. Well, not much luck there either. They changed the oil and adjusted the idling mix screw to minimize the sputter, but it never really did go away. I tried arguing with the mech, but heard the same refrain – “it’s a factory set item”. You can imagine my state of mind at this point, I am feeling like my moniker and regretting that I ever bought this bike and am cursing RE for putting out a bike with such awful carburetion. Ofcourse, I knew this was illogical, there was a problem with the bike that had to be fixed.

So, I decided I had nothing to lose and started researching CV carbs with gusto. At the most I would have to replace the carb if I busted it. I saw a few videos on youtube on how to clean CV carbs. I joined Bulletech group and read up everything related to the LB500 and then read up everything on the RE USA forum as well. It turns out, I am not the first with problems related to carburetion on the LB500, so I felt somewhat justified in blaming RE. Most owners had success upjetting and/or raising the needle, so I ended up ordering a few pilot jets and a couple of mains(still waiting these).

But I still had the sputtering issue to contend with, so about 10 days ago I finally mustered enough courage to take the carb off the bike and dismantled it. The top screws came off only after a generous application of WD40. Doused the innards in WD40 and waited a few minutes for it to do its stuff and finally washed it all off. Raising the needle was a little more trickier but not overly so. While doing this, I got a good understanding of the working of a CV carb. Many gurus have said that the CV carb is especially susceptible to dust, but it is only after I opened the carb did I understand why. Putting the carb back on is easy, fixing the various manifolds and ensuring no leaks in the carburetion chain is a pain. The thin rubber tube the connects to the PAV unit to the carb inlet flange had cracked and was leaking, so I fixed this too. Luckily, all this cured the flat spot, the acceleration was smoother – I am inclined to think the clean up got rid of the flat spot more than raising the needle. The engine also got a little bit of the velvet back, the roughness at low speeds had lessened, this I am inclined to attribute to the raised needle. There are so many opportunities for leaks between the filter and the carb intake, the whole contraption looks amateurish and high maintenance.

After these changes, I took the bike out on a 100 km ride close to Hyd. It confirmed my initial impressions, bike accelerated cleanly to 90 without hint of strain. But still, the joy was missing. When I stopped to gas up at the end of the trip, I noticed oil leaking out of the airfilter box and also oil dripping from the stand. It turns out the service center had overfilled and not tightened the oil-cap properly so a fair bit leaked out. When I checked the level, it still showed close to maximum, so no cause for concern there. When I opened the air filter box, there was a small puddle of whitish pink oil(looks like an emulsion) at the bottom. Evidently, the crank case mist gets sucked into the air filter box where it condenses. I have checked the container into which the duckbill ends, however that is clean. There is atleast 15-20 ml of oil lost in this fashion for each 100 kms. Eventually, the filter element is bound to get soaked in oil, I am not sure it is designed to function inspite of that. I am researching the mod to disconnect the breather from the air filter box and terminate it elsewhere.

Having finally fixed the carburetion issues, it is perhaps time to post my initial impressions of the LB500 in bone stock form. I know it is impossible to remain completely objective here and comparisons with a 80s era 350 that I owned for 5 years are inevitable. OTOH I bought this relatively cheap so I am not beholden to write a ga-ga review. So here goes.

Pros:
1. Disc brake feels safe and solid. The front shocks are indeed an improvement over the CI500 which had an alarming tendency to dive under hard braking. With just a finger on the lever, I find it quite easy to modulate the braking force.
2. Set to their lowest and hence the softest setting, the gas shocks at the rear provide an excellent ride. Even at the softest I did not find any compromise with the handling.
3. Over 60 kph in 5th, this thing can chew the miles without complaint(but shift down to 4th and it loses the plot).
4. Cruises at 90+(but not much higher) far more comfortably than either the CI350 or the 500.
5. The handle bar ergonomics are just right, for me anyway.
6. The quality of levers is excellent
7. Much has been made of the AVL clatter, but I don’t really find this an issue
8. Bike idles steady and is generally more tolerant of higher temps unlike the CI500 which can become unmanageable in heavy traffic
9. Granted the speeds are conservative, but this thing can handle alright. Can’t change direction overly quick, but plan your entry and exit a little carefully and some crazy lean angles are possible.

Cons:
1. The apologetic exhaust note is a big downer, the thrill is gone. Where is the burble while coasting? For such a big single, the lack of low speed cruising ability is a disappointment. The bike simply does not manage to involve, I guess this is what some folks refer to as lacking in character. Ever listened to the bass track of a CI500 approaching at ~70 kph? Or a 350 lazily putting along around town? These older bikes have a certain panache’ that this newer bike for all its tech superiority fails to muster.
2. For such a big single, a comfortable cruising speed of just 90+ is just a bit disappointing, it is fast enough for me though.
3. The first four gears are rough, there is a grinding noise which makes puttering around town irritating(might be an issue with my bike, but others have mentioned the same thing). The 4s might be primitive, but the box is less noisy and smoother. The 4s’s shift action isn’t quite as positive, but then it isn’t as clunky either. One can train oneself to exploit the 4s, but the 5s is a pain to shift.
4. Considering how unpleasant it is to shift down on the 5s box, I personally sorely miss the neutral finder.
5. With the bullet, more so than any other bike, HOW one gets to 90kph is more important than how quickly one gets there. The older bikes are slower but better in delivering that biking experience.
6. Cannot see anything in the rear view mirrors, they are vibrating to bits at all speeds. This is a safety concern, I need to find a way to address this
7. Considering I use the kickstart most of the time in order to preserve the ES, the decompresser isn't quite as easy compared to the older bikes.
8. I had a leaking battery issue on my old 350 and the LB500 carries on that tradition. Practically all motorcycle batteries these days come with a drain pipe, why is that an exception with the LB500?

If you had asked a week ago, I would have said the LB500 was a mistake from the RE company. Imagine my disappointment when my bro who owns a CI500, took one ride around the block and without mincing words told me to lose the bike. Yes I do admit, thoughts of putting the bike up for sale did cross my mind.

Here is where it gets interesting though. On a whim, I decided to re-install an el-cheapo(600 bucks MMW make) after market short bottle. I had bought this a month ago to inject some character, but had gone back to stock while I resolved the sputtering problem. Looks reasonably built and chrome looks good enough. I hadn’t adjusted the idle mix screw after raising the needle, so went through the drill. That’s when I noticed the exhaust note had undergone a subtle change, the old irritating note was gone replaced by a velvety bass track. Most promising, but I wasn’t sure how this impacted the bike’s performance. Very different from how I remember it when it was installed before. Took it out for a quick spin around KBR park and I can feel the bass, subjectively the bike feels a bit more assured in the low end, more relaxed in traffic. I realize I am getting somewhere with this thing finally.

Having established that the changes weren’t doing anything seriously negative, I took the bike out for a test run a couple of days later early in the morning on Vikarabad road. It is 5.30 AM and cold and still dark, but the bike is on song. I can feel the exhaust note more than hear it. It burbles nicely while coasting. What can I say, the feeling is back. Every single time I open up, there is a big grin plastered on my face.

These last two months have been agonizing, but by some strange quirk of fate and my own foolhardy persistence, I had finally struck gold. Even I, a self-confessed CI500 fanatic, am surprised by how much I like this transformation. My bike does not feel the same as a CI500 or CI350(something needs to be said for no 2 350s ever feeling exactly alike), but it is hugely entertaining in its own right.

So, in the final analysis, I was left asking myself as to what might have caused this change in the bike’s character. If I were to list the mods, very minor you will agree,they are;

1. el-cheapo short bottle silencer(this alone wont cut it)
2. raised the needle in the carb

I paid 75k for the bike. Total cost of mods – 600 bucks and my own labour, incredible except that I barely knew what I was doing.
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Old 30th December 2009, 13:21   #2
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Terrific review. The popping of the exhaust can be cured to a great extent by adjusting the pilot mixture. Play around with different mixture screw positions(rich) till the popping is eliminated.

Cheers,

Jay
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Old 30th December 2009, 15:11   #3
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Beautifully written!

I had the same grin plastered on my face once I put in a Goldie for my 2005 Thunderbird.
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Old 30th December 2009, 15:38   #4
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Terrific review. The popping of the exhaust can be cured to a great extent by adjusting the pilot mixture. Play around with different mixture screw positions(rich) till the popping is eliminated.

Cheers,

Jay
Thanks! Both the short bottle and raising the needle ideas came from you, so I owe both these to you. BTW, enjoyed your thread on RE USA. Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge with relative newcomers such as myself to the LB500 fold. With the short bottle on, the exhaust popping no longer sounds like a gunshot, it is more like a slightly louder thud. It happens very occasionally now while coasting at speed, very much part of the character of the bike, so leaving it on for the time being.

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Beautifully written!

I had the same grin plastered on my face once I put in a Goldie for my 2005 Thunderbird.
Thanks! You know exactly what I am talking about. The goldie has my curiosity piqued, I hope to see and hear it sometime soon.
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Old 1st January 2010, 15:00   #5
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Is the vibrating rear view mirrors an issue with all Machismo's ?
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Old 1st January 2010, 16:36   #6
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This is what scared me going for a LB 500. Too few good ones around and the ones that were around were having some or other issues. So, though I was initially searching for CI500, I ended up picking a used electra 5s.

Good to see that your bike is coming back in shape.
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Old 2nd January 2010, 04:19   #7
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Hey Beast,

We are sailing in the same boat i guess, have been searching for CI500 since quiet some time & have ended buying pre owned 500 LB.

Luckily the carb is sorted and she runs like a dream. Planning on changing the stock exhaust with a short bottle one or a goldie but i love the way the torque kicks in with the stock exhaust so lets see.

Anyways, Nice write up.
Ride safe buddy.
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Old 2nd January 2010, 10:02   #8
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Originally Posted by alter.e.go View Post
Is the vibrating rear view mirrors an issue with all Machismo's ?
I am not the first to mention this, so it is a common problem. But if others do now have this problem, I would be really interested.

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Originally Posted by rrahul_2778 View Post
This is what scared me going for a LB 500. Too few good ones around and the ones that were around were having some or other issues. So, though I was initially searching for CI500, I ended up picking a used electra 5s.

Good to see that your bike is coming back in shape.
Good call, the Electra. I was veering towards a Electra 4s when I found this. Just curious, what's the 5s gearbox like on your bike? Except for the sputtering issue due to an unclean carb, my bike is in good shape and I got it for a decent price. All told, it is a somewhat fiddly device.

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Originally Posted by chintan15 View Post
Hey Beast,

We are sailing in the same boat i guess, have been searching for CI500 since quiet some time & have ended buying pre owned 500 LB.

Luckily the carb is sorted and she runs like a dream. Planning on changing the stock exhaust with a short bottle one or a goldie but i love the way the torque kicks in with the stock exhaust so lets see.

Anyways, Nice write up.
Ride safe buddy.
Thank you. Yes CI500s are extremely rare, CI500ES models seem to be available but then IMO less desirable than the 90s era green 500s. In Bangalore, I found a 500ES on the classifieds here on TBHP(missed this one) and two for sale by the RE showroom near Sarjapur circle, however the RE guys were asking 1L for either, the bikes werent even in pristine condition. One had 16k kms and other had 27k kms. The stock exhaust does have this effect of hurling you forward but I am not a fan of this characteristic.

Update on the carburetion. The quality of rubber parts on my LB500 has deteriorated in 2 years. The rubber tube connecting PAV and carb has cracked and disconnected again, so I will have to replace this. A disconnected tube amounts to a leak in the intake flange, dont think that is any good. The L shaped manifold behind the filter is just 2 months old, but is already showing minute cracks, need to find better quality parts. For anyone buying a used LB, please take this advice seriously - examine all the rubber tubings and replace as necessary.
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Old 2nd January 2010, 13:08   #9
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Originally Posted by Beast_of_Burden View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by alter.e.go
Is the vibrating rear view mirrors an issue with all Machismo's ?
I am not the first to mention this, so it is a common problem. But if others do now have this problem, I would be really interested.
I have the same problem too. The mirror is unusable at speeds above 40. Well, atleast I know that some sort of a vehicle is approaching and I can make out whether it's a two wheeler, car or a lorry :-D
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Old 3rd January 2010, 11:59   #10
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Originally Posted by Beast_of_Burden View Post
Good call, the Electra. I was veering towards a Electra 4s when I found this. Just curious, what's the 5s gearbox like on your bike?
THe 5s gearbox i believe is same as the ones that come with the other bikes like TB, TBTS, LB etc. It does have false neutrals and I have to kinda push the gear lever more than once at times while downshifting. While upshifting, I use the toe shifter to move and slot the gear in place. Its not perfect, but I have learnt to live with it and it has not caused me any problems so far.

Good to hear your bike is now running smooth. Good luck with her, LB500 is a fine machine.
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Old 4th January 2010, 19:30   #11
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@Beast, Wonderfully written !
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Old 4th January 2010, 22:18   #12
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I have the same problem too. The mirror is unusable at speeds above 40. Well, atleast I know that some sort of a vehicle is approaching and I can make out whether it's a two wheeler, car or a lorry :-D
@smenon - I will eventually make out that there is some form of vehicle approaching, but that should be accomplished by no more than a quick glance.

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Originally Posted by rrahul_2778 View Post
It does have false neutrals and I have to kinda push the gear lever more than once at times while downshifting. While upshifting, I use the toe shifter to move and slot the gear in place. Its not perfect, but I have learnt to live with it and it has not caused me any problems so far.
@Rahul - I dont find an issue with upshifting especially if accelerating quickly to top. Its downshifting where the gearbox's clunkiness really becomes apparent. Now, I have learnt to downshift accompanied by a pronounced blip at the slightest hint of deceleration, 4th can tolerate quite high speeds although it feels far too rough compared to top.

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@Beast, Wonderfully written !
@Ashok - Thank you, you are kind. Having put the sputtering issues behind, I am beginning to enjoy the bike a bit. We should plan a short ride together, I am beginning to realize I will always be envious of 350 owners. The sight of a well tuned and well cared for 350 always makes me smile.
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Old 5th January 2010, 20:56   #13
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@smenon - I will eventually make out that there is some form of vehicle approaching, but that should be accomplished by no more than a quick glance.
I know, I know. I wish I had better advise for you, but I am frustrated by the same thing. The mirrors only add to the chrome and are totally useless on highways or when the bike is revved high.

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Originally Posted by Beast_of_Burden View Post

@Ashok - Thank you, you are kind. Having put the sputtering issues behind, I am beginning to enjoy the bike a bit. We should plan a short ride together, I am beginning to realize I will always be envious of 350 owners. The sight of a well tuned and well cared for 350 always makes me smile.
I am totally with you on this. I was half decided between the electra and the machismo and went for the LB 500 looking at it's torque and power. I've wished so much that I had decided otherwise whenever I hear a well maintained std chugging by.

BTW, when you changed the silencer, did you see increased vibrations? I changed mine the first thing after a service, and I've seen too much of vibrations. When I drive around for close to 50 km, my hands have that numbness that I usually get when I drive for 200 - 250 kms with the long bottle silencer.

I've also seen a dip in mileage. I am not sure whether it's the service or the silencer that caused it. A lot of posts in this forum say that the short bottle shouldn't cause a change in mileage as long as the riding pattern remains the same, and the carb isn't upjetted.
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Old 6th January 2010, 19:34   #14
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@Ashok - Having put the sputtering issues behind, I am beginning to enjoy the bike a bit. We should plan a short ride together, I am beginning to realize I will always be envious of 350 owners. The sight of a well tuned and well cared for 350 always makes me smile.
Sure we will ! After the holiday season, my bike is in need of a service and I have too much of work to catch up with. Will PM you soon; had been planning to check your bike out for a long time. I could use your CI experience on understanding my bull better.
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Old 8th January 2010, 20:29   #15
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BTW, when you changed the silencer, did you see increased vibrations? I changed mine the first thing after a service, and I've seen too much of vibrations. When I drive around for close to 50 km, my hands have that numbness that I usually get when I drive for 200 - 250 kms with the long bottle silencer.

I've also seen a dip in mileage. I am not sure whether it's the service or the silencer that caused it. A lot of posts in this forum say that the short bottle shouldn't cause a change in mileage as long as the riding pattern remains the same, and the carb isn't upjetted.
The vibration may have increased a tad, but not enough to be noticeable with my bike. I dont think my mileage has changed although that is just a feeling i have, not based on any measurements.

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Sure we will ! After the holiday season, my bike is in need of a service and I have too much of work to catch up with. Will PM you soon; had been planning to check your bike out for a long time. I could use your CI experience on understanding my bull better.
@Ashok - I am no expert on the innards of a bullet, but sure I can share what little I know.

It is confirmed, I will be getting the jets Tuesday next week. I will be starting out with a 25 pilot and take it from there. Now that I am upjetting I am wondering if I should set the needle back to center notch. Oh well, I guess I will have to experiment and find out what works best.
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