In the “Answers to questions nobody asked” series, the guys at Bikes and Beards are back in action. This time, they decided to find out what happens when you throw a Honda two-stroke engine in a Harley.
What? A Harley without a V-twin? That has to break all sorts of rules. At least our host Sean acknowledges that his experiments are likely (probably) irking the purists and the manufacturers. That being said, it doesn’t really matter because those experiments are for the inquisitive minds’ who are curious about how those weird tests work out.
Sean explains that he got the idea to create the FrankenHarley, dubbed the 500R when he found an 883R for sale online. The bike was in pretty bad shape and the engine was busted which, he says, made it the perfect candidate for an engine swap. The donor bike he chose was a 1990 Honda CR500 in great condition—which a little sad considering it could have made a very happy rider out there. As he puts it, however, it was cheaper to buy the entire bike than to buy separate parts for the 500R so the CR had to be sacrificed. The things we do for science.
He had his guy Craig work his weird magic, and voilà. We have a two-stroke Harley. By magic, I really mean strenuous wrenching to make the swap work since the two motorcycles are so different both in layout and in purpose.
Craig walks us through the modifications they had to perform to fit the Honda engine in the Harley frame. The list of mods includes cutting the engine case, flipping the sportster’s rear wheel to match the Honda’s left-handed final drive, and adding a conversion kit to replace the Harley’s drive belt with a chain.
The resulting bike is a screaming pile of metal on wheels that’s 200 pounds lighter than the 883 they started with and produces 10 more horsepower. Craig says that the engine swap alone dropped the weight by 130 pounds.
Was all this hard work worth it or will the Hondavidson go down in Bikes and Beards history as the worst project ever? To find out, the guys have to test the bike on the road—not without significant difficulties getting the thing to run first. They even take things beyond the simple test ride and decide to test the 500R’s acceleration. They first pit the 500R against a stock 883—a homemade drag race the 500 has no problem winning. Oh, what a little weight loss will do!
Sean—who’s in the saddle of the Hondavison—does mention, however, that the 883 ranks on the “slower” end of the Harley performance spectrum. To give the Motor Company a chance at redemption, they also pit the 500R against one of the manufacturer’s most powerful bikes, the CVO Screamin’ Eagle V-Rod.
From a standstill, the 500R manages to smoke the CVO with ease, but with a 15mph rolling start, the CVO makes the badge proud and takes the win. Whew, that was close.
So, should you put a Honda CR500 engine in a Harley? For most people, the answer is probably a hard no. Thankfully for Bikes and Beards, the answer is “why not?” and “how do we make it happen?”. Thankfully because That’s how you get fun and funky bikes like the Harley 500R—no matter how dysfunctional they really turn out to be.