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Honda CX500 – Moto Motivo

Posted on February 1, 2015 by Scott in Café Racer. 58 comments


Words by Martin Hodgson.

When you build GT40’s that are the only replicas licensed to officially carry the full Gulf Oil livery it’s clear you can build a serious automobile. When you can also build some of the best custom Ducati’s on the planet it’s clear two wheels or four you’ve got it covered. So when a customer told Johann Keyser it was impossible to create a stunning CX500 the man behind Moto Motivo took on the challenge with justified confidence.

The donor bike was no ordinary CX500 it was the deluxe model, ‘The Plastic Maggot’, made even worse with a full set of Vetter fairings and panniers. Many builders see the CX500 as a challenge to be conquered; Johann was keen to make that challenge even harder. The 1978 CX had only seen a few years of service when the original owner put it into storage in 1982 after a small incident with a dog on a highway. Having sat for 32 years with oil and fuel still on board it’s a testament to the Honda engineers that it required Johann to fit only a new battery to get the old girl ticking over, but that’s when the real fun started.


The design idea for the build came from one Johann had intended for a Moto Guzzi build, one that would require a frame up restoration of the old CX. The Honda was completely stripped back and the frame was stripped of all unnecessary brackets, mountings, rear shocks and ugly rear subframe. Johann then designed and fabricated a new swingarm that would now run a mono shock, a fully adjustable Ohlins item straight from a Ducati 900SS. With the frame modifications now complete the whole thing was then powder coated in Satin Black.

With the rear end so well sorted it made no sense to leave the front end be, so being the Ducati specialist Johann knew the exact front forks to fit. Taken from a Ducati Monster S2R 1000 the fully adjustable forks also use modified Ducati Triple clamps to fit the CX frame. The front brake is a left side Ducati Sport Classic brake rotor and caliper, while a Ducati radial master cylinder supplies the pressure. Tidying up the notoriously ugly CX front view is the addition of an elegant LED electronic dash that does away with Honda’s factory monstrosity.


The appeal of the CX is undoubtedly the V twin engine, without which it is hard to see why anyone would take on the bike. But its Moto Guzzi style layout, smooth torque and reliability give it the sort of charm a Café Racer deserves and stripped of all the excess weight can perform strongly. The motor was completely chemically cleaned and painted in satin black and all exterior motor bolts were replaced with stainless steel bolts. Fuelling duties are taken care of by New Mikuni units fitted to custom aluminium intake manifolds topped off with Velocity Stacks from a Ducati 748. Taking care of spent gases are custom 2 into 1 headers and finishing out the back is a Moto Motivo stainless steel muffler.


Johann isn’t a fan of wrapped exhausts so with the help of some friends he chose a ceramic coating colour normally used on firearms to cover the exhaust. The theme then extends to the valve covers, velocity stacks, intake manifolds and other piping leaving an ultra-clean look not often seen on many CX builds. The colour also works amazingly well with the brown leather seat that adds comfort to the custom Moto Motivo fibreglass tail piece. The tank is Modified and 4 inch stretched unit supplied by Airtech and having sliced and diced my fair share of CX tanks I can attest to the workmanship. Made with ethanol proof epoxy it’ll handle any pump fuel you throw at it, but Johann prefers his fuel alcohol free! The paint is a Honda factory colour, 1973 Honda SL350 Candy Panther Gold, with Moto Motivo tank decals so you know just who swung the spanners.


The rearsets are nothing short of Ducati Superbike items and not even the ugly gearshift unit was left in place. Whereas most builders will use black paint to hide it, a Moto Motivo unit adds both incredible form and function where once both were devoid. Having been set the challenge to do the impossible Moto Motivo head honcho Johann Keyser believes “This bike truly turned out as the coolest Honda CX500 in the world”. As a fellow CX builder I’m not going to argue, mission complete!

  • redmark7

    I’ve always thought these things to be a bucket of pus and lung butter. Wouldn’t mind hearing it on the over-run though, nice Pheonix.

  • al gonz

    if the 3rd photo (rear view) doesn’t turn you on, you’re on the wrong website!!!
    Cylinders, carburetor, pipe, suspension,etc all in one shot, yummyyyyy

    • ben


      But… there’s no filters on the carbs and no fender either. This seems to be a theme with these custome bikes which makes them solely art pieces. You would get most all of the water and road grime in there if actually ridden anywhere.

  • Tomas

    What brand is the rev meter/speedo?

    • al gonz

      Tomas, I tough it was a KOSO, but I went to their website and I couldn’t find the same one.
      Any takers?

      • ducTech

        Yes, inquiring minds want to know.

      • GB400 Custom

        Its an ebay special, my friend and i have used them on our own builds, seem like quite good quality and have all the idiot lights inbuilt. Just search for universal digital speedometer. May have been aliexpress actually but you’ll find it. The wiring instructions are disastrous though.

    • Moto Motivo

      Tomas, it is a “No name” item that I found online. I like it because it goes totally black when switched off.

  • Bultaco Metralla

    This is sensational. What a fabulous treatment for the old plastic maggot. Ducati forks, wire wheels and a monoshock rear completely transform the bike. It now looks small, nimble and utterly fantastic. Who’d a thunk such a svelte beauty lurked within the old CX500! Bravo, the best thing I’ve seen this year and the absolute best CX500 by a mile and a half.
    PS love the ceramic coating

  • MotoTrooper

    Lovely work, fantastic attention to form and simplicity. Had a Silverwing GL500 and always wondered how much livelier it’d be with half the weight removed. They do sound glorious on over-run, I agree. Only fly in the ointment for me is the brown ceramic coating on too much of everything. Wish it were just on the valve cover and more bronze colored.

    Still, I’d love a go on it as I sold mine before I could build it into something like this.

    • Dave Coetzee

      Snap! I also sold my Silverwing just before the cafe racer bug bit me and totally agree with you re brown ceramic coating

    • Spyker May

      Good call. Another contender for your aggressive diet-plan would the (rare) CX650 Turbo. Plagued with problems at the time, mostly electrical (perhaps more so on the CX500 Turbo), today though it should be relatively easy to sort out.

      I am actually surprised nobody has fitted a turbo to one of the many CX customs doing the rounds (or perhaps I have just not seen it – more likely in retrospect); these motors were build with bricks and mortar (perhaps the inspiration for the choice of ceramic color in this build ;-))

      • Neville Smithy

        Both the turbo CXes were basically junk. No one wanted to buy them, Honda stopped making them. End of story.

        • Spyker May

          Dude, are you okay, or are you the resident Beavis and Butthead conjoined twins? Or perhaps your personal physician gave you an enema without considering your massive case of hemorrhoids? Either way, you are actually quite entertaining, I just fear the piles may spread to the top floor – notably the corner office between the two tympanic membranes.

  • Kuiper Max

    The guy builds cars.

    The rear suspension modifications and flexible shock absorber linkages are potentialy lethal. Truly bizarre,in fact.

    Back to the drawing, bored.

    • dead_elvis

      Explaining your critique of the suspension would be welcome.

    • nathas909

      Yeh I was wondering when you look at the 2nd photo you see that small silver vertical piece of metal linkage. It looks like when the spring will compress that top joint closes to the spring would pivot towards the tire. I would of thought that would have to be solid and not a nut and bolt. Also the tabs holding it all together looks too thin and weak.
      But I am sure the builder knows more than me, and I can only see it from one angle in one photo.

    • Spyker May

      Somebody once said – “Over analysis leads to paralysis”.

      The additional (static) adjustable linkage rod (ie the ‘silver’ piece) is likely simply a means to have a variable leverage – a smart way of adjusting the stiffness of the rear suspension; by varying the effective counter-leverage length versus the fixed length of the swing-arm (from the wheel midpoint to the pivot-point in the frame).

      • Moto Motivo

        Bravo and thank you for your posting. You are spot on with your analysis.

      • Was looking at that and thinking about the effect of adjusting where the fulcrum lay. Many props to folk @ Moto Motivo.
        I imagine it has similar effect to moving the shock mount fore or aft with dual springs. weren’t there BMWs out there with manually adjustable top shock mounts that could be adjusted along a radius for same reason? Someone help me out here…
        great bike!

        • Neville Smithy

          Adjustable ride-height mounts make sense on roadracer track-use race bikes.They have little purpose on a road going bike.Like this slow old CX profiler.

          • Thanks for the reply. I don’t understand your restrictive philosophy, so I’m not sure how to respond. I was hoping to at least get some armchair engineering and pseudo-scientific, photo-based strength of materials analysis that some of the other folks did. I’m sorta jealous..

          • Kuiper Max

            I say you can’t have any rigidity with heim joints.

            I say he had a box of them left over after building another kit car.

            I say he could have used them for hip replacements in the Congo.

          • i say those heim joints are more solid than any of your flaccid commentary has been…
            there is no definite line between engineering and art. Both can exist within and without each other. Failure to realize this confirms that you are neither artist, nor engineer…

          • Kuiper Max

            Engineering exists, aloof, as an appliance of science.

            There is a strict dividing line between Art and engineering: engineering needs Art as much as The Pope needs a bra.

            Art does not exist in the material World, Art is merely perceived.

            Heim joints are designed from the start to pivot and flex in diverse ways. A rigid Heim joint is a contradiction manifest in metal.

            ( Both. )

          • Wonder what DaVinci would have to say about your treatise on Art vs. Engineering…

      • Neville Smithy

        #1: You haven’t got a rear end here with anywhere near the stock frame rigidity. Cutting off the whole stock subframe means the main frame and swingarm pivot area is essentially unbraced now.The stock ‘triangle’ subframe braces the swingarm area and main frame, it doesn’t just provide a mount for the shocks and seat.

        #2: That ‘monoshock swingarm brace’ ,in use, would have dubious stability and rigidity. All those flexy, pivoting, heim joints would move around all over the place.

        There is no reason under the Sun to have an adjustable shock mount on a road going CX 500.

        • Moto Motivo

          #1: On the CX500 the motor is a stressed unit like on the Ducati Monsters and Super Sport bikes where the swing arm bolts directly to the motor. The frame hoops on a CX500 is there for the twin shock setup and have little to do with bracing the main frame. Have a look at a naked CX500 frame, it might make sense for you then.
          #2: You clearly do not understand how this works.
          #3: So does the exhaust, Ohlin’s shock, Ducati forks and many other parts, but I really enjoy putting lipstick on a pig, especially when it is my pig.

          • Neville Smithy

            Your ingorance now nows no bounds.

            Post your efforts on a race bike or engineering forum and ask for their opinions on your ‘chassis engineering’. You won’t.

            You have my opinion.

            Love your pig.Love it properly.

          • That’s a valid method of peer review? Go on the interwebs, hop on a “race bike or engineering forum” and ensure your design has been validated by their obviously scientific review of the project…
            If they did follow your suggestion, i certainly hope they get better dialogue there than you’ve provided here.
            (I do encourage extensive peer review/critique and would be interested to see what debate would ensue. It would all be taken with a sack of salt though)

          • Kuiper Max

            I say its art, not engineering.

            I say you peer at art, not engineering.

            I say its not engineering.

  • Spyker May

    If you do nothing else today – visit the Moto Motivo website.

    • Kuiper Max

      I had a look. Junk, mostly.

      • ccc40821

        Not your day today, is it?

        • Neville Smithy

          I had a look yesterday. Get a calendar and a clock.

  • Jeffrey Wallis Bell-Zekas

    wow… just wow… one of the nicest CX500’s I have ever seen…

  • What a fantastic rebuild Honda! I was realy surprised to see
    this CX with a monoshock and a Ducati frontfork.
    Rebuilding a CX like this crossed my
    mind months ago . Unfortunatly I cannot realize all my dreams but I can draw
    them. I just finished this drawing of the “Gula Merah” and you can easily see the
    similarities. (Prints are available in a
    few weeks time when my new website is on the air )

  • Terry

    J’ai d’abord cru voir une Moto Guzzi ! Quelle belle surprise de découvrir une honda traitée avec beaucoup de simplicité et de pureté. Vraiment une réalisation qui me fait vibrer. L’association du jaune pour l’habillage et le marron et noir pour le moteur est une vraie réussite et change vraiment de tous les standards actuels. Bravo encore.

  • John Wanninger

    Best CX ever. The end.

    • Neville Smithy

      Buy a Suzuki SV 650. The end.

      • foiled again

        Jump up my butt. The end.

        • Kuiper Max

          Butt, he’s dead Jim. The end.

  • thumpthump

    too bad it’s dressed like an australian’s nightmare. also not sure about that rear suspension. otherwise, this is the first cx500 i’ve seen that does anything for me.

  • It’s pathetic that all the -wannabe builders- gathered today to troll this immaculate CX. 🙁

    • Stiv Batoree

      Immaculate? I say there is little need to troll this thing. Its all there in the metal, like a metal joke.

    • foiled again

      Yeah- look at all these clowns vying for the Teej Troll-A-Roo Award. Evidently lots of spare time in knuckleheadland.

  • @motomotivo:disqus, Is that a 50cc piston reworked into a reservoir for the brake fluid? If so, nice touch. If not, I think I may give it a go.

    • Moto Motivo

      No, it’s just a std billet aluminum unit. The 50 cc piston is a great idea though!

      • Excellent! I’ve unlocked the secret to making our second million!

  • Giuliano Massimiliano Minutill

    Davvero qualcosa di inimmaginabile da fare ad una CX…Un bell’esempio di gusto e pezzi aftermarket.
    Bella davvero.

  • HollyRoller

    I love the look of this bike. As the builder seems to be joining the discussion, I might ask, have you had this bike on a track or road. How does it corner with the back end modified as it is?
    Additionally, I see neither signal lights, not a license plate… it this a showroom bike? Or actually roadworthy.
    I will say this much… it is gorgeous.

  • markymark

    I’m really trying to get rid of my air box and battery holder where did you put your battery? Also was there a sport model with a hard solo seat I’m having a hard time with both??!!

  • Robert Skramstad

    Where did you buy the intake manifoilds? Is it CNC alu? looks great with the brown color following the air flow. It’s like a live flowchart!