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Honda GL500 – Wrench Kings


Posted on October 19, 2015 by Scott in Café Racer. 13 comments

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Written by Martin Hodgson.

The Netherlands may not be the first country you think of when custom motorcycles come to mind but to say the Dutch are kicking arse and taking names in the bike building world in 2015 is an understatement. The city of Utrecht is home to one such builder and although 33% of all journeys in the city are taken on a bicycle, Wrench Kings like their bikes to have more than one human power. This particular 1982 Honda GL500 is one of their best builds to date with inspirations coming in the form of a B52 bomber and a couple of beers. Which is how Wrench Kings came about to begin with, three friends – Joost, Bram & Laurens – enjoying a few cold ones in a carpark while tinkering with a bike… in Dubai.

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At first glance many mistake the GL for a CX500 – which has become a bit of a cult hit in the café racer renaissance – while the GL does use the CX engine, it’s a larger bike designed for those who love their touring, featuring Honda’s Pro-Link suspension and an all-new chassis. The GL500 came to Wrench Kings HQ in a fairly unloved state, some rust, a lot of oily grime and in need of a thorough overhaul. To do it justice the boys took the bike back to the bare frame and started by fabricating an entirely new rear end. The stock subframe was cut off and a new piece fabricated that mounts to the backbone leaving a huge amount of negative space between the swingarm and seat giving a drag bike like appearance. All of the excess body work is gone, the two up foot pegs, the radiator shroud off to the nearest bin and the frame completely smoothed and detabbed before being coated in black.

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Just like the CX the GL500 has one hell of a big tank for a 500cc machine and it takes some clever work to give it the right look for a café racer application. Thankfully the Wrench Kings knew exactly what they were doing and utilised colour and some careful little tricks to bring the whole thing together. Like many Honda’s of the early ‘80’s the GL tank features rear edges designed to meet the factory side covers, ditching the body work can leave a strange look but by using the same black on this part of the tank as the frame the Kings have achieved a far more flowing look than most. The rest of the tank features white and silver in a combination of rounded and square shapes to break up the tanks side and like all Wrench King bikes their logo takes pride of place. Sitting on the new subframe is a custom café seat in black leather with white tubing and is generously padded for long days in the chair.

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The Guzzi-esque 500cc developed by Honda for the CX500 was quite revolutionary for its time; No Kickstart, V-twin but 4 valves per cylinder, CV carbs tuned for improved emissions and by the time it was fitted to the GL series it had received transistorised ignition and longer intake runners for a cleaner look and more low down torque. The Kings gave their little twin a thorough make over and rebuild ensuring thousands of trouble free kilometres to come and it looks the business all in black. The exhaust utilises the factory headers which have been heat wrapped, while the standard collector is ditched along with the big factory cans. In their place are a pair of chrome hotdog style mufflers and the GL now sounds like a B52 swooping down on a low flying bombing raid! With the airbox ditched the tuned CV carbs now breathe through chrome pod filters that draw fresh air from the massive space below the seat.

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A stripped down, lightweight and suitably grunty GL deserves to handle much better than the comfortable, but wallowing factory setup. With the more popular CX, many have simply lowered the front forks or worse, cut the standard springs which might look great but is downright dangerous. The Kings don’t make these sorts of mistakes and got it right the first time around with the fitment of a set of CBR conventional telescopic forks that come from the factory ready to handle and handle well. Not only do the CBR forks also offer tunability to preload, dampening and rebound as an added bonus they come equipped with dinner plate sized drilled rotors and big calipers for vastly improved stopping for the GL500 which was under braked from the factory. Out back the factory Pro-Link suspension remains in place and having gone on to be used on some of Honda’s greatest bikes, it’s a decision that makes perfect sense.

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With all that factory fairing gone a single headlight is one of the few pieces to extend beyond the chassis lines and with an LED halo it lights the way in style. The new taillight is kept small and along with the bar mounted indicators are powdered by an all-new wiring system that is fired by a lithium battery. Tidying up the front end the ignition and choke cables have been cleverly hidden under the seat and all that remains is a small digital speedo. Mounted below the CBR top clamp are a new pair of clip-ons with all new levers, master cylinder and throttle assembly in black set off by the stark white grips with LED turn signals at their ends.

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With that, the Wrench Kings were finished on perhaps the nicest GL500 you are ever likely to see. It looks great, it has modern suspension, stops on a dime and that torquey V-twin not only pulls hard but sounds like the end of the world doing it. The only question left, just what is going to come out of the Wrench Kings and the Netherlands next? Well, it looks like they’re working on a bratstyle CB900 Bol d’Or, a CB Nighthawk Tracker, and a Kawa Z500 café racer – more on those very soon.

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  • Laurens Olijve

    Nice!

  • blackbird

    Sweet ride fellas. A lot of bikes have that negative space under the seat. This GL 500 really sticks out by filling that space in. The engine is very compact. There is not a photo up there where light makes it through the engine area. Visually it’s very, I don’t know, maybe dense is the right word? i can’t really tell. It just looks like there is all this weight slung up between the wheels that gives it an interesting psychology. Maybe it’s the way the exhaust truncates so abruptly that helps add to the visual weight. I also really like the way all the cables seem to spiral around the headlight and snake off to the front brakes, handlebars and under the tank. It’s very….brain stem, lol….
    That’s one badass mamba jamba kids. You boys mail me this bike and ill mail you my BMW R90/6. Straight trade. Deal?

    • Hey Blackbird! Only reading your comment now… Thanks for the very…. brain stem… words!
      Bike will be delivered at your doorstep in a couple of days! Kidding… She’s long gone and making someone very happy in Belgium.

  • Hardley T Whipsnade III

    Another fine example of taking a sows ear and turning it into a mighty fine silk purse . But seriously folks . Could we once and for all hang up the pipe wrap trend especially in light of the fact that it serves no function , increases heat soak , thereby inhibiting performance ! Trends be damned . Lets get back to ‘ function ‘ over form !

    • Adrian Ward

      I agree about pipe wrap , it seems the easy option i would rather see a nice fabricated and finished set of exhausts ,
      if you have made something to be proud of , show it off dont cover it up

      • blackbird

        I would wager to disagree with ya fellas. Where would we be, if not for form? We might just be looking at new and identical sport bikes, and that would be a tragedy. Form, after all, is where we get the the visual diversity between different brands and models and makes these machines unique and deserves conversation and consideration here. I feel this bike, in total, is very industrial looking. The wrap lends to that story so i would suggest all chrome pipes would risk look forced or out of place. Here’s my rational. The bike feels like a negative space right? In the way your eye gets pulled into shadow and dark places, where light and color pushes out towards the viewer.
        The wrap helps bring your eye in and allows it to cover the whole of the machine smoothly. Lighter color, such as the white sash on the tank or rear shock distracts the gaze and forces your eye in towards the single elements with lighter color. In this way, the wrap helps offer a cohesiveness to the look. Trend or not, it works to balance the form visually. No offense, but the question “is the wrap functional or not” fails to drive the nail as a criticism. Besides the bike is brimming with modern functionality, from engine to suspension and lighting, but all incorporated into an older engine and rider platform and no fenders, so of course it’s not ALL based on function, that’s the obvious statement.

    • JorisJ

      I understand i prefer a nice fabricated set, but I think it’s usually used to cover up the fact that the 30year old pipes aren’t that nice anymore. The bike is from the Netherlands where it is usually a fraction colder than in Autralia for instance. Does the heat soak thing applies then as well (serious question)?
      Overal a great looking bike, café racer dreams did one as well!

    • John Wanninger

      You know I agree about the pipe wrap. Learn how to weld/bend tube.

  • guvnor67

    Really rather bloody good!! I remember the GL500s being touted as a sort of baby goldwing (LOL), and this has escaped from that! Looks really tough but classy. Nice.

  • Bultaco Metralla

    Absolutely terrific, great craft and attention to detail. Love the paint work on the tank, it really works. Dunno about the huge space under the seat and I’ve never warmed to pipe wrap but overall what a ripper.

  • Wrench Kings

    Nice story guys! Thanks for featuring us!

  • Fast2Furious

    It might be better to have something to break-up that wide open space under the seat. And as long as you got that air shock why not make it slam right down to the ground.

    • JorisJ

      CRD did fill up the space, i’ve found a picture. It’s not completely the same bike, but the setup of the frame an engine is equal. I also like your rendering, looks a bit like all the virago’s.