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Honda CX500 – Josh Deardorff

Posted on April 27, 2016 by Andrew in Café Racer. 17 comments

If you’re a regular Pipeburn reader, building a custom Honda CX500 might seem like a task that’s easier than not winning the lotto. But don’t let the pixel mirage fool you; it’s actually a really tough gig. You need a steady eye and a solid understanding of proportions to keep the bike from looking like a half-turned transformer. It’s clear not every builder can avoid that pitfall. This highlights why some CX500’s have it, and others just don’t float your metaphorical boat. The trick is to keep the quality high and the lines clean, which just so happens to be exactly what this bike, Josh Deardorff’s One Moto Show entry, did. And how.


Before we get lost in the sweetness of this build, let’s cover off a few key points. This Honda CX500 build started off as 9 totally different bikes that were transformed into one. This is no easy feat unless you’re driven by pure passion to try it, regardless of the nay-sayers. With a beefier front end, this CX500 immediately captures your attention. A quick glance might lead you to assume that it is stock. Fortunately you’d be wrong; it’s from a ‘08 CBR600rRR that’s been mated with custom spindle to the CX frame.


Knowing how to tweak a bike until it oozes class takes time. Josh has owned the CX500 for about 3 years now, and for the first year it sat in numerous crates and boxes that were hidden all around his home. At the time of purchase Josh hadn’t been big into riding, so technically this was his first bike and build. “Originally, the price of the bike caught my eye. I had recently been turned down for financing by Harley and was cruising Craigslist for pretty much anything. Finally I saw the CX500, did a quick Google search, and came across the Wrench Monkees build. I liked the look of their bike and after a little research, I decided it looked like something that I could achieve with some after-hours time at the shop I work at.” So Josh decided to go for it.

The bike strikes us as a classy, every-day rider that could easily be overlooked by the unaware. But for the locals who love bikes, their eyes are glued on Josh and the Honda as he slowly brings the bike to a stop in a busy industrial area on the West side of Portland. Even a few drivers stuck in their cars, fighting rush hour traffic couldn’t help but roll down their windows and give him a thumbs-up.


We began by discussing how he got into motorcycles. “Up to this point in life, my history with motorcycles was pretty brief, and was only the once-a-year dirtbike or quad trip while growing up. My friend had bought a Harley and was telling me how “motorcycles will change your life,” so I figured I would check into it some more. And the more I started looking into bikes and various builds, the more I felt drawn into the idea of building one. I’ve been in the metal fabrication industry for about 13 years now and I have built and/or worked on a lot of off-road vehicles, but I’ve never really paid too much attention to motorcycles. Aside from the occasional fantasy here and there, nothing had really stuck up to this point.”


Apparently that was until the Honda CX500 came into his life. “Almost every part of the bike has been changed or worked on in some way. Detailing the things that are still left from the stock bike would be an easier way to start,” says Josh.

The original frame has been completely modified and rebuilt, with it shortened to get the proportions exactly right. The swingarm is also the original, but has been heavily modified to work with the rear shock and pro-link setup, also from an ‘08 CBR600RR. The engine was complete and had only 1,700 original miles, so there was no need to go into the bottom end. With a freshened top end and a check on the internals the motor was pulled, cleaned by hand, and painted. He decided to take this opportunity to also strip the carbs for a thorough cleaning and re-jet them while he was at it. After dumping the original airbox in the trash, Josh added some more ear pleasing velocity stacks.


Amazingly, the rest of the bike is completely un-CX. The rear hub is a modified unit from a Honda GL1000, matched with a rear brake rotor from a Honda CBR1000F, whereas the rear brake caliper is from a Honda CBR600RR. Having upgraded the breaking power tremendously, the rear master cylinder needed an upgrade, so Josh opted for one from a Honda CRF450.

Not being a fan of the Comstars that normally accompany the ‘maggot’, a wheel swap was next on the list. And as many of you may know, wheel swaps never go as planned. The rear rim is from a 2014 Harley Davidson Dyna and the front is a Harley replica wheel. Having already done more custom work than he thought he would ever have to, Josh opted to retrofit the Tarozzi rearsets rather than build a set from scratch.


“The exhaust is completely custom and all stainless, the engine is now cooled by a Ducati fan, and the front hub is a modified Honda CB750 unit with the speedo drive still working. The front rotors are from a Honda CBR1000, the front brake and fork legs are from a ‘08 Honda CBR600RR, while the triple trees are custom machined pieces,” says Josh. Not wanting to forget our four-wheeled brethren, he’s also added a 1960s car fog light.

With the final touches just moments away, Josh couldn’t bring himself to order the Tarozzi clip-ons, so he decided to build his own. The tank is from a CX500 deluxe, but it has been narrowed by and has had the filler location changed. His top shelf fabrication skills were also responsible for the seat transition and elegant rear cowl.


And I say to myself, ‘what a beautiful weld’

This was not the final vision for the CX500, what you see now has been tweaked and tweaked again like a Guns N’ Roses album. “Many parts are on their second or third version. I learned a lot building this bike and there was a good amount of trial and error involved along the way. The rear suspension is on its third version because I didn’t like the double shock idea and the first monoshock didn’t work out the way I had hoped. The front suspension is also on its third version. There are a lot of other parts that have seen changes during the build process, but it all came together perfectly when I rode down to LA for the 2015 Deus bike build off.”


“That trip was an amazing experience and I kind of proved to myself that the bike was safe and pretty much finished. With that said, I don’t know that any project bike is ever truly finished though…” I guess it’s safe to say that not all bikes are done when the builder puts down the torch. We’re not sure about you, but for us this is inspiring as all hell. Why? Because it proves bikes truly are canvases that are never really finished. They are something that grow and change and get better over time, just like their builders and riders. And who could ask for more than that?


Red skies at night, rider’s delight

[Photos via]

  • I like the bare metal look on this bike a lot and shaft drive for some reason looks spare and clean. Don’t know what or how he did this but it looks very nice, very nice indeed.

  • Luke

    Love this. That tail light frenched into the rear cowl is the best thing I’ve seen in a while.

  • MotoTrooper

    Definitely some nice fabrication and design elements. But the front end looks seriously steep and unstable.

  • 1957 Panhead

    A lot of CXs of late, but this one stands out for me, even without flashy paint. Proportions are nice and it looks like it’s ready to pounce. It’s amazing how this bike looks so cohesive with parts from so many other bikes. Nice job, Josh.

    P.S. Like the two song references in the captions.

    • Hardley T Whipsnade III

      ‘ How many times can a man change a bike , before he can say that it’s done ? ‘

      PS; Got to be honest though . This build leaves me ‘ Cold as Ice ‘ from the aesthetics right on down to the quality of the craftsmanship not to mention when it comes to custom CX’s I/we’ve seen better . Don’t get me wrong . This is an ok build . Its just not a build that grabs me in the slightest . Perhaps a bit of paint might change my opinion seeing as how the metal work is a tad rough around the edges .

      • Motormouth Intolerant

        Still looks better than the craftsmanship seen on the Whipsnade Mk I .

  • John Wanninger

    I love this bike. The more I see them, The more I want a CX500.

    ATTN all other builders: That is how you build an exhaust.

    Exhaust of the year.

    • Hardley T Whipsnade III

      Seriously Mr Wanninger ? With those unfinished and rough edged welds ? I mean sure if ‘ hipster ‘ irony is the goal . But if displaying one’s craftsmanship with a torch was intended I’m afraid these pipes miss the mark .

      • jlgace

        After I weld something, I need to then take a grinder to it if I want it to look like it was done by an adult. I see no evidence of an effort to touch up those welds. I think it’s intentionally unpretentious and there’s even a little art in there with the rough look. And I’m not a fan of the pieced together pipes at all. Wasn’t even excited about the bike in the beginning, but the obvious effort and fabrication skills drew me in.

      • John Wanninger

        I dunno… Those look like nice tight little TIG welds laid down to me… ER308L rod Josh?

      • revdub

        Just shut up, Hardly fooling anyone – Guitarslinger – TJ Martin. Your whole personality and being miss the mark. That’s why you spend so much time here being an a$$face. This probably won’t surprise you, but no one wants you here. We get it, you like to be hated and it’s the only thing you’re successful at. Can’t you feed your need for pain somewhere else? Show one picture of something you have built or leave immediately. You’ve been challenged.

  • WhatsAppalachia

    How are they getting away with that much shaft angle at the swing arm? I thought that was one of the limitations of making the lines of these bikes horizontal.

    • jlgace

      Could it be that it looks worse because you’re seeing it unladen? With the typical 1.5 to 2″ sag of a rider it might be fine.

  • brianjedwards

    Bravo. Wonder what it’s like on the road.

  • Davidabl2

    Unlike many prior commentators, I actually like the rough edges on his bike.
    Except for one thing… I can’t help but wonder why the tank lip wasn’t rolled under when the tank was reworked?

  • Really nice job. Love the use of better front & rear ends whilst retaining the shaft drive. It looks clean & correctly proportioned. Love that rear cowl with the inset light.

  • the watcher

    Funny how such an abomination as the CX lends itself so well to customising and I even (quite) like the look of this one. BUT IT’S STILL A SLUG, PEOPLE. Too much emphasis on turd-polishing, too little on excitement!