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‘Cestus’ ‘75 Honda Gold Wing – Cardsharper Customs

Posted on February 3, 2017 by Andrew in Café Racer, Racer. 34 comments

Whenever I think of big Honda tourers I think of the hulking modern ones. You’ve probably seen them – they’re hard to miss. They have stereos, airbags, a reverse gear, heated seats and air conditioning. Honda call it the ‘Gold Wing’ but I usually refer to it as ‘Just go buy a goddamn car’. But the earlier 70’s models are something else. They were still monstrous bikes for their time, but they were simpler, mile-munching naked cruisers. And that’s what Poland’s Cardsharper Customs have tackled – a 1975 Honda GL1000 dubbed ‘Cestus’.

Unless you’re a student of ancient history or a gladiator with half your face punched off, you’re unlikely to know what a cestus is. It was a Roman boxing glove, a series of leather straps wrapped around iron spikes or plates used in battle and for domestic. Apparently boxing with cestuses was a popular bloodsport two thousand years ago before it was banned.

“Unless you’re a student of ancient history or a gladiator with half your face punched off, you’re unlikely to know what a cestus is.”

The name makes sense now with the attitude of Cardsharper’s new creation, but it wouldn’t have suited the original bike so well. The GL1000 was Honda riding full tilt into the US market in the 70’s after the screaming success of the CB750. The CB was the first production bike to combine good handling, a reliable powerplant, excellent brakes and a complete dearth of personality into the one easy, low-maintenance package. Compared to that the GL was designed to be a powerful highway bomber, able to eat up miles on the US interstate. It was a big ol’ powerful machine, but wasn’t no cestus.

The early Gold Wing also found some success in Europe, and this old example was provided to Cardsharper by a customer, who took it to the Lublin-based workshop for them to work their magic. The client was after a particular style of build, but ‘the customer is always right’ doesn’t necessarily ring true with Jacek Mulak, head of Cardsharper.

“The customer delivered the motorcycle, he wanted something in the café racer style,” Jacek says. “But I’m not going to limit myself with what a café racer should or should not have. Right from the start I offered to go for something aggressive, dynamic and beefy. I wanted some sharp and firm lines.” Looking at the finished product, it looks like Jacek convinced him. And we’re all the better for it.

“The standard Gold Wing used the tank as a shroud for fuses and fluids. And a compartment to store things like your wallet, gloves or snub-nosed .38.”

The first thing to go onto the bike was a CBX550 fuel tank. The guts of it were ripped out, and it was modified to sit neatly atop of the frame. And there’s no fuel in it – as with the original design the gas tank is actually a cosmetic cover. The standard Gold Wing actually used the tank as a shroud for fuses and fluids. And a compartment to store things like your wallet, gloves or snub-nosed .38. This time around it takes a tidy digital dash instead.

Underneath that the real fuel tank was slimmed down and shallowed out. At the rear the subframe was cut, shut and bent to take a new single pan and chocolate coloured seat. All extraneous bits were removed and powder coated gloss black, including the air intakes, which were fabbed up from scratch by Jacek.

Rather than the stilt-like conventional forks on the original ‘75 Gold Wing this GL has switched them out for a chunkier and shorter pair of GSXR750 USD forks. Those wavvy twin front discs and master cylinder will make a much easier job of hauling up the Honda’s 270kg weight in a respectable time.

And no small amount of that heft is from the hulking flat four 999cc engine, which Cardsharper stripped and refinished in powdercoat and VHT cast iron. The engine didn’t need to come apart for this build as they’re typically over-engineered and under stressed powerplants that are likely to outlive their owners, their children and religion itself.

Jacek stated when starting the build that he didn’t want it to look like other Gold Wing customs. “Most of the Honda Gold Wing modifications look very static and heavy.” And he’s right. But this one is different. It’s no small task making something that big look good. After a lot of work he’s managed to build a big ol’ interstate bomber into something much more lowdown and aggressive.

[Cardsharper Customs – Instagram | Photos by Michał Węgrzynek]

  • Cash Burnett

    I love how they incorporated air intake vents into the front bottom edges of the tank. Nice touch.

    • Dave Coetzee

      And what a beautifully shaped tank!

  • the light in the tail is boss

  • Olav Cramer

    This is by far the best execution of a Cafe using the Goldwing engine. Love the lines, and it finally doesn’t look like a hack job. Nicely done!

  • Artem Terekhov

    Lean, mean, fast cruising machine

  • Jim Roberts

    starting with the same kinda’-sorta’ engine package vs. conventional aesthetics dilemma that the custom BMW “brick” builders face…well obviously that was a challenge that the builder was more than up to. my thoughts on the first picture were confirmed by the last, that’s a big boys bike. there’s so much good stuff out there in the way of paint and seat coverings, graphics, etc. that what i look for is the subtlety of proportion and this has it in spades. nice bike
    i’d ride it.

  • Talking about creativity and skills! Gentlemen I bow!
    Built the same bike around a CB 750 and the custom world will get dizzy!!!

  • BobFalfa

    Outstanding, Even stuff I would and have criticised(often) don’t pale the bike, best that’s been here for a long time

  • guvnor67

    The Automatic’s “Monster” and Motorhead’s “Iron Fist” exploded into my cranium when I saw this. And It’s bloody awesome!! The very-large-man-on-board (?) shot shows how much work has gone into reducing a land barge, a super freighter, into a frigate or destroyer!! Great stuff!!!

    • No – he is actually huge.

      • guvnor67

        Not kidding! He makes a Goldwing look like a Lambretta!

  • AB

    This is superbly executed. Possibly the best modified GW I have viewed. Question, is that guy on the bike absolutely huge or have they trimmed the Wing down in size more than I think?

  • the watcher

    I see plenty of Wing customs, most are intriguing at best, but this is the first I’d be interested in actually riding. Oh, and the rider-on-board shot should be bloody compulsory.

    • Jacek mentioned that the guy in the bike (him?) is over six foot tall, so the bike is actually much bigger than it seems in that shot.

  • Trumpet2300

    Very cool, new fav GL custom. Closely followed by this much simpler one spotted recently on instagram:

  • Bultaco Metralla

    Many years ago I met a GW four rider at Kiandra on the Snowy Mountains Highway, the bike was about ten years old then and well worn with leather panniers and a lot of dust. Talking with him and listening to his tales of monster mileage made me think I had misjudged the GW and should stop my slavish addiction to flat twins.and get one but I couldn’t find one in good enough condition. This bike brings it all back and I regret that I didn’t persist. This is a really nice piece of work with a lot of thought and craft.

    • I totally have a soft spot for them. Even more so after seeing this…

  • Don Arnold

    In the States the much improved GL1200’s are down to $2k and you can’t give the 1000’s and 1100’s away. Examples like this will drag those hulks out of the mud.

  • Mike Learn

    This GL is wickedly perfect. So many tasteful choices. Love…love… love it.

  • Patriccio

    Man, what a nice looking Goldwing. Details are nice. The battery case, tank shelter-seat junction, radiator scoop– yea, just like Jay Leno would say, “Nicely done.” The builder probably re-habbed the buttons on the carbs too. Headers are a little raw for me, though. The finish on the engine, valve covers, & timing belt cover looks great. Spoked wheels. And is that rear rotor original equipment? It looks huge! Typically, brown & blue aren’t complementary colors, but that giant on the seat covers it, so that’s OK. Actually, the giant could use a fashion make over; his attire is a bit incongruous (well, his helmet matches the bike).
    FYI: There are more Goldwings at Naked Goldwing

  • JayJay

    the bodywork on this thing is superb.

  • John_Tangeraas

    Awesome machine, like it a lot.

  • John in Pollock

    Best Goldwing ever

  • Davidabl2

    This one is no longer a “Hondabago” for sure. When I look at it “café” isn’t the term that comes to mind. But since I don’t know what you’d call it i guess “café” will have to do 🙂

    The only custom early GW’s I’ve seen in person are basically low-budget bobbers. Due probably to the bikes being for sale for cheap stateside, like the Kawasaki police bikes.

    This fine machine shows that the old “hulks”have a whole lot of unrealized potential..

    • guvnor67

      I guess more of a Cafe/Fighter than a straight out Cafe? Either way, It’s one helluva motorcycle!

      • Davidabl2

        I guess that’ll do for as a name for something like this.
        Even if it isn’t all black. Maybe that’s the cafe part of cafe/ fighter 🙂

        • Davidabl2

          …and it also explains the presence of some chrome.

  • bill smith

    Epic and elegant!

  • Charlie James Customs

    Really like how the taillight is done and the forks look right at home, would love to bomb this bike around town then stretch its legs on the highway. Cool build!

  • Amir Bagheri