There is a lot to be said about picking a model of motorcycle to customise that is already popular in the industry. Parts are readily available, there is a wealth of knowledge on what does and doesn’t work and plenty of inspiration to be drawn from other builds. The problem comes, when if like Wena Customs of Poland, you pick such a bike and hope to not only stand out from the crowd but win trophies too. But their 1980 Honda CX500 is positive proof they can take a popular machine and build a bike so good that judges at the Poznan International Motor Show awarded them the prize for best cafe racer. Even more impressive is that the Wena Customs journey only began two short years ago, but the team brings together a wealth of knowledge that means this Honda has the go to match the show.
For nearly 30 years the Honda CX500 cruised the highways and byways of the world as a poor man’s cruiser, for those who couldn’t shell out the bucks for a Harley Davidson but still wanted the bars up style and the V-Twin heart beat. Then in the last ten years some clever folks around the world took the odd ball Honda, so ugly it was known as the “Plastic Maggot” and started turning them into a stunning line up of customs that just keep getting better. Enter Mathieu Renaud of Mr Motorcycles in Montreal who picked up this 1979 Honda CX500 Custom for the bargain price of just $1000 (Canadian) and put his years of experience in aeronautics into creating one of the cleanest and well put together CX customs we’ve ever seen.
The Honda CX500 has become a staple of the modern Cafe Racer scene, but very few have gone to the lengths that German Heinz Christmann has to make one very special neo-vintage machine. With a ‘79 Japanese bike, plenty of German know how and a cornucopia of the best parts from around the world he’s been able to create a bike that uses pieces as new as carbon fibre and as old as drum brakes. The end result is hard to classify. It’s a Cafe Racer no doubt, but it’s also high on technology while also paying more than a subtle tribute to the race bikes of old. Whatever you want to call it, it’s bloody brilliant.
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.
It’s a truism to say that most builders have a kind of love/hate relationship with their project bikes. From the elation experienced when a seat comes together perfectly with a frame to the utter torment of broken bolts, mysterious misfires and parts that magic themselves into other dimensions after they hit the floor, it’s more than common for builds to drag their makers through a gamut of emotions. But I think it’s fair to say that Brad White from Louisville, Kentucky’s 502 Moto has a painful build story that beats most. And when I say painful, I mean just that.
Written by Martin Hodgeson
To create a motorcycle so good that passers-by ask you when the factory started selling them, you need a designer, fabricator and builder capable of bringing such a bike to life. With his CX500RR, Mike Meyers has proven he is all three and starting out with the much maligned 1980 Honda CX500 he only made the task harder. But with a love for the look of the CX’s engine design and ready to prove the doubters wrong he built a café racer that would easily take pride of place on a Honda showroom floor.
Despite what the movies or books may have you believe about tortured artists, the one real killer of great creative ideas is more often than not the disease of over thinking. Forget writer’s block, drugs or a clichéd battle with sanity; we’d wager that getting caught up in the details to the point where you disappear up your own exhaust pipe is more often than not the cause of art that never sees daylight. And the cure is clear. You should always create without the constrains of self-imposed perfection and intricate planning. Just let things go where they take you. That’s what Germany’s Patrick Sauter did. And the result? It’s a bike worthy of Kerouac himself.
‘Plastic Maggots’ they called them. And all for an unassuming little fairing that some ‘genius’ decided didn’t suit their tastes. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water. Thirty five years later and the Honda CX series’ full potential is only just being realised. With a bullet-proof v-twin, shaft drive, liquid cooling and failsafe electrical system, this is a bike that oozes potential. Just ask the boys who used the bike to take the 500cc pushrod record at Bonneville. Them, and the very talented Josh Mott of JMR Customs.
When it comes to designing a custom bike, everyone has their own way of working. Some like to sketch, others like to use Photoshop, and a brave few will just build from a picture in their head. When Pablo Luzzi from Buenos Aires recently started Utopian Customs he wanted to approach each build in a similar fashion as he does in his day job as an advertising art director. “I prepare a creative brief to serve as a guideline and start developing a concept in accordance to that.” says Pablo. “That’s how I initiated this first project, spending hours making thumbnails and messing with Photoshop until I came up with a comp of the final bike.” Once Pablo had created his perfect ‘comp’ of the finished design, he then had to find the right donor bike to suit the concept – which was made harder by living in Argentina.
Written by Martin Hodgson
When you’re starting your build with a bike colloquially known as the “Flying Maggot” and other nicknames even less flattering the test of a builders skill is going to be put to the maximum test. Lorenzo and Delano both graphic designers with Nozem Amsterdam were more than up to the challenge of turning a maggot into the classy café that sits before you. But with the likes of Wrenchmonkees, Hageman Motorcycles and Moto Mucci already having built incredible examples, making a CX500 stand out from the crowd is increasingly more difficult. And the Nozem boys knew it “The idea was to make a cool, authentic looking CX500, there are a lot of CX500 builds nowadays, so it was a challenge to make the bike stand out.”