If anyone had predicted thirty years ago that I would one day be regularly writing articles about custom built Honda CX500s, my response would have been one of disbelief. This response would not have been because the CX500 was a bad motorcycle but because there were so many more exciting and more powerful motorcycles available back then. This was after all the era of the Honda CBX1000 and Kawasaki KZ1300 six cylinder monsters; the Honda CB1100RC and 900F; the Suzuki GSX1100 and Katana; the Kawasaki Z1R 1000 AND THE Yamaha XS1100. With this choice of motorcycles, all capable of doing over 210km/h, who would look at a 160km/h 500cc motorcycle and drool. The CX,with it transverse V twin watercooled engine and shaft drive, was full of innovation. Its looks were however awkward, especially with the unfortunate but obvious comparison that could be made to the Italian beauty of the time with the similar engine layout, the air cooled Moto GUzzi 850 Le Mans. The CX500 did not seem to stand a chance in this power hungry market, but Honda had done their homework and the CX sold very well to daily motorcycle commuters. The number of CX500s sold and their legendary reliability have ensured that many of them are still gracing our roads today.
The disbelief I would have responded with back then, is similar to the disbelief I feel now as to how it took almost thirty years for mankind to realise and release the inner beauty of the Honda CX500! Be they built in brat or cafe racer style, the transformation from original is amazing yet uncomplicated. When I saw how many custom CX500s were being built, my fear was that I would soon run out of things to say about these motorcycles. Thank goodness my fear was unfounded. The only common feature that all these CX500 customs share is that they all are unique. The owners and builders all bring something new and innovative to each creation. Our featured cafe racer is the perfect example of a unique CX500 custom.
Michael Cruz, owner of Cruztomise Kustoms Speed Shop in Pretoria, built this CX500 as his personal motorcycle. He started off with a motorcycle which was in good overall running condition so that he would not have to do a ground up rebuild. The cosmetic changes he has made to the motorcycle have transformed the bland CX into a far more aggressive looking motorcycle. One of the most striking features and possibly my favourite feature, is how Michael angled the original, gutted silencers to run parallel to the frame tubing of the side covers. To achieve this angle he had to lengthen the standard header pipes before wrapping them.
Bar end mirrors and clubman handlebars are the norm for a cafe racer to look low and sporty. The yellow headlight lens is appealing and effective for being visible to other traffic. The standard front fender was shortened and refitted.
Notably, Michael fabricated the new seat base with tail piece and the flyscreen around the headlight from 1.2mm thick steel plate. I am sure many of you will appreciate the skill required for this type of fabrication.
Michael’s is possibly best known for his work as a custom spraypainter. He has been painting motorcycles and cars both locally and overseas for many years. The quality of the painting on this CX is thus excellent. The side covers were painted with black basecoat, without a clearcoat, to make them unobtrusive to the overall look of the cafe racer. Michael feels that using just the black basecoat provides a better matt finish than using premixed matt or satin black paint. The seat pad on Michael’s steel fabricated seat was made and upholstered by Dion the Leatherman. Dion’s handiwork can be seen on so many motorcycles, it is hard to believe he finds time to sleep!
The original gauges are still on the motorcycle, but without the original bulky console surround. The sidemount numberplate and taillight holder were made by Michael. The taillight he used is a replica of a 1932 Ford taillight which was purchased online from Old Skool Trading. Cruztomize has, until now, generally focussed on car customisation. Although Michael has built several motorcycles in the past, this is the first motorcycle to be built in his own shop. If the level of craftsmanship reflected in this CX500 is anything to go by, he better get ready to build a whole lot more!