An unsavoury nickname can be hard to shake. After its release in the late seventies, the Honda CX500 was rather nastily labelled the ‘plastic maggot’ by the motorcycling press. It’s a nickname that is by no means complimentary and one that you may still hear being thrown around some 45+ years on. But in reality, the Honda CX500 was a motorcycle that Honda can be proud of.
In 1978 the Australian publication Wheels nominated the CX500 as its Bike of the Year. Although the CX’s Guzzi-esque longitudinal v-twin didn’t deliver earth-shattering performance, it was well-known for its bulletproof reliability. In Australia and the UK, motorcycle couriers often chose the CX500 as their steed and there have been reports of them clocking up in excess of 200,000 trouble-free miles. To top it all off there was even a CX500 in 2017 which set 3 land speed records at Bonneville Salt flats, some 38 years after it rolled off the production line. And by the end of the model’s run, Honda had sold a staggering 300,000 CX500s which at the time made it one of the best-selling motorcycles of all time.
The Honda CX500 was branded the plastic maggot due to it being regarded as overweight and underpowered and thanks to the generously sized injection moulded fairings mounted to the touring model. Early models suffered a few factory issues which were resolved by dealerships, and the twin shock rear suspension was nothing to write home about. But towards the end of the production run in 1983 Honda gave the CX500 a major facelift. The CX500E Sport or Eurosport, featured an updated electronic ignition system, beefier ‘air’ forks, new wheels, twin disc front brakes, a single rear disc brake and an automatic chain tensioner. The model also boasted a revised rear end that replace the sloppy twin shocks with a more capable, and much less bulky, pro-link mono-shock system.
This heavily modified CX500E Sport is the work of the German workshop Kaspeed Moto. Run by Karsten Dressel and his twin sons Jimmy and Mick, Kaspeed specialise in classic Japanese and European motorcycles. Prior to this build, Kaspeed had already built a CX500 twin-shock cafe racer and a monoshock GL500 scrambler, but this time around they set out to build a CX with a sportier demeanour and modernised appearance.
After a complete teardown of their donor, Kaspeed set about remodelling the motorcycle’s rear end. To achieve the desired look the entire subframe from the centre posts back have been cut away. In its place sits a custom-made subframe and tail hoop. The new hoop sits on small, triangulated struts and the whole structure has been kept short to keep things tight. The new hoop also creates space between the tail and rear wheel by kicking up twice. Along with helping to secure the rider in place, this gives the bike a unique, insectoid-like appearance that makes this custom CX500 stand out from the crowd. To complete the frame’s renovation Kaspeed cleaned up the rest of the chassis and gave it a fresh coat of satin black.
In regard to the bodywork, Kaspeed has dispensed with anything that even remotely resembles plastic.
Since the CX’s stock tank suited the modern-retro aesthetic of this build, they’ve opted to retain it. The black leather seat however is a bespoke piece which fuses with the stock tank seamlessly by wrapping neatly around its hindquarters. Replacing the CX500’s dated bikini fairing is a modern LED headlamp sitting in CNC brackets. Above it, a small 3D-printed wind deflector protects a Koso digital speedometer from the elements. Both the front and rear fenders are lightweight aluminium items and to keep the rear end clean the license plate has been relocated to a hugger style bracket over the rear wheel.
Scan your eye over the rest of this Honda and you’ll find no shortage of styling and accessory tweaks. Most of the running gear is now satin black to match the frame with the exception of a handful of polished details which draw attention to where Kaspeed want it. The beefy handlebars are LSL items and they wear a single aftermarket bar-end mirror, Kellermann bar-end indicators, an aftermarket fluid reservoir and all-new cables, switch blocks, grips and levers. The footpegs are modern rear sets, rear end lighting is LED powered and all of the fasteners have been swapped out with brand-new alternatives.
During the comprehensive rebuild of this CX500 Kaspeed hasn’t overlooked performance. After a partial rebuild and thorough service, the longitudinal v-twin has been fitted with DNA pod filters and the carbs bead-blasted, rebuilt and re-jetted to feed more fuel to the cylinders. At the noisy end of the combustion cycle sits a Pro Race exhaust system with tuned headers and short mufflers by Arrow Exhausts. To hop things up in the handling department the shock supporting the rear end has been upgraded using a YSS monoshock and the forks rebuilt and adjusted to revise the bike’s stance. Lastly, Kaspeed has wrapped the CX500’s matching 18-inch wheels in sticky Metzeler Roadtec 01 rubber.
To complete the transformation of this plastic maggot, Kaspeed has finished the fuel tank and fairing in custom paint. Over a basecoat of glistening metallic silver, they’ve applied Kaspeed Moto lettering and speed stripes using a VW Beetle colour named ‘Willow Green”. The spring of the YSS shock is also green to help tie things together and there are engraved Kaspeed badges adorning the engine. The result of all this hard work is a 40-year-old motorcycle that looks as though it’s just rolled off a showroom floor. This CX may have once been tarnished by a nasty nickname, but there’s little chance of that ever happening again.