The Honda CX500 has been a hot fave in the custom scene for quite some time. But for some reason, the 500’s bigger sibling, the CX650, is often overlooked despite significant performance upgrades. Whether that’s to do with the more angular styling of the 650 or its availability we’ll never know, but what I do know is that if a custom CX650 is done right, I’d take it over a 500 any day. Take for instance this CX650 cafe racer by Massimiliano Satta of the Sardinian workshop, M-Cafe Garage.
Massimiliano describes himself as an enthusiast builder despite completing 3 or 4 builds a year of exceptional quality. His passion for two wheels is infectious and as such his workshop, which is located in Sardinia’s capital city of Cagliari, has become a hangout for local riders. When Massimiliano isn’t there you’ll find him racing his litre bikes at Autodromo di Mores where he has gained a solid understanding of what it takes to make a bike perform its best.
The 1982 Honda CX650 for this project was delivered to Massimiliano by its owner Nicola and it required some real attention. “The motorbike was preserved in good condition but had been standing still for 20 years,” he recalls. “With the approval of the owner, we opted for a total transformation to give a new spirit to this old milf.”
Massimiliano’s creations originate in his head which he translates onto paper as rough sketches, usually while sitting in front of a donor bike. For this build, he wanted to pay particular attention to the CX’s iconic v-twin so fairings were avoided. He also wanted to transform the motorcycle’s soul from that of a roadster to a sport bike and finish it in livery that left no question about its intended purpose, which was to be ridden with gusto.
After a complete teardown work began with modifications to the CX650 chassis. Along with the customary installation of an all-new subframe Massimiliano wanted to improve the motorcycle’s handling. To do this he set out to adjust the angle of the steering head. However, after making a few tweaks he decided the only way to achieve the desired outcome was to completely rework the frame.
“Along with the inclination of the steering head I rebuilt much of the frame by hand with iron pipes and sheet metal,” he says. “I used a pipe bender and wooden templates to create the new structure.”
Along with changes to the steering angle, this CX650 is sporting a complete suspension upgrade. The new front end was originally found on a Honda CBR1000 RR. In the rear is a custom YSS mono-shock painted to match the intended color scheme. In addition to the new springs, handling has been sharpened by swapping the original wheels out with matching 17-inch items. Another must-have for this stage of the build was classically styled spoked wheels. To achieve this it’s now wearing the front wheel from a BMW R9T. The rear is a custom creation that makes use of the original hub. To complete the arrangement both wheels have been wrapped in purposeful Pirelli rubber.
When it came to the styling of this CX650, Massimiliano wanted to give the bike a modern classic appearance. To achieve this he looked to its smaller sibling the CX500 for help. Perched atop the backbone of this CX650 cafe racer is a modified CX500 fuel tank that been positioned to establish a balanced bone line. Behind it is a tail unit of Massimiliano’s own design. Constructed from FRP, the shapely rear cowl converts the Honda to a single-seater and features winglet-style fins, an integrated LED tail lamp, and a custom-made license plate bracket and turn signal assembly. It’s an impressive-looking rear end, but the real showstopper is how it functions.
Using a design feature that Massimiliano has coined the “Cabrio Saddle”, the entire seat unit lifts at the front on a pair of struts. The effect looks similar to the flip-top cars you see at Drag Strips. I’d imagine the bike’s owner will use any excuse he can to do this in public as it will undoubtedly impress any onlookers.
Completing the revisions to the bodywork is a custom front fender, a one-off headlight surround, and seat upholstery by Luca di L.R. Lehater.
In addition to the new bodywork, this CX650 wears a raft of aftermarket accessories that complete its new look. To smarten things up in the cockpit there’s a Motogadget Motoscope Mini digital gauge between the top clamp and the headlight cowl. Massimiliano’s also replaced the plastic Honda switch blocks with machined backlit push button alternatives and fitted a new master cylinder, clip-on bars, and a Domino throttle assembly. The red brake lines are aeronautical standard items, there’s a new clutch controller from Accossato and the revised riding position has been completed with the fitment of rear set foot pegs.
Massimiliano’s history with racing has taught him that reliability is an essential component of every motorcycle so this Honda comes with an entirely new, bespoke wiring loom that’s hooked up to a lightweight Lithium battery.
Pushing the limits of the CX engine was never a goal of this project. Instead, it was given a thorough going over to ensure smooth operation for years to come. Of course, a little bump in performance never hurts, so Massimiliano fitted the intakes with free-flowing filters, tuned the carbs to suit, and fabricated his own exhaust. The 2-into-2 stainless steel system uses a mix of hand-bent and pie-cut curves to reach their intended destination. Filling the void between the rear wheel and tail unit is a set of MAD exhausts mufflers. It’s a striking design feature and in Massimiliano’s own words, makes the bike sound “scary”.
All of the changes to this CX650 have resulted in a dramatically better-looking motorcycle that weighs an impressive 50kg less than before. To finish things off the bike wears paintwork inspired by Honda’s HRC division. The new look hints at how this CX now performs which according to Massimiliano is “fast to drive and very fun”, and I see no reason to question the validity of that claim.