Thanks to the interwebs, the custom moto scene is a global village. I’ve never been to Třebíč in the Czech Republic—and I wouldn’t be able to pick it out on a map. But that doesn’t stop me from ogling this delightful Honda CB500 cafe racer.
It’s the work of David Zima of Rod Motorcycles. He only recently opened his shop full time, but he’s been into bikes since he was a kid—religiously attending MotoGP races at the famous Brno track 35 miles away.
Straight out of school David started work as a mechanic, customizing bikes on the side, both on his own and in collaboration with a local shop. Then a zany Honda CBR900RR streetfighter he built raised his profile, and motivated him to take things to the next level.
So he found an old building that used to be part of a brickyard, renovated it, and opened what he calls his “oasis of calm.”
But work on this 1975-model Honda CB500 had already started three years ago, with some 800 man-hours spent. Why the long timeline? “I was building a house, starting a family and working on my shop,” explains David.
Plus the bike wasn’t exactly in stellar condition when it came in. “It was awful,” he says. “It wouldn’t start, there were parts missing, and there was rust everywhere.”
The project kicked off with a series of sketches and a round of careful component selection. Then it was time to strip it down and undo years of neglect.
The frame was de-tabbed and cleaned up, and a new subframe built to finish it off. Up top is hand-made aluminum tail hump, hiding a Lithium-ion battery. We’re especially loving the tail light execution; David’s sunk a round LED half-and-half into the tail and rear loop.
The fuel tank caught our eye too. It’s actually the stock Honda unit, modified with a pair of smooth knee indents for a radically different look. It’s also adorned with a custom-made fuel cap, featuring its own unique latch.
There’s an obsessive level of attention to detail going on up front too. It starts with a Daytona headlight and speedo combo, with the instrument mounted in the headlight bucket. Push buttons and LED idiot lights are neatly arranged around the circular dial.
Hand-made stainless steel clip-on bars wear red leather-wrapped grips and built-in switches. To keep things consistent, the right-side throttle housing has been modded to wear the same style buttons.
The whole setup is handled by a Black Box II ECU unit, stashed away under the tank. The electric system has also been simplified, with the starter switch hidden away under the tank too. “Or,” David says with a smile, “if you want to be cool or stylish, you can kick start it.”
Suspension upgrades are minimal: the rear shocks have been swapped out, and the front forks refurbished and shortened. A set of Akront rims replaces the stock items, laced up with stainless steel spokes. Avon Roadrider tires provide good levels of grip without looking too modern.
It’s the engine that proved to be the biggest challenge, though. The bike came with a CB550 motor wedged in, but it wouldn’t even turn over. So David rebuilt it from the ground up, and had it bored out to 600 cc for even more grunt.
All the aluminum parts were chemically cleaned and polished. The carbs were refurbished, and kitted out with velocity stacks. The exhaust system is custom, capped off with a pair of throaty stainless steel silencers.
There are hand-built details everywhere. The rear sets, handlebar brackets, chain guard and side stand are all one-offs, made with either stainless steel or Duralumin.
Even the upper triple clamp has been modified, to remove the original handlebar clamps. The sprocket cover has been drilled out for effect, and there’s even a splashguard—placed in front of the intakes to keep them clear of muck.
A matte silver pearl coat on the bodywork and frame keeps things elegant, with red highlights to set it off. “Something not too ‘in your face’,” says David, “but also not something you can easily overlook.”
Then it was time to put the CB together, set up the ignition and kick-start it. And it fired on the first try. “Hearing that sound, after finishing a bike that I worked on for such a long time, is just priceless,” says David.
And the perfect way to christen a new shop, too.
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