The turnaround in the reputation of the Honda CX500 is quite remarkable. Despite its unsavory nicknames, the water-cooled V-twin is now in serious demand by customizers—three decades since production ended.
It’s not an easy bike to modify. The tank sits awkwardly on the frame, higher at the front than the back. And behind the engine, said frame bears more resemblance to a Victorian baby stroller than a motorcycle capable of doing the ton.
So we have great admiration for the handful of builders who can make a CX500 look good. And it’s a pleasure to induct a new builder into that esteemed company: Justin Holmes of PopBang Classics, a small custom shop on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Justin is a one-man show, specializing in pre-85 bikes of any make or model. “I’m a mechanic and spray painter by trade,” he tells us, “but worked in automotive engineering for over six years.”
His latest build is long and low, and a far cry from the 1981-spec donor CX500 Custom. “It cost $500 as a completely dismantled basket case, engine and all,” says Justin. “But it came with enough to spares to build the bike five times over.”
Justin’s client Dan had just two simple instructions: paint it green, and put the biggest tires possible on it.
Justin started by molding a Norton-shape fuel tank out of fiberglass—modifying the tunnel to fit the CX500 backbone. The paint is from Jaguar, an iconic British Racing Green—with a custom stained timber effect and a gold leaf pinstripe.
The next job was to bend up a new Chromoly rear frame, mount the extended shocks in a better position, and fit a custom-made brass and aluminum taillight. There’s now a battery box welded underneath the frame too.
The V-twin has now been glass-blasted and completely rebuilt with a new crank and pistons, so it should be good for another thirty years of life.
The carbs have been aqua-blasted, and now suck air through intakes machined out of aluminum round bar. Look closely and you’ll spot a foam filter between two layers of brass mesh inside.
Justin’s even fitted a hydraulic clutch, with matching master cylinders on the clip-on bars. And rather than just spray the motor with hi-temp black, he’s shot it with a subtle mix of metallic grey and brown. It’s finished off with brass nuts and custom made stainless badges, and there’s lustrous polished brass on the radiator too.
The CX500 was one of the first Hondas to have Comstar wheels, but they don’t suit the style of this bike. So Justin used CAD to design spoke adaptor rings for the front and rear hubs, and had them made with a water jet cutter.
Because of the large tires, the rear swing arm has been shaved a little. And the fork tubes are shortened 40mm to get the stance just right. A CB400 bottom triple clamp increases the fork travel, and is matched to a custom-made top triple—which accommodates a Motogadget Mini speedo, countersunk LEDs, and flush-mounted buttons.
The superb detailing doesn’t stop there. The headlight is a vintage spotlight with a brass ring and mount, matching the brass highlights elsewhere. Justin’s retrofitted a new lens, bulb and stone guard to bring it up to modern standards.
The fully adjustable rearsets are one-offs: Designed on CAD to match the pattern on the motor, and then subjected to the water jet. All the linkages are custom made, along with blank-off caps for the side of the frame. The grips are Brooks England leather cycle wrap, with custom-made end caps.
It’s a while since we’ve seen this level of perfectionism, but that doesn’t mean this CX500 is a trailer queen. “The bike handles really well despite the large tires,” says Justin, “and loves to cruise at high speed. It’s quite nimble for its size, and super-light.”
Keep an eye out for the PopBang Classics name—and if you find yourself on Queensland’s sunny Gold Coast, pop over to the workshop for a visit. We have a feeling we’ll be hearing a lot more about Justin Holmes in the years to come.