Adventure bikes are getting bigger by the day. And although we question the wisdom of taking a machine weighing more than 500 pounds off road, we do see the appeal.
Big dual-sports are comfortable over distance, with tons of packing space and a strangely appealing aesthetic. But we like them even more when they’re oddball custom jobs.
This 1979 Gold Wing started out as an asphalt-loving mile-muncher. It’s now doing double duty as a gravel express, thanks to the ingenuity of Dutch builder Roy Holtman.
Based roughly fifty miles from Amsterdam in Apeldoorn, Roy operates as RH Motorcycles. (He writes and styles it as ‘Are Age’—a self-deprecating reference to his accent.)
He started riding bikes well before the legal age, thrashing mopeds in the woods near his house. Since they kept breaking down, he kept fixing them—so he quickly became the ‘go-to’ guy for repairs in his neighborhood.
All that experience came in handy when turning wrenches on the Honda GL1000. It was in such a state, Roy had to start with a complete nuts-and-bolts rebuild.
“I picked it up at a farm, where it was under a big pile of dust in a forgotten corner,” he tells us. “It’d been used for years as a daily driver on rainy Dutch days.”
“There was rust everywhere. The centerstand mount had actually ‘sagged’ through a rusted out part of the frame, so the front and rear wheels touched the ground even when it was on the stand.”
Roy repaired the frame, trimming it of any unnecessary bits and re-powder coating it in the process. He decided to keep the stock Comstar wheels, but completely stripped, refurbished and re-assembled them. They’re now wrapped in Mitas enduro rubber.
The work also included a full rewire, and an overhaul of the suspension and brakes. The front forks have been powder-coated black and treated to a pair of boots, and there are new shocks out back. A couple of off-the-shelf mufflers help reduce some visual weight.
The Gold Wing’s tank was originally designed to run under the seat, with a ‘dummy’ tank up top hiding the airbox and electronic components. Roy opted to stick with this configuration, which keeps the center of gravity low.
He did swop out the faux tank for a slightly later GL1100 unit though, “for better lines.” It now houses the clocks too, with the center panels covered in the same heavy-duty canvas adorning the custom-made seat. The canvas itself is recycled: it’s been cut from an old army tent.
It’s the detailing that gives this Gold Wing its utilitarian vibe. An ammo box on the right houses the battery and other electrical bits. And there’s a handy luggage rack—a re-purposed Kawasaki Z650 unit. Up front are some dirtbike bars, brown ‘Thruster‘ grips from Biltwell Inc. and a neat headlight grill.
And the bare metal finish? “It’s a reminder of the state the bike was in, when it rolled in to the shop,” says Roy.
“Since the tank hadn’t rusted straight through, all we did was strip it of paint and heavy rust, and coat it with the rust neutralizer/epoxy primer Brunox. It changes the color of rust particles to purple, and functions as a transparent base coat for a 2K clear coat.”
Thanks to the Gold Wing’s stock 19F/18R wheel sizes, the right combination of tires and the improvements to the suspension, Roy reports that the big tourer “handles better in the dirt than you might think!”
We don’t know if we’d attempt the Erzberg Enduro on it. But for bumbling along our local fire roads, it’s damn near perfect.