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The Honda CB500 cafe racer that staved off bankruptcy

The Honda CB500 cafe racer that kept a Swedish custom shop afloat
Building custom motorcycles can be a tough game. And the Swedish builder Fredrik Pål Persson was ready to throw in the towel, just before the commission came in for this rather chic Honda café racer.

His shop, Malmö-based PAAL Motorcycles, has been operating for five years now. But last year, the business almost closed down. “We basically hit rock bottom,” Fredrik admits.

The Honda CB500 cafe racer that kept a Swedish custom shop afloat
“We were paying for costly mistakes we made, and we had to downscale everything. We sold everything we could sell, and held our breath to avoid going bankrupt.”

“When a client asked us to build a CB500, I was standing on a pivot. I could say no and close the shop—or say yes, while knowing that all profit had to go back into the company, and I wouldn’t be able to take out a salary.”

The Honda CB500 cafe racer that kept a Swedish custom shop afloat
Fredrik decided to say yes. He also decided to sell his home and invest the profit into the company: “I was basically buying one more year to follow my dreams.”

Since Fredrik was going all in, he knew that the CB500 would have to be one of the shop’s best builds to date. “A bike that truly represents what we stand for as a brand here at PAAL,” he says. “Design, craftsmanship, quality and performance.”

The Honda CB500 cafe racer that kept a Swedish custom shop afloat
The donor—a 1976 CB500—was liberated from Fredrick’s own cache. It was a bike that he’d customized years ago, but he was never quite happy with it. It was a candidate for a complete makeover.

So the PAAL crew stripped the motor down (again), building it up with new valves and reworked cylinders. The engine also got a new coat of paint, and the carbs were refreshed, and tuned to run with pod filters. Ancillary bits like cables, bearings, seals, and the chain and sprockets, were all replaced.

The Honda CB500 cafe racer that kept a Swedish custom shop afloat
PAAL then ripped out all the wiring and started over with a Bluetooth-enabled Motogadget m.unit Blue module. The setup includes a Lithium-ion battery, and a new digital ignition.

They also installed LED turn signals, a tiny speedo and switches from Motogadget, along with Motone control buttons and an LED taillight.

The Honda CB500 cafe racer that kept a Swedish custom shop afloat
The taillight’s neatly embedded in the back of a new, custom-built subframe. Up top is a custom-made seat in a classic café racer style, complete with a removable rear cowl. The fuel tank’s a one-off too, and includes PAAL’s signature upholstered indents on the sides.

The effect’s carried through to the gorgeous tank and cowl straps, and even to the custom leather grips. The actual bars are a set of KustomTech clip-ons, matched to Tarozzi rear-sets on hand-made brackets.

The Honda CB500 cafe racer that kept a Swedish custom shop afloat
PAAL rebuilt the front forks, installed new rear shocks, and overhauled the brakes. The wheels were refreshed too, with new stainless steel spokes, a fresh powder coat, and a set of Firestone Champion Deluxe tires.

The four-into-one exhaust system was fabricated in-house, and terminates in a chunky, low-slung muffler. The frame and a bunch of other components were powder coated black, while the bodywork was shot in a tasteful light grey.

The Honda CB500 cafe racer that kept a Swedish custom shop afloat
“We didn’t take any shortcuts on this bike,” says Fredrik. “Everything was done by the book, for the best outcome possible. It basically ended up being a brand new motorcycle, with modern performance, combined with some of our signature design features. Still keeping the retro vibe but bringing it in to the 21th century.”

Around the time PAAL were wrapping up the CB500, they were also turning screws on a Kawasaki KZ650 and a Honda CB750. And while Fredrik went into the projects with a weight on his shoulders, he came out the other side freshly invigorated.

The Honda CB500 cafe racer that kept a Swedish custom shop afloat
“A lot has changed now,” he says. “I found new partners and investors, and we’ve been able to slowly turn the ship around with a lot of hard work. We are now excited about the future and the path we’re on.”

“I know that I can write pages about all the parts we used on the bike. But the story of this bike represents a lot more then material things for us.”

The Honda CB500 cafe racer that kept a Swedish custom shop afloat
We’re glad to hear it: we hope to see many more bikes rolling out of PAAL’s doors in the future. And there’s a little more good news for Fredrik: his Kawasaki KZ650 is one of the stars of the 2019 Bike EXIF wall calendar.

Paal Motorcycles | Facebook | Instagram | Images by Yannick Wolff

The Honda CB500 cafe racer that kept a Swedish custom shop afloat

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