Honda XL500 ‘Swart Gevaar’

Honda XL500

Tucked away in Cape Town’s quaint Bo-Kaap area lies Los Muertos Motorcycles—a relatively new custom shop with a store-front-slash-café. During my first visit I noticed a stripped down ’81 Honda XL500 lurking behind the coffee counter, with a unique twin exhaust system that immediately piqued my curiosity. A few months later Swart Gevaar* was completed and standing in the same spot.

LMMC’s original plan was to build a street scrambler to thrash about at the Kalahari SpeedWeek. Honda’s venerable XL500 was the perfect candidate because of its reliable engine, scrambler frame and the nostalgia associated with it. So they scoured the net, found one in great condition and promptly set about tearing it apart.

Honda XL500
The bike wasn’t ready in time, however, so the decision was made to stretch the build. And, according to LMMC owner Craig Wessels, turn it “into an angry, belligerent little bastard that would suit its name. A bike to have fun on, and a great city runaround too—no sidewalk curb too high!”

Honda XL500
The XL was stripped of all its plastic bits, including the tank. This was replaced with a Yamaha XT250 unit, finished in gloss black with artwork by local artist David Brits. (In case you’re wondering, Ingozi is the Zulu/isiXhosa word for ‘Danger.’)

Honda XL500
LMMC ditched the airbox and fitted a Mikuni carb to help the XL500 breathe better. The exhausts were built by BSE Performance, and tucked away under a custom aluminum tail unit with an integrated light. This, along with the raised front fender, was hand crafted by local metal shaping guru Barry Ashmole. The engine casings were given a coat of VHT wrinkle, and a slim brown leather seat was added to punctuate the monotone color scheme.

To get the stance just right the wheels were replaced, with the front dropping down in size to 18” to match the rear, and shod with Maxxis off-road rubber. The stock suspension was retained but completely rebuilt. Finishing kit includes a smaller headlight (mounted high in the tradition of the old XLs), tiny, relocated turn signals, and ProTaper SE bars.

Honda XL500
LMMC clearly accomplished what they set out to … An angry, belligerent little bastard? You bet. And with just enough irreverence and pipe wrap to send the purists running for the hills.

Swart Gevaar is for sale—email Steve Pitt at Los Muertos Motorcycles if you’re interested. And even if you’re not buying, the LMMC website is worth a look.

* ‘Swaart Gevaar’ is Afrikaans for ‘Black Threat,’ and was a propaganda term used by South Africa’s Apartheid regime.

Honda XL500