Take a look at a stock Honda NX650 Dominator, and it’s hard to believe how popular it’s become with custom builders. Lurking under all that bodywork is a pretty cool motorcycle though—a great all-rounder with legendary Honda reliability and loads of potential.
Honda produced the 644cc thumper from 1988 to 2000 as a faired dual-sport model, with a 21” front and 17” rear wheel. A second-hand NX650 is fairly easy to come by in most countries—and affordable—making it an excellent choice as a donor.
Sure, as ’90s adventure bikes go it’s not particularly ugly, but it doesn’t exactly scream ‘retro-custom’ either. The builders we’ve selected below have succeeded in taking the plastic-wrapped NX650 and making it lean, nimble and, ultimately—sexy.
If you’ve spotted a NX650 in your local classifieds, get your wallet ready, grab a pen and start taking notes.
KIDDO MOTORS UNO As the ‘Uno’ in the name implies, this 1988-model NX650 was the first build to roll out of Sergio Armet’s Kiddo Motors shop. Right off the bat it set a high standard—one that Sergio’s managed to maintain ever since.
Its stance and proportions are perfect, while high fenders, Excel rims (19” at the front and 18” at the rear) and Continental TKC80 tyres give it an air of purpose. The frame’s been shortened at the back and polished, and a modified Yamaha XT500 tank’s been fitted—adorned with classic Honda colours. The rest of the finishes are just as tasteful—a rich brown leather seat, hand-made chain guard and beautifully welded GP-style exhaust—all working cohesively to create an industrial feel.
ANDREW GREENLAND Mr Greenland might not be a big name in the custom scene, but he’s quietly been churning out top-class NX650 customs for the last few years—most of them in the same utilitarian, dirt-tracker style as this one. In fact, anyone who’s considered modifying a Dommie probably has a couple of Andrew’s bikes among their references.
As with all of his projects, Andrew built this NX650 on a budget. Thankfully the donor bike had fairly low mileage, so he simply refurbished the engine, suspension and brakes, and limited performance mods to just a cone filter, carb rejet and heavy-duty clutch. He then shortened the subframe and fabricated the seat and tail section, and fitted a Honda CG125 tank and replica ’75 Honda Elsinore side panels. The rims are both 17”—wrapped in Continental TKC80s—and up front is an über-practical 8” Baja Designs headlight.
My favourite feature is the Honda-red paint job, reminiscent of the XRs of the ’80s, and complete with vintage Honda logos on the tank and ‘Pro-Link’ decals on the swingarm.
CAFE RACER DREAMS #25 Pedro Garcia and the CRD team are know for applying their trademark style to a wide range of makes and models—so it was inevitable that an NX650 would eventually find its way onto their bench. As usual they didn’t disappoint—slimming it down from chunky, plastic dual-sport to sleek town runabout.
It now sports a Yamaha XT500 fuel tank, finished in green and silver, and a bespoke brown leather seat—both complemented by the sand-coloured frame. The low-slung 2-into-1 exhaust was fabricated by long-time CRD collaborators Escapes GR. There’s also a K&N air filter, a new Öhlins rear shock and Excel rims—19” at the front and 18” at the back for a more balanced look. The battery’s been relocated to under the seat, and the front and rear lights are from CRD’s online store.
ANVIL MOTOCICLETTE ‘MADUNASSA’ All of the bikes from Milan’s Anvil Motociclette have a common thread running through them—they’re raw, monochromatic machines that look like they’re meant to be ridden in anger. This NX650 fits the bill superbly, with an added dose of playfulness.
It’s a ’91 model, brought in by a 31-year-old customer—hence the number on the side panels. Inspired by 70′s motocross bikes, the Anvil duo of Marco Filios and Alessandro Fontanesi immediately set about stripping the bike right down to the basics. They swapped the wheels out for 17” motard rims, shod with Continental TKC80 rubber, and installed a new 2-into-1 exhaust system. The frame was tweaked and a custom cowhide-cover seat fitted, along with an aluminium rear fender. The tank is of unknown origin—it was picked up at a flea market.
And, in case you’re wondering, the bike does get ridden in anger. The above photo was taken during a 70km trail ride in the Northern Italian countryside. [More about this bike]
MUFF CUSTOMS Muff Customs’ Josh Love had been riding this NX650 in stock trim for a year, when rolling into the workshop to sort out a carb issue led to him completely transforming it.
After a rejet and a top end rebuild, he set about ditching the stock plastics and de-tabbing the frame—finishing it with a textured grey powder coat. He then added an immaculate Honda CB125 tank that he’d been keeping for a special occasion, and fabricated a new seat. The stock wheels were retained (including the 21” front rim) and fitted with Avon Gripsters. A custom ‘tail tidy’ with an LED taillight was installed, but the stock silencers were left in order to retain some visual weight at the tail end. Everything that was hiding behind the unsightly stock plastics was relocated to under the seat, thanks to a custom wiring harness.
Josh’s Dominator is simple, tasteful and unpretentious, and fits well within Muff’s philosophy of building “bikes that will challenge you to an adventure in the dirt, and still be a pleasure to ride to the shops.” [Photo by James A. Grant | More about this bike]
So, now that you’ve bought that Honda NX650 and it’s on the bench, which of these motorcycles has inspired you the most?
Our previous Top 5 covered the Triumph Bonneville.