For generations, Harley-Davidson never offered a truly learner-friendly motorcycle, but like most manufacturers, they couldn’t resist the financial pressure. For a while, the Street range gave the Milwaukee brand a foot in the door, but last year they went all in, teaming up with two huge partners from China and India to bring the all-new X series to life. Here in Australia, the X350 and X500 were only previewed by the press last October and delivered to customers during January this year, so we thought it would be a good while before a true custom rolled into our inbox. But we should have known better, Noel Muller the craftsman of copious customs was already on the task, and from his Brisbane workshop, the Black Cycles sensation has delivered this exquisite bike dubbed ‘Project X’.

You might remember it was only a few months ago that we featured a stunning HD Street 500, with a slick Evel Knievel inspired theme that Noel had built for a regular client, Jacob. As it turns out, before that bike had even been delivered, Jacob had placed an order for the all-new X500 from Harley and told Noel it would be sent straight to his workshop and it should arrive sometime in January. “I was stoked as I love transforming bikes into something they weren’t designed to be! Jacob is great, he just said ‘I’d like a cafe racer style’ and he didn’t want it to look like a rainbow (not a lot of bright colours) and that was it.”

Given the insane number of incredible creations Noel has built over the years, you can see why Jacob had so much faith, and being the owner of many a Black Cycles machine, he knows he would get one hell of a cool custom in return. But being such a new bike, Noel had nobody to follow, no off-the-shelf parts to benefit from and needed to conceive the best path forward. At first, he considered a modern scrambler, but the removal of the fuel tank revealed a huge airbox that he wanted to retain. “So after seeing Wedge Motorcycles had already built a ‘classic’ styled X500, I decided to go for a modern/contemporary style cafe racer.” And with the clock ticking, the bike was stripped back to reveal a blank canvas.

The ugly plastics had gone, the less-than-attractive seat and subframe, and those bars and instruments that are definitely from the budget bin, to help keep the base cost of these bikes low. “I next went about building a completely new sleek minimalist subframe which still needed to contain the ABS pump & most of the existing electronics. This was made from heavy wall steel tube & filled in with shaped 1mm steel sheet.” Instantly the weird lines of the plastic fantastic rear end had been transformed into a slick and stylish change and this was by no means the main attraction. That would be the fuel tank.

Noel decided that it made sense to use some of the factory item, it contains the fuel pump and its components and slots neatly over the big airbox. So, with the grinder fired up, he cut the tank up keeping the base and then began the work of shaping a totally custom piece, from 1mm steel sheet, delivering a smooth top section and those stunning sides. To add even more drama to the look, a pair of X shapes give a 3D-like appearance and are then welded to the main part of the tank. To complete the bodywork, Noel took the stock headlight, mounted it closer to the forks and then worked his wizardry once again, to produce that stunning shroud.

“I decided early on that a real carbon fibre skin would look great over the tank and shroud so I enlisted Mircea at Enhanced Composites to handle the tricky shapes. It was then over to Justin at Popbang Classics for final smoothing, edge airbrushed fades, candy orange and a few Harley bar n’ shield logos before several coats of clear,” Noel explains. He’s pretty handy with the paint gun himself, so while the others took care of their tasks, he was laying down the black on a host of parts and pieces. Noel also built and shaped the seat unit itself, before it was over to Adam at Carman’s Auto Trimmers to make a minimalist cover with the X theme continued.

To get the stance of the bike right, it was clear it had to go lower, and Chris from XXX Rated Suspension has worked his magic to drop both ends of the bike around 60mm. Noel smoothed out the upper triple and then wrapped around the front forks are a set of new clip-on bars, which have been fitted with all of the best bits. “A new throttle housing, billet switches, Highsider mirrors & Motogadget bar end indicators. There’s also a Motogadget mini in the front of the tank & Motogadget keyless mo.lock under the tank.” At the rear, the factory plate holder is drastically cleaned up and then gets the ever popular Kellermann all-in-one led taillights. The tidying up of the bike continued, and it’s no easy task on a modern machine with so many pieces to hide.

“I also made an aluminium overflow tank & then a battery box which resides under the swingarm.” And then to go another step further, the original overflow and carbon canister were removed from behind the cylinder head, so you can enjoy a little more of the engine’s visual appearance. But there was nothing to enjoy about the stock exhaust. Noel ditched the crap and then made a link pipe to flow to the stainless shorty muffler.

Justin returned to finish all of the wiring, and Noel made a small stainless guard for the lower front of the headers. Quite simply it’s another Black Cycles sensation, built in a way that defies its budget base and sets the standard for the all-new HD X range. As for Jacob’s impression, “That is INSANE!” he smiled, jaw on the floor.

[ Black Cycles | Photography by Gold Coast Studio ]