The adventure bike market is booming at the moment and no manufacturer is willing to be left behind with all the big players having at least one offering on their showroom floor. Honda has four main machines in the segment, the Africa Twin and Transalp fill the conventional part of the segment, while the CRF300 Rally is for those who like to do their adventure riding at a Dakar speed. But then there is the CB500X, sure it lacks the bells and whistles of the segment’s biggest players – but costing as little as a quarter of the price – it’s a hell of a lot of fun for the money. One wise Queenslander knew a good thing when he saw it, snapped up a 2022 model and then took his spare change to Ellaspede who kitted him out with one sexy as hell, all-terrain hauler. 

Owner Stephen bought the CB500X brand new and then headed for the mountain roads for fun with some friends. “I wanted an adventure bike and something I could just jump on and ride. As I’d only had my restricted licence for a couple of months at the time, my options were limited. I love the simplicity, low cost and superb engineering of Honda bikes, so the CB500X was a natural choice.” But he soon realised that the bike could be so much more with a few tweaks in all the right places. So, “Why not turn it into a bike that you get excited about riding just by looking at it?”

Stephen already had a cafe racer build in progress at Ellaspede and having been around the Brisbane custom scene, he knew they were the guys for the job. “It didn’t take long for us to whip up a concept image and Stephen rolled the bike into Ellaspede fresh off a recent ride and still sporting the dust and dirt to prove it was already being put through its paces.” Looking the bike over, it was obvious the Honda could be slimmed down, lose some weight and really benefit from a new wheel and tyre package. And with Stephen being a tall guy, it would also be the perfect chance to ensure the ergonomics were spot on and give the bike some visual thrills.

To improve the machine’s offroad chops, the mag wheels and more road orientated tyres had to go, and the Ellaspede crew cooked up the perfect replacement. “ A bolt-on ‘VMX’ brand kit was chosen for its ‘outside spoke’ design, measuring 19×2.5” at the front and 17×4.25” at the rear. We hadn’t used this brand of wheel kit before but we’re impressed with the quality. Michelin Anakee Wild’s are the tyre of choice and look the part in 110/80-19 front and 170/60-17 rear.” The stock front suspension is Showa 41mm USD forks, not a bad thing, but MPE Suspension has made them a hell of a lot better with new internal springs, a re-valve and some heavier oil.

The rear shock, however, as on many stock bikes, is pretty crap and huge improvements are there to be had. This is achieved with a YSS MX456W Hi-Lo Mono Shock, featuring a remote res for improved oil cooling and the extension kit also adds 30mm more ground clearance. Now with a much sweeter handling ride, the controls were upgraded to suit and a set of high Pro Taper Evo Adventure bars are held by shorter Ballard’s risers to get Stephen’s hands in just the right place. These are protected by re-coated bark busters and a set of rotating Mk4 Pivot Pegz to provide sure footing and improve stand-up riding ability.

Now a host of the factory plastics could be ripped off and thrown away, including the tall screen and complex headlight arrangement, as well as a bunch of the body parts and the multi-piece front guard. This has been replaced with a simple steel item that will stand up to plenty of punishment out in the Aussie bush. “Keeping it in the family, the smaller aesthetic shape of a stock Honda CB125F seat and plastic side covers caught our eye, and with a little trimming and a couple of new mounts proved to be the perfect shape we were looking for.” 

Some additional aluminium side covers were then custom made to tie things together. At the rear, the frame was cut to shorten things and “a cross brace was added to improve strength and act as a mount for the custom rear rack, inner guard and Ellaspede Ninja star tail tidy number plate holder.” 

Then the seat foam was completely reshaped to provide a flatter surface for more maneuverability, while extra padding gives plenty of comfort for long days in the saddle. The trim choice is a stunner, UV-rated motocross vinyl in teal, with a white Honda logo to finish. Then to paint the rest of the bike, and as Stephen is an architect, he decided to sit back and be the customer, while letting the guys know he’s a kid of the ’80s.

The team searched the net for inspiration and in the factory race colours of the ’90s they found the perfect highlighter hues. “In the end, it was the factory purple and dark turquoise from the 1998 and 1994 Honda Transalps respectively that were chosen for the feature colours. With a modern Honda ‘attract yellow pearl’ being the perfect contrast partner.” 

To replace the big headlight unit, a simple grilled round light and smoked screen do a beautiful job of providing a minimalist look. To finish out the build there are some very clever custom touches, including Ellaspede’s own ABS on/off switch. The weight drops down too with a sweet Akrapovic Carbon muffler, which sounds spot on, and USB charging for navigation needs.

Stephen is thrilled but she’s no show pony, “It’s headed for forest trails and off-road terrain, via back country roads. It will inevitably be dropped and scratched and covered in mud and dust, and while it looks amazing all fresh and new, I can’t wait until it starts to gather the patina.”

[ Ellaspede ]