This is Tommy Sheen's 1978 Honda CX500, a bike that he was too modest to share, so we had to persuade him that it was exactly the kind of machine we like to feature here on The Bike Shed: An honest cafe/brat hybrid, build to ride, complete with a dented tank and no-nonsense attitude, but a build that has exactly the right lines and balance to be the kind of bike that makes people like us stop and stare in appreciation of it's brutish simplicity.
The bike was built with two things in mind. 1. Ride every day. 2. Spend no money.
It was Tommy's wife who suggested he get a bike as they had to share the car, so after some research and inspiration for Dave Mucci
the CX was selected as solid, reliable but still able to be customised into a cool ride, and the story began.
"When I first bought this bike last summer it was far from clean and in very poor condition. The previous owner had attempted to turn the bike into a chopper, but instead of actually chopping it he just took everything apart, painted her with pin striping, lowered the rear end and added a one-up seat"
"The ad stated that the only thing it needed was to have the ignition wired up. Little did I know that when he'd put the bike back together he'd hand-tightened every bolt, leaving the wiring harness a mess in an old paint bucket. When I say he had HAND-TIGHTENED every bolt, I mean, EVERY bolt. After many hours spent with friends and many lessons on what wires do to give the bike life, I finally got it running, only to have the wheel hub bolts start vibrating off in the street!"
With $1,000 too much already spent on a "shitty death-trap of a bike
", Tommy was under pressure from his better half to get the Honda running and safe before his nursing school started back up. He had to to buckle-down, working day and night on the rats-nest of wires to transform it into a working harness. Then, having got the bike running the Lithium battery blew up thanks to a poor quality aftermarket rectifier. Thankfully the supplier, Sycl Batteries
, replaced the blown battery free of charge.
"I'd heard nightmarish tales of being stranded on the side of the road thanks to the CDI boxes giving up, so I ended getting in on a group-buy for an Ignitech system for ~$140 (money well spent). After all the controls were cleaned out and soldered up (they were not working before) I figured I was done with the electronics forever."
With the electrical components complete Tommy's next step was the carburetors... "How did those fuel/air mixture screws get broken off?"
"I eventually rigged up a synchronizer with ATF fluid, a 2x4 and cleaned the carbs out (3 times) before I felt that on-bike tuning was all she needed. I had purchased the tank that is currently installed because I liked the feel of it between my legs. It is ratty, with some huge dents, but the insides were clear of rust for the most part so I installed her as is, I figured if she looked TOO good then someone might be more apt to steal her."
Next up it was the cosmetics. Tommy cut the fenders two or three times before he got the shape and position that he wanted. The wiring, battery, starter solenoid, and Ignitech were housed in an ABS plastic box under the two-up seat but he hated the way the seat looked. Being on a tight budget Tommy decided to made up a seat pan himself from an 1/8" piece of round aluminum. He picked up some scrap foam for $10, some vinyl for another $10, and over the Christmas break he learned how to upholster a seat, and it looks like he did a fine job - although he says we shouldn't look to close.
"After that pretty much everything fell into place. The rear fender was cut one last time, and finally she got painted. Spray-can engine enamel semi-gloss black, $14 for two cans covered the tank, headlight and front/rear fenders with three coats."
So, no major chopping, welding or performance upgrades to the engine or suspension - and this was why Tommy was reluctant to share his build with the rest of us - but we think he's done exactly what he needed to do to create his own Shed-Built sweet ride that fits right into our cafe/custom/brat ethos of simplicity creating functional beauty. We even like the dented tank.
Tommy has been riding for 10 years and over that time has owned a '90 BMW K75, '01 Suzuki GS500e, and an '88 Honda NX250. "I loved them all, but this is by far the bike with the most of me in it, literally... blood, sweat and tears" .
..and once the money is rolling-in the experience of putting this modest CX together has inspired Tommy to do it all again with his next bike, so watch this space.