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Custom of the Week: Honda ‘Highflyer’ CX500 by NCT Motorcycles



IT SEEMS STRANGE to see tire warmers on a Honda CX500.

The CX is known for its unique engine layout, shaft drive and gawky looks, rather than its performance. It still baffles us how this once despatch favorite became a darling of the custom scene.

Still, if there’s a shop that you can rely on to inject style into the CX500—and to go to the trouble of adding custom color-coded tire warmers—it’s NCT Motorcycles. The Austrian outfit never fails to knock it out the park, and has a knack for making every last detail count.

This 1978 CX500 was a project without a client—something NCT regularly does to keep their minds fresh. Shop boss David Widmann penned the design, drawing inspiration from the CB1100 TR Concept that Honda debuted in 2016.

With a clear direction on the table, the team set to work, stripping the Honda down to the basics. The CX’s attractiveness is severely hamstrung by a tank that slopes backwards and a weirdly kinked subframe; no good for what the lads had in mind.

They lopped off the rear half of the frame, ditching the CX’s original twin shock arrangement in the process. The swing arm was liberated of its original shock mounts and gifted a new one, attached to a new Öhlins unit.

Up top, NCT built a simpler, sharper subframe with a subtle kick in the tail. They then hand-shaped a new cowl and seat to cap it off. Instead of mounting up a regular taillight, the guys fitted a neat pair of multi-purpose Motogadget LEDs. The original fuel tank is still in play, but it’s been remounted at a better angle. And the filler neck’s been rebuilt to host a better-looking fuel cap.

There’s just as much goodness going on up front—in the form of the upside-down forks and yokes from a Ducati 749. NCT had to get fancy with the steering shaft to get everything to match up just right.

The guys opted to keep the CX’s Comstar wheels, wrapping them in Avon Roadriders. But they upgraded the twin front brake setup with a new Brembo system, connecting it to a Magura master cylinder.

When it came to the engine, the crew opted for a refresh rather than a serious upgrade. They ditched the airbox to make way for the new mono shock, fitting a set of cone filters. Then they set about on what David says was the hardest part of the build: the exhaust.

The entire twin-header system was hand-made from stainless steel, including the mufflers. The way they flow alongside the bike and kick up at the same angle as the tail is flawless, reinforcing the Honda’s aggressive new lines.

But it’s not just the CX’s racey new stance that has us hooked—it’s also the way every last finish is exquisite.

The motor, wheels and frame were all finished in a rich black, but the tank and tail were treated to a stunning silver, red and blue livery, adorned with subtle gold striping and a period-correct Honda wing logo. To push it over the finish line, NCT had the forks finished in blue, and the shock spring in red.

It’s another home run for NCT Motorcycles, which David puts down to teamwork. Manuel handled paint, framework and the seat fab, built the exhaust and mounted up the front end. Philipp stripped the bike and helped NCT’s workshop manager, Mario, put it all back together. And Mario also tackled the wiring.

When all was said and done, the team nicknamed the Honda ‘Highflyer,’ after a racehorse in the 18th century that went his entire career undefeated.

Sounds about right to us, since we’ve yet to see NCT Motorcycles put a foot wrong.

This article first appeared on Bike Exif; It’s republished here by permission.

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One Year On: Remembering Nicky Hayden




The news that Nicky Hayden passed away was devastating to the whole of the motorsport family.

This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.

Nicky was a champion to his core; from the way he raced to his fierce devotion to his family and the way he made time for everyone. He fought for every single position on every lap of every race and never once gave up. He was firm, leaving no room for doubt on track, but he was always fair and he was one of the hardest workers you’ll ever know, even in a world that includes nothing but riders who push themselves to the limit constantly.

In every way, Nicky was a shining star; images of his tear-stained face when he won his championship in 2006 will forever be ingrained in the collective MotoGP memory, his joy was so tangible that you could have wrapped yourself up in it. And that was Nicky, always inclusive. Whether it was a quick-witted remark in that wonderful Kentucky drawl that we’ll miss so much, his easy manner that made him a friend of everyone who knew him or the way he never turned someone away when they wanted a photo or an autograph. Nicky came from a racing family and he became an integral part of an even larger one.

Losing anyone is always heartbreaking but the loss of a rider when they were out training, doing something as everyday as cycling, makes Nicky’s death at just 35 years old even harder to comprehend.

Nicky holds a place in the MotoGP Hall of Fame, his status as a Legend firmly cemented long before he left for World Superbikes. But he holds something even more valuable; a spot in the collective heart of the entire motorcycle racing family.

His accent will forever raise a smile, at least for me, and his own superstar grin will now bring with it an indescribable sadness. But remember Nicky as he would’ve wanted; that fierce big-hearted champion who pushed himself and everyone around him to be their very best and as that young man who brought so much joy and who left us far too soon.

My thoughts are, of course, with all of the Hayden family, Nicky’s fiancee Jackie, his friends and his teams both past and present.

Now, I’m going to wipe away the tears and watch Valencia 2006 again. I hope you join me to remember Nicky Hayden; a champion, a gentleman and a star that can never truly be extinguished.

This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.

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Custom of the week: ‘V09’ BMW R80 by Vagabund Moto




BMW AIRHEAD CUSTOMS are like AC/DC songs: after a while, it’s hard to tell them all apart. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the style is usually pleasing to the eye.

But no one could ever accuse Vagabund Moto of following a conventional formula. Their approach is unique and their bikes buck the mainstream trend. So it’s ironic to learn that the owner of this razor-sharp R80 asked Vagabund to replicate the style of a custom R80 they finished two years ago.

Not surprisingly, builders Paul Brauchart and Philipp Rabl weren’t keen on the idea. “We don’t like to remake bikes we’ve done before,” Paul tells us. “So we suggested sketching out a concept that related to the V05—while adding some special parts.”

Paul and Philipp do their wrenching in a workshop in Graz, Austria, and do as much work as possible themselves. “We’re trying to stay a two-man operation for as long as possible,” says Paul. “We’re good friends and perfectionists. It’s hard to think about trusting someone else, or giving up our awesome workshop relationship.”

The pair started out with a relatively fresh classic tourer: a 1992 R80 RT with only 25,000 km on the dial. And thanks to BMW’s historically good build quality, there wasn’t much engine work needed.

“We took apart the engine and carbs, checked everything, and replaced the not so good parts. And then blasted and painted it.”

Getting the striking Vagabund ‘look’ meant ditching the bodywork though, apart from the fuel tank—but even that’s not quite original. The back end of the tunnel has been closed off, where the gap would normally be blocked by the bulky OEM seat.

Just behind it is a svelte new perch. Vagabund designed the tail hump digitally, then got it 3D printed. It means they could pack a ton of detail into a small space—from the multi-faceted upholstery by Christian Wahl, to the sculpted recess under the tail that hides an LED back light.

Everything sits on top of a custom-made subframe, and the main frame’s been liberated of any unneeded mounts. The rear’s now propped up by a new YSS shock. The wheels are stock, but the rear’s clad in a pair of glass fiber-reinforced plastic covers.

Up front, Vagabund shortened the forks by 60 mm, milled and powder coated the lower legs, and added a pair of fork boots. There’s a custom-made top triple clamp too, playing host to an integrated Motogadget speedo.

The handlebars are from LSL, and have been trimmed down. They wear a Grimeca master brake cylinder, a Domino clutch lever, and custom switches in a 3D-printed housing. There’s a small headlight out front, and a pair of Motogadget bar-end turn signals.

The rest of the bike’s been treated with equal consideration. It’s sporting a set of Continental ContiRoadAttack tires, K&N filters, and a Supertrapp muffler attached to the modified stock headers. And then there’s that striking livery, quite unlike any other we’ve seen, and expertly applied by Graz neighbors i-flow.

But it’s what’s missing that’s just as important: there’s no mess of wires vying for your eye’s attention. The bike’s been totally rewired, with a new diode board and two tiny Ultrabatt lithium-ion batteries, hiding under the tank.

“It’s very important to take care of every cable and braking line, and so on,” says Paul. “Even the handlebars are as clean as possible. It’s one of our biggest jobs to do a totally minimalist wiring setup, and we put a lot of work into parts that nobody ever sees.”

Despite the sano approach, this BMW is completely street legal in Austria. On top of the usual lighting, there’s a license plate bracket at the back that holds a pair of tiny Motogadget turn signals—with just the right amount of visibility to check legal boxes.

“It’s really difficult,” says Paul. “Every light has to be ECE-approved, and has to be mounted at the right angle and position. We have to examine all our builds and every point of customization with a civil engineer before we‘re able to (hopefully) pass the vehicle license authority.”

Titled ‘V09,’ this BMW leaves us thunderstuck. It hits the mark with its stance, proportions and finishes—so we’re counting it as another win for the Austrian duo.

This article first appeared on Bike Exif; It’s republished here with permission.

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