When starting out on the custom bike building journey there are few donors to match the bullet proof canvas as offered by Honda’s CX500. With an engine resembling that of a more exotic, and expensive, Italian cousin the CX has generated a huge fan base, especially during the last six or seven years.
The builder of this bike, 25 year old Marlon Jeavons, is one such newbie to scene. But he’s not new to engineering having been trained as a vehicle technician by Aston Martin’s Heritage Division in Newport Pagnell. I’ve been to that facility and confirm that bodgers, measure-once-cut-twicers and messy workers are not welcome. He’s since set himself up as a freelance classic car mechanic and has been entrusted with all sorts of wonderful machinery. But when Marlon’s dad had his motorcycle stolen the chance came to have a proper try at two wheels. Marlon had always tinkered with bikes but never gone the whole hog. To replace his dad’s loss a Chinese made 1959 CJ750 (a BMW R70 clone) was sourced and turned into a rather lovely bobber, which led to what you see here.
Having seen the quality of work rolling out of Jeavon’s meagre family shed a chap approached Marlon with a brief of building a cafe racer powered by a v-twin and that oh so familiar phrase “I haven’t got a huge budget”. Marlon has put as much effort into the story as the actual build itself, so we’ll let him take over from here.
“Given the tight budget I knew a CX 500 would be the way to go so started trawling eBay and eventually found the ideal bike, unfortunately it was a 500 mile round trip which took me 12 hours and is an entire story on its own. Once back in the garden shed I started stripping all the junk off the bike and drawing up design possibilities in my sketch pad. I knew that the performance of the bike had to be a priority, but the overall look was the most important thing. I was well aware that there was a lot of CX 500 cafe racers out there, so my one had to be special. I began by rolling the bike out of the shed into the garden and spent many hours studying it from a distance.”
“The frame was the first priority. I had to make the new subframe, repair corroded areas and generally tidy up the frame. It was then sent for powder coating. Meanwhile I started the lengthy process of panel beating the teardrop-shaped steel tail section. This was to be a labour of love as the complicated shape, hand beaten over a leather bag, took three attempts (and caused many blisters) before I was happy with it. Once the tail section and seat pan were completed I had them trimmed by an old Aston Martin colleague.”
“The donor bike had 80,000 miles on the clock so it was time for a refresh. I stripped it down, inspected and rebuilt it replacing anything that looked tired. Once reassembled, all casings were treated to a satin black finish.”
“Then on to the electrics: The CX’s original wiring loom was a mess. 30 years of use and bodged servicing had rendered it next to useless. It was a big ask as I had never tried my hand at wiring before, but I decided to make a new loom from scratch. The new loom had to be compact and hidden from sight so I designed the seat tail section to house the battery, CDI and everything else. As part of this I incorporated a space-saving Shorai battery and Ignitech CDI unit. In keeping with the uncluttered look, I decided to relocate all handlebar switches under the seat.”
“So far I’d taken care of the bike’s looks but not addressed performance. The standard forks were like pogo sticks, so I rebuilt them with custom HyperPro internals. A matching set of rear shocks were fitted to help keep the new rubber firmly on the road. I fabricated the new straight-through exhausts to maximise that V-twin sound and the clients choice of silencers were then fitted. The stock carbs are renowned for a lack of performance and reliability so I started looking for an upgrade. Murrays Carbs in the States were the answer as they provide a set of Mikuni VM34 carburettors which are custom jetted and tuned for a CX 500.”
“After working my way through a long to-do list of cleaning and refurbishing it was finally time for assembly. Once the bike was back together it was all about the details. The client liked the idea of a raw look so the tank and tail were left as bare metal and lacquered. When I stripped the tank I found patches of filler all over masking an array of dents. Although it would have been an easy process to put these right, I decided to keep them as they added character and befitted a bike of this age.”
“Continuing the raw look I used copper for the brake lines and fuel pipes and wrapped all the rider interfaces in leather. To compliment the copper I stripped the radiator back to expose the brass which then inspired the tank badges. I drew these up on the computer based on the original Honda logo and had Reynolds Engineering (Milton Keynes) machine them from solid brass, I can’t wait to see the patina on these as they age.”
“Whilst the build had been progressing I had been putting together my new business plan. Firstly my new bike-building venture needed a name so why not ‘Marlon Moto’? I was looking for an event to showcase the bike and where better than The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in London. As well as preparing the bike for the event, I had a logo designed, business cards printed, website created and even arranged for a professional photographer to come down to London to shoot the CX at the event. Everything was going swimmingly apart from one minor detail; days before the show the bike still had no carbs fitted as they hadn’t arrived from the States.”
“Whilst despatched in good time, unbeknown to me the carbs had been held up in Customs. Not knowing where they were and only a few days to go until the DGR, I decided to re-fit the original carbs. They wouldn’t perform as well or look as pretty but at least the bike would be on the road. Once fitted, I took the bike out for its maiden voyage only to realise there was a massive problem. Although the bike fired-up and ticked over nicely, on the road it was massively underpowered, to the extent that it was unrideable. So the night before the proposed launch at the DGR, I was in the shed elbow-deep in carburettors. The final diagnosis was that they were beyond repair as they had corroded internally.”
“That was it, game over. I could have cried. I was devastated that I couldn’t get the bike to the DGR for its launch. Months of hard work building up to the launch seemed now to be pointless. Yes there are other shows but not this late in the year and not as spectacular as the DGR.”
“After the massive disappointment of missing the launch date, I decided to shelve the bike until the new carburettors arrived and planned a new launch in the new year (yet to be confirmed). When the carburettors finally did arrive they didn’t disappoint. I arranged a track day visit with the client so we could really put the bike through its paces. It was a great day with the bike surpassing my expectations and I’m glad to say I have one very happy customer.”
We’ve all seen a zillion CX500 cafe racers but the quality builds just keep on coming, as does the fresh talent. Judging by this effort Marlon Moto will be building bikes for some time to come and we expect a follow up on these pages pretty soon. No pressure Marlon.
Images by Lee Marshall