Custom: Rive Gauche CX500

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Are we witnessing the birth of a new trend in custom bike building? First, Icon mounted knobbies and a beater fairing on a VF1000R, turning it into sort of a post-apocalyptic, high-speed dual-sport. Now, Parisian builder Rive Gauche has done this semi-rat build to a Honda CX500. Unloved ‘80s beaters as big, heavy dirt bikes?

Like any good custom, this Rive Gauche is simple and a little subversive. The CX500 was, in the late ‘70s, a sort of high-tech, bizarro-world, Japanese take on European motorcycles. It was the companies first v-twin and featured, for the time, fancy feature content like electric start, shaft drive, modular wheels and liquid-cooling.

Cylinders are set a 80 degrees and twisted to the rear by 22 degrees. That arrangement was created after Honda trialed a near copy of the Moto Guzzi 90-degree twin and testers reported it too smooth and that the carbs would interfere with their knees. The 80-degree firing order added an uneven pulse, while the visible twist to the cylinders points the carbs inwards, clearing space for legs. Other innovations include a crank mounted above the transmission and sharing its case, decreasing length front-to-rear, but making the engine quite tall.

Rive Gauche has taken advantage of that last feature, hiding the battery and wiring harness in spare room under the transmission output. That, plus ditching the airbox in favor of cone air filters has completely cleared the rear of the frame.

Built to be ridden, the bike is equipped with a host of parts aimed at actual mechanical upgrade, even if they achieve an aesthetic benefit as well. The forks adopt tough-looking gators on the outside, but are revalved and resprung internally for firmer damping and more control. Brakes are upgraded with a master-cylinder from a Honda CBR600, bars are off a Yamaha XT dual sport, pegs are off a Suzuki DR-Z and the dual shocks are now Koni. Perhaps most noticeably, the powertrain is powdercoated in “old English white.”

Rive Gauche calls this a street tracker, but other than the knobby tires, it’s much more of a naked standard with some dirt capability. In other words, it’s a cheap bike utterly transformed by easy modifications that looks tough and would be a blast to hoon on fire roads.

via Sideburn and Un Pneu dans la Tombe

  • the_doctor

    Aside from the “old English white” powdercoating, I like it a lot.

  • Jesse

    Add a skidplate to save the oil filter, and call it done. I’m starting to fear for the safety of the untitled GS450e in my barn.

    • Devin

      I’m with you, the XS650G sitting in my garage is probably heading this direction. I’m not fearing for the safety of the bike, though, just my wallet.

  • jonoabq

    Cool, but how much might this set me back?

  • Scott-jay

    Good omen if this bike is style trend.
    What’s weight?

    • Roman

      Yeah definitely digging this trend. I think some credit is due to the Hammarhead Jack Pine for pushing the whole street tracker look.

    • Mike

      Stock, a top heavy 500lbs or so. But a great little bike, fun to ride and nearly indestructible engines (except the achilles heel mentioned below– AKA the triple bypass when performed as preventive maintenance.)

  • BigRooster

    I my first thought when I saw that motor was that it was made of glow in the dark plastic.

    Cool bike, I’ll take one with a little more cushin’ for the seat! Overall very nice. Hope to see more customs like this.

  • markbvt

    Not a big fan of the severely bobbed fenders (mud bath, anyone?) or the weird front number plate with the headlight stuck in the middle, but otherwise this bike is awesome. I could see this thing being a seriously fun dirt road bike.

    • Gene

      Me too, plus as said above, a black motor would look a lot nicer. It’s weird to see that rear triangle totally empty, too. Not bad, just weird.

      • Edward

        A lot of people (including me) like the empty triangle look. I can’t really tell you the reason, maybe it communicates lightness and simplicity, but lots of ‘cafe’ and street tracker people tried to hide electronics.

  • Jon B.

    love it. want to ride it. a lot.

    • Pete

      that’s what she said

  • Holden and Annette

    There’s an 82 CL500 on the local Craigslist. Do these bikes tend to have electrical problems? Any other problems?

    • Scott-jay

      Water pump seals and stator.
      Engine pulls for stator.

  • contender

    CL500s seem to be getting pretty popular with customizers lately. Wrench Monkees did a pretty neat one too. I notice their prices going up on craigslist in the L.A. area.

  • Ceolwulf

    I really like the powdercoat. If your engine is going to look that industrial you may as well celebrate it.

    Also this has me thinking of building something similar, same effect as a lot of you it looks like.

  • Case

    My personal evaluation of this (or any) motorcycle is how I would react if someone rode up on it when I was at a light or whatever. Is it rideable? What’s the cost/fun ratio?

    This bike is probably pretty spendy but it looks fun as hell. And if someone rode up on it in person I would flip the fuck out. It’s amazing.

  • Kevin

    I dunno. These things are cool as hell I suppose, but when it comes time to lay money down who buys something like this?

    Art for art’s sake.

  • Archer

    After a season or three a lot of that “old English white” is likely to turn “French Army pants brown”.

    Hey, isn’t that tunnel the same one used in the “Ronin” arms pickup shootout scene? The one near the Seine?

  • DavidMG

    I almost bought a CX500 as my first bike and when I saw this:

    … a few months ago, it left me wondering if I should have gotten one then.

  • Campisi

    I actually really like the heavy-industrial look of CX500 engines. That said, doesn’t water cooling sort of miss the point of a longitudinal V-twin layout in regards to air cooling?

  • John2

    >Unloved ‘80s beaters as big, heavy dirt bikes?
    Not quite a dirt bike, but certainly an unloved 80′s beater, Denny Berg made a minimalist Yamaha Vision custom (for a claimed $500) about five years ago:

  • PCPaul

    I love it! I bought a ’79 CX500 Deluxe new in 1979 and rode it for several years. It was a great bike. That short stroke 4 valve push-rod engine would happily rev to 11,500 rpm.

  • Rick

    Perhaps the single craziest thing I’ve ever seen in 35 years of riding isn’t VR’s pass of Stoner at The Corkscrew, but an utter mental case in a Nazi coal bucket helmet (with Kaiser Wilhelm top spike!) cornering his ratted CX-500 so hard that the frame flexed violently in every dimension possible, like a giant spring!

    The way he hurled that decrepit thing into a bumpy g’d out onramp to 101…and made it! You could tell it wasn’t a one-off event he simply got lucky with, this psycho did it for fun and true shock value! After witnessing his antics it was amazing I didn’t hit the armco, because my mind was truly blown!

    • Sean Smith

      Probably a commuter that’s been doing that corner everyday for 15 years. When I used to cruise around on a streetfighter’d EX250, I took the post-work onramp GP pretty seriously. With enough practice, it’s amazing what you can get away with ;)

  • Kerry

    I think Post-Apocolyptic motorcycles sould be every one of OCC’s builds Mad Max’d. Nothing else will do . . . oh, and a lot of Rev Tec kit bikes.

  • ike6116

    Me gusta la

  • Plotts

    Cool bike. I would have covered the huge gaping hole in the frame with something, personally. It almost makes it look like a ruckus with the empty space. Love the Cx though, it’s a neat engine. Love the powder coat too, it’s about time someone departed from drab black.

    • Mike

      ‘Empty Triangle’ is all the rage these days, doncha know..

  • M

    i like that cx500′s are having their day. five years ago you couldn’t give one away. i had one for a riding season and found its looks charmingly ugly — especially the “custom” model i had. the standard actually had pretty nice looking furniture.

    it wasn’t a fun ride, though. going the least bit airborne for any reason meant the shaft gyro’d the ass end out from under you. this, obviously, is apt to happen with any shaft drive, but something about the way the bulk of the weird engine was carried up front seemed to make it very pronounced. not to mention that how short the bike was overall didn’t help. led to a lot of surprise unicycling, too.

    and i cracked my knees on those fucking cylinder heads constantly. still, if i’d held out a couple more years, i could have gotten many times what i paid for it, which was virtually nothing at the time.

    my general complaints aside, this is a beautiful custom and manages to eek out appreciable character in a scene that’s rapidly circling the drain in terms of innovation and originality.

  • Michael

    I’d ditch the tires for dual sports. Those knobbies would suck on the street.

    • markbvt

      Not as bad as you might think. TKC-80s actually handle surprisingly well on pavement and are capable of impressive lean angles.

  • Mike

    It kills me that folks used to literally throw these things out & spit on them. I always thought they were the bees knees, having had a Guzzi for my first bike, I was down with the transverse v-twin shafty ideal.

    Now they’re cool?! What’s left as the $500 Craigslist bike??
    Even beat-up Hurricanes (and, yes, VF1000′s) fetch four digits – and take a lot more work and $$ to look this good.

    • M

      cm400′s. just wait.

  • parkwood60

    This is exactly the type of bike I imagine in my made up motorcycle off road version of 24 Hours of Lemons racing. $500 street legal bikes on DOT legal knobbies racing for hours on a course out in the desert that would be a cross between the old Ascot TT course and Willow Springs before it was paved.

    Who’s interested?