Most custom projects are completed in a matter of months, or even weeks. But sometimes the story of a bike can stretch out to years or decades.
That’s the case with this delightful Honda CB500, which has spent the last 13 of its 46 years in the care of Italian enthusiast Pierluigi Intini, who lives in Rome. He bought it in 2007, when he was just 24. Pierluigi now knows the perky inline four inside out, and he’s transformed it not once, but twice.
The Honda originally replaced an Aprilia 50cc scooter that he’d been riding since the age of 16, and it was a thoroughly researched decision. After tossing up between a Kawasaki Z500 and a CB, he opted for the Honda and went hunting in the classifieds. “I found it. A gold and black K1, about 20 km from my house.”
At that time, Pierluigi didn’t have a motorcycle license. He handed over €3300 [US$3,900] to the seller and asked him, “The first up and all the others down, right?” After figuring out the gears, he rode slowly home.
The CB500 was not entirely original. It came with a 4-into-1 Marving exhaust and two seats—one original, and the other a ‘Giuliari’ seat that was used on the track back in the day. High handlebars had been fitted, and the tank sealed inside with Tankerite.
Pierluigi got his license, learnt to ride properly, and spent the next few months fettling the bike, seeking out obscure spare parts and good mechanics. He restored the mechanicals and bodywork to factory spec, and got a certificate to prove it— from the Italian motorcycle federation that certifies historically interesting motorcycles.
But the café racer bug had already bitten Pierluigi, and the flames were fanned even more after he saw the bikes in the mafia movie Romanzo Criminale. The day after he got historical interest approval, he bought period-correct Tommaselli clip-ons, and commissioned craftsman Michele Calbi to reproduce by hand a matching pair of rear-sets.
The bike followed Pierluigi from Rome to Naples and then to Copenhagen, always with the iconic ‘Roma’ number plate. And eventually it wore out.
A couple of years ago, Pierluigi mustered the funds to carry out the final transformation, leading to the Japanese influence we see here.
The CB500 now has a traditional custom tweaks like a neatly looped rear frame from blacksmith Paolo Arivella, and a bespoke flat seat from the Rome specialist Selle Moto Cl Racing. But the other mods are less conventional. “I am 186 cm [6’1”] tall and she has always been a little too short for me. And I want it more ‘technological’. I like genre mixes, I want a hybrid.”
The Honda is now essentially a ‘modern brat’—with LED headlights, and a modern fuel gauge, clock, indicators, and stop light.
The suspension has been raised 45mm both front and back, with the forks rebuilt and new shocks installed. The brake system is all new, with the front brakes converted to dual disc.
The engine has been completely rebuilt with 0.25 oversize pistons and grinding work on the heads. It’s fed by rebuilt and custom-jetted carbs, and exhales via new Silver Cerakote Sidewinder pipes from Carpy’s Café Racers, topped off with a shorty muffler from Dime City Cycles—who also supplied the LED headlight.
The front sprocket has gone down a tooth from 17 to 16, there’s a quick action throttle for faster response, and a Daytona electronic ignition keeps the spark nice and tight. The CB500 now has three dimmable LED instruments too: a rev counter, a clock, and a speedo with a GPS control unit for speed detection, all from Intellitronix. They’re mounted into a dashboard from Cognito Moto.
Every metal part has been polished or refinished to as-good-as-new by Alessandro Pini Metal polishing. Pierluigi repainted the engine himself using a silver VHT coating, but entrusted the stunning green-and-black bodywork to the Campana paint shop in Rome.
“In the end, I got the result I was looking for,” says Pierluigi. He’s called the old Honda ‘La Fouat,’ which means ‘Not too late.’ “It’s 46 years of life. This is the result.”
“Criticism and praise? There are always and necessarily both,” he says.
From us, it’s just praise. Pierluigi has created a stylish, timeless brat cafe that fits his physique and riding style, and should keep running for another four decades.
Images by Simone Galli.