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The Honda CB500F You Really Wanted? MAD Industries Scrambler

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When Honda engineered its new parallel-twin engine for the CB500 series, there had to be plenty of riders wondering if this lightweight mill could be slotted into a custom. After all, plenty of customs feature decades-old CB350 and CB450 engines with the expected performance and reliability issues.

MAD Industries is better known for its automotive customs, but Honda commissioned this company to build a couple of CB500s for the SEMA show. Working together with Lossa Engineering, MAD produced this clean “Scrambler” as one of the results.

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Immediately noticeable is the new front end courtesy of the CBR600RR, including 41 mm upside-down fork and radial-mounted front brake calipers. The bike also features an Öhlins shock. A custom seat and panels together with a new muffler and blacked-out motor add to the look.

The headlight is interesting for a couple of reasons. A classic, round unit is stuffed with LEDs. Lots of other small details are included.  Enjoy these photos.

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76 Comments

  1. NRHRetro says:

    In my book, the term “Scrambler” is a street bike with the exhausts raised and usually has some strategically placed rubber gaiters, etc., ostensibly to protect certain parts of the bike from water. At least, every motorcycle referred to as a Scrambler that I know of shares these traits.

    As a young teenager in the early ’70’s, many of my friends had Honda Scramblers. The 350 was the most common in my neck of the woods, there were also a couple of Honda 450 Scramblers around as well. We lived in North Louisiana, at that time there was no shortage of places to do any kind of off road riding one wanted to do. The Scramblers, however, were just street bikes with pipes, and I never saw one on anything more treacherous than a gravel road. When it came to getting off of the dirt roads and into the dirt, an Enduro, usually a Yamaha, was the ride of choice. At the ripe old age of 13, I purchased a used 175 Yamaha Enduro, (my first bike), and I spent many an hour riding in the dirt, up and down pipeline right-of-ways, dirt roads, anyplace I could ride, my trusty Yamaha always got me home.

    Sorry, I got carried away, my point is that I knew a lot of very experienced off road motorcycle riders, none of them road a “Scrambler”, I knew guys that had a Scrambler and an Enduro bike. They rode the Scrambler on the street, and the Enduro in the dirt.

    Nowadays, the term “Scrambler” is what it was back then, a buzzword used to market bikes with high exhausts.

  2. Auphliam says:

    I like it. Looks like loads of fun just waiting to be had.

  3. Vrooom says:

    It is a nice looking bike. I’m afraid mirrors would ruin those clean lines, but on the other hand, you could do something else with that brake reservoir too. I don’t find the CTX motors terribly exciting, but this would be a fun little afternoon ride.

  4. azi says:

    Good stuff. I always give the thumbs up whenever suspension and brakes get upgraded before horsepower does.

  5. ellis tomago says:

    1) That’s a nice bike.
    2) I am sick of people arguing about what is or is not a café racer, or what is or is not a scrambler, or what is or is not a bobber, ad nauseam. If a bike looks good and works well, that’s all I care about.

  6. Scott says:

    Everyone’s so damn fixated on the name “scrambler”, you can’t even think straight. Don’t worry about the name. Judge the bike on its looks and specifications, and use that to decide if you like it or not.

    Nobody’s going offroading on this bike, and I highly doubt the designer even had that in mind. They just used a catchy name that everybody’s using these days. Big deal. If they had called it anything else, half the negative comments below would have been completely different.

  7. Frank says:

    Exhaust system is wrong for a scrambler. The muffler and exhaust should be on the side of the bike, not underneath the engine.

  8. Rich says:

    What’s with the front brake reservoir? Mirrors?

  9. Brian says:

    Aside from whether you’d like to buy one or not you have to admit it is a top notch build. At first glance, I thought it was a production bike. Nice job!

  10. yellowhammer says:

    I would re-bend the rear frame tubes down to accommodate max wheel travel (remove the excess air) and put a real-world rear fender on it to preclude road/mud spray. Other than that you’ve got close to a perfect setup for me for a solo +occasional-passenger ride.

    • Mgood3Mgood3 says:

      I agree. This is a great customization, except for the rear end. I will never get the bobber thing so I guess that’s just me. It looks more ‘out of balance ‘ than ‘cool ‘. Otherwise- brilliant!

  11. mechanicus says:

    I like it. Sorta “anti-Anime” or “anti-leftwing”…. hey! it’s a “Trumpet”!

  12. Dave says:

    If you are going to post an article about how a bike “looks”, how about showing the left side of the bike too? And by that I mean more than the left side of the front wheel (?) And maybe a view from the seat, like what you would see if you actually sat on/rode the thing? But seriously, the right side of the bike typically gets way more exposure than the left.

    • MGNorge says:

      Typically because the exhaust system on many (most) bikes is more visible. But you are correct, I like to see bikes from all angles. While walking down a sidewalk and you come upon a beautiful woman do you ever catch yourself taking a glance back as she passes?

  13. Grumpc says:

    What about a pair of ‘clip-ons’… voila – Cafe Racer?! Grumps

  14. Orphan of the Road says:

    The original scrambles bike was the 305 Honda. Suzuki made a scrambler version of the X6, Yamaha had the Big Bear 305, Kawasaki’s was maybe called the Avenger (??).

    Scramble races were smooth tracks with left/right-hand turns and maybe a jump. At least in mid-60s Missouri/Kansas.

    Of course BSA had the Hornet and Triumph their high-pipe 500s and 650s.

    Optimum tire for street and track was the Pirelli universal, usually bought at Montgomery Wards in the Paris of the Plains.

    • mickey says:

      Close … the original scrambler from Honda was the 1962 CL72 250cc Scrambler. The 305 Scrambler CL 77 did not come along until 3 years later 1965. Prior to both of those, British twins were modified and used in off road cometitions.

      In 1964 the first American ISDT team competed in Europe in a series off off road cometitons called the International Six Day Trials. One member was Steve McQueen who rode bike no 278 which was a self modified TR6 single carb 650 twin cylinder Triumph Bonneville, complete with modified low pipes. America didn’t build a bike suitable for using in the event. (although both Harley and Indian were used in off road competition, mainly hill climbs)

      We identfy scramblers as high pipe versions which became popular in the mid 60’s, but low pipes were widely in use before that.

      • Orphan of the Road says:

        Yeah, as soon as I hit SEND I remembered the 250. They were hard to come by in 66 when I started.

        I remember seeing some Sportsters winning enduros in the mid to late 60s in Cycle News.

        Mostly the scramblers were visual rather than practical. Fold-up footpegs were the most useful “scrambler” feature.

    • mickey says:

      replied once lost in space…may show up but to summarize

      Original Honda scrambler was the 1962 CL 72 250. The 305 scrambler CL77 didn’t come along until 3 years later, 1965.

      in 1964 America’s first ISDT team competed in Europe in a series of off road tests. Steve McQueen was a member (as was brothers Ekins) riding self modified TR6 650 twin Triumphs single carb models complete with low pipes. McQueens was number 278. High pipes came later, and we associate high pipes with scramblers mostly because of the “street scramblers” that came along in the late 60’s from the Japanese, and the 2 stroke enduros which came along in the early 70’s.

  15. bmbktmracer says:

    Seems like Honda could put GB-style bodywork and spoked wheels on the CB500F, call it a GB500F, and pull in a tidy profit. I’m not sure why, but if they actually made this into a real scrambler, I wouldn’t be remotely interested.

  16. Curly says:

    With a little work on the rear fender and tailight that wouldn’t be half bad.

  17. todd says:

    I like it. I’d just fix the rear end so I can fit a tail light, turn signals, and a license plate. Some mirrors would be nice too.

  18. John says:

    Not that attractive, but pretty close. I thought the CB-F should have always been based on the CB750/900F OR a Scrambler, but either way, it would sell more. The current F is hideous. I’m so sick of the Japanese origami look.

  19. Skybullet says:

    20+ year ownership of a GB500 may have biased me but this bike has the classic styling cues of vintage bikes like the GB. The light weight of a 500cc bike is a whole different experience in handling. Is it more fun to ride a slow bike fast? You will never know until you try one for yourself.

    • richard says:

      nice but the GB and the f are both gutless..fine if thats what you want..i like power…ill take the retro cb1100 if i want a retro…for now ill stick with my old Guzzi..The real deal !

  20. Dave says:

    Looks good but I think the suspension and brakes may be a little bit of overkill. I like the Honda 500 but it is not exactly a powerhouse.

    • dino says:

      How about we start with a Tenere twin? 1200 seems about right!

      I like this one better than most out there..

      • John says:

        I would love to see that, but even cooler would be an ST1300 naked boulevard cruiser. That’s one beautiful engine.

        A scrambler based on the Africa Twin could be very cool, especially for those of us of short leg.

    • Gary says:

      Why does a great suspension require a powerful motor? Can’t a bike just ride and handle well? Does one need to be Johnny Roadracer to get the benefits of a properly functioning suspension?

      • xLaYN says:

        On Dave’s defense he said “a little bit”, but I’m with you, good suspensions and brakes are always appreciated.

      • Bigshankhank says:

        Sadly most buyers wouldn’t be willing to spend $2-3k for a better suspension/brakes when that money could go for go-fast parts, simply because most riders (myself included, honestly) aren’t at a level where their suspension is holding them back from being a better/faster rider. Spend that money on a fuel controller, Two Brothers exhaust and cut up airbox and you are immediately faster and louder in a straight line at 2:00am.

        • Joe Bogusheimer says:

          Most riders really aren’t at a level where a lack of power is keeping them from being a better/faster rider, either. Other than in a straight line, of course.

          But it’s also true that while anyone can benefit from better quality suspension, it’s probably not necessary to have the latest Showa BPF or an Ohlins GP level shock.

          A problem is that most bikes come with springs and damping calibrated for a rather light rider, and while damping and preload can be adjusted to accommodate a heavier rider, they’ll never be ideal for the heavier rider.

      • Neil says:

        The stock suspension and brakes WILL make you crash if you really get into this motor on a backroad. I tried chasing a CBR1K and a ZX6R the other day and had to back off because the suspension was not up to it. I lost the feeling of the front and there was no room to crash on those VERY tight fast corners.

        • todd says:

          Manufacturers must be going backwards then. I have no problem keeping up (with some effort) with my modern sport bike friends on my ’82 Seca, K75S, or my RT2 for that matter.

          Maybe it’s your tires.

    • Dave says:

      In additions to being overkill from a performance standpoint – braking and system stiffness that doesn’t match any of the other elements of the bike’s design, it looks overkill. The bulk of the fork and brakes look way out of place on an otherwise minimalist build.

      Oh, and suspension and brakes can’t “make you crash”, only mistakes bad judgment do that.

  21. JPJ says:

    Something Honda could easily build along with the new Rebel models. I have to ask but at what price point would someone be willing to pay. Add the inverted Showa 600RR fork, ProLink rear suspension. Tack on the EPA exhaust, DOT running lights, ABS. Mass produced you’re now above the cost of a FZ-7, SV-650, or the new Kawasaki 650 models. Still interested ?

  22. Jonny Blaze says:

    Would buy one for my son.

  23. North of Missoula says:

    A cross bar on the handle bars does not a scrambler make. Certainly no scrambler worth its weight is going to have the front end off of a CBR600RR. Even if the springs and shim stacks had been modified to suit the mildest of fire roads, 3in of useful front suspension travel is not going to cut it.

    • Provologna says:

      I’ll take your word that 3″ is CBR600RR spec. Not arguing at all, just another view. I ride mountain bicycles in Utah, and just for the record, mountain bikes run the gamut from full rigid to “down hill” bikes w/6″/5″ front/rear travel, and everything in between.

      I have been riding a full rigid lately on 3″ wide tires, but look forward to getting back on a so-called HT w/4″ fork.

  24. dt 175 says:

    The last dirt bike that had low pipes like that said Roger De Coster and CZ on it…

  25. ABQ says:

    Two brakes up front. That’s a good start.
    Round headlight, wide enduro handle bars, and a seat that is easy to throw your leg over. The tires are for the street…
    I like it.

  26. TexinOhio says:

    So I have a question for everyone here. What bike thats out now or out soon truly replicates the “real” scrambler of old days.

    I’ve always been a street bike guy, and didn’t get into motorcycles until 1997 as a college freshman. I understand that this type of bike is back from the 70’s.

    • xLaYN says:

      Mickey had a nice response the other day…

      That scramblers were originally bikes modified to go into the dirt…

      For example MGNorge images above show what the actual scramblers were… probably in line with the Ducati scrambler… (not the Scrambler Desert Sled… which is BTW a damn beautiful bike).

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      That is an interesting question, and as someone approximately your age, I’m interested to see what the golden era guys have to say

      To me, it seems that the Husqvarna Schwartzpilen, despite the polarizing design, would be the most likely candidate. It is essentially a small displacement street bike tooled up to make it passable off road.

    • Provologna says:

      To me a vintage “Scrambler” is a late 60s/early 70s 2-stroke single cylinder Yamaha and Suzuki 250cc and 400cc models. Those 400s had deep and huge cooling fins, giving the motors an awesome, ballsy appearance.

      Also, my buddy/tennis bum/then-coworker at UPS had a Triumph 500 twin w/up-swept/modified exhaust making almost orgasm inducing exhaust tone, even if was a little loud, estimate early 60s MY. Damn, those Triumphs were macho!

      The intensity of the Triumph exhaust reminds of me of being in the Record Plant control room w/Steve “Doc” Kupka (Tower of Power) playing his baritone sax. Like a ballerina tippy-toeing on your chest.

      Didn’t the BSA 441 Victor (alloy/yellow tank?) have up-swept pipe?

      William Shatner tells this motorcycle story in his biographical book (recommended): While growing up he lived in a duplex. The other tenant was a young man w/a motorcycle (sorry forgot the make/model if Shatner mentions it). Shatner really wanted to ride the bike, so one late night/early morning he hot wired it and took it for a spin while the owner slept.

      The theft went so smoothly that he repeated it soon and often. One day Shatner bumps into the owner, asking him, “How do you like your bike?” The guy says he likes it, but he’s thinking of selling it because it has lately been sucking up so much fuel. (Cheap-ass thief Shatner obviously never filled it. In his defense, maybe it had a locking cap.)

    • TexinOhio says:

      Very cool,

      I really appreciate the info guys. After going through the pictures and bike names I get what y’all are talking about.

  27. Motorhead says:

    I like it. I wouldn’t call it a scrambler, but to its credit it does have only two wheels, which by definition is a quantum leap above the performance of my current stable of four-wheeled wallowing cages.

  28. Patrick Connelly says:

    Scrambler seemed to me a term that, described a certain quality in a motorcycle, and most times it’s sort of a jack of all trades; get there some how…quick if you can! Standard’s scramble quite well and scramblers are by nature quit standard!

  29. mike white says:

    I would love a cb500 made to look like a 3/4 scale rninet. That would be ideal.

  30. gt08 says:

    The bend taillight, is for wheelie purpose…i think 🙂

  31. bmbktmracer says:

    Like all customs, it inspires some ideas. This one was obviously designed by people who don’t know motorcycles, as they mixed a cafe bike with a crossbar handlebar and a bent, surface-mount taillight and then dubbed it a scrambler. But, I like the wheels and the GB500 look.

  32. endoman38 says:

    How about a new version of the GB500 with this motor?

  33. Don says:

    Did someone accidentally bend the taillight over before the photo shoot?

    • nickst4 says:

      If they did, then the licence-plate bracket is also bent, given that’s what the visible strip is for. Just one more bit of evidence that custom shops live in a different world!

      • steve Eaton says:

        LOL, i had to read this far to find a remark about the license plate bracket. eyeroller for sure, why it’s even included.parts-bin tech, huh?

  34. Bob says:

    Just when I thought the definition of “scrambler” had been stretched to it’s limits, this comes along. Is “scrambler” now the new term for “standard?

    • Bigshankhank says:

      Handlebar has a crossbar, therefore this is a scrambler. There are very specific rules for these distinctions between classes of bike. One would think that the low pipe would exclude this from being a scrambler, but one would be wrong.

      OK snark aside, I like this bike but I have given up on any bike maker, custom or factory, keeping to any real “standards” when classifying their bikes. Why is a CFR450 not called a race-replica?

  35. Jeremy in TX says:

    Very nice. I wonder if Honda is giving any real thought to something along the lines of this custom.

  36. nickst4 says:

    Stupidest back light I ever saw but heh, it’s a custom! Anything goes or doesn’t…

  37. Bigshankhank says:

    Looks like a better executed version of the Viltpilen.

    • Provologna says:

      Exactly what occurred to me!

      I very much like this puppy, w/either the TT-type exhaust shown or up-swept scrambler type.

      Dirck, I respectfully request/suggest you do a full road test of Honda’s CB500X w/the full $3k after market adventure kit. Your opinions highly valued, especially w/your motocross experience.

      • Denny says:

        I own regular “adventure” (primarily road use) version and can testify that the engine is sufficiently gutsy on most of roads. The big plus is compliant suspension.

  38. Neil says:

    I have a 2014. This concept looks really nice. The rear subframe angle is wrong which is surprising. But otherwise it’s really cool. I would also change the swingarm which looks cheesey. Otherwise hey, looks good. Nice pipe. I may have to swap mine (white) for the newer 2016 (black).