EB024 – 1981 Honda XL500

EB024 – 1981 Honda XL500 main image

Bought as a basket case in 2009, this Honda XL500 was one of the first bikes scheduled for an Ellaspede build way back when the whole operation was still in the garage based glory days.

Before clients were around to commission custom builds, the bikes were self initiated projects built as expression sessions for the industrial designers at Ellaspede’s parent company Heluva Studios.

As history would have it though, two other bike builds (EB001 and EB004) beat the XL to project completion and when client requests started rolling in the box of bits 500 was relegated to the back bench.

Here and there the Honda would sneak into a scribble on a designers sketchpad and a spot on the workshop bench, but as client builds come first the Ellaspede XL was continually relegated to being the bridesmaid on the bike build priority list.

Given this build started with the designers it was only natural that addressing the overall aesthetic would be the first port of call. The frame had all unnecessary tabs and brackets removed before the rear end was rounded out with some fresh bar work on the frame.

The front forks and big 23” wheel found their way to the scrap heap with a XR250 front clip fitted up. The XR shocks were shortened 100mm, re-sprung and shod with gators to suit the future look. Out the back an XL500 suspension upgrade from Icon keeps the bumps in check.

A vintage Suzuki 125 tank had the perfect profile, so was given the green light to replace the factory tin. Mounted further forward than the original, custom steering stops prevent the XR forks massaging the tank. It also means the rider can get further forward on the custom diamond stitch seat when on wide open throttle.

Custom front and rear rims were laced up to the XR and XL hubs, measuring 2.5” x 18” front and 3.5” x 18” rear. A Dunlop F11 in 110/90/18 takes care of turn in when its on the ground while a hard-to-find Dunlop K127 in 130/90/18 tries to keep traction in check out back.

Covering the treads on a variety of terrain are a pair of custom front and rear guards. An Ellaspede Ninja Star Licence Plate holder hangs onto the shortened back end.

The power plant was treated to a full top and bottom end rebuild with the parts being blasted and/or painted before being screwed back together. A Mikuni flat slide carb sucks through a K&N pod on the intake, while a custom twin exhaust with internally baffled turbo taper mufflers eject the exhaust gasses.

A full rewire with an under-seat electrics compartment hides the wiring to the Danmoto speedometer, Daytona indicators and LED flex tail light. Up the front a flat track inspired number board houses twin spots from an aftermarket enduro headlight, with internal wiring to the micro bar switches controlling the lights and sounds.

Biltwell Recoil grips and RHK motocross foot pegs ensure the rider has a strong handle and firm foothold on this 500. An aftermarket master cylinder, braided brake line and rebuilt XR caliper take care of the front end clamping.

A 2 pak paint combo of subtle metallic grey got the nod for the front guard, headlight plate, tank and rear guard. Offset stripes in a smooth black contrast the metallic hues with a splash of red breaking up the greyscale gathering.

6 years and as many design iterations later (as designers do when working on their own projects) and the once humble Honda is finally finished. Ready to make up for lost time, this rig is one of our most rowdy rides and certainly rips on and off the road.

Ever since the first client commissioned builds began, self initiated Ellaspede builds such as this have been few and far between. So this XL500 is now one of the lucky ones, and the best part? It’s now looking for a new home! So if you’re interested in getting sideways or popping wheelies (or both) then you better get in touch.


Albums we listened to during the build of this bike:

1. Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown 2. War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream 3. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Photos and Features:

Photos by AJ Moller Photography As featured on The Bike Shed

Comments (4)

Honda XL500

By: on 28 September 2023
Honestly the best i have seen...weldone mate from Africa...pls is you may send me more pics etc Regards Wentzel

Ellaspede Response
Thanks Wentzel, We're glad you like the build mate!


By: on 9 April 2022
beautifull modern features love the style im currently busy restoring an xl500 1981 model customizing it

Still for sale ?

By: on 4 November 2021
Lovely could you send me a price please

Ellaspede Response
Hi Lindsay, this bike isn't for sale sorry mate. Cheers


By: on 11 October 2020
Can you tell me the model of the carb and maybe where it's sold?

Ellaspede Response
Hey Bob, It's been a few years since we screwed this XL500 together and unfortunately we don't have any of the carb specs still, sorry mate!

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