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Honda VT500C Kage Mixes Different Styles Seamlessly, Tracker Vibe Predominates

From Honda CBs and Yamaha SRs to Harley Sportsters and classic BMW airheads, certain motorcycle models really left their mark on the custom bike world. Loved by builders for their versatile and mod-friendly nature, nameplates like the ones listed above are sure to continue thriving in the bike-modding community for a long time to come. But then there is the opposite end of the spectrum.
Honda VT500C Kage 15 photos
Photo: FortheLoveofAuto (FTLOA)
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Some machines wouldn’t be touched by most workshops with a ten-foot pole, and this could come as a result of many different factors. An unsuitable geometry is often the main culprit, because transforming something like a cruiser into, say, a svelte custom scrambler is a tall order to fill. Despite this, Art Henschell of One-Up Moto Garage loves a good challenge and will deliberately do things the hard way from time to time.

Art operates solo out of Fayetteville, Arkansas, and customization has been his bread and butter ever since he finished college. After getting his bachelor’s degree, our protagonist decided to pursue his true passion and build custom motorcycles for a living. This was easier said than done at first, but his natural talent and unyielding perseverance eventually started to bear fruit.

One-Up Moto’s builds have garnered quite a bit of attention in recent years, and for good reason! Dubbed Kage, the project we’ll be looking at today does a fantastic job at showcasing what Sir Henschell can achieve when he picks up the wrench and starts doing his thing. You’d have a hard time placing it in one particular category, because it borrows stylistic cues from multiple distinct genres.

Scrambler, tracker, and bobber elements are all present here, seamlessly integrated into a cohesive overall design that looks absolutely top-notch. The project started with a pretty unlikely candidate, though, it being a Honda Shadow 500 from the model-year 1984. Of course, this was by no means an ideal basis for a build leaning toward scrambler territory, but keep in mind what we said about Art liking to challenge himself.

Honda VT500C Kage
Photo: FortheLoveofAuto (FTLOA)
He picked the VT500C because it would be difficult to work with, not in spite of it. After taking the old Shadow apart, One-Up Moto did away with its stock subframe and proceeded to build a custom loop-style alternative from scratch. He welded it onto the main skeleton and was pleased with how it turned out, so the entire framework then made its way to Eric Snodgrass to get powder-coated black.

While Eric worked his magic on the frame, Art busied himself with refurbishing the donor’s liquid-cooled 491cc V-twin motor. He had the engine block vapor-blasted to make it look as good as new, while also performing a full top-end refurbishment and installing new gaskets all-round. In addition, the clutch was rebuilt with youthful plates and springs for good measure, then the freshly powder-coated skeleton came back from Eric’s paint shop.

Its rear section got topped with tailor-made bench seat, which was upholstered in perforated leather up top and Alcantara on the sides. The contrasting white stitching is done in a randomized pattern of sorts, one that is tastefully echoed on the fuel tank livery. We’ll get to the paintwork later on, though, as there’s still quite a bit for us to cover at the bike’s rear end.

Honda VT500C Kage
Photo: FortheLoveofAuto (FTLOA)
Attached to the subframe tubing on the left-hand side, there’s a bespoke bracket supporting a Bates-style taillight and the license plate holder. Suspension duties in that area are taken good care of thanks to dual 12 Series shock absorbers, courtesy of Progressive Suspension. The original forks are still present at the front, but they’ve been lowered ever so slightly to bring about a tougher posture.

Kage retains the stock VT500 wheels, too, but they’ve been vapor-blasted, repainted, and ultimately shod in beefy dual-purpose rubber. The factory brakes were also kept, with the front one now getting operated via a braided stainless-steel line and an aftermarket master cylinder. In the cockpit, we come across a low-rise flat tracker handlebar perched atop a handmade top clamp, sporting Motone switches and bar-end mirrors.

Fronting the new handlebar is a dedicated iPhone (yes, you’ve that correctly) repurposed as a speedometer, and it works via GPS to get the job done. Further ahead, one may find a perforated alloy plate mimicking the look of tracker number boards. It carries a triangular, retro-looking headlamp in the center and a pair of circular LED blinkers down in the bottom corners.

Onto our favorite thing about this machine, Art fabricated a superb stainless-steel exhaust system using more than 100 individual pie-cut pieces. The TIG-welded pipework is an outright masterpiece in and of itself, ending in dual reverse megaphone mufflers from Lossa Engineering. Right above these silencers, One-Up Moto fitted CNC-milled rearsets to complete Kage’s ergonomics. Lastly, the mesmerizing paint scheme adorning the fuel tank was once again applied by Eric Snodgrass.
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About the author: Silvian Secara
Silvian Secara profile photo

A bit of an artist himself, Silvian sees two- and four-wheeled machines as a form of art, especially restomods and custom rides. Oh, and if you come across a cafe racer article on our website, it’s most likely his doing.
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