Customize Honda's VLX 600 Motorcycle with Bolt-Ons

Dress your VLX for success (From Motorcycle Cruiser magazine, August 1997). By Evans Brasfield.

In the 15 years that Honda's Shadow VLX has been manufactured, the bike has sold well. The combination of low price, good looks, and decent performance propelled the 600cc V-twin into budget-minded cruisers' garages. Until recently, though, very few accessories have been available for this popular ride. Even Honda's accessory division, Hondaline, offers only six accessories that could be considered bolt-ons, and four of those are backrest options.

The entry of Holland's Highway Hawk into the U.S. cruiser aftermarket dramatically altered the customizing options available to owners of previously neglected cruisers such as the VLX, Viragos and original-style Vulcans. Although we've included offerings from several aftermarket companies in this article, we wouldn't have had much to show before Highway Hawk came to the U.S.

When viewing our project VLX from stem to stern, the first modification you come to is the National Cycle fender tip. The chromed cast tips require that the fenders be drilled before the parts can be bolted on. The instructions are straightforward and include templates to assist in the drilling. The front and rear fender tips retail for $53 each. Just upstream from the fender, National Cycle's dark-tinted Flyscreen gives the VLX a purposeful look and deflects a bit of wind, as well. The Flyscreen mounted in just a few minutes, with minimal tweaking required to get the angle of the screen just right. National Cycle's Flyscreens cost $110 and are available in light or dark tint, with either chrome or black hardware finish. Folks looking for a more traditional windshield for their VLXs may want to check out National Cycle's "Out in Front" package, which includes a windshield, windshield Holdster storage pouch, chrome lowers, light bar, fender tips, and all hardware for $822.

Also gracing the front wheel of the bike is a hub cover from Highway Hawk. This $48 chromed metal cover dresses up the right side of the wheel and can be installed in a half-hour. Cobra's front caliper cover ($45) resides on the left side of the front wheel. Bolting on easily, the cover's raised lines almost resemble those on some of the other accessories we mounted to the VLX. The squared edges of the covers received mixed reviews in our garage survey. Farther back, Highway Hawk's chrome radiator cover ($47) bolted easily into place, but it also received mixed reviews, ranging from glowing to comments that the cover drew too much attention to the radiator.

Highway Hawk's extensive line of accessories for the Honda VLX provided the inspiration for this project. After seeing the firm's Techglide air cleaner cover for the first time, we decided to install most of the Techglide-style accessories for a unified look. The plastic Techglide air cleaner cover ($48) bolts easily into place, making the VLX's funky triangular air cleaner look much cooler. The headlight wears a Techglide visor ($19). While it slipped into position easily, the visor was loose and rattled when the engine was running. Shop foreman Denny Ladner fabricated a rubber pad to fit inside the headlight ring to remedy the problem. The Techglide side panels ($62) look great but were tricky to install. The covers require three holes to be drilled into the original-equipment (OE) side covers. Since correct placement is a must, we used balls of duct tape (rolled up sticky side out) to hold the covers in position until we were certain of where the covers should reside. Once the covers were bolted in position, we couldn't believe how good they looked--well worth the effort! The Techglide taillight cover was the only near-miss of the group. While we liked how the chromed plastic cover looked from above, the quarter-inch gap between the bottom of the cover and the rear fender gave the part an unfinished feel. Still, the $24 cover does a nice job of rounding out the Highway Hawk Techglide line.

Adding Highway Hawk's chin fairing definitely increased the VLX's sportiness factor. Remember that you need to fit the bodywork to the bike before putting expensive paint on it. The fiberglass fairing arrived with indentations where it mounts to the peg brackets, but no holes. We used a Unibit to drill the correct size hole. Note that the stock washers will not fit in the fairing's indentations. We had no trouble foregoing the washers, but others may want to locate smaller ones. Anyone who has fit fiberglass bodywork to a bike knows that these parts usually require a little grinding here or there before the part slips precisely into place. No grinding was required with the Highway Hawk piece, but the gel-coated finish was a little rough, necessitating more prep work prior to painting than we would have liked. The chin fairing retails for $140.

Atiop the bike, a Mustang Fastback seat ($189) gives the VLX a hot rodded flair while offering a more comfortable perch from which to enjoy the boulevard. Getting the seat to mount took a little effort. The mounts must hook in two places on the frame before the bracket can be lined up to bolt the seat down. Two people were required to achieve this placement, and we think that if the bracket were only an eighth of an inch longer, the problem would be remedied.

It seems as though a custom isn't considered complete if it has the stock exhaust. Since we were striving for a racy style for the VLX, we called Two Brothers Racing for a set of its slash-cut duallies. The pipes fit easily, but the acorn nuts supplied with the kit were not deep enough—or rather, the OE exhaust manifold studs were too long—to hold the pipe snugly in place. We finished the installation by swapping the acorns with the nuts supplied to mount the pipes to the bracket. Next, we'd look for some prettier nuts to replace the functional but bland nuts holding the pipes to the manifolds. The full-length heat shields should keep the blues away. The sound of the $453 exhaust system has to be heard to be believed. The single crankpin engine takes on a deeper, more raspy tone without offending the neighbors. Add a jet kit, and the VLX will likely get some more juice to boot.

The rear was cleaned up by adding an M/C Enterprises turn-signal relocator kit. The kit mounts the turn signals to the license plate bracket. Some wiring work is required, but any careful person could make the changes in 20 minutes. Once the relocator kit is installed, the OE turn signal mounting brackets hang out from under the fender. If the VLX were ours, we'd take out the Sawzall and remove the offending pieces. However, we restrained ourselves since we thought the folks at Honda wouldn't like us cutting up their bike. We liked the look of the $69 M/C Enterprises kit so much that we'd add similar turn signals to the front of the bike. National Cycle's rear fender tip completes the transformation of the tail section. Cobra's $30 brake stay replaces the ugly black stocker.

All told, our transformation of the VLX turned out to be the most successful, straight bolt-on project we have conducted to date. We managed to convert a stock motorcycle to something eye-catching and special. All that was required was a little research, a bit of patience (while waiting for all the pretty parts), and a little time wrenching in the garage.

RESOURCES

Cobra Engineering
4915 E. Hunter Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92807
(714)779-7798
www.cobrausa.com

Highway Hawk c/o Hardsteen Motorsports
(505)770-6821
www.highwayhawk.com

M/C Enterprises
2897 Palma Dr.
Ventura, CA 93003
(805)654-8899

Mustang
Box 29
Terryville, CT 06786
(800)243-1392, (860)582-9633
www.mustangseats.com

National Cycle, Inc.
P.O. Box 158
Maywood, IL 60153, (708) 343-0400
www.nationalcycle.com

Two Brothers Racing
1715 E Wilshire Ave. Bldg. 701,
Santa Ana, CA 92705
(714) 550-6070
www.twobros.comwww.twobros.com

To contact author Evans Brasfield, Motorcycle Cruiser's former associate editor, or see more of his work, visit his website.

For more articles on custom bikes and articles about how to customize and modify your motorcycle, see the Custom section of MotorcycleCruiser.com.

A few bolt-on accessories gave this 1997 Honda VLX 600 a much different character. Photography by Dean Groover
National Cycle's Flyscreen deflects a bit of air and adds to the racy look of the VLX. A Highway Hawk headlight visor also makes an appearance.
Cobra's front caliper cover bolts on easily. The raised lines almost--but not quite--match the line motif of the Highway Hawk pieces.
The Highway Hawk air cleaner cover changes the triangular air cleaner from somewhat odd to head-turningly cool. It's our favorite VLX addition.
Highway Hawk's chin fairing dramatically alters the VLX's look. Check out the scoops on the front of the fairing in the shot of the radiator cover.
Mustang's Fastback seat acts primarily as a solo saddle but can be used two-up. Highway Hawk's Techglide side covers complement the bike's lines.
Two Brothers Racing's pipes look better than the stockers and give the exhaust a deeper, big-bike sound. Cobra's brake stay adds some shine.
The Techglide taillight cover completes the package. The National Cycle fender tip and M/C Enterprises' turn signal relocators tidy up the back end.
Highway Hawk's chrome radiator cover lets the radiator stand out in front, while the firm's hub cover dresses up the right side of the front wheel.