There are some custom motorcycle builders who take a very freestyle approach, grinding and hammering away at metal until things look right. And then there are the builders who plan everything meticulously beforehand, getting the look and the fit millimeter-perfect — and using technology to the max.
Paul Brauchart and Philipp Rabl of Austria’s Vagabund Moto fall into the modernist camp. Their output is precise rather than prodigious, and they’ve just finished the sleekest Honda NX650 Dominator we’ve ever seen.
“We were trying to generate a minimalist look while producing a fully functional ‘offroad’ bike,” Brauchart tells us. “Which meant having all the necessary parts for being street legal in Austria.” That means a lot of compromises, but there’s little visible sign of it — aside from discreetly positioned legal necessities. “It was our own in-house project, but it was standing in the corner for over two years because we didn’t have the time to build it,” Paul explains. “We are really into the offroad/outdoor scene, but also love to build super-clean bikes. With this NX650 we’ve tried to combine these two preferences.”
The donor is a 1991 model and was in pretty good condition when Vagabund bought it. But that didn’t stop them from pouring a ton of work into it. “It took a stupid number of construction hours to produce the 3D-printed fuel tank alone and a cohesive rear end.”
Vagabund used nylon PA12 3D printing material; it has high tensile strength, plus good impact and fatigue resistance. The new tank, tail unit, and air filter cover all use this material, along with select brackets and switchgear housings. The seat has a grippy, durable Alcantara cover, pleated in a style that echoes modern motocross seats. On a more traditional front, Vagabund reconditioned the tough 644cc single, and crafted a new stainless steel exhaust system with a two-into-one collector and a modified Akrapovič muffler. There’s a new oil cooler from the German brand Off The Road, too.
A pair of GKA fuel canisters are attached to a custom-made rack on the new rear subframe to max out range on long-distance rides. The Pro-Link suspension has been treated to a new Wilbers shock and the whole setup is very slick indeed. The wheels have been powder coated, fitted with new stainless spokes, and shod with fresh Bridgestone Battlax rubber. The 265-millimeter stock brake disc has been upgraded to a 320-millimeter brake rotor at the front. Right above it is a Husqvarna TC85 front fender, and above that, you’ll find a custom-made cargo rack that fulfills multiple roles. It holds a pair of tiny Kellermann Atto turn signals, Highsider headlight assemblies, and a nifty quick-release mounting system for a weatherproof Black Ember storage bag.
“We had absolutely no parameters on this project,” says Brauchart, “except to keep an eye on the budget.”
The cockpit is all-new too, with a custom top yoke and bars, and new controls and levers. The electrics are hooked up to a brand-new wiring loom, which terminates in a Kellermann turn- and brake-light combo built into a custom-made license plate holder.
We’re always fascinated to see what top workshops build when they’re not working to a commission, and V13 is proof that an open brief often delivers the best results. “We had absolutely no parameters on this project,” says Brauchart, “except to keep an eye on the budget.” The proportions are absolutely spot on, and make us wonder if Honda could release an updated version of the much-loved Dommie with a similar vibe.
This one, however, now has a new owner — a chap who happened to be visiting the workshop and immediately fell in love with it. Vagabund doesn’t built copies of bikes, but they’re keen to replicate the concept on a different off-road platform, such as a KTM or Husqvarna. We reckon they could be onto something here —especially if a kit of 3D-printed parts is in the offing.@Vagabund-moto.com