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ADV NewsRally-Inspired Build Gives Honda NX650 Dominator A New Life

Rally-Inspired Build Gives Honda NX650 Dominator A New Life

Classic adventure bike rescued from the scrapyard, revived and reimagined.

Published on 12.09.2022

Anyone remember the Honda Dominator? This was an early adventure bike, the NX650, which was pretty popular in Europe during its production years of 1988 to 2003. As an NX model, it did come to the States after its initial launch, but America was apparently disinterested in the big single and by 1990 the NX650 was discontinued here.

So, while the NX650 is a bit of a collector’s item in the U.S. these days, there are plenty of units floating around Europe, and the owners of one scrapyard-bound 1995 Dominator decided to have their bike reimagined by the young Italian builders at North East Custom in Northern Italy. In a nod to these customers, North East’s owners, brothers Diego and Riki Coppiello, renamed and number plated the bike 782, a merging of the customers’ birth years: 1978 and 1982. 

1995 Honda NX650 Dominator adventure bike build
“The mechanics are always reliable and functional, so we have revised the entire superstructure. The tank is from a 1989 dominator, while the rest we have created.” – North East Custom.

Stock Dominators were respected for their affordability, simplicity, reliability and friendly, go-anywhere nature. So it’s no surprise the mechanicals on the bike are virtually untouched, save for the application of completely custom twin stainless silencers handmade by Virex, a partner of North East Custom. The forks look new, but that’s thanks to fresh paint and new gaiters.

1995 Honda NX650 Dominator adventure bike build

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The North East guys are big fans of rally racing and vintage enduro bikes, and the 782 build reflects that passion. “The starting motorbike is a 1995 Honda Dominator, not exactly famous for being pretty. First thing first was to give it a new aesthetic and we took inspiration from the rally raid word,“ says Diego.

It was a primary intention not to let functionality take a backseat to style with this bike so the customers could use it as a daily rider.  When ADV Pulse interviewed co-owner Diego Coppiello, he told us he and his brother Riki (along with the shop’s car guy, Henry Zenere) especially enjoy doing makeovers on machines that would otherwise be headed to the scrap pile, saying they “love to enhance the inner beauty and soul” of every bike that comes to the shop. “We firmly believe there are no old or ugly bikes to get rid of. There’s always a chance for a new interpretation and a new appeal.”

1995 Honda NX650 Dominator adventure bike build
1995 Honda NX650 Dominator adventure bike build

Well, the brothers certainly made this bike look appealing. The first thing that draws the eye is the attractively asymmetrical pair of LED headlamps trimmed in aluminum and housed in a custom-made fiberglass fairing that swoops down to seamlessly blend into its side panels. These side panels, which incorporate auxiliary LED light strips, go on to perfectly meet with the revised fuel tank, a straight swap from an 1989 Dominator which Diego says has better aesthetics . 

1995 Honda NX650 Dominator adventure bike build

Behind the fairing is a handmade, old-school vibe dash that houses Koso digital instruments, a couple lighted switches, a power port and fuse box. Below the dash is a pouch for holding sunglasses, phone or other vitals, though its coolest feature might be the neon yellow thread stitching that jumps from the pouch to a house-built roll bar pad that’s wrapping around a Neken handlebar. Grips from Domino Racing and foldable mirrors finish off the cockpit view.  

1995 Honda NX650 Dominator adventure bike build

The 782’s stock seat was rebuilt in-house, with the team modifying the foam and reupholstering the works in black vinyl leather, which is accentuated with more of that eye-pleasing fluorescent stitching. The side panels below the seat were custom machined from aluminum to protect luggage and rider from the exhaust heat, and mated to a fiberglass rear fender also formed at North East Custom. The high moto-style front fender is from UFO Plast.

1995 Honda NX650 Dominator adventure bike build
1995 Honda NX650 Dominator adventure bike build

Way out back there’s a custom neon metallic rack with a black quick release bracket to secure a bag. Diego told us the bike’s footpegs are a modified set from Vespa accessory maker, Buzzetti, which leads us to mention how the brothers’ business began when they were kids at home, customizing Vespas for friends and family before they moved onto motorcycles. 

One of the handy things about these Dominator models is they came stock with 21/17-inch spoked wheel setup, which North East freshened with new gold rims and finished with a set of trail-ready TKC80s. Suspension is unchanged, with a stock setup of a front 41mm fork, and Pro-Link rear offering 8.6 in. and 7.6 in. of travel respectively. Power from the big single was a useful 45 hp with 39 ft-lb of torque, which likely got a goose from the new exhaust system. 

1995 Honda NX650 Dominator adventure bike build
Bold retro graphics inspired by rally raid bikes complete the neo-classic build.

We love that this custom adventure bike looks super cool without being over the top. It also doesn’t look too expensive, like some showbike to be displayed rather than ridden. And that was always the brothers’ intention, to give this bike a second chance. Diego told us what he wants everyone to notice about this project is that Dominator 782 was a motorcycle ready to be sent to the junkyard. Now it has a new life, thanks only to some “aesthetic touches and hand work.” 

“There’s always a chance for a new interpretation and a new appeal. It’s the magic of our job.”  

Photography by Filippo Molena

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge
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Joe John
Joe John
December 9, 2022 11:03 am

I always liked those Dominators. If Honda built an NX 650 today with a modern version of the Xr650r engine I would totally buy it. Just make sure it gets 6000k service intervals. That would be sick!

Garth
Garth
December 9, 2022 12:15 pm

I had a dominator back in early 90s, a big brother to the nx250, style at the time never caught on sadly,awesome bike on the back roads of New Zealand, the only downside was the small fuel tank for long rides, thirsty beast, wish I still had one today

Bob B
Bob B
December 9, 2022 12:51 pm

The suspension was not modified? So all that effort and expense for a styling exercise? Fail!

Prasenjit Debroy
Prasenjit Debroy
December 9, 2022 10:37 pm
Reply to  Bob B

Yeah. Seems like more show, less go.

Michael Ross Hewton.
Michael Ross Hewton.
December 10, 2022 3:31 pm

I still have one, a ’95 model. Has no trouble achieving 250 kms on a tank.

EJEAS
EJEAS
December 13, 2022 6:42 pm

If the price is not expensive, I can consider owning it.

Ed Wilbourne
Ed Wilbourne
December 23, 2022 4:37 pm

I’d really like to know the cost of this renovation. It looks great and would be one that I would consider.

bob
bob
December 23, 2022 6:45 pm
Reply to  Ed Wilbourne

If you hafta ask, you probably can’t afford it!

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