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The Rodsmith X-Wing


Bike EFIX Article

CRAIG RODSMITH IS ONE of the elite few that truly deserves to have an ego…but doesn’t. According to photographer Grant Schwingle, the Australian metal-shaping guru has a tendency to sell himself short, and had to be pried for details on this stunning Honda Gold Wing.

Based in Illinois, USA, Craig calls this the ‘X-Wing,’ and casually dismisses it as a ‘quick’ build. “It started off as a bone stock 1980 Honda GL 1100 that had been sitting in my shop gathering dust for a year or two,” he says.

“I decided to do a quick build as a daily rider—why not? They’re smooth, comfortable and ultra reliable. I thought I’d just do a quick replacement aluminum tank cover to give it a little character, which lead to a matching seat, and it soon got out of hand.”

Out of hand is an understatement: by the time Craig was done, there wasn’t an inch of the Gold Wing that hadn’t been seen to. Slimming down the big old tourer became an obsession, as he started shaping new parts, one by one.

Craig started with the new tank cover and rear cowl, but quickly decided that a new under-seat fuel tank was in order too. He even went to the trouble of including a sight glass, because he wanted to ditch the stock clocks and fuel gauge.

The only dials left are an oil and temp gauge, tucked in behind a custom-made cowl, which sits over a one-off headlight. “It was becoming an obsession,” says Craig. “So I also formed up a front fender and a chin spoiler-slash-radiator shroud in the same style.”

With the bike gradually transforming into a very different beast, Craig knew that the hideous Comstar wheels needed attention. So he cut and dished a set of aluminum wheel discs to cover them up, then fitted some Shinko rubber. Even though he was unsure about the idea at first, they certainly complete the sleek metal look he was aiming for.

The Gold Wing was now shedding plastic at a rate of knots, so Craig started turning to the finer details. He filed the original ‘GL 1100’ designation off the valve covers to push the smooth aesthetic even further.

For the controls he cut the stock handlebar clamps off the triple trees, polished them up and installed clip-ons. When the clip-ons felt too low, he kept the clamps, but slotted in a set of separated Ducati Monster bars. Then he machined up his own textured aluminum grips, before making a cover to house the oil and neutral lights.

Craig also made a new front brake master cylinder, and installed braided stainless steel brake lines. The battery was relocated to under the false tank, the brake rotors drilled and a whole lot of brackets sent off for nickel plating.

The Gold Wing’s suspension was left stock, but refurbished and lowered at both ends. Under the hood, the frame was de-tabbed, its welds cleaned up, and the whole thing painstakingly polished. The engine wasn’t messed with, but it now breathes better thanks to open filters and a pair of Cone Engineering mufflers and reworked headers.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard another modified Gold Wing of this era with this exhaust,” Grant tells us, “but let me tell you it sounds great! A little bit flat-six Porsche, a little bit Subaru boxer, a little bit CB750.”

According to Craig, it has the bite to match its bark: “The bike is a blast to ride, it’s like sitting on a locomotive!”

It looks great too, complemented by the blue seat leather (executed by Dane Utech) and hand pin striping and lettering (handled by Jim Brando). Plus, with so many original parts binned, Craig speculates that it’s a lot lighter.

“The original bike weighed almost 700 pounds,” he says, “and while I haven’t weighed it yet, but I’d bet I shaved over 250 pounds off it, probably more.”

“I named it X-Wing not because of the Star Wars space ship design, but because it is hardly reminiscent of a Gold Wing—think ex-Gold Wing.”

Craig might have built the X-Wing for his own use, but we’d be surprised if offers to buy it don’t come rolling in. And when they do, we can look forward to his next ‘daily runner.’

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