Honda XBR500 “Imatra” by XTR Pepo

Honda XBR500 Cafe Racer

In 1985, Honda launched the XBR500 to compete with Yamaha’s 500cc big-single street bike, the SR500. At core, the SR was a street version of the company’s legendary XT500 enduro, which won the first two Paris-Dakar Rallies. Honda decided to follow suit with a similar recipe, giving the XBR500 a 44-hp RFVC (Radial Four Valve Combustion Chamber) dry-sump engine from their venerable series of XR off-road bikes. Instead of the oil-in-frame design of the XR machines, the XBR housed an oil reservoir under the seat.

Honda XBR500 Cafe Racer

The XBR500 had both kick and electric start, Comstar wheels, dual exhausts, and a removable pillion seat for a cafe racer look. Honda would later follow up with the GB500, which took the British-inspired aesthetics even farther.

Honda XBR500 Cafe Racer

Enter one of our favorite builders, Pepo Rosell of XTR Pepo, the “master constructor” formerly of Radical Ducati whose builds often resemble full-on race bikes. This 1990 XBR500 “Imatra” is no exception. Says Pepo:

“‘Imatra’ is the name of the circuit where the Finnish round of the GP races took place in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. It was all open roads that were closed for he races! Here’s a very famous picture of the riders jumping across the railway pass.”

The Imatra Circuit was a street circuit where Gran Prix of Finland was held 19 times between 1964 and 1982. The circuit lost its World Championship status in ’83 due to the dangerous nature of the course, but various races are still held on the course. Says Pepo of this XBR500 build:

“It’s a tribute to the good old times! And eXTRemes! I always have liked singles and love the sound of the big singles from the 90’s, when you had a real singles World Championship, with free rules for tuning and preparing the bikes, making for some really nice prototypes!”

Below, we take a look at the build sheet of this smokin’ hot 500 single!

Imatra by XTR Pepo (2021)

Donor Bike: Honda XBR 500 1990

  • Modified frame
  • Hagon rear shocks
  • XTR Front bracket
  • Aprilia RS125 upside-down fork
  • Tomaselli clip ons
  • Derbi hub
  • Excel rims
  • NG front brake rotor
  • Frentubo brake line
  • Brembo radial brake caliper
  • Brembo front brake pump
  • Koso rev counter
  • XTR carbon fiber front mudguard
  • XTR adjustable CNC machined footrest
  • Mash Five Hundred rear hub and drum brake
  • XTR fairing (XTR design)
  • Yamaha TZ250 modified fuel tank
  • Yamaha TZ125 modified rear cowl
  • XTR upholstery


  • Overboring to 600 cc with Wiseco high comp piston
  • Honda XL600 crankshaft
  • Honda XBR500 gearbox
  • Eliminated magneto (runs with LIPO battery)
  • Magnesium Honda XR600 left crank cover
  • Kickstart, eliminated electric starter and gears
  • Reprofiled XBR camshaft to HRC sound of Single specifications.
  • Ported heads
  • FCR 39 carburator with hand made intake
  • Oil cooler

Paint / Photos:

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One Comment

  1. Most of Pepo’s work is predictable, but I like it, I like the aesthetic and I like the purposefulness. This one looks wonderfully minimal and light. Wish we could know the engine output, and it’s a shame this is purely a racebike with no street amenities nor a charging system.

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