All-Metal ADV: Honda 650 Dominator

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

TUAB: The Ultimate Adventure Bike from Marlon Motorcycles… 

The Honda NX650 Dominator has proven itself as one of the most versatile motorcycles of recent history, a single-cylinder dual-sport that’s tough as nails, adept both on road and off, and suitable as a donor for a variety of custom builds. We’ve seen a staggering array of Honda Dominator scramblers, some more capable than others of fulfilling their off-road pretensions.

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

Today, we’ve got a Dominator that takes things a step further — instead of a more stylistic exercise, it’s a bike meant for traveling the world on all types of terrain. It’s the work of Marlon Jeavons of the UK’s Marlon Motorcycles — a builder whose two-wheeled dreams started early:

“My first job at 13 was working at the local mini moto shop and I built my first custom bike in the bedroom of my parents’ house at aged 15.”

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

Marlon began his apprenticeship in Aston Martin’s Heritage Division at 16, where he learned the deep ins and outs of classic sports car restoration and maintenance — skills that would translate readily to his two-wheeled endeavors:

“As you can imagine, only the best will do at Aston, so my background is cemented in that philosophy; whatever the task, the end result has to be perfect.”

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

After many years at Aston Martin, Marlon opened his own workshop in Buckinghamshire, where he does one-off bespoke builds as well as general repair and maintenance. In this case, his client wanted a machine that had everything necessary to travel the world, but remained light enough to horse around off-road.

“This bike had to be perfectly practical and utilitarian but without that bulk and weight, so the design and execution had to be smart and concise. Minimal yet super-practical.”

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

There’s no plastic on the bike. The frame was redesigned and expanded to incorporate a Bumot pannier mounting system, as well as tank bash bars and engine boulder bars. Other highlights include the twin aluminum auxiliary tanks — one for fuel, one for water — as well as the aluminum toolbox mounted behind the panniers.

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

The bike also boasts a new electrical system, upgraded suspension, lightweight aluminum rims, a handmade stainless exhaust, and much more. Says Marlon:

“The frame work and auxiliary tanks are what I’m most proud of. Lightweight and strong. Drop it off a cliff and you can still ride away.”

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

The TUAB moniker comes from the client’s desire for “The Ultimate Adventure Bike.” The bike was recently displayed at The Bike Shed London, and we’re thrilled to feature it here today. Below, we talk to Marlon for the full details on the build.

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike: Builder Interview

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.

I’ve been into bikes from a very young age, thanks to my father, riding since I can remember and have always known I’ve wanted to work with bikes. My first job at 13 was working at the local mini moto shop and I built my first custom bike in the bedroom of my parents’ house at aged 15.

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

I started my proper career at Aston Martin — not bikes, I know! I wasn’t working on the modern cars though; my experience was in the Heritage Division of Aston’s in Newport Pagnell, working with all the vintage models. Starting as an apprentice at the age of 16, I learned all aspects of restoration and maintenance of these classic sports cars over the years. As you can imagine, only the best will do at Aston, so my background is cemented in that philosophy; whatever the task, the end result has to be perfect.

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

Now in my early 30’s, I now have my own workshop in Hanslope, just outside Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, where I spend my days building custom motorcycles whilst also providing a more general service to local bikers.

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?

Honda NX650 Dominator, 1995.

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

• Why was this bike built?

It was a private commission, the customer wanted something to travel the world on. I don’t build bikes speculatively, my custom builds are one-off commissions — produced in partnership with the client. I build each bike to a client’s specifications and needs — although some give me free rein to create something “special.”

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

The client had an idea to own an adventure bike that was light enough to throw around without having to worry about picking it up when you drop it, but also totally utilitarian — so that it had everything you need to take you across the world. He referred to this dream as “The Ultimate Adventure Bike” (his words, not mine!)…and so the concept of “TUAB” was born.

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

The client’s donor bike was a classic ugly duckling; an odd-looking, much tinkered-with 1995 Honda Dominator. A great starting point for the TAUB; small enough to handle easily but large enough to get you out of trouble. It goes without saying what a legendary status the Dominator has for endurance and reliability…it’ll get you around the world as many times as you can stand it!

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

So the brief was simple, but the execution was going to be anything but. This project was going to need more thought, design, engineering, and fabrication than I have ever lavished on a bike before.

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

Normally with an adventure bike you can carry on bolting parts and accessories to it until the cows come home, with total disregard to the resulting size and weight of the bike. This build had to be different. This bike had to be perfectly practical and utilitarian but without that bulk and weight, so the design and execution had to be smart and concise. Minimal yet super-practical.

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

• What custom work was done to the bike?

The main features are as follows:
• Two auxiliary aluminium tanks for drinking water and fuel. The water tank has a dispenser tap while the fuel tank kicks in at the flick of a switch.
• A substantial aluminium tool box is also concealed behind the panniers.
• A Peli Storm Case was adapted for use as a top box (for mobile phone and valuables), which is intended to be with the rider at all times, so is easily detached via the aircraft galley latches.
• Frame enhancements including an extensively re-designed sub-frame incorporating a Bumot pannier mounting system, tank bash bars, and engine “boulder bars.”
• All panel work is fabricated from aluminium (there is no plastic on the bike).
• A fully redesigned electrical layout including a Denali LED lighting system (ultra bright and reliable), lightweight lithium battery, Motogadget control unit…all neatly packaged around a bespoke aluminium air box.
• An original Dakar fuel tank was sourced and customised for purpose.
• The wheels were re-built with lightweight alloy rims.
• The suspension was upgraded; YSS shock absorber and HyperPro fork internals.
• A hand-crafted stainless steel exhaust complete with a Yoshimura silencer.
• Custom foot and hand controls – Apico foot controls and ASV leavers – all protected by Barkbusters.

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

• Does the bike have a nickname?

“TAUB” (The Ultimate Adventure Bike).

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?

I think I achieved what I set out to do. It’s got a lovely feel to it; solid and balanced whilst still light enough to throw around and have some fun on.

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

The frame work and auxiliary tanks are what I’m most proud of. Lightweight and strong. Drop it off a cliff and you can still ride away.

Honda Dominator Adventure Bike

Follow the Builder

Website: www.marlon-moto.co.uk
Instagram: @marlon.motorcycles
Facebook: @marlon.motorcycles.uk
Youtube: www.youtube.com/channel/UC-Xe6rvEvDoFr-MWzUykXoA

4 Comments

  1. Looking at this bike makes me wonder, how the idea of welding them crash bars to the frame occured. I mean when regular crash bars bend on crash, you unmount them, toss them and install new ones. What to do with this one in the same situation ? All I see is bent frame as well. What if this happens far away in the remote location ? Quality and looks of welds from the looks alone would be OK if it was done by me, but if its done by “custom shop” … erm …
    Who promotes such an interesting work in the bike website ? Who evaluates the usefulness of this bike, besides the eye candy factor ?

    • I agree. Everything, crash bars and subframe and luggage rack and front fairing stays are all one integral, welded unit. The upside is “lighter” weight, a lot more customization freedom, and a very clean look. I personally love the way this thing looks, I think it’s very unique and very fun. But, the downside is for any real world use a single drop of the thing or hit of an engine guard on a boulder is probably going to necessitate cutting and rewelding.

      I said the thing is “lighter,” because the Dominator has a steel frame. So, all the additional sections welded on are also ferrous/steel. Which is odd, because the welds are quite bulbous and look like typical aluminum welds. It’s definitely not the typical, fine tig that I’m used to seeing on ferrous metals. I’ve seen this before on ferrous, and it’s because the frame was bronze welded. No offense, but you’d due that if your tube mitering wasn’t the best and you needed thicker filler to accommodate the bigger gaps. Or, you could just want the particular look, but really, if your mitering and tig skills are good you typically wouldn’t go the ropey weld look with bronze filler. Additionally, if all the add-on tubing is ferrous, it would be the question to know how much additional weight was added, as that’s not an insubstantial amount of metal added.

      Again, bike looks awesome, but I’d enjoy knowing more.

  2. I simply can’t bring myself to say anything negative because I respect anyone who loves motorcycles this much. I just have never see welds like that on steel. I thought for sure it had to be aluminum and even then it’s not good. I’m sorry. Just get someone who can weld better.

  3. I get that great rides are often not that pleasing to the eye, but geez. You can’t even put a bag over this thing’s head! And requiring sharp faculties to saddle up, having six beers too many is off the cards too.

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