You’re looking at my latest creation, a 1977 Honda CB 550 F Super Sport that was rescued from its fate as some kind half-assed touring bike when I purchased it two years ago. What was supposed to be a quick and dirty restoration turned into something else as I got into the bike and discovered the previous owner’s handiwork littered all over the place like rat turds. I’ve held onto it for a year longer than intended, but I think the work has paid off.
The first dozen times I tried to ride it, I ended up pushing it home. It got so I would always head out of my house uphill no matter where I was trying to go just to make sure I could roll back down when it cut out. The wiring harness was made up mostly of crimp connectors and speaker wire, and at one point I discovered that the bike would short and die if I turned the handlebars too hard to the left. It was charging at insane battery boiling voltages or not at all, and I basically had to rip everything electronic out and throw it away.
Pretty much the only things that came on the bike are the right hand switch, the starter motor and the coils. Everything else, points, condensers, stator, regulator/rectifier, battery, ignition switch, light switch, head and tail lights ended up getting replaced. It’s got a custom wiring harness that eliminates much of the stock mess, a modern solid state R/R, a lightweight lithium ion battery stowed under the carbs, led tail, and a cb400 headlight now.
It’s also got a trick hidden ignition switch consisting of a ¼in guitar jack with a male plug that’s been wired to complete the main circuit when inserted.
As you can imagine, the bike was in pretty sad cosmetic shape when it came to me as well.
It had mini ape bars, a huge windscreen, and a solo cruiser seat held on with bungee cords. The paintjob was of course a rattlecan special, and for some reason an early 550K tank had replaced the now missing F unit. As I went over the bike, I kept finding little Easter Eggs to keep me interested. Missing motor mount bolts, exotic uses for duct tape, and unidentifiably rusted broken parts all over. Most of the stock body work was tossed or reworked, and the new feathered steel tail was fashioned from an old gl1000 fender I had kicking around the shop. The seat pan came from a street sign I found while walking in the woods of DC with my dog, and the tank was stripped raw and clear coated. New Uni pod filters and a better Honda 4-1 exhaust with a mini “muffler” (note: does not actually muffle sound) were added, the carbs were cleaned, synced and jetted, valves adjusted, points were gapped, new plugs fitted, and fresh fluids were bestowed upon her.
On the plus side, the motor was actually in pretty good shape since I can only assume the last owner never actually managed to ride the thing. With it’s current setup, but bike snarls and barks pleasingly with great throttle response and a nice strong pull up to the redline. Good compression and doesn’t leak a drop of oil.
In the handling department, the front brake has been reworked with EBC pads, a stainless line and a lovely new master cylinder. The rotor has been drilled (along with lots of other parts) to reduce unsprung weight and to improve wet weather performance. It stops very well now, particularly since the overall bike has been lightened quite a bit with judicious use of the credit card, angle grinder and trashcan.
It also has adjustable CB1100 rear shocks to raise the rear end and stiffen the ride a bit. This makes the bike turn in much quicker, and gives it a more aggressive stance. The front forks are stock for that old school look but cleaned up and rebuilt. The cockpit consists of aluminum dirt bars cut down an inch on each end, a cheapo bar-end mirror to keep the cops at bay, a nice RD clutch lever, and a DR650 clock I found at my local salvage yard.
- Saddle and Cockpit
It really shines on tight gravel strewn back roads where bigger, faster bikes can be too much of a handful to be any fun. It also gets comments and turns heads everywhere it goes.
With all that said, it’s proved a surprisingly competent commuter and daily rider. The Shinko DOT trials tire out back hooks up remarkably well in all conditions, and even on extended highway blasts, it creates no noticeable buzz.
A full day in the saddle will leave you a bit sore due to the stiff shocks and the small saddle, but it’s by no means out of the question. Last fall, I took it on a major shakedown ride from DC to Richmond, over to a friend’s house near Staunton, all the way up Skyline Drive and then back in to Washington on I-66. In other words: 2 full days of city, mountain twisties, off road, and interstate to get all the kinks worked out. Not bad for an old rat.