Category: Drool-Worthy Bikes

1977 Honda CB550F SuperSport City Scrambler – “Day Late and a Dollar Short”

1977 CB550f
1977 CB550f

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.

The Rat's Nest
The Rat’s Nest

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.

Diamond in the Rough
Diamond in the Rough

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.

Speed holes

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.

Tail Detail

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
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.


Skyline Drive on the CB550f
Skyline Drive on the Honda CB550f

Another bike almost finished

This is just a teaser for my latest build, a 1977 CB550f which I bought about a year ago and has been pretty darn annoying to put back on the road.  Lots of rewiring, carb tuning, and custom fabrication to get it running and looking the way I wanted.

Hopefully the GS500 and the VTR250 will be smooth by comparison.  But probably not. 

Here’s the feathered tail piece I made for the bike, complete with an LED rear marker tucked up inside.  It looks pretty mean in person I must say.  More pics to follow once we get a sunny day.   



Local Builder: Bad Juju Vehicles

I met the Bad Juju guys last week, and I must say the “show bike” was what I’ve come to expect from show bikes: a wildly impractical piece of sculpture meant for looking pretty and not for riding.  But there were some very cool ideas on display as well as a very ridable looking little CB400 four which can be yours for around 3 grand.

They also had some cool lamps made from moto parts and framed pics (mostly of the same cb400) available for purchase.

But now for the main event:

This unfinished Triumph based . . . spaceship thing was incredibly cool looking (very steampunk) and had some features that I hope to borrow on a future build.  First, the steel body work was framed up in thin rod and then the sheet was cut/bent/welded to fit over top.  Not the lightest way to go, but it certainly gave the bike a solid feel like it came from a single piece of metal.  The 2 into 2 undertail exhaust was particularly well done also, but my personal favorite is the “ignition key.” Just a brass plate with a hole in it that happens to fit the head of a 1/4″ instrument cable.  The little plug is soldered up so it completes the circuit and the bike gets juice.  I’m rewiring my CB next week, so this might be what happens to my ignition.  To the 3 people who read this, please don’t steal my bike…

GS500 Racer Envy

Click the photo for a writeup from sportrider.

Another example of the kind of crazy, stupid, wrong, gorgeous, awesome motorcycles I want to see built.  I believe that those blessed with full machine shops and scrap bins full of aerospace grade titanium owe it to the rest of us to create bikes like this.  The barely recognizable GS500 pictured above weighs in at 320 lbs, has been punched out to 650ccs, features ram air induction, full ti exhaust, GSXR750 8 valve heads, and a whole lot of carbon fiber.

Marc and I will be circling back with pics of our own track rat gs500, but I can tell you one thing for certain: it will not be this cool.  That’s because it’s being designed, fabricated, assembled and tuned in Marc’s unlighted alley.  Hell, I’ll consider it a success if the bike ever makes it out of there under its own power.  But, with a bit of luck, we’ll be out crashing it at Summit Point before the summer is over.

Customer Bikes: 1976 GL1000 Goldwing

This spring, Gregg’s Goldwing came into the shop in pretty sad shape.

The bike had been parked 10 years ago due to a bad coil, and in the meantime, the carbs had rusted solid, the tires had dry rotted, and all kinds of seals and gaskets had failed.

I spent much of February giving it a thorough once over, including carb cleaning and sync, new fluids, cables, pads and hoses throughout, an upgraded front master cylinder, rebuilt forks, dyna electronic ignition, new timing belts, valve adjustment, new tires, new fuel pump and lots more I’m forgetting.  With the mechanical resto done, the bike is back home with its owner for the riding season and awaiting a full cosmetic going over (new chrome and paint) for next year.

Without a doubt the most comfortable bike I’ve ever ridden at highway speed, and even on 40 year old suspension, it handled surprisingly well on the twisty roads by my house.