If you’ve been following the build series for the Honda CB550 Cafe Racer you will no doubt understand just how much work goes into the custom motorcycles we create. This bike wasn’t built for the series, instead it was chosen from our line up of custom jobs we already had in the line up.
I could tell Scott wanted something special, and with his choice of donor bike being a Honda CB500 or CB550 I knew we could build something special. This was the perfect project to show in detail exactly what happens with our bikes as they come together.
From the outset we had a vision in mind that would deliver Scott a motorcycle that would stop traffic with its looks, and blast past it with how it performed. I always bang on about reliability of our motorcycle but I truly believe that is one of the most important aspects of a custom build.
Clients come to us because they want beautiful motorcycles, but a motorcycle they can ride. In my experience if a bike is too hard to ride for fear of being let down, it tends not to get ridden as much as it should.
So when we build a motorcycle as much effort goes into making sure our rider can hit the button and just go, as goes into creating that perfect style our clients are after.
This build has been crafted to create a feeling of nostalgia. The colour schemes and finishes we’ve used draw from an era even before the Honda CB550 was manufactured but the feeling is undeniable. When looking at the CB550 Café Racer you feel like you’re looking at something that your hero would roll up on in a black and white movie.
With the all new chrome and polished finishes the front end gleams. Using a single gauge, custom triple clamp and clip on bars. We’ve also upgraded the front brake using a modern calliper and performance lever that give you far better control over your ride. All of this tied together with custom fabricated lighting and gauge brackets and a hand built front fender using our DIY fender kit.
The fabrication on the rear was kept very simple, with a clean, upswept hoop added and our custom frenched in brake light set up forming the base of the tail. As requested by Scott our client we’ve built a brat style seat for 2 up riding and a removable tail cowl for everyday single seat riding.
When fabricating the tail I wasn’t struggling to find a nice way to mount the tail and still have it easily removeable. I couldn’t figure out hidden mounts and trying to make the mounts discreet just wasnlt going to work. Often when faced with problems like this, I’ll just go in the opposite direction. I’ll make a beautiful looking mount that doesn’t need to be hidden. We’ve used a button head M6 screw to fasten the tail and shaped up some polished aluminium teardrop panels that fit to the tail. Now the tail mounts are a draw card and detail worked into the design. Another stellar job from our fabricator Dylan.
The wheels on the Honda CB550 are another vintage styled addition. Using 2 x 18” valanced rims, polished up to match the refurbished hubs and wrapped in Avon tyres. I speak on the 18” wheels in the series and I find it improves the handling of these bikes nicely, but doesn’t remove the classic styling like the use of 17” wheels would.
The Engine of the Honda CB550 Café Racer was a large piece of the rebuild for this bike and a heavy feature in the series. Having not run in a number of years our engine builder Jesse had his work cut out for him to make this vintage Honda sing again. With all new and refurbished internals and performance upgrades that include a Dynatek ignition, high comp pistons, ported and polished head and a bank of Mikuni RS carburettors the 550 has more than enough power to satisfy our 105kg rider. On receiving his CB550 Scott has all but retired his Ducati Monster. With the performance dialled on the Honda CB550 Dream Bike Build we went in and started making it pretty. With some highly polished cases, upgraded tappet covers, select chrome work and a customised finned stator cover the motor is a diamond set inside its customised exterior.
To finish out the shape and style of the bike I set about building the exhaust, a stainless steel 4-2 exhaust, perfectly symmetrical on the bike with a flowing set of compound curves that flow under the engine and out the back of the bike. Finishing into a set of our torpedo mufflers the sound out of this bike is as good as you’d imagine. Take a look at our YouTube Build run down to see what I’m talking about, the test ride scene on this video is amazing.
With that it was time for paint, Nathan from Livin Loco helped us out with a custom mixed vintage grey that was laid over the frame and tins only detailed by some very select and elegant filigree work done in white gold leaf. Watching Nathan work his magic on this paint job was a real highlight of the shannons dream bike build series as I’m usually never present for it, I just see the end result.
Lastly we had to find a matching leather for this very unique colour we had created. It was no easy task but Jamason and I persevered until we found that glass slipper for the Honda CB550 café racer. Timeless autotrim has sewn up a very simple design seat cover and back pad that attaches to the removeable tail. Using a woven leather detail and terracotta coloured leather there’s no other colour that would sit on this bike as well, regardless of your opinion of brown seats.
With all the elements in place we went and put this bike through its paces on one of the most rigorous and fun filled test rides I’ve ever done. We travelled all over the gold coast shooting and riding this bike for the series, working out a few kinks along the way ensuring our rider Scott was in for the time of his life upon picking up his brand new 1973 Honda CB550.
The exhaust note is a welcome piece of audible feedback as you pull back on the throttle, with this gleaming example of custom excellence underneath you pointing this bike into a corner wide open is a real thrill. Every part of this bike upgrade or refurbished and operating to perfection. The ride instills ultimate confidence to push this bike for all its capable of. As the revs climb past 4000rpm the bike comes alive and sings right through the rev range. Sharing a few rides with Scott after the bike was done was a real treat as we watched him learn his new machine and start to feel at home in the saddle.
If you want to watch more of this build and how it came about check out the Shannons YouTube series, if you’d rather the high level view and an ultimate ride video hit the link below and watch our PBM build run down. Enjoy!