Saturday, March 6, 2010

Reader Ride! Fantastic CB550 Cafe Racer!

Update: I've corrected the post title to reflect the fact that this is a 550 and not a 500. Yes I knew that. I tell my daughter that rushing causes errors. I should take my own advice I suppose.

I love builds like this Eric sends in this outstanding garage built CB500 Cafe Racer. His solution to the spoked wheel / modern fork combination is something a lot of folks are looking for.

Eric Writes:

Hi Steve,

I cranked up the res on my camera and snapped some more pics yesterday afternoon; I hope these look a little better. I also included a pic that I took when I first picked it up just to give you an idea of where I started from.

As far as the mods go, I fitted a set of forks from a 2004 GSX-R 600, using a Harley narrow glide wheel which fit surprisingly well between the calipers; it was almost a plug-n-play operation. The rotors are 320mm units from a Hayabusa which required 10mm spacers underneath the calipers. The eBay front end also came complete with clipons & controls so I decided to go ahead and use them; the right control wouldn't fit with the bar-end mirror so I binned it in favor of a Motion Pro throttle assembly and start/kill switch from an R6.

I cut everything off of the frame just aft of the shock mounts and welded on a hoop made from some old handlebars I had laying around; the battery & other electrics were mounted to the new rear hoop and hidden underneath the bumstop. All unneeded brackets & tabs were shaved from the frame before dropping it off for powdercoating. The rearsets are Tarozzi universals mounted to the passenger peg mounts. The rear wheel is a Harley 3.5x18 rim that I laced to the 550 hub with Buchanan stainless spokes.

I popped the top end off the engine and freshened it up a bit with a set of 59mm pistons and camshaft from a SOHC CB650 for a little extra oomph. Once it was back together, I laid on a few coats of Duplicolor's engine primer & enamel. For the exhaust, I welded a pair of merged collectors to an old set of 4-2 headers and finished them off with a pair of repro Commando peashooters.

I'm a big fan of the DIY method so I'm fairly proud to say that with the exception of the cylinder machining and powdercoating, everything on the bike was "garage built" by myself.

So that's probably a little more than you needed (or wanted) to know, but I hope it's helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or if there's anything else you need.


My kinda bike! Much appreciated Eric!


  1. he makes it sound so easy!! really nice job mate. an inspiration to us all!

  2. I'd like to know more about lacing the Harley wheel to the Honda hub. I have been trying to do something similar with some Yamaha stuff but Buchanans told me I I can't mate the rim I have to the hub I have.

  3. Thanks gents; I'm glad you like it. It really is an honor to see it featured along with all the other MPOTD's.

    One little correction though; not that it matters too much - it's actually a 550, not 500.

    T.B.H. ~ It's actually a pretty common modification to the CB550/750's, though most are lacing 16" rims to the hubs. I can't say for sure why Buchanan's is telling you that your plan won't work; I was under the impression that they can make spokes for any application.

  4. Girl on the phone said that the nipples on the rim I have were not angled right for the stock hub. I am pretty sure she wanted to sell me a rim. I am out in the barn right now with the parts forging ahead.

    Thanks for inspiring me with your fantastic machine.

  5. TBH,

    They're probably telling you that to err on the safe side, as she probably wasn't able to reference the angle difference between the spokes on a Harley hub or your hub your'e intending to use. But then again, shouldn't they be able to do this? It IS their business after all.

  6. What size is the front wheel, 19" This bike has great proportions. Also wondering if the triple trees are from a gsxr also? Great Great bike, man!

  7. Thanks Ryan!

    Yep, the front wheel is 19x2.5 and the trees are from the gsxr.


  8. What year and model is the front wheel off?
    And what stem bearings did you use?

  9. The front wheel is from an '00 & later narrow glide; I couldn't tell you exactly what year of bike it came from.

    The stem bearings are All Balls' tapered bearings. The bottom bearing is OEM equivalent for the 550, the upper is a combo of bearing/race from a Kawasaki something-or-another.

  10. I was thinking about selling my current bike and getting a nice CB550 project bike. I love what you did to this one. Aside from the cost of the bike can you tell me ballpark what all these extra parts and the full project cost you?

    I plan on tearing it all down for powder coat, paint, etc. I'm wondering if I'm biting off more that I should, cost wise.

  11. Mighty fine work son. Don't know where you got that ability; certainly not from me!

  12. Very nice!

    What size rear tire is that?

    What year CB550?

  13. It sure would be nice if you could remember the exact Kawasaki top bearing you used. Does it have an AllBalls part no.? I already have done the 19" wheel and brakes. Nice work by the way.


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