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Honda CB550 Bobber

Posted on October 9, 2013 by Andrew in Bobber, Classic. 46 comments

It’s always been understood that military service steels the mind. The travel. The rigor. The honour of serving one’s country. Give them boys and they’ll give you back men. Of course, this can take years to achieve – often longer. But what happens when you find yourself back home after an extended sea-borne hiatus and realise that while you’ve matured as a person, your garage is still stuck in a very green, very crotch-rockety 2008? Why you upgrade, of course. And not to just any bike. Meet Moh and his very ship-shape CB 550 bobber.

“I’m a Navy guy who spent a long time missing his three bikes in the garage back home,” say Moh. “So when I came back from overseas service last December, I thought to myself, ‘it’s time to get rid of the ‘08 ZX6R in my garage and get something different’. To be honest, I already had a show bike in there that’s won 3 trophies and a bobbed-out Sportster, but I was really looking for something unique and different but also a bike that had a little bit of café in it too.”

“Next thing I knew, I had sold the ZX6R and was ready. By accident I found a man named Louis Soto out of Riverside, California who builds garage chops as a hobby and was working on a CB550. I immediately fell in love with it and made the purchase.”

“95% of the bike is hand-fabricated; the neck of the frame and engine are the only things off a stock CB550. There’s a custom fabricated frame, custom fabricated forks – the list goes on and on. The tank is off an old Sportster Mustang and it’s been cut in half and then reconnected through a hose at the bottom. The pipes took the longest to make and are a thing of beauty; an amazing job indeed.”

“Louis didn’t want to go crazy with the paint job as it would have taken away from all the hard work and fabrication which he wanted as the first thing people noticed, so we chose a more vintage look instead of something too glam. As a finishing touch, parts of the engine and bike where taken for metal polishing and chroming. All up, it took about 4 months from start to finish.”

“I love riding this bike around town. It gets tons of attention, mostly because people have no idea what the hell it is. I’d love to have it at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering next year, since I’ll still be stationed out in Monterey at the time. Riding with no instruments is hard at times – especially when I hit the freeways, so I just try to keep up with the other cars because I have no idea what speed I’m doing. That said, I don’t spend too long on the freeways; this is a pure toy and intended for around town fun and short rides here and there – for my own pleasure.”

  • itsmefool

    NOT a bobber fan, but dang, this one could make me a believer! Love the black and chrome treatment here as well as the neatness of it; Moh knows bikes!

    • Spyker May

      Good call – IMHO deep black and chrome is the next “big thing”…

  • Lewn

    I’m really not keen on bobbed Hondas and Triumphs. If you’re American please stick to butchering Harleys and Indians. Much more appropriate. That motor could have been used in something that could handle like a street-tracker or cafe racer.

    • Davidabl2

      It’s not like it has a very rare power plant. Classic, yes. Rare, not really.

      • Lewn

        4 cylinders in a bobber? ‘Vroom vroom’ no, looks wrong, sounds very wrong.

        • jlgace

          Though I do mostly agree, I kind of want to hear this thing. Skinny pipes make a good rap; it might actually sound pretty good coming into the powerband. Not saying it will be congruent per our limited scope of what sound matches what look, but all the same. And I’m conceding that it gets better-looking the more I see it, when I can stop myself from picturing it as a CB500T…

        • Andy Copeland

          I would imagine it would sound like one monster pissed of mosquito!
          And to me thats a freaking awesome sound

    • ccc40821

      Does that mean Japanese chopper builders should keep their hands off Harleys and Triumphs? And everyone around where I live should stick with Danish Nimbuses?

      • Lewn

        If you’re going to chop a Harley, well that’s fair enough wherever you live. You’ll probably not do much harm to the handling of a bike that can only lean 22 degrees before the foot-plates grind.

        Triumphs shouldn’t be bobbed, it’s just not right, with the exception of some of the more modern cruiser type Trumpys. Foot-forward is for a V-twins not inline fours, triples or anything else.

        Would I take a Harley, put rear sets miles back, cover it in red plastic, give it dodgy electronics and put the mufflers ending in some complex maze on the arse end? No, I just buy a freakin Ducati to begin with. 😉

        • ccc40821

          Roger to that: I’ll take the highway pegs off my (in-line four) Nimbus bobber right away.

        • aircraftmech

          Personal preferences my friend….

    • emeglasson

      Careful..handling is an awfully relative term. Most street trackers and cafe racers handle like absolute crap compared to modern sport bikes and super moto based bikes…

      • Lewn

        I’m sure it will handle better without the lawnmower tire, just sayin’.

    • aircraftmech

      “If you’re an American….” What the f does that mean? I’m an American, own a Beemer and I’m to pick up a couple of BSA’s in boxes to rebuild in about month.
      That bike that sailor picked up looks just fine, I’m sure it sounds even better. It’s all in what the individual wants for his or her preferences. I’m sure you can understand that.

    • Greg Simanson

      I think triumphs are the best for bobbers! The only thing I don’t like is the headlight is too big and to high.

  • bjax

    I *love* everything except the pipes. That said, thank God there are builders who ignore the rules. Really beautifully done.

  • revdub

    I can honestly say that I have not seen another CB550 like it. Others have tended to look too squat and chunky. Not so here. You have managed to make it look small and light. The fabrication is amazing. I guarantee this turns heads everywhere it goes. Well done!

    • Lewn

      Turns ears, more like! Imagine the ungodly noise from those skyward drag pipes. Then it has the sound of a inline 4? WTF, even little kids will be saying ‘daddy, why does that Harley sound like a broken race bike?’

  • Paul

    I would love to see photos of these amazing builds with a HUMAN astride. I`m 6`2″ and weigh in at 210 lbs. I don`t think I could ride three quarters of the bikes you feature.

    • bjax

      Definitely. Pipeburn is pretty good about showing featured bikes in motion, and it’s good to see them under their builders’ command.

    • ccc40821

      Methinks most of the otherwise fine Asian ones featured here would feel like mopeds to most of us.

  • Sprout

    What the heck is goin on with the right foot controls? Absolutely gorgeous build, but the one picture of that right side has me suspicious and confused.

    • I find the same problem with beautiful women.

      • Davidabl2

        You mean the bit about “you have to be this tall to ride the ride”
        (American joke; thats what the signs in front of amusement parks say)

    • partytime

      That’s just the fabricated brake pedal arm, there is a matching foot platform on both sides from the look of it. Looks kind of wild but hey why not.

  • jlgace

    Ah, the poor inline 4. It can’t look glamorous and it sounds like crap. It’s the only thing taking away from this bike in my opinion, especially in the front view where this otherwise lithe-looking machine becomes a bit portly. Very nice build and I do like the details. Top notch. I remember when people (presumably for financial reasons) were bobbing and chopping Japanese bikes, mostly Honda 750’s and such. I think such bikes are tainted for some of us and unfortunately won’t ever reach the same level of ‘cool’ as their v-twin engined counterpart. Maybe I’m wrong. Time will tell.

  • This thing is cool!

    • Lewn

      …in the winter.

  • I bet this looks even lighter and smaller in person. The craftsmanship blows me away and the black and chrome gives it a classy look. I never expected an 550 to look this good as a bobber.

  • AndrewF

    Whenever I see upturned pipes like this I get the giggles, imagining how rain gets in and the pipes start gurgling and blowing bubbles or jets of steam… Then I remember that’s just being silly: bikes like this don’t get ridden in the rain! 🙂

    • Davidabl2

      The owner lives in Sunny Southern California..almost nobody rides any bikes there when it rains.

  • 3s and 7s

    Could it be possible? Less is in fact more?
    It just has all it needs

    • Davidabl2

      Less pipes? Like a 4-into-one?

      • 3s and 7s

        More meant in a general sense. There is simplicity in the final look of the bike. I don’t mean it should have the minimum of everything. If that were the case it wouldn’t need four cylinders in the first place.

        • Davidabl2

          Less cylinders would certainly result in fewer (“less”) pipes 🙂

  • A.Bear

    I’ve been reading the comments on here and wanted to answer some questions for those that had them. I read the one about handling and the bike handles pretty good for what it is….I’m also 5’8 and fit in this cockpit pretty well. Yes if you’re taller you wouldn’t be able to ride this, but this bike wasn’t made for you. It does sit very very very low, I mean super low, the floor boards will rub standing still if I lean it a lil to far either way….. but turning on the street is no problem. Needs a bigger turning radius due to the handle bars will hit the tank…. so no aggressive turning. It sounds great in person and a fun bike to ride…. Remember this is a toy and not a practical bike, it wasn’t meant to be. If I wanted a practical bike I’d go buy one at the dealership. This is a piece of art on wheels and it does get ridden. The controls on the right side were hand made , if you were confused about that chrome piece on the right side.

  • aircraftmech

    Very nice bike.

    I’m seeing more and more of these garage built bobbers and I definitely like the look. I keep getting more and more ideas for my future build….

  • metricwrench

    I haven’t been a fan of Japanese inline 4s in a hard-tail frame. Something always misses the mark for me. This bike completely decimates that opinion. Its perfect… really it is. Nothing more to say.

  • Jed

    Nicely done.

  • Septic the Sceptic

    Nice looking bike. Not a bobber though.

  • This is perfect, sans the wierd pipes.

  • Hamish Lamont

    Very cool bike. Love the bars the pipes, the shiny bits and how the line goes from the rear hub straight up to the headlight. =)

  • tony

    This is a chopper, not a bobber.

  • bartsky

    I like my bikes with sprung rear suspension….but it’s a good looking build. I’d like to see more swing arm customs in this style.

  • Andy Copeland

    Hi Moh
    You have done a fantastic job. I keep visiting this page to look at your bike so thought it was about time I posted my congratulations.
    I’m a big fan of the pipes they suit the bike perfectly they remind me a little of Todd Asin’s triumph … but better a little more organic and fluid plus there is four!!
    The tank looks great, is it a split axed 2.2 from lowbrow? The black paint, polished bits and the striping really work well here. It reminds me of the Harley Davidson split tanks with the gauges in the middle (but you have done it the way they should of done it small minimal and simple! I think I might replicate this little detail you have done it so well!
    The rear guard detail is not something you see on current chopper/bobbers. I am used to seeing the typical tryed and tested ribbed guard. By filling it in I think it gives some visuial weight to the back and helps the look of the bike flow yet by having it painted gloss black next to polished bits it tends to disappear from certain angles so its not overpowering to the eye.
    All in all great job to is there any more places we can all see more pictures?
    -Andy Copeland