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‘77 Honda CB550 – ‘BLACKSQUARE’


Posted on February 28, 2015 by Andrew in Café Racer, Classic. 51 comments

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Great Britain and the United States of America have a proud history of building on each other’s innovations to move the whole of Western Civilisation along. While English minds may have created the industrial revolution, it took Henry Ford to crystallise the whole thing in mass production for the people. And while (arguably) it was Elvis who recorded the first Rock ‘n’ Roll song, it was clearly The Beatles and the Stones who perfected it ten years later. Then along comes New Jersey’s Kyril Dambuleff and his associates, who have managed to create ‘BLACKSQUARE’ – one of the most beautiful, and one of the most British-looking bikes we’ve seen in a month of high tea Sundays. Philip Vincent, eat your jolly heart out.

The BLACKSQUARE was based on a 1977 Honda CB550, and as Kyril puts it, “it was built with the objective to optimize form and function and to maximize the power to weight ratio.” In other words, their mission was to create a custom motorcycle that was elegant, simple, light and fun to ride. “The solution was a minimalist approach and to make sure we really paid attention to the details. Everything that is not essential for the machine to run has been eliminated.”

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“There are no instruments. No mirrors. No front fender. No switches. No blinkers. No conveniences. No luxuries.”

“A headlight, tail lights and a license plate holder are all present and functional since they are required by law. The motorcycle is street legal.” Only the frame, engine, front forks, rear wheel hub, and side covers were retained from the ‘77 original. All the other components were either custom-made or custom-fitted, and that’s probably why it looks so damn good.

Aluminum, brass and stainless steel were used for all new parts, including the foot pegs, clutch and brake pedals, seat pan, brackets, velocity stacks, exhaust pipes, wheels and spokes, along with many other parts forged during nights hunched over a cold, metal lathe somewhere in Jersey. As a result, bike’s weight was reduced to a total of  170kg/375lb, down from the factory wet weight of 192kg/423lb.

Add a rider to the scales and you’re getting close to the magic 1cc-per-pound benchmark. That’s as good as a late-model 911 Carrera 4 and unlike the Porsche, riding this bike around town won’t make you look like your local bank manager undergoing a mid-life crisis; it’ll just make you look cool.

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Kyril wears his gasoline-pumping heart on his sleeve when it comes to his influences. “This project was inspired by the works of talented custom motorcycle builders such as The Grave Crew, Falcon Motorcycles, Raccia Motorcycles, and many others. And it would have been impossible to complete without the help of many mechanics, machinists, welders, painters and other craftsmen.”

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Did someone mention attention to detail?

“Building a custom motorcycle is a hell of a lot of fun, but it is a long process, too. It took me more than 2 years to finish.” In an attempt to help out some of his fellow aficionados and builders, Kyril took the time to note down some of the build’s finer details.

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“The frame has a trimmed tail section. I removed the passenger foot peg supports, kick stand bracket, centre stand brackets, seat hinges and seat lock, and added new mufflers support panels and a kick stand bracket.”

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“The engine is the original ‘77 HONDA CB550 unit, completely rebuilt with all-Japanese OEM parts. The carbs were treated similarly, but with the addition of a custom brass shaft for the main stay and brass velocity stacks by Steel Dragon Performance.”

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“The tank is a BCR ‘Dolphin’ model. The rubber is by Avon and spokes are by the Devon Rim Company. Rear shocks are Hagon units, and the exhaust is a custom-made stainless set-up with Emgo tulip-shaped mufflers. The tail lights are refinished antique units with new Lucan glass lenses, and the battery is a Ballistic Evo-2 unit.”

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  • adnan

    is the second photo flipped???

    • arnold

      Naw, that was the limited edition right hand shift, very British influence.

      • adnan

        hmm…but still there is some problem in the photos…just go through the 1st and 2nd photos…a bike can’t have the same look in both sides…like…look at the both brakes…because of the drive chains, gear shift lever, brake lever etc…in the 1st photo, you can see the drive chain in the left side of the bike and in the 2nd photo, the drive chain is in the right side… 🙂

        the 2nd photo is flipped…check the registration number plate…and ‘blacksquare’ written on the gas tank…

        • My bad. Somehow managed to flip in in Photoshop. All fixed now.

          • adnan

            🙂

  • arnold

    Very , very nice. The first time my wife went two up on a motorcycle we hit 90 mph on my 550, downhill. The second time the bike popped a fuse and we did some walking, Not as good as the ephemeral ‘We’ve run out of gas ‘story, but it is a pretty good memory none the less. ( Pulled and substituted fuses several hours later)
    Oh gee honey, good thing I got it running again.ald

  • Jeffrey Wallis Bell-Zekas

    a beautiful bike…

  • blackbird

    Excellent balance of the gold and chrome guys. Love the pipes.

  • JayDub

    Beautiful bike but that “build blog” is pretty short on details. It’s description (particularly about the author) sounds like something that’d be great for me as a beginner. And then there are 4 posts, with almost zero information and no pictures of the actual build.

    Love the result though.

    • Kyril

      Thanks. I’ll be adding more information to THE BUILD page. My intention is to share what I did and learned. If there is anything in particular I can help with, just drop me a line.

      • guvnor67

        Yer, my birthday is on June and …..!!!

      • JayDub

        The main thing I’d like to know is how you went from knowing nothing about doing this kind of thing, to doing something that looks so beautiful.

        I’d love a price list, too. What kind of tools did you start with. How did you gain the knowledge to do what needed to be done?

        • kyril

          It is indeed a long story and I have tried to summarize it in the IRRATIONAL EXUBERANCE post on THE BUILD page.

      • KingB

        Stunning build; would love to emulate, where can we find the build page? What did you use for the seat? It looks so much better following the bobbed rear fender than the typical cafe racer hump.

        • Kyril

          Click on the word “Blacksquare” highlighted in orange in the description right under the first photo above and this will take you to the bike’s website.

  • welltravel

    Ok, I’m old, but my love for motorcycles is as fresh as it was in 1965 on my Honda150 dream. This” cool thing” about no mirrors on a street bike is just plain stupid! Not cool at all. When I drive a car I must wear a seat belt which I am against. I not against my passengers must wear them. Riding a bike with no mirrors down a busy freeway, or most anywhere. ….beyond stupid.

    • Mirrors are usually taken off for a shoot. Just like a model takes of their glasses for a shoot. Doesn’t mean that when the model drives they don’t wear them…

  • welltravel

    By the way. I truly love this bike! Beautiful!

    • guvnor67

      Sort of Agree, tho I’ve always done over
      -the-shoulder checks,maybe just a single (quality) bar-end mirror, but otherwise perfect. An outstanding machine!!!

  • E Brown

    Very nice, and love the color scheme. When I retire in a few years, my dream is to build what I call a CB500TT – a racer based on a Honda CB500 using the rare GB500TT as its influence; I think the result would look similar to this.

  • Luke

    Love the headlight/tank/seat/tail lines and proportions. I feel like when a builder goes for “light” so many choices get made correctly as there is less to look at, so each decision gets more time.

  • Michael Kork.

    Is that a Benelli tank? Indeed it kinda looks like a Vincent ;). I would “kill” to have it in my garage :D. Thank God they didn’t put any clip-ons. The bars look sooo comfortable

    • Kyril

      The tank is by Benjie’s Cafe Racer and it is the mild-steel version of their “dolphin” design. The gas cap is by Speed Dealer Custom.

  • bobfalfa

    A rather O/T point
    For pity sake England is NOT Britain ,as you are Australian based I would have though you’d realise that
    PS. most of the Industrial Revolution was orchestrated by Scots
    and the bike OK !!
    Ken whit a’ mean like!!

  • Venicechoppers

    Great job bobbing the rear fender! It’s cool to see the Honda features retained and repurposed.

  • sethasaurus

    Nice!
    Also, no big empy hole in the back end .. (never understood why people liked that look anyway).

    One thing you better watch though – brass and aluminium together isn’t the wisest idea. A bit of corrosion and nut/bolt threads will chemically weld together. I have seen this on older camera lenses from circa 1930s when they started using a larger variety of metals.

    Probably, some anti-seize grease is the solution?

  • J23

    Very nice pic.

  • The Best Bike

  • al gonz

    Wonderful bike, terrible mindset!, so blinkers are a luxury (necessity I will say) why fitting lights then? same goes to the fender, none at the front, why fitting one at the back?
    When I see the the Tyre they choose I begin to understand that better cool than safe is their moto…ok but then go all the way

    • kyril

      All excellent points and probably subject to a long standing and heated debate among custom bike builders. A headlight and taillight(s) are required by law. The “bobbed” rear fender was retained as a “classic” bobber symbol and also as a necessary feature. The bobbed rear fender and the original HONDA plastic fender (extending from under the seat to the swing arm) are there to prevent dirt or water or both from being thrown into the velocity stacks by the rear wheel. Spoked wheels require inner tubes, which themselves are best matched by tires made specifically to be used with inner tubes. They, unlike tubeless tires, are softer and much easier to remove or install with just tire irons. AVON Speedmaster tires seem to have a good reputation among users and bike builders. You are correct: pursuing a certain “cool” look necessitates using components that may not be the most technologically advanced.

  • Scott Allen

    Kyril,

    The bike looks fantastic. Classy and yet badass! Love every bit of the heart and soul of it. Nice diversion from the work hardware, not much stainless steel. Enjoy my friend!

  • davmo

    Very classy. A tasteful understated beauty. Other than a front fender, can’t see any way to improve on this build. Definitely top 10 material for this year.

  • Chase

    Too cool

  • Jsled14

    This a stunning piece of work. Not sure I’m a fan of the name of the bike being painted on it, but that’s literally my only complaint. Very nice stuff, minimal but overflowing with detail

  • John Davis

    Fantastic job. Be proud.

  • Mats Hv

    Less is more! like a clean bike

  • Zundap

    I believe it was Bill Haley and the Comets who recorded the first rock n roll song. “But Anyway” nice bike. The placement of the tag and brake light is great. One of the most difficult decisions to make on any custom bike as you can see on many of the posts is to either delete it or slap it on the side as an after thought. ..Z

    • bobfalfa

      o/t
      Rocket 88 pre-dates that

  • Laura Dambuleff

    I approve this bike. Love you, Dad.

  • Davidabl2

    K-81’s needed. Those SlideMasters belong on a Royal Enfield. A stock Royal Enfield 😉

  • ThomasAugs

    Kyril, I already knew you as a man of many talents and now it turns out building a stunningly elegant and beautiful motorcycle is one I didn’t know about. I wonder what it feels like to ride it. Why the drum breaks? Didn’t the Honda 550 originally have disc breaks?

    • kyril

      Thomas, thanks for the kind words. I’m humbled. Riding the bike feels like flying a propeller driven aircraft; it makes you want to scream to see if you can hear yourself over the thrilling roar of the exhaust. You are right: the CB550’s came with a disc brake. I used a CL450 hub primarily for “period” look and style. No issues with braking. The bike is very light. It can stop on a dime.

  • GatorHawk

    Great Caesar’s Ghost, I’m speechless with how stunning this bike is. Two years of well-placed effort.

  • Matt Barry

    Vintage look Kyril, very nice!

  • Mats Hansson

    Congratulations Kyril, this is Candy for the eyes 🙂 the bike would fit like a hand in a glove in my retro style living room 🙂

  • trash mail

    I think that this bike is awesome, love it; but (there is always a but) I have come up with the same exhaust set up, however it is either stupid loud when using just the perforated baffle that is supplied with the silencer, or the bike is slow to rev when I shut it up with acoustic packing. Any ideas.

    Cool bike though.

    have a look at mine on:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/30501917@N08/23465023841/in/album-72157661471586441/

  • BirdArvid

    Awesome. But… if it had been me.. I’d have kept it all chrome and polished steel, no goldilocks. Don’t get me wrong; I’ll take it when they come round to give it to me!