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GOOD WOOD FESTIVAL. Monnom’s ’76 Honda CB550 Street Tracker


Posted on September 7, 2017 by Andrew in Tracker. 14 comments

For a professional furniture maker like Monnom’s Mike Gustafson, using wood on a daily basis is a necessity. But when he swaps hats to his role as a custom bike builder, the exact opposite is true. That’s because using wood on custom bikes is damn tricky at the best of times and in many cases it can look downright nasty. But with his designer’s eye, Mike took the wooden bull by the horns and created this terrifically timbered Honda CB550 Street Tracker he calls the ‘M3’.

Mike’s Monnom Customs is located in Des Moines, Iowa. Building bikes takes up about 40% of his time. For the other 60%, he designs and builds custom furniture under the banner of ‘Nestcraft Studios’. “I used to do a bit of mechanical bike work on the side,” says Mike, “But I have since let those projects go so I can focus solely on building complete customs”.

“These bikes take a lot of time, especially when you’re incorporating new materials and ideas into them. A lot of the time is not spent working on bikes, but experimenting with materials, shapes and questioning your own design aesthetics’. Clearly, Mike doesn’t like to force things; he says that a month or two longer in the building process usually equates to a much more balanced bike, both in form and in function.

Mike knew he wanted to incorporate a few wood elements into the build, but he also wanted to make the M3 as aggressive and sharp as possible. “I wanted the lines of a flat tracker bike with a bold, clean street look. Minimalism is always important to me with these builds and I knew the client wanted as much black as possible’. To stay on brief, Mike kept two words in mind, ‘Tough’ and ‘refined’.

“The build began with the client’s existing ‘76 Honda CB550, which had been laid down at least once in the last few years. I was lucky enough to acquire a CB550 parts bike around the same time I began the project, so I was able to utilize a few undamaged engine parts from it. I started by rebuilding the CB550 motor with some new rings, a cam tensioner and gaskets amongst other things. I also rebuilt the carbs and properly jetted them”.

Mike wanted to do a brushed steel look on this bike instead of the usual mirror polish he’s so fond of on the engine cases, so all the parts were cleaned and brushed before reassembly. Much of the bike is powder coated with a textured matte black so all the steel fabricated parts, spokes, frame, swingarm and fork tubes were prepped and sent to the local powder coating shop.

“The bike was then fitted with Dyna coils and electronic ignition, dual drilled front discs with a new Nissin master cylinder, Hagon shocks, an oversized set of Avon Roadrider tires, a Cone Engineering slip-on exhaust, stainless steel headers and a Trailtech speedo. I also swapped out the ’76 tank for the older Honda CB550-style unit from the ’74 parts bike.

Parts formed using a dark, fumed Eucalyptus veneer

The wood elements on the bike were inspired by the seat cowls and number plates commonly found on flat tracker racing bikes. Mike played with several different shapes and wood species; finally he settled on using a dark, fumed Eucalyptus veneer. Then he created the bending forms of the appropriate shape and vacuum formed the front number plate and rear cowl wood cores for the Honda. A veneer was applied and the items were coated with a matte clear finish. “I think the wood is an elegant touch to a very tough-looking bike”.

“I love the stance of this tracker and the way the wood flows into the overall feel of the build. When you look at the profile of the bike, there is a distinct line that flows over the tank to the seat and then off the point of the tail. Those flowing, crisp lines are sometimes hard to achieve but when you can do it, it creates such a timeless look and feel”.

Mike and bike

[ Monnom CustomsFacebookInstagram | Photos by Erich Ernst ]








  • Dave Coetzee

    Love the concept. The more I look, the more I like.Was wondering if the number board and tail-piece were white, whether it would not look more harmonious with the white stripes on the tank?

    • I think the key idea Mike had was to use wood in the design. If he painted it white, I’m thinking that there’d be no reason to have used wood in the first place.

      • Dave Coetzee

        What about that process of applying a white lacquer of sorts to wood whereby the wood-grain can still be seen? Anyways, I think the client’s brief was to have as much black as possible. Wish I even had half of Mike’s wood & metal skills.

      • Tom Pratt

        Not sure if I like it or not (headlamp surround looks out of place) Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, life’s all about opinions. Painting it white might look OK but “wood” (sic) either not look like wood or look as if it’s made from a left over kitchen cabinet job! I much prefer the carved from solid metal look on bikes to emphasise the engineering. This would look great with the wooden bits made from aluminium but then it wouldn’t then be that remarkable, just like all of the other street fighter/ cafe racer specials. The 550 is just right for a light “flickable” looking bike though. Vive la difference!

  • Greybeard1

    Love me some 550’s!
    Especially since they’re swamp engines and not dry sumps leaving open space.
    Nice light look.
    Unfortunately, this one with the stripes just makes it look like those dumb ass Adidas sandals.

    • I’m loving the stripes. Screw the sandals!

    • Tom Pratt

      Never heard of the term “swamp engines” until now! Like it!

  • Fantome_NR

    Everything they do looks awesome.

  • For my money, the real genius here is making the wood’s colour close to that of the tank and seat. If the wood was a light tan, I think it’d jar badly. But the darkness of it works well. Thoughts?

    • guvnor67

      Absolutely. Custom builds work so much better when everything gels, when it’s not looking like an afterthought!

    • Jonno Shakesby

      It is a very beautiful wood, love the shape and poise too. Can’t help but wonder how it would look (hoho) if the white stripes were also laminates of the same material. Bloody nice work, hat doffed.

  • the watcher

    For me, this is a sweet little cb550, that somebody has pointlessly added wooden accents to. Decoration without justification equals affectation.

    • Gman

      Couldn’t agree more. Yawn. And there are those big words again. Genius? Wood? On a bike? At speed? With bugs and rocks and god knows what else. Paleeaase…..