Time for a re-do. I changed my mind about the looks of my CB550. It’s just not café enough. The remedy? Lower bars, different tank, cafe seat, mini gauges, and remove the mirrors. Yep, seriously.

The first big change had to be the seat. Café seats are typically shorter (solo seats), and incorporate a cowl to keep you from sliding off when you twist the throttle. I selected the Interceptor from Roc City Café Racers, along with the seat pad. It has a classic look, but also has a nice flat spot at the end of the cowl for a brake light. I have not yet permanently installed the seat, but it is shown mocked up in the pictures below. The cowl will give me a great spot to hide all the electronics/battery. I picked out a cheap tail light that I am thinking about incorporating into the seat. I also plan to relocate the license plate (again).

The stock CB550 tank isn’t terrible, but I really liked the looks of the CB500T (twin) tank. It is a bit larger, and just looks “right.” I happened to get a good deal on one in great shape. Just like the seat, I have not yet permanently installed the tank. I plan to move the front tank mount forward slightly, and then I’ll need to fabricate something to attach the aft of the tank. The petcock is in a slightly different location – it may be fine, but I might need to relocate it also.

The bars needed to be lower, but I wasn’t sure I was ready for clip-ons yet. I settled for a set of clubmans from Lossa. They aren’t quite as extreme as traditional clubmans, but still plenty low, and look better with the radiused joint. I removed the stock idiot light/handle bar clamp, and replaced with a simple set of handlebar clamps. No need to go aftermarket on the clamps, as Honda made them for other years/models. Part #95014-22200. I found my set on eBay.

The headlight wasn’t quite right either – it was too small, and too close to the bars. So I replaced the headlight brackets with longer ones, and went back to the stock 7” headlight bucket. The HID was really bright, but quite frankly I wasn’t too fond of all the “black boxes” need to run it. It also had a bit of glare. A big 7” headlight and OEM bucket just looks the “best.” I installed a Candlepower brand headlight with H4 bulb. No blue tinted BS here. The candlepower came with a quality Narva bulb, but I also bought a GE nighthawk just in case. My headlight ring/retainer was missing a few pieces, so I replaced it with a new one. My headlight bucket was also missing a few of the sleeves and screws that hold the headlight in, so I also had to order those separate from partzilla (3X each: #93500-050160B, #94111-05000, #61304-292-000). A few of the sleeves were a loose fit, so I just glued them in with 5 minute epoxy.

Stock gauges look goofy with low bars, so I opted to buy 2.5” mini gauges (60MPH @ 2240RPM for the speedo; 1:7 ratio for the tachometer). I have a larger than stock front tire, so my speedometer won’t be perfectly accurate, but that’s not a huge deal to me. The mini speedometer has LED idiot lights built in, which is why I got rid of the stock idiot light handlebar clamp. These things are probably made in China, but seem to be darn good quality. My only complaint is that the high beam indicator is super bright. For now I have the gauges attached to the stock gauge bracket locations, however they are too close to the headlight bucket, which is why they are sitting at a funny angle. I will most likely make a custom bracket that will spread them apart a little. Wiring them is mostly straight-forward, the only snag is the blinker indicator – you will need a couple diodes. I’m too lazy to sketch a wiring diagram, so I’ll try to describe it in words. Keep in mind the wire colors below are from my 1975 CB550, and may vary based on year/model:

Connect the following to ground (motorcycle green):
     Speedometer Yellow/Black
     Speedometer Blue/Black
     Speedometer Black
     Tachometer Black

Connect to +12VDC switched supply (motorcycle black):
     Speedometer green
     Speedometer red

Connect to +12VDC Illumination Circuit (motorcycle brown/white):
     Speedometer Orange
     Tachometer Red

Neutral indicator:
     Speedometer Green/Black to Motorcycle Light Green/Red

Oil indicator:
     Speedometer Red/Black to Motorcycle Blue/Red
High beam indicator:
     Speedometer Blue to Motorcycle Blue

Blinker indicator:
     Speedometer Yellow to cathode side of 2X diodes, and then connect motorcycle Light Blue to the anode side of one diode, and motorcycle Orange to the anode side of the second diode.

Note: Two diodes are necessary to make the turn signal indicator work for both L and R turn signals. The cathode side of the diodes (the side with a band) should connect to the speedometer yellow wire. Diodes should be sized based on the draw of your turn signal bulbs. Size the diodes using I=P/V, where I is current in Amps, P is power in Watts, and V is voltage. My blinkers each use 21W halogen bulbs, therefore the load is 42W per side. So 42W/12V = 3.5A.  Add another 20%+ for safety factor, and I come up with about 4.2A. I ended up purchasing some 5A 60V rectifier diodes (Schottky #SR560). Probably overkill, but overkill never hurts.

I also finally got around to installing spools on the swing arm. I have been using my aluminum rear stand with paddles for a while, and it always makes me nervous that the bike could slip off. Spools are much easier to use and much more secure. I bought a set of aluminum Vortex spools that use a 6mm SHCS. FYI the spools came with class 12.9 screws, and should be good to better than 2700 lbs each in single shear. I found a good spot in the swingarm on each side (see pics below) to drill/tap the M6 holes and install the spools. I did some very minor clearancing of the weld bead so that the spools would fit perfectly. The stand itself is a little on the short side, but I’m still able to lift the rear tire about 1/8” off the ground, which is all I need.

So beyond completing the tank and seat install, what’s left? Glad you asked:

Big stuff:
- Engine rebuild (plans include boring out to 600cc, a cam swap, and raising the compression ratio)
- Paint/powdercoat
- Rewire

Small stuff:
- Mini gauge bracket
- New steering bearings/conversion
- Lower front end
- Brake lines (probably need to be shorter now)
- Exhaust wrap

Here's a short video that shows the lighting/illumination on the mini speedometer:
2/7/2014 11:22:50 am

how did you mount the new tank?

2/8/2014 12:22:28 pm

I haven't attached it (or the seat) yet... I got sidetracked with some other projects. The stock CB550 forward tank mount will work with the CB500T tank if you trim the rubber pieces down a bit. The aft mount will require some fabrication. In my opinion the front mount needs to be moved forward a bit on the frame for everything to look right - so that's my plan. For the aft mount, I intend to use some OEM CB500T rubber (found on eBay) - but will need to fabricate a bracket of some sort, so it will interface the frame. Hopefully I will be able to cover all this in the next few updates.


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