“A sleek, stripped down version of what this bike could have looked like straight from the factory…”
Built from 1974 to 1978, the Honda CB550 was the company’s middleweight four, featuring an 8-valve engine that made 39 horsepower at 8000 rpm — good for a quarter mile time of 14.47 seconds on period tires. It was one of the most well-designed, well-balanced motorcycles of the era, and lured quite a few riders from the larger CB750. Said Bike magazine in 1976:
“In the same way the RD400 is the optimal development of the road-going two-stroke, we reckon the CB550 enjoys similar status in the four-cylinder four-stroke market…”
If you’re into vintage Honda cafe racers, you’ve probably heard the name and seen the work of Dustin Kott, the owner and operator of California’s Kott Motorcycles. They specialize in the design and fabrication of bikes from the 1970s Honda CB series:
“The main objective of Kott Motorcycles is to simplify and bring functionality back into antiquated machines. It is of utmost importance to maintain a commitment to work that translates into one-of-a-kind motorcycles that perform as well as they appear.”
This particular build was brought to our attention by Dustin’s friend and photographer, Alex Martino, whose own XL600R street tracker we recently featured. The donor is a 1978 CB550, and the clients are a father and son from New Jersey, who originally ordered a number of parts through the website to build the bike themselves. Soon thereafter, the bike showed up at the shop along with all of the parts…
“The request was simple: timeless elegance, improved performance wherever possible, and a sleek, stripped down version of what this bike could have looked like straight from the factory in the late seventies.”
For Dustin, it was a privilege to build a machine whose design cues originated with his own portfolio of work. Below, we get the full details on one of the most elegant 550 Fours we’ve ever seen, along with some gorgeous shots from Alex Martino.
Honda CB550 “Jersey” — In the Builder’s Words
My name is Dustin Kott, I’m the owner and operator of Kott Motorcycles in Newhall, CA. I’ve been professionally building motorcycles for the past fifteen years. The motorcycle you’re seeing here is a 1978 Honda CB550.
This particular bike was built for a client from New Jersey. Strangely enough the customer had ordered a number of parts through my website and he and his father had intentions of building the machine themselves. A few short months after shipping out the order they’d placed, a created motorcycle showed up here at my shop, it contained the entirety of the amassed parts for their project. They requested that I make sense of the build, keep anything they didn’t need for their project and to send out the best build I was capable of.
I was privileged to build this machine in the sense that all design cues were referenced from my catalogue of builds from my very own portfolio of work! The request was simple: timeless elegance, improved performance wherever possible, and a sleek, stripped down version of what this bike could have looked like straight from the factory in the late seventies.
As with the majority of my custom builds I had a hand in everything from front to back and bottom to top. This particular build is retrofitted with a modern GSXR front end with Cognito Moto triple clamps. The downsized headlight is from a mid sixties Triumph.
The tank, however remaining stock, is modified with cobalt blue paint and knee indentations for rider comfort. The seat is handmade to accommodate frame modifications and a proprietary wiring and electrical system.
The wheels are relaced into Buchanan’s Sun Rims, anodized black to create a more menacing look. The chrome 4-1 pipe and refurbished carbs brought the machine full circle back to life. I lovingly call the build, “Jersey”.
The experience of riding an antique machine after a full overhaul is unlike riding any new bike. The sense of accomplishment along with the ubiquitous mechanical feedback from an outdated, strictly rider skill based machine is irreplaceable.
As with all of my builds I take a sense of pride with me when each completed machine is sent off to its perspective owner. I appreciate when a call, text or email shows up and the owner is singing praises based on the experience of their rebuilt and re-imagined custom machine.