What if Honda had created a factory street tracker in the 1970s?
The Honda CB450 Black Bomber is a legend in its own right — Honda’s first “big bike,” a 444cc parallel-twin machine unveiled in 1965 to compete against the heavies of the era: Norton, Triumph, Harley-Davidson. A decade later, Honda revived their middleweight twin with the CB500T, featuring an all-alloy 499cc engine with twin overhead camshafts.
With a 180-degree crank and no counterbalancer, the 500 twin certainly drew some criticism from the vibration-sensitive, but it earned high marks in the handling department and Cycle World called it a “cosmetic masterpiece.”
Our new friend John Wood (@woodysmobikes) began working on motorcycles even before he knew how to ride them:
“I got my first bike, a 1984 Honda XR80 from a mechanic friend of my father as a rolling chassis with the engine in a box. I was 9 years old…. So before I learned to ride, I learned to wrench.”
Growing up in Texas, he did his best to transform high-strung, “pissed-off” two-stroke motocrossers into trail bikes, and every year he and his father, who was a big motorcycle enthusiast, spent a few weeks riding with friends in the Rocky Mountains.
“This was the best! I must say, looking back on my youth — I was very fortunate.”
John got the bike you see here — a 1975 Honda CB500T — through some horse trading with his father back in 2007. He had it shipped up from Texas to Massachusetts, where he now lives, and rode it for a year before it needed an engine rebuild. That’s when he decided to take the bike in a slightly different direction:
“The goal was to create a bike that had a factory racer of the period look. If Honda created a CB530TT street tracker back in the ‘70’s.”
Though the project was put on hold for five years while John lived overseas , had kids, and went through three different moves, he managed to transform the bike into the ready-to-ride street tracker you see here.
It has a de-tabbed frame, custom tracker seat, custom “mid-set” controls, rebuilt forks with brace and Race Tech emulators, Hagon shocks, custom switchgear, and an upgraded front brake featuring a magnesium caliper and CB750 disc. Meanwhile, the engine has been punched out to 530cc, featuring high-compression pistons, Barnett clutch, and custom exhaust.
“This bike gets ridden and has great torque, handles great and stops well thanks to the front brake mods. A modern bike it is not, but that’s the point! I am proud of the bike and it really is a hoot to ride.”
Below, John gives us the full story on the build.
Honda CB500T Street Tracker: In the Builder’s Words
I have been wrenching and riding for 30 years. My dad is a motorcycle guy, a real motorcycle guy. I got my first bike, a 1984 Honda XR80 from a mechanic friend of my father as a rolling chassis with the engine in a box. I was 9 years old. Even though my dad rode he was not crazy about me riding, but I pestered him from an early age and one day my dad’s buddy said, “I got a bike for your boy, he’s just gotta put it back together.” So before I learned to ride, I learned to wrench. I get so much pleasure out of wrenching and riding. I have tried nearly all motorsports (airplanes, boats, cars), but nothing gets me going like motorcycles. I spent my youth rebuilding/modifying dirt bikes (trying to turn pissed-off motocross bikes into XC/trail bikes) and riding around Texas, but every year Dad and I spent a few weeks riding with friends in the Rocky Mountains. This was the best! I must say, looking back on my youth — I was very fortunate.
I am just a garage builder, hopefully my bike comes across that way. Show bikes are great, but I don’t want thousands of dollars in paint, powder coat on everything and trendy looks that don’t function. Strip a bike down to its basic necessary elements. Set up the chassis to work for your weight/use and build a motor that makes power for the real world (usually just more torque in the mid range for a street bike).
I got this bike from my dad in 2007 through some horse trading. I had the bike shipped up from Texas and rode it for a year or so, but it had a burnt valve….
Rebuilding the engine turned into the bike as it is today. The build was then put on hold for five years while living overseas, then kids. In 2018 I got most of the work complete and started riding and sorting the bike.
The goal was to create a bike that had a factory racer of the period look. If Honda created a CB530TT street tracker back in the ‘70’s.
All the work was done in my garages (three moves!) with engine machine work and front brake machine work outsourced. The seat cover was also outsourced, everything else was done by me in a garage, basement or driveway.
- Big bore, high compression pistons sourced from Team Hanson Honda, 530cc.
- Head rebuild, stock cams
- Barnett clutch
- Custom exhaust by me with old Kerker muffler off a GS550.
- De-tabbed frame, shortened sub frame for custom tracker seat.
- Custom “mid-set” foot pegs, cable rear brake and reversed shifter to eliminate need for linkage.
- Race Tech gold valve emulators and full rebuild on forks with brace.
- Hagon shocks valved and sprung for my weight.
- Superbike bars, motogadget speedo, bar end turn signals, bates style headlight, custom switchgear to keep bars clean.
- Front brake is an A&P magnesium caliper, CB 750 disk, thinned, drilled and 12mm brembo master cylinder.
This bike gets ridden and has great torque, handles great and stops well thanks to the front brake mods. A modern bike it is not, but that’s the point! I am proud of the bike and it really is a hoot to ride.
You should be proud of this beautifully wrought creation. Not another one quite like it. Sweet sweet ride.
John, great job on the bike. We’re kindred spirits when it comes to bikes and wrenching. I’ve never not put my touch on all the bikes I’ve owned (100+) Just once I’d like to buy a bike like what I’d want, your bike is at the top of the list.
This bike made me laugh. At first I was dismissive, thinking, brown, old, another somewhat ugly, old, brown Honda. Oh geez, flat track tail. One look at the side, though, and I saw that all the proportions were spectacular. Yeah, this is nice. Inviting, looks light, looks fun, looks capable. And, the color works for the goal he set and succeeded in attaining. Good job, John!