The Honda CB550 remains one of the sweetest midsize machines ever produced, a 50-bhp inline four that handled well, ran sewing-machine smooth, and had the gorgeous looks of the heavier CB750.
“Like it’s larger sibling, the 550 proved a reliable, comfortable, easy-to-maintain, every-day motorcycle. Perfect for the time.” —SOHC4.com
Enter our new friend Chiel Nipius of Nius Moto, whose love of two wheels goes back to his 50cc Honda Benly, bought when he was 15. Even before that, Chiel had been the kind of kid who was always playing with LEGO bricks and building blocks — a born builder.
“He really gave me the chance to develop my knowledge and skill with the bikes. I did a lot of electrics there…. After a year and a half I think, I started working at a steel interior company. Here I got the chance to really develop my metal working skills.”
The bike you see here is a 1978 CB550K, and it was actually Chiel’s first full-size motorcycle, bought when he was 18. Now, several more years of experience under his belt, he decided to transform the machine into a bike that would showcase his skills:
“It’s a personal project where I wanted to show myself (and now the world) what I could do with all the skills I’ve learned and being able to work fully from own design.”
Taking inspiration from MotoGP and short circuit racing, he formed set of carbon fiber fenders in-house — his first time delving into that process — along with fabrication of the necessary steel brackets, and upgraded the brakes with a double front disc conversion.
Other highlights include new electrics, LED lighting, a rebuilt engine with 650 cam and Delkevic headers, custom airbox, new fork internals and YSS rear shocks, custom Jowi Paulissen saddle, and much more.
“I love to ride this beauty…. With the sticky Avon tires I can just tear through corners…. And obviously it’s an eye-catcher, so there are always staring faces and a thumbs up, which is always nice. I get a lot of conversations about this bike everywhere I go.”
Honda CB550 Custom: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
Well, as a kid I always created stuff from anything I found. Playing with sticks and rocks, beer caps, etc. Always playing with LEGO. Bins full of blocks to create anything my imagination would show me. I like to think that’s the foundation of what I do now. When I was 15 I bought my first moped. A Honda Benly 50s. A little 50cc beauty which I just loved. Working on it from time to time. Just fixing what was needed. From there the passion grew bit by bit.
After seeing MotoGP in Assen here in the Netherlands in 2015, it really started flowing. I started watching videos of people building bikes and I just had to try that for myself. The featured CB is my first motorcycle, which I bought when I was 18. Trying to weld in my neighbor’s garage with his little MIG-welder and using an angle grinder was the first time I worked with metal. And I just loved it straight away. Trying but failing college for multiple years I wanted to work. After a while I started working at Ironwood Custom Motorcycles. We all know him, Arjan van den Boom. He really gave me the chance to develop my knowledge and skill with the bikes. I did a lot of electrics there. Mostly Motogadget’s M units. After a year and a half I think, I started working at a steel interior company. Here I got the chance to really develop my metal working skills.
I build some bikes for friends and my dad, which were cool bikes but not what I knew I could do with my new skillset. With the package combined, I really wanted to customize my own CB550. And that’s where this build came from.
I don’t really have my own workshop. I have a space at the interior company where I do my thing, but the dream is to have my own shop one day.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
It’s a Honda CB550K from 1978.
• Why was this bike built?
It’s a personal project where I wanted to show myself (and now the world) what I could do with all the skills I’ve learned and being able to work fully from own design.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
I wanted to build a bike that had retro shapes and forms, but with a modern touch in terms of quality and finish. I’m really inspired by the race industry. I still love MotoGP and Formula 1, so I wanted to have carbon fibre parts, white tyre lettering, and a golden chain for that racey look.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Ooof! A lot. I’ll start from front to back. I did a double front brake conversion for some extra stopping power. Not unimportant. That came with a new master cylinder and fresh stainless steel brake lines. Covering the front wheel is a custom carbon fibre fender with steel brackets all made in-house. First time working with carbon fibre, but it came out so good.
Going up further, I made brackets for the new headlight, which is a Koso Thunderbolt. On the sides, the little but unbelievably bright Kellerman Atto blinkers. The forks have fresh progressive shocks in them. A Renthal bar with Motone buttons, Biltwell grips, and new clutch and brake levers. Just in front of the bars a very clean Motoscope Mini.
Going towards the rear, the original Honda tank painted in BMW’s urban green. The engine has a 650 camshaft in it and fresh Delkevic headers, which converge into a Cone Engineering muffler from Dime City Cycles. I’ve made a custom airbox to make it extra clean.
A custom seat was shaped in-house and upholstered by Jowi Paulissen. I asked him to stitch a Honda logo on the back as a little ode to my 50cc moped back in the day.
Some new YSS shocks to raise the rear a little. Makes a big difference in the lines of the bike. Under the seat is an M-unit and all fresh electrics. The rear hoop I closed off underneath with a slice taken out for three little LED taillight. I covered them up with a smoked plexiglass plate. Again, we have the Kellerman Atto blinkers on the sides. Really hard to see until they’re on. A golden chain and a custom bracket for the license plate finishes the rear.
The wheels, forks, yokes and swingarm are powder-coated black. The frame and brackets are coated in a custom-made metallic grey by King Custom Coatingz (KCC).
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Not really, but for me it’s more than a bike for sure. A mark of my past experiences in life, personally and professionally, I guess.
• Any idea of horsepower, weight, and/or performance numbers?
About 42 horsepower, 180KG. It’s not a rocket haha.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
I love to ride this beauty. With all the new parts it feels so fresh and high quality, but it still really rides like an old bike. It’s very subtle and forgiving, which makes it easy to ride. With the sticky Avon tires I can just tear through corners. The new shocks help with that as well. The sound is amazing. That raw 4 in-line engine with that Cone Engineering muffler just makes you vibrate inside. And obviously it’s an eye-catcher, so there are always staring faces and a thumbs up, which is always nice. I get a lot of conversations about this bike everywhere I go.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I guess the overall quality and cleanliness is really what stands out for me when I look at it. But if I had to pick a particular thing, I guess it would be the carbon fibre fenders. That was a totally new process for me and it came out great.