Discover The BMW R nineT Racer

The real deal: A stealthy CB550 cafe racer from Hookie Co.

Honda CB550 cafe racer by Hookie Co.
Ten years ago, Honda CB cafe racers were a huge part of the custom renaissance. Low slung CBs were everywhere, ‘brat cafe’ became a phrase, and for vendors of pipewrap and Firestone tires, it was like all their Christmases had come at once.

There’s still a lot of love for the classic CB conversion, especially amongst shed builders and the Instagram crowd. But not many people venture beyond the minor dress-up, and that’s why we like this 1973 CB550 from Dresden-based Hookie Co.—a stealthy ‘urban racer’ called Black Mamba.

Honda CB550 cafe racer by Hookie Co.
Hookie are pitching this CB550 as a reaction against the ‘style over substance’ ethos that afflicts some corners of today’s custom world—‘pretty’ bikes with anemic performance.

“We wanted to build a small cafe racer with power,” says Nico. “We think power and dynamic values should be talked about more, not illusions of beauty. The lifestyle of some Instagrammers and YouTubers gets more serious than real facts.”

Honda CB550 cafe racer by Hookie Co.
To maximize performance, Hookie have rebuilt the air-cooled transverse-four engine, and installed pod filters and a free-flowing Spark exhaust. The four Keihin carbs have also been restored, and re-jetted to suit the new intake and exhaust setups.

Stock power was always good on a standard Honda CB550, with around 50 free-spinning horses unfettered by emissions regulations. So this machine will be even perkier than usual.

Hookie have dropped the front suspension half an inch, and the back end is now suspended via new YSS shocks. Extra grip comes from Bridgestone Battlax BT45 rubber—a high-performance bias-ply tire with an excellent reputation. The brakes have been also been restored, to make the most of the better handling without jarring with the classic looks.

Honda CB550 cafe racer by Hookie Co.
The frame has been cleaned up, and Hookie have also made a very neat custom rear loop with a little upsweep. “We integrated a small round LED light in the center of the loop—it would have been too easy to use an LED strip again,” says Nico.

So far, so good. But then things started to get tricky. Hookie tried to fit three aftermarket fairings before abandoning the idea: “Every one was too big and ugly. So we made a wireframe out of steel to find the perfect lines.”

Honda CB550 cafe racer by Hookie Co.
The new fairing is crafted from 0.75 millimeter mild steel, and if demand proves strong, will serve as the prototype for a limited production run—along with the seat cowl and the rear loop.

From there on, the path was smoother. “A standard on our builds is a complete rewire based on Motogadget components,” Nico reveals. “The M.Unit is the heart, surrounded by an RFID keyless ignition system, M.Blaze Signals, and a Motoscope Tiny Speedo.” The speedo is frenched into the tank, with a new pop-up gas cap sitting just behind.

Honda CB550 cafe racer by Hookie Co.
On the clip-ons, Motone switches and Biltwell grips extend the clean and simple vibe. Power comes from an 8-cell small case Antigravity Battery, hidden under the swingarm.

The finishes are minimal, and work beautifully. We’ll always have a soft spot for 1970s Honda CB paint, but Hookie’s murdered-out approach works just as well.

Honda CB550 cafe racer by Hookie Co.
“Everything is a combination of flat and gloss black,” says Nico, “plus the texture of unpainted stainless or aluminum. Adrian Flor, our painter, did an amazing job with the oversized ‘H’ in flat black.”

It’s a beautifully considered build with enough modern twists to make us see the classic Honda CB cafe racer in a new light. Looks like there’s life in the old dog yet, doesn’t it?

Hookie Co. website | Facebook | Instagram

Honda CB550 cafe racer by Hookie Co.