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Slow Burner: A 1976 Honda CB550 from MONNOM Customs

1976 Honda CB550 from Monnom Customs
Some custom builds strut like peacocks; others reveal their charms slowly. This is one of the slow burners, a seemingly innocuous CB550 that has been assembled with a great deal of craft and thought.

It comes from furniture designer Mike Gustafson, who also wields a grinder when operating under the moniker of MONNOM Customs. He first came to our attention three years ago when he built a CB350 with wooden bodywork.

1976 Honda CB550 from Monnom Customs
That was his second build; this is his fourth. The ‘M4’ project began when Mike got a call from a client wanting to commission a custom. “We both agreed that an understated, refined, comfortable and classic build was what we were after,” he says. “And the Honda CB550 is the perfect platform for such an idea.”

The search was on for a donor bike. And after a few days of hunting around, Mike spotted a prospect in a local classified ad. A late night meeting in a cold garage in rural Iowa paid off, and he bought a 1976 Honda CB550 scattered across many boxes. “The good stuff was there,” he recalls. “Well…most of the stuff I needed, anyway.”

1976 Honda CB550 from Monnom Customs
Mike began work on the engine. The motor was completely torn down and rebuilt, with lots of fresh parts including pistons, rings, and gaskets. A fresh lapping of the valves and a cylinder hone got everything nice and crisp internally.

An electronic ignition by Dyna was also added to complement two new Dyna ignition coils. The process of hand polishing the aluminum engine cases was next: wet sanding, wet sanding, and more wet sanding—followed by a good deal of buffing.

1976 Honda CB550 from Monnom Customs
Mike hand-formed the revised frame and bodywork from mild steel. The side covers under the seat actually wrap around the frame rail, just behind the air filters, and they help to conceal a battery tray that sits under the seat.

The LED headlight—provided by Purpose Built Moto in Australia—has a hand formed top element that follows the curve of the headlight and adds some visual weight to the front.

1976 Honda CB550 from Monnom Customs
The steel fork covers allowed Mike to make up brackets to mount the LED headlight, and make it adjustable. He also hand-shaped new front fender mounts, which hold an aluminum fender from Motone Customs.

There are a lot of other subtle details on this CB550, such as the flush pop up fuel filler and the Motogadget speedo recessed in the tank. The electrical system employs a Motogadget m.unit Blue that allows for uncompromising control over the switching, wiring and overall design of the electronics.

1976 Honda CB550 from Monnom Customs
Mike’s used Motone switchgear and an updated charging system from Rick’s Motosport Electrics, paired with a 8-cell lithium ion Antigravity battery to keep the juice flowing. On a more vintage note, Mike was excited to find a rare aluminum 3.50 x 18-inch DID rear rim. “This is much wider than the stock rear rim,” he notes.

“Coupled with an original 19-inch GL1000 aluminum front rim, it allowed me to run a set of Avon Roadrider tires—a 130-section rear and a 100 front.” A fresh set of spokes brought the wheels and hubs together.

1976 Honda CB550 from Monnom Customs
The forks are from a 1976 Honda GL1000 Gold Wing. “I really like the beefier forks, and the GL is set up with nice dual discs,” says Mike. “It’s also important to me to keep as much of the same vintage as possible when I’m building a bike. If I can use parts from other bikes of the same period it’s a bonus.”

A custom machined triple tree was designed and cut by Ripple Rock Racers out of Canada; the exhaust was also designed by Kemp at Ripple Rock Racers and manufactured by Hindle. The rear suspension is a custom set of shocks made by Ikon.

1976 Honda CB550 from Monnom Customs
The paint scheme is as understated as you can get: a mix of gloss and matte black, with a delicate pinstripe that slowly fades from dark gray to light gray and then back to dark gray as the line progresses across the bodywork.

“The paint and bodywork was done by Brandon Walker of Walker’s Way Custom Paint, just outside of Des Moines, Iowa,” says Mike. “The seat was crafted by Dane Utech: comfort and the ability to carry a passenger was at the forefront of the design.” Dane used high-grade matte black leather with a complementary perforated leather to provide a visual accent.

1976 Honda CB550 from Monnom Customs
“This bike was designed to be as comfortable, elegant and practical as a vintage bike can be,” says Mike.

“We are given a very small amount of real estate to work with on a motorcycle. The subtle balancing act is always the hardest part. It’s easy to make a bike visually scream, but it’s much harder to make it sing.”

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1976 Honda CB550 from Monnom Customs