Everyman Tracker Build Part 3: Tear it Down, Mock it Up

Bike EXIF CB550F Tracker Build
Any clown with
an adjustable wrench can take a bike apart (the term basketcase exists for a reason), and if you go in without a plan, that’s exactly how the next owner will take delivery of your abandoned dream—in boxes. But you do have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, and for our beloved $400 CB550F, we need to tear the bike down to its bare bones to see what we’re working with. And that means the custom diamond-stitch saddle, cruiser bars, cushy footpegs and other fragments from its past life have got to go.

Bike EXIF CB550F Tracker Build
While our CB will eventually be torn all the way down, that’s not my goal just yet. Instead, I want to declutter the bike as much as possible, reducing it to its core components. Having the engine, suspension and both wheels on the bike helps you keep the overall dimensions in mind, and lets you visualize changes in geometry and where to add or subtract ‘visual weight’ to keep the bike balanced. But in the meantime, try to look past the trashed paint and crusty old parts and fasteners while we square away our vision.

Bike EXIF CB550F Tracker Build
Your preferred method may be a pencil and paper, or maybe you’re talented enough to fabricate what’s in your mind from scratch. However, the average garage builder works with a limited budget and rarely has a wall full of parts to experiment with. You’re often working with a handful of carefully selected universal aftermarket pieces and finding the best way to incorporate them onto some old relic seamlessly.

Bike EXIF CB550F Tracker Build
Following that methodology, breaking the Honda down to this point was a pretty simple affair. The fuel tank and seat were barely attached to begin with, and the entire rear fender assembly came off with a few bolts and electrical connectors. The battery tray, airbox and carburetor assembly have to come out in a certain order, but that was no fuss, and all the wiring connectors came apart as intended. Hell, I didn’t have to torch a single bolt in the process—surprising—considering the amount of rust on this old pavement princess.

Bike EXIF CB550F Tracker Build
With all that out of the way, we can finally have a bit of fun. Our CB550 wears an old set of aftermarket bars, with plenty of height and backsweep, resulting in upright, cruiser ergos. Ditching those for a set of low and wide tracker bars changed the bike’s stance in quick order, and this set came to us from our friends at Lowbrow Customs. They’re inexpensive, have plenty of width to fine-tune our setup and the chrome fits our old-school aspirations for the CB.

The next piece I was dying to test fit was our new Street Tracker seat from Tuffside. Chris at Tuffside styled us with a high-quality, made-in-the-USA seat with black pleated upholstery and threaded inserts designed for the CB550. In order to get it sitting right on the bike, a couple of hooks and the hinge for the factory seat had to go, and I used a cut-off wheel to start and then roughed them in with a flapwheel. We’ll revisit these areas with a smaller abrasive wheel on a die grinder later when we finish de-tabbing the frame—the last thing you want is unsightly marks on a tube from being overzealous with an angle grinder.

With the bike’s attitude and ergonomics significantly shifted, I have a great reference point to start planning the next modifications. There are still plenty of tabs to trim, and I’m going to massage the frame a bit more to get the seat where I’d like it to be. And while I wasn’t sure about the stock tank initially, I’m sold on it now. It’s got nice lines and fits the motorcycle’s fun and functional look. That two-tone brown paint has grown on me a bit now that the seat and side covers are gone, but we’ll probably repaint it, and the light rust inside should clean up easily with a rust remover.

There’s plenty more I want to mock up on our Honda CB550 tracker, but I think we need to get our wheels and tires sorted out first to keep things balanced. Our stock rims are heavily corroded and have several broken spokes, so I took the opportunity to order some aluminum hoops and new spokes—a full wheel rebuild special is on the way. Also, we’ve got some gnarly rubber courtesy of Bridgestone that will completely change our motorcycle’s look.

Bike EXIF Honda CB550F Tracker Build
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with two considerations for the comments section. The lack of a front fender on a pseudo dual-purpose machine is as big of a faux pas on this site as header wrap and tan leather, but I was considering trimming our beat-up stocker to somewhere around the green tape lines—yea or nay? Also, after omitting the stock gauges, I started really digging the factory Honda status lights on the bar clamp. They can probably be seamlessly integrated into our upcoming motogadget electrical system, but could just as easily be ditched for a standard bar clamp. I’ll leave it to a vote.

Honda CB550 Tracker Bars

Big thanks to MotogadgetTuffsideBridgestoneLowbrow Customs and Biltwell Inc. for supporting our Honda CB550F tracker build.

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