Building your own custom motorcycle is an incredibly rewarding experience… until it isn’t anymore. The owner of this 1976 Honda CB550F can relate. After taking a crack at rebuilding it himself, he threw in the towel and decided to hand it over to a pro shop, rather than let it become another abandoned shed build.
Since the owner’s based in Chicago, Federal Moto got the call. “When we picked up the bike it was a mess,” says shop boss, Mike Muller. “Rusty, tired and well ridden for decades. He wanted the full Federal treatment, wheel to wheel, giving us complete creative freedom with colors and design.”
“His only request was ‘make it fast as f-k.’ So here’s what we came up with: the ‘Go Fast’.”
Federal has spent the last while staffing up and moving to a bigger space. So they now offer a bunch of new engine-related services on top of their usual custom work. The CB was in good hands.
For starters, Federal’s head technician, Chris Goerg, went to town on the tired motor. It’s been fully rebuilt and blueprinted, with a 592cc piston kit from Dynoman Performance. APE Race Cranks lightened and balanced the crankshaft, while Webcam Racing supplied a new camshaft.
Chris also installed KPMI valves, springs and guides, then angled the valves. Other upgrades include a Dyna ignition, a Barnett clutch kit and Keihin CR carbs. The exhaust system is a thing of beauty; stainless steel headers mated to a throaty Cone Engineering muffler.
Speed is useless without control, so Federal upgraded the chassis too. The front end wears the forks and twin Tokico brakes from a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R, with a pair of Öhlins Blackline shocks mounted out back.
The Honda rolls on 18” Excel rims, laced to Cognito Moto hubs with stainless steel spokes. They’re wrapped in Metzeler’s Roadtec 01 sport touring tires. Federal also installed a Brembo brake at the back, custom sprockets from Sprocket Specialists, and a chain tensioner from Monster Craftsman that uses a skateboard wheel for a roller.
Mike has a knack for working unconventional design touches into his builds. Here, he kept the CB550F’s OEM tank to retain some of its original DNA, but fabricated a tail section that rides the line between organic and geometric. It might eschew typical café racer aesthetics—but it looks great here.
The flowy effect extends to the custom subframe, which features the subtlest of kinks to tie everything together. Peek between the down tubes, and you’ll spot a splash guard that keeps muck out of the velocity stacks.
The back end of the tail’s filled in by a 3D printed taillight and turn signals combo, deigned and built by in-house engineer Desmond Diogiovanni. Regular collaborator Dane Utech at Plz be Seated treated the seat to an equally interesting cover.
Other custom bits include the front fender and brackets, and the stainless steel exhaust hanger. Even the kick start lever is modified, tucking it in low and tight.
Up top is a CNC-machined yoke from Cognito Moto, with a Motogadget speedo and LED warning lights sunk into it. Federal installed clip-on bars, then kitted them out with Motogadget switches, grips, and bar-end mirrors and turn signals. An LED headlight lights the way.
Federal also re-wired the bike with a Motogadget control box and keyless ignition. The important electronic bits are stashed under the tail section, along with a Lithium-ion battery from AntiGravity. Cognito Moto rear sets finish off the parts list.
Parked, the CB550F looks poised to strike, with a compact and sharp silhouette. But it’s also wearing one of the freshest liveries we’ve seen in a while; top marks to Jason van der Woude at NSD Paintwerks.
A black Cerakote finish on the engine, and period-correct Honda logos on the tank, add the perfect finishing touches.
The real question is: did Federal nail the brief? Does this CB550F go as fast as it looks? Mike says “yes.”
“Let me tell you, its pretty awesome to feel a vintage Honda break loose in second gear!”