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Honda CBX550 F. With those weird brakes

Honda CBX550 F
ER Classics Desktop 2022

Retro thinking has only just begun. And Honda was a forerunner with that. At the time, the CB500T twin was seen as old-fashioned to bizarre. They weren't sold much. They were – until recently – not worth a drop. The Honda CBX550 F was also sort of retro. It also had a front brake disguised as a drum brake. That solution was one according to the old motto of the Marines: Why easy when it can be difficult? The approach was complicated and difficult to service.

A while ago you saw these front brakes at bushes at fairs and stuff

Oh, yes: The Honda CBX550 F – which was actually 572 cc in size – also had a very distinct exhaust system. The exhaust system was fondly compared to the iconic 'bunch of bananas' under the CB400. Only bananas have never rusted so convincingly. Original exhaust systems are therefore very scarce. And expensive. The anti-diving facility was an abuse that was quite fashionable at the time. The installation of the brake discs, on the other hand, was done for rather practical reasons. At the time, the brake pads were quite sensitive to wetness. Later, the brake pad makers realized that adding metal particles to the brake pads solved the problem. But installing the business under a chic roof was of course also an option.


Let the marketers talk

The marketing people market the idea as a 'USP, unique selling point'. Also unique as a side effect: the dismantling of a front wheel could easily take two hours. In the official Honda workshops it took the pros half an hour. The Honda CBX550 F didn't do better braking than regular brakes either. The set-up could not dissipate heat well with brave use and caused so much fading and soggyness in the system that it was possible to press the brake lever against - or through - the handlebars. But that was actually with improper use. Under normal circumstances, the system worked just fine. And possibly the fading problem could have been solved with larger air scoops on the brake 'drum'. But that would make the setup less 'waterproof'. And that's what it was all about.

Customized engines

The 550 was conceived at the time when the Japanese manufacturers tried to outdo each other and actually make a suitable motorcycle for every motorcyclist. And because the CBX550 was a Honda, it was really just a really good bike. The block did its job from lounging around to cheering high in the revs. The CBX550 had, apart from all its pluses and signatures, one real pain point: the timing chain tensioner. Above 20.000 km, that part began to rattle emphatically. And there was no cure for that. In addition, the gearbox heated the oil supply of the rear suspension. This led – especially in long bends – to a heaving suspension behavior that you were not expecting from a bike with such a sporty dynamic slant.

The CBX 550 F was built for a short time

And if we look at the situation calmly, a lot of them have been demolished. Neat copies are therefore becoming quite rare. But De Markt hasn't really discovered them yet. So you buy a neat, good CBX 550 F for the money of just an old engine. That can be a good, very nice purchase. The 550 has enough quirks to make it interesting as a classic. Only the valve sets can be a hassle because the filler shims are not so easy to find.

Also read:
- The Honda CBX550. With inboard disc brake. (1982-1986)
- Honda CB750 Four vs Honda CB750 Four
- Honda C72-77. Still not hot!
- Honda Fireblade: classic or not?
- Honda VF750. A Honda with a backpack

8 Comments

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  1. Oh well… you must have owned one and tinkered with it yourself to make a judgment. The 'hose' on the fork was a pneumatic connection between the 2 legs. Anti-dive was “in” and 4-way adjustable and worked. Replacing brake pads was done within 15-20 minutes per side. Brake discs were cast iron and vented, with good Ferodo's brakes being the best! The brake callipers did not grip conventionally on the outside but on the inside. The whole system provided good and clean braking (compared to eg a Guzzi with rusty wheels). The camshaft chain tensioner was a mess: around the tension spring there was a rubber cover to prevent the spring from vibrating. This hardened with the added bonus that the spring prevented tension, and therefore no longer tensioned during setting. This 550 was just as fast as my 750kz from before. Camshaft pitting was inherent in the problems of most Hondas at the time. 4-1Laser racing pipe was goosebumps…

  2. That oil line outside the front fork, never seen before, nice,

    I saw those brakes in another piece as well.
    Claw in the middle, in the center of the disc, right?
    Audi also used it with the first V8s and 200-20-valves (late 90s).
    Ufo brake disc, with a caliper in the middle.
    In this way, more braking surface could be lost within the 16″” rims, which were a fairly large size at the time,
    And cooling was also better or something.
    At Audi it is often replaced by so-called HP2 struts, because the Ufo brake discs are expensive to untraceable

  3. bought the cbx550 for little because the Laverda was being overhauled for a while, was my first Japanese and I did a track day with it where it was very exciting in the ramshoek but it was fun, VFR couldn't get the Shitfly loose. unfortunately had to say goodbye on the way back from a club weekend tour due to a major blow up after which a connecting rod came out. Still had quite a lot of fun with him in 2 years, only those brakes… who is making it up

  4. received many complaints from customers via the dealer about steering behaviour, the solution was to replace the ordinary bearings with conical headset bearings and the problems were over, the problems with the NA chain tensioners really started with the VFR750, the then NA chains stretched quickly, then they did not with original (old Honda stock) replaced but with the next generation of Tsubaki Europe Rotterdam, the links were mounted instead of a single shaft with two lenticular wedges that roll against each other instead of wearing out the bore,
    in addition, these chains were supplied per linear metre, could be pulled through the engine and secured with a lock!

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