There was never much bad to say about the Honda 500 Four, so why enlarge its bores by a mere 2.5 millimeters to make a 550? Several reasons: first, and probably the least important, is the presence of Suzuki’s 550 - Honda didn’t want to lose any sales over a piffling 50ccs; second, the consumer woudld be more likely to absorb a price increase to $1,600 without squawking if their getting more motorcycle for the money; and, third, the extra displacement - tiny as it is (a guppy could barely turn around in a 50cc fishbowl) - actually added a noticeable amount of mid-range power and torque.
Cosmetically, the CB550 was a smaller version of the CB750 from the 4 pipe K model to the four-into-one F model. Technical Specifications for the CB550 remained virtually unchanged over the model lines. Like it’s larger sibling, the 550 proved a reliable, comfortable, easy-to-maintain, every-day motorcycle. Perfect for the time.
The CB550K was introduced in 1974 as an update to the CB500 in the US market. The models were cosmetically similar; mechanically, aside from the extra 50cc displacement, significant improvements in the transmission. The 1974 CB550K was offered in three colors: Flake Sunrise Orange, Boss Maroon Metallic, and Freedom Green Metallic. The tank featured a two-tone paint scheme with the base color accented by a black panel and gold striping. The side covers were painted the base color.
The CB550 K1 received dark green instrument faces and the tank featured a gold and black accent stripe. Two color options were available, Candy Jade Green and Flake Sunrise Orange.
The 1976 model was offered in a single color, Candy Garnet Brown. The tank paint scheme was carried over from the 1975 model. The only other significant change was to the instrument faces, which were now light green.
The 1977 CB550 K3 paint options were Candy Garnet Brown and Excel Black. The tank was now painted in a single solid color and featured a wider accent stripe in red and gold. The gas filler was now recessed under a locking cover panel. The side covers featured a new emblem, “550 Four K”. In the US, the carburettors were changed to meet emmissions requirements. The 4-into-4 exhaust was restyled.
The 1978 model was offered in two colors, Candy Alpha Red and Excel Black. Changes from 1977 include a gold pinstripe on the side covers and a dual contour seat with a stepped section for the passenger.
The CB550F featured a 4 into 1 exhaust similar to the CB750F. The tank was painted in a solid color, Candy Sapphire Blue or Flake Sunrise Orange without pin striping. The side covers featured a ‘550 Four’ decal. Instrument faces were dark green with white numbers.
The colors options for this model year were Flake Sapphire Blue and Shiny Orange. The seat covering was dark brown and instrument faces changed to light green with white numbers.
This model was offered in Candy Sword Blue or Candy Presto Red. A wide gold stripe was added to the tank and the side covers were painted black. The seat covering was black and the fork boots were eliminated.
The CB550K and CB550F models were mechanically identical throughout the model years. There were some carburettor changes in the 1977/1978 years which are detailed in the tech library.
|Engine||Air cooled 8-valve SOHC transverse four|
|Bore X Stroke||58.5 x 50.6mm|
|Claimed power||50bhp @ 8,500rpm|
|Torque||30.4ft-lb @ 7,500rpm|
|Carburetors||4 x 22mm Keihin|
|Tires, front||3.25 x 19in|
|Rear||3.75 x 18in|
|Brakes, front||Lining Area: 288.8 sq. cm X 2|
|Brakes, rear||Lining Area: 169.6sq. cm X 2|
|Suspension, front||Telescopic forks, 35mm|
|Caster Angle||64 degrees|
|Trail Length||105mm (4.1in)|
|Suspension, rear||Twin shocks with adjustable pre-load|
|Seat Height||805mm (31.7in)|
|Weight||192kg (423lb) wet (F model slightly less)|
|Fuel capacity||14 liters (3.7 gallons)|
|Top speed (approx.)||102mph (164kph)|