This Honda CB500 Four Tribute Has Just The Right Amount Of Modernity
This build is tribute to the legendary CB Fours that Honda built during the 1970s (the first of which, the Honda CB 750 Four, was shown to the world in 1969). It was a significant range of bikes in the history of motorcycling, as it led the shift away from two-cylinder Brits and their “Parkinson’s effect,” as well as another option for those fed up with the electrical nightmares that characterized so many otherwise great Italian offerings. In short, the CB Fours transformed the riding experience to one of a comprehensively high quality compared to the market at large. To many, these were the first superbikes, and the originals have their place in any collection of important historical bikes. Some will tell you for instance that the CB 750 Four is the most important two-wheeled machine of the 20th century.
That’s the big one, the fastest of the line, the most iconic, the list goes on—it’s the one to get if you have the space for just one of the Fours. We are fans of the 750 for the same reasons that any moto enthusiast is, but in our basement we had another Four waiting to be restored. The CB 500 Four is sort of like the little sister to the big 750, and seeing as ours was far from its original glory, we decided to take it to a new level over the course of its resurrection. In every custom build we do, we honor the period aesthetics while more or less overhauling the technical aspects of the bike—you know, mechanical improvements to the brakes, handling, reliability, etc. This was no different in that regard.
In the case of our Honda CB 500 Four, the overall identity is still there (we’ve built a four-to-four exhaust system like the original, retained the spoked wheels, kept the fairings off, left the original tank and side panels alone, etc.), but we’ve also added a few touches of modernity like the taillights. However, in terms of the mechanical bits, almost everything is new in some form or another. We did a complete engine rebuild using only original Honda parts, and though we’ve changed the intake system to one with foam pod filters, the carbs are the originals as well. That’s where it stops though, because the rest of the bike is a bespoke build. The exhaust was built entirely from scratch, and we’ve reworked them to produce a smooth sound rather than one of outright aggression that so many vintage-modern builds opt for. The goal for us was to amplify the original notes of the CB 500, not make it sound like everything else out there.
All the electrics were removed from the bike upon the start of the restoration, and we’ve since fitted new wiring throughout, as well as upgrading the rest of the system for modern reliability: coils, relays, lights, instruments, all new. Up front we went with a 7” headlight, and in the rear we’ve fitted a pair of lights that function as taillight, stop lights, and indicators. Behind the big classic headlight we’ve fitted a Chronoclassic speedometer inside our custom-built bracket.
In terms of the ride itself, we’ve fitted rearsets and clip-ons to give it a sportier riding position than before, and we’ve set up the seating configuration with the rear fender such that the bike is now a single-seater. Handling-wise, the bike moves with confidence, planted and willing to be thrown into deep angles if one wishes, though with the larger tires and wheels it now wears, there is a bit of lost “lightness” in the way the bike reacts to steering inputs. Overall though, we much prefer the modern suspension and tires.
Speaking of the suspension, the front end is borrowed from a 2002 Yamaha R1, and the rear shock is sourced from another quick Yamaha, an FZR 400 R from the ‘90s that also donated its aluminum swingarm to our Honda (the frame of which was rebuilt to fit the single rear shock and the FZR swingarm). Brake calipers are also from an R1, with floating discs up front. We love the idea of recycling these high-performance parts, cleaning them up, and giving them a renewed life on a bike that’s also been through a restoration of its own. The rims are polished, the spokes are stainless, and the gold-colored hubs work nicely with the vintage metallic theme of the wheels. The colors used in the metals and the overall paint job on the bike is an homage to the original looks. When we’d first exhibited this bike to other enthusiasts, the reactions were really good, with the majority of people telling us the impression they got was one of looking at an original CB Four—what do you think?