Stuck in the Middle: The 1977 Honda CB550K

Carefully restored by the crew at Retrospeed in Belgium, Wisconsin, this might be the nicest Honda CB550K you’ve ever seen.

| November/December 2015

  • 1977 Honda CB550K3
    Photo by Jeff Barger
  • For 1977, the CB550K3 was available in Candy Garnet Brown or the new Excel Black scheme of our feature bike.
    Photo by Jeff Barger
  • For 1977, the CB550K3 was available in Candy Garnet Brown or the new Excel Black scheme of our feature bike.
    Photo by Jeff Barger
  • 1977 Honda CB550K3
    Photo by Jeff Barger
  • 1977 Honda CB550K3
    Photo by Jeff Barger
  • The original exhaust system was repaired by spot-welding holes in the mufflers and dents in the headers before grinding everything smooth in preparation for nickel and chrome plating.
    Photo by Jeff Barger
  • 1977 Honda CB550K3
    Photo by Jeff Barger
  • 1977 Honda CB550K3
    Photo by Jeff Barger
  • To correctly restore the taillight assembly it was cut apart, chromed and then carefully TIG-welded back together.
    Photo by Jeff Barger

1977 Honda CB550K3
Top speed:
92mph (period test)
544cc air-cooled OHC inline 4-cylinder, 58.5mm x 50.6mm bore and stroke, 9:1 compression ratio, 38hp @ 8,000rpm
Weight (dry):
437lb (198kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG:
4.2 gal (15.8ltr)/40-50mpg
Price then/now:
$1,730 (1977)/$1,500-$3,500

The band Stealers Wheel had a hit in the early 1970s with their song Stuck in the Middle with You. The lyrics included the memorable line, “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.” 

Regardless of the Stealers Wheel’s sentiments, being stuck in the middle isn’t a bad place to be. Throughout the 1970s, many motorcycle manufacturers offered mid-liter machines. The category was, in fact, crowded. Examples of middleweight bikes produced throughout the decade include Honda’s CB500 and CB550, Kawasaki’s KH400 and KZ400, Suzuki’s GS400 and GT550, and Yamaha’s RD400 and XS500.

Financial advisor Mark Orgel of Altoona, Wisconsin, certainly doesn’t mind being stuck in the middle. Mark learned to ride as a youngster in the early 1970s and soon earned his road-riding chops aboard mid-liter bikes of the era. “I love the geometry of the mid-liter motorcycles of the 1970s,” he says.

About 12 years ago, Mark thought it would be interesting to restore some of the machines he wanted when he was a teenager but couldn’t afford — namely, Suzuki 2-strokes like the GT380, GT550 and GT750. He purchased examples of each, chased parts and eventually had three pristine Suzukis. When they were done, Mark enjoyed them for a few years and then donated them to the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa.

Then, about two years ago, the collecting bug hit him again. That led to a search for another mid-1970s motorcycle project. And this is where Mark’s sense of nostalgia enters the story. When he was 16 years old, his uncle, Lynn Blanchard, bought a brand-new Honda CB550K. “I rode the bike just after he bought it, and I thought it was the biggest thing on the road,” Mark recalls. “I mostly rode Suzuki and Yamaha 2-strokes back then, and I didn’t really think too much more about the 4-stroke CB550, except for keeping the memory alive.”

David D
4/22/2018 2:06:20 PM

This was the second bike I owned. It was a great daily rider, unfortunately I joined the military and my brother later drove the bike into a tree. (he's Ok, just dumm)

12/17/2017 6:37:39 PM

I rode a 550K3 from 1982-1984 every day at the University of Stirling in Scotland. It took me through weather you would not believe, saved my life twice because it leaned over so far I scraped the pipes without losing it. I ended up selling it to a friend when I moved to States, but I always dreamed of finding another one to restore. I finally found one in 1992 in Texas (I live in Georgia) and went out to get it, and thanks To David Silver Spares, it was beautiful when I finished restoring it a year later. I swear it was better than showroom. I taught my son how to ride on it, and we ended up selling it for $4500.00!! I know it was good money but I still wish I had it, and kick myself for selling it every day. The paint on those bikes felt like it was an inch thick. Oh well, whoever has it...ENJOY!

11/10/2015 8:17:51 PM

I purchased a time capsul '77 550K in March 2011. It had been in storage for 28 years. I was 100% factory original, tires, hoses, etc. The only thing missing was the owner's manual. The plastic pouch for the tool kit looked like it had never seen sunlight. Shined it, cleaned the carbs, replaced the rubber bits, battery, and rode it 7k miles that summer including 1400 trouble free miles around Lake Michigan in the SOHC4 club Relay Rally. I sold it right after than and have regretted it ever since. great bike. Dead reliable, easy to work on, 45-50mpg.

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