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2001 Kawasaki W650 – Tangara

Posted on September 2, 2011 by Andrew in Café Racer, Rat. 38 comments

Anyone who has visited our fair city of Sydney in the last 20 years will have probably had the dubious pleasure of riding on our mass transit system. Known as CityRail by it’s employees and ShittyRail by the rest of us, it’s main train is the once shiny but now fairly lack-luster ‘Tangara‘, which is an Australian Aboriginal word meaning to go. Which they do, sometimes. Put simply, the trains are old, well-used work horses that are a little dangerous, fairly dirty, jury-rigged and manned by a bunch of nasty-looking guys who aren’t that accustomed to being helpful or courteous. Which brings us to Seoul’s Denver Cho and his well-used, dangerous, dirty, jury-rigged W650 “Tangara” Kwaka – which is more often than not manned by his good self, and by the look of him he’s probably not that good at being courteous either.

Labelled for ease of use

We’ll let Denver take it from here. “‘Tangara’ is the name of the silver trains that run in Sydney, Australia. I named my W650 mono racer as ‘Tangara’ according to my memories of them back in the 90’s. My name is Denver Cho currently living in Seoul Korea – I’m the lead singer in a band called “Mongoliam Project” and an owner of a bar called “Velvet 270”.

“I purchased a 2001 W650 and I did not like it much because almost anyone could recognize it, and also it had shitty brakes. So I started with the styling first. There was a used Honda Dream 50 fuel tank and seat at ‘The Mechanic’ (a motorcycle shop owned by my friend). The only issue that concerned me was the size of the tank. I did not want to stop at petrol stations too often, however it seemed less of a problem after I made a 300km (186 m)  return trip – it was more economical than I thought.”

“After the styling was done I started searching for parts for performance tuning. It took me around 6 weeks to get the parts in my hand. The front forks were from another motorcycle shop in Seoul, front rim was brand new from Honda Korea, rear swing arm from Japan. Yahoo auction, rear rim was from junk yard… and so on.”

What could possibly go wrong?

“It is always fun to modify something… unless you face a huge problem. For my lady the rear shock was the problem. There was no room between the swing arm and the frame. Shock could be placed somehow but it won’t be operating properly. I had a chat with my welder and decided to chop part of the main frame which goes vertically down between the tank and the seat. The chopped part was replaced with a hard steel plate, so we could make it more roomy. Shock is a little stiff – I’m thinking it might be a geometrical problem.”

Following his mother’s advice, Denver wrote his name on his favourite toy so he didn’t lose it

“It took about 3 months to bring her home. She is loud, pretty, uncomfortable and unique. I am planning to lower the seat little bit to obtain a better riding position.”

The buzz from chain-smoking Marlboro Reds was all that wowed Denver after regularly riding one of Korea’s baddest customs

Model and Specs:

Name: 2001 Kawasaki W650
Front Forks/Brakes: 2008 Honda CBR600 RR (stem was removed from the original part and welded on)
Rear Swing Arm/Suspension/Brakes: 90’s Honda RVF 400
Rims(F/R): Both Honda original (600RR/Rvf 400) 17″
Tyres(F/R): Pirelli Sports Demon 120/70-17, 150/70-17
Fuel Tank: Honda Dream 50 9L tank
Seat: Honda Dream 50
Foot Pegs: Honda RVF 400
Exaust: Unknown straight pipes no baffles (bloody loud)
Rear Sprocket: Honda RVF 400 for improved accelaration, reduced top speed (est. 170km/h)
Control Levers: XRT racing adjustable

Being Tangara regulars, we’re glad to see Denver didn’t take ALL the aspects of the Train and use them. For instance it’s great to see that there’s no stale urine on the bike. Or sleeping drunks. Or rampaging teenagers heavy petting and/or knife fighting while it’s between stops. And the lack of vomit on the seat is also an inspired choice in our eyes.

But all jokes aside, we’re seriously impressed by the genre-defying bike Denver has managed to create here. It’s equal parts rat, sports bike, cafe and naked that somehow holds together perfectly AND looks damn mean in the process. Most of us would be hard-pressed to pull off just one of those genres, let alone four of them. Nice work.

  • SoHipIBleedPureWank

    That is f**kin' sweeeeeet…!!!! Has changed my perception of monoshocked cafe style bikes forever….

  • fucking beautiful!!!!!!!!

    speechless i am!!

  • Denver Cho

    Thanx guys~ Let's rock!!

  • Now, that's whtat I call a Motorcycle!!!

  • Ash in Bali

    Rat-tat-tat I like its rugged simplicity. I am building a mono-shock cafe racer in Bali at present, an old-new hybrid. It would be nice to have a W650 as a donor bike but the import taxes would escalate the build costs beyond reason. That bike looks like a lot of fun.

  • Adam

    So much awsome in one bike!

  • Rev, Gears, Kick, you got'a love that…

    Keep up the good work!

    Papasan OUT!

  • psbero

    that thing is wicked! it wouldnt pull off the look if it didnt have the 'rat bike' element to it as well. i bet its a fucking blast to ride! looks like it would accelerate, stop, and handle like a dream.
    my favourite part of all though? the kick starter 🙂

  • revdub

    This is the type of bike that I love – new modern components, mean vintage look, lot's of freaking attitude = YOU WIN!! It even has a custom cig holder. What's not to envy?

  • revdub

    Now this is the type of bike I love. New modern components, mean vintage look, and a ton of attitude = YOU WIN!! It also has a custom cig holder. What's not to envy?

  • revdub

    ^ Oops. Sorry for the double-post! I should have just refreshed. Oh well, that's how much I like this bike. 🙂

  • Robert

    I live in Seoul and I have an 06 iron barrel bullet for my daily rider. I would love to meet this bike in person.

  • Robert

    Denver, email me at or kakaotalk 01085338111 I want to meet you and see your machine up close. I live in Dobong.

  • Ceolwulf

    this thing is BRILLIANT.


  • hei robert… show us your bike too! (a web link?)

  • Maybe someone did vomit on the seat, that's why he is sitting on a towel ?!

    Gotta have balls to modify a bike this much. Top work. The last pic looks great with Denver riding it.

  • @Rex – Or maybe the bike is just REALLY exciting to ride. 😉

  • Denise

    Just wondering if this is the first bike from Korea posted on here. 🙂 Or have there been others? I'd love too see them.

  • Denise

    By the way, I took the pics. Was a fun day! 🙂 And the riding pic I took that on the back of an old '83 BMW K75, that was also a fun day!

  • D.

    Sow's ear from a silk purse.

  • Robert

    Here you go@ Chris Saddler Sam

  • Irishguy

    I have seen a lot of nice W650 custom bikes and frankly… This is not one of them. Frankenstein comes to mind. Nothing on this bike goes together at all. I'm not one of those guys that likes all polished up garage queen bikes, I like riders, and I like a bike that is made to ride. It looks like a bike that was put together without any master plan at all. It looks like it would be major league uncomfortable to ride too. Look at the picture of him riding it. It looks like he has to put something over the seat to get some comfort. So sorry guys… Not being a hater… It just doesn't look like a good build to me. It's a shame really, because the W650 motor is one of the most beautiful motorcycle engines ever made, to bad he couldn't have picked a Honda lump for a starting point.

  • Randy

    Denver, good job on the bike, its a killer..wats ur email add, been building similar style, but mine is a gpx, thought of sharing it with you, cheers randy

  • 8.15

    Bro, this puppy looks like a beast. Good work and well done on your creativity. I'm sure this post will give some inspiration to many.

    As to Irishguy, if you dont have anything constructive or supportive to say, maybe its best you keep your opinions to yourself. This site is to to encourage custom bike lovers alike, but in one post you've gone and criticised this ride as well as pissing all over any Honda owners out there.. well done

  • Jed

    Evil. Dig it.

  • Huxley

    Hi Denver, brilliant machine. Could you please give me the number to "The Mechanic" so I may get some work done on my bike. Please shoot me a text at 010 9388 1000. Cheers.

  • Denver

    @Randy: MY email add. is thanks

  • Denver

    @Irishguy Thank you for your critical advice. I was seat'n on a towel cuz it was raining while riding, and even as if you were right how much comfort a single towel can give?? If you read the article proplerly you won't say a thing about comfort. There are many ways of modification and I did not think much about comfort and if I could do both performance and comfort, I would be a professional builder…and I'm very sure that you won't get a chance to ride mine…so don't worry too much~

  • This one looks a lot better with somebody riding it.

  • Dylan Choo

    wow… you really like the unique thingy!. Good job man.

  • Robert

    …Denver, if you've got this good of an eye, it makes me wonder what your bar looks like! cheers…

  • Killer bike, the perfect Rat Trap in fact… has all the right elements and looks dangerous, uncomfortable, loud and unique, top job.

  • Denver

    @Randy- my bar is more like a junky^^
    @Roger- I think we like something in common~thanx

  • Gloo

    Great job Denver. The day that there are stylistic "rules" that must be adhered to when building YOUR OWN FRIGGIN BIKE is the day I no longer build bikes. Screw the critics, ride what you please. And if they give you any shit on the road .. run their friggin foot over in a turn .. that usually shuts them up well enough (and yanks them right off their bike too!).

    Everything "goes together" just fine. Master plans are for master baters. Spontaneous design rocks. This is exactly what would have been built back in the day when cafe bikes were *whatever ya had*. Good on ya. Bikes that start out trying to look like spontaneous creations look like exactly like what they are … builders trying too hard to look genuine.


  • I test rode the Kawasaki, after reading a review about it. Whatever was in review about the bike was spot on. Its a terrific bike!!!

  • david

    great bike,great conversion M8,mainly the spaner on the front,as hold the brake hose.-)

  • the pete

    yeah its fuckin ace eh,there is somethin about that bike that just makes ya like it and its attitude, well done dennis, she`d be sweet to ride