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1983 Suzuki GSX250 – Lil’ Brat

Posted on May 31, 2012 by Scott in Brat. 51 comments

Most of us have motorcycle moments that happen when we are younger that are etched in our memory forever. Moments when you first say to yourself that “one day I will buy a motorcycle like that”. I had one of those moments when I was about 9 years old. I was in the back seat of my dads old Ford Falcon on a family holiday road trip to the Gold Coast when we were overtaken by a guy on an extremely loud Triumph Bonnie with one of the most beautiful girls riding pillion. In slow motion they rode past and I swear the girl blew me a kiss – I may have embellished this moment slightly over the years. Whatever the case, the memory is still so vivid. The British racing green tank on the Bonnie glistened in the sun, even more attractive than the blonde that was holding on for dear life. Around the same time, but in another country, a young Karl Reynolds also had one of these moments – just replace the cute blonde with some New Zealand farmers (bad visual?). “We used to go on holidays every year to an NZ coastal town called Pauanui” Karl says. “These local farmers ran a mini motorbike track where you could hire one for 10 laps. My first ever ride was on one of these, in a straight line, into a wall of hay bails. Took me a few goes to learn about something called steering. Ever since, I knew I’d own a bike one day.” And this is the bike he’s been thinking about since then…

We’ll pass you over to Karl to share his story about building his first ever bike – this little bratstyle Suzuki. “After riding around on scooters in London for years, I moved back to Sydney and bought my first bike. A 1984 Suzuki GSX 250, already customised with a cafe racer vibe. After spending loads of time reading mags, blogs and forums, I discovered & Heiwa and became worryingly obsessed with Japanese customs. That was it, I knew what I had to do. The bike was being stripped down and rebuilt with a new style. So it began. I had no experience, no tools, no workshop. Just loads of enthusiasm. My (legendary) parents agreed to let me use their apartment carspace as a workshop. And my (amazing) wife allowed me lots of man time to do it. So I borrowed what I could off mates and grabbed all the basic tools I needed. And bought a Haynes manual.

Stripping everything down was too much fun, I made sure the iPhone was close at hand so I could document and label everything. Then the cleaning and paint removal began, which took a long, long, long time. Many pots of stripper and quite a few wirebrushes later, everything was bare.

The frame needed a loop welded to the back so I could mount a fender, and a new petrol tank fitted. So off it went to a guy who builds film sets for a living for some welding. (Thanks to Jay and Chris at SMW for hooking me up. And for letting me explore your spare parts shelves for hours every weekend).

Once the frame was back, it was time to mock it up. I ordered a lot of aftermarket parts from Japan – including the Hurricane 140 forward up bars that were inline with the style I was looking for. I was like a fat kid in a cake shop every time a package arrived. I had no previous experience working with metal so learned a lot after having to build a battery box and fair few little mounting brackets here and here. Eventually, all the parts fitted, safely, and I had a mock up of a semi-finished bike.

Time for paint, so all the parts came off again. That’s when the fun police stepped in. A few residents obviously saw me cutting metal in the wee hours of the morning in the car park so said something to the building manager. He asked me to remove everything over the next few days. Perfect timing, seeing as the bike couldn’t be any further from being an actual ‘bike’. So my old man helped me move everything up to my new workshop – their balcony. The journey continued. My workshop was a great talking point for family guests having sunday lunch in the middle of it.

I eventually got all the parts for paint down to the carpark ‘paintshop’ without being seen. Painted as quick as I could and then got everything back up again. Seeing old parts come to life again with some new paint was super satisfying. Once everything was dry, it was time for final assembly. This was probably the most enjoyable part, seeing what you had in your head finally come to life. Everything was going fine until I got to the electrics and battery. As I connected the harness to the battery, the starter immediately kicked over, whilst my family were watching Two and a Half Men. Everyone shat themselves and I decided the job was better finished by someone who knew what they were doing. So away it went – off the balcony, down the hallway, into an apartment lift (hilarious moment), off to the local shop.”

Karl finally got the bike back three months later. Picking it up was “a very epic moment” he says. After waiting for so long he couldn’t wait to get her back on the road. Since then, “she’s been running great and I ride it in to work most days”. So next time you ride past that kid on the bmx who is admiring your bike from the sidewalk, you never know, you might be creating a future rider for years to come.

  • Jwanninger


  • Sweet ‘bars.

    • ZUNDAP

      Clean bike,Great Bars.  ..Z

  • arnold

    Utterly Evil. Thumbs up.

  • GuitarSlinger

    Well …. somebodies got to provide the counterpoint …. so it might as well be me 

    Boring … sums up my opinion . If it looked any more ‘ stock ‘ they might as well of left it Stock … saved a bundle of time and money …. and used it to buy/build  something else .Calling this a ‘ custom ‘ is like saying ” The Emperors New Cloths ‘ are stunning !

    So … to put a point on it . If its a Lukewarm , weak brewed ,  overly milked cup of  mass manufactured Tea that suits your tastes … this bike is right up your alley . 

    But if its a steaming hot cup of strong single plantation coffee ( or better yet .. an espresso )  that you’re after ? Look elsewhere … cause this bike aint it !

    • Ah…GS, ever so snarky. lol I tend to agree that it isn’t mind blowing, but I think even the name implies that it’s supposed to be cute, not revolutionary. Looks like a good bike. I think I’d want flatter bars or clip-ons for a nicer profile.

    • Mike Cambareri

      I think we should remember that this is the product of a first-time build split between a parking garage and apartment balcony.  Being nuts-deep in the middle of my first build and as green as can be, I can say with complete confidence that it won’t be nearly as tidy or meticulous.  I’d probably have to quit my job to give it that kind of time.  Bravo to his DIY spirit, since that’s what this story seems to really be about. It turned out a rather bitchin’ bike.

      • I agree. There is little space in my garage due to motorcycle entrails being spread about. The fact that this guy could even get it done shows that determination pays off.

    • sc

      Au contraire, GS, this bike isn’t boring; it’s just grey (ok, so the colour is a bit boring). While it does indeed have a few touches seen about 8,000 times by now – flat seat, miniscule tail light – it is based on a small inexpensive bike, has funky rims shod not with Firestones, a neat classic silencer that probably dampens noise, and an owner jutifiably pleased with the learning process he went through. A win–win–win–win situation.

      No, it’s not my cup of tea either (search ‘Nimbus’ on this homepage for my cup of tea), but I’m pleased no end that people still care to build cheap customs like this one. can’t wait to see what they’lll come up with in another 10 years time.

      • I just saw a Nimbus a few weeks back at a local bike show. I’ve liked them for awhile, but this was the first time seeing one in the flesh. Very cool bike. Groovy frame set up and I love the rubber bands used for saddle springs.

    • Jose!

      How old are you? Check your grammer. Try to flesh out what you disagree with a bit more. Use less thought terminating cliches. Pick out a part of the bike and compare and contrast with others. Put some effort in it man and remember, ain’t ain’t a word. lol….. 

      • cagivarider

        Shouldn’t it spell “grammar”?

        Best regards

      • BigPeeWee

        In cycle builds, first timers are like elementary school art class. Amazing what little kids can do, but not quite museum pieces yet. Built in a carport is what everyone has done and not really news worthy. Photo location rocks!

  • SmokeyTheBear

    I get that the bars are part of the style, but im not feeling them. The rest of the bike is on point.

    The article is fantastic though. I think that everyone has moments growing up when they see their dream machine for the first time. Personally mine occurred when i was 12 and my neighbor gunned his shelby cobra down the street disturbing mellow suburbia and leaving leaving bunches of rubber everywhere. When i later found out that he could only buy gasoline from the airport because he needed leaded 100 octane my inner gear-head was born.

  • Davidabl2

    I think that the great backstory on this the whole story on this bike.

  • Great story Karl,sweet bike, keep that moto-fire in you burning mate !!!
    And by the way your residents and your building manager are fucking boring idiots…
    If you were my neighbor, I would be glad to give you a hand and have some beers and chat also.

  • revdub

    I think this came out great. I would love to see a before shot. Awesome bike!

  • MotoTrooper

    Cheers for taking action and not letting the peanut gallery in the apartment complex stop you from finishing.  

  • Karl

    Thanks peeps.

    @revdub:disqus – before shot –
     @562f90b7126b9527e53e8ffca8bf9430:disqus – Haters gonna hate

    • revdub

      Awesome. Definitely like where you took it!

    • Finn Laden

      Wow I remember seeing the previous version parked outside Woollahra Golf Club – it had a crazy wooden seat cowl and battery box! Will be keeping an eye out for the resurrected creature, great story, nice transformation.

    • Chris74

      I love this bike and the story, any mods to a std gs250 will be an improvement if you ask me and I really like this, I also have a snotty gs250 that Im (very) slowly tring to bring back to life. I can relate to the electrics story, mine also has a tendency to start up all by herself. In fact my bike is so bad tempered a friend named her Christine after stephen Kings haunted car.
      I have a similar exhaust and pod filters on christine, what jets did you use to get yours running right?
      Its the next job on the list so any advice would be appreciated, cheers.

    • MotoTrooper

      That wooden seat cowl actually looks kinda cool.

  • I like it, looks like an awesome little bike to put around and look badass on. I dont care if it isnt revolutionary, not everyone is looking for a Dues Ex bike or some other mind blowing custom frankenstein creation, sometimes subtle is the way to go.
    Stuff like this inspires me to do the next thing to my own bike; makes it feel within reach.

  • Russell Lowe

    Great little bike, so much better than the stock bike … Very cool. The overall proportions are great, it needs those bars to look as short as it does.

  • Bill Jones

    GuitarSlinger is the absolute worst thing about Pipeburn. It would be great if he could migrate websites and contribute his moronic comments elsewhere. I understand not everybody has to positive and appreciate every build, but you could also do what I do if I don’t like something on this website… just not comment, relax, take a couple breaths, dry your tears and wait for the next bike to come around. Understand that the builders of these bikes check the comments too, and your pointless critiques “Boring … sums up my opinion” contribute absolutely nothing of value. I realize this is the internet and you can comment whatever you like, I just don’t understand why you have to be such a complete knob about it. I can only picture you as someone who would openly complain in a movie theater if you didn’t like the film playing. Just shut up, nobody wants to hear it.

    ANYWAYS. This bike build is great! It looks like a ton of fun to rip around through the city on, and the back story is awesome as well. Super good first build!

    • sc

      Nah, good ol’ GuitarSlinger belongs here with us. Better have him be The Resident Grump than having to read 30+ entries all starting with variations over ‘awesome bike’.

    • davmo

      Hey, not that he needs anyone to defend him, but I think you have the G-Slinger all wrong. The comments section is for just that- good or bad. Call it praise or constructive criticism, that is the feedback first time and 100 time builders all need. Yeah, some harsh comments, but as a builder, prepare for love and total indifference to your work. The Slinger is a no holds barred-straight up black coffee guy, but his comments are rarely cruel. A vote for all points of view here (alwayson2 excepted.)

      • Two votes.

        • cagivarider


          What I think is worst about the comment section here is this uncritical “awesome bike!” waffle… nobody is forced to upload pix of his bike, and if he does, he (or she) is not entitled to be buttered up.

          Btw. this lil’ brat seems like a cute bike to me and I enjoyed reading the story…
          Nothing very special but well done for a novice builder anyway!

          Best regards

      • Bigmattie

        Pooslinger…sorry, I mean, Guitarslinger…. is a real downer. If his crying was at least funny it would be welcome, but as it stands, I can see no usefull feedback in most of his posts.

        Guitar slinger – if you’re not going to offer anything more than negative vibes, save us the time and just write “I don’t like it” and then we can skip over to some real feedback.

        Karl mate, keep at it – constructive critisim for the next build – watch the odd angles and space at the seat/tank joint area. I know brat style looks rough, but if you look at Heiwa’s you’ll notice they get it right around there. Also, try a smaller tank if you can, that should give the motor a bit more ‘presence’, at the moment it is a bit all-tank-and-no-motor, this would also help with the long and low stance that so many of the bikes you like achieve with their dropped shocks and forks.

        • Having built a bike or two, I can say that as much as harsh feedback is hard to swallow, it’s done my bikes nothing but good over the years. The guy who just built a bike knows where he cut corners, where lines don’t meet, where the bits are that he should’ve taken more time with (if he wasn’t in a hurry), etc. If everybody praises second rate workmanship, the guy thinks, “Hey, those details really don’t matter as long as I’ve hacked on some pipe wrap or something”. Pointing these defects out makes somebody who actually cares about what they’re building say, “Hey, good point, I never noticed that. I’ll do that different (or better) on the next one. Or perhaps…”I didn’t think anyone would notice the crappy stock chrome shocks! I thought they’d all be taken in by the skull on the tank.” To the guys learning or caring about trying to learn, this is super valuable data. To a pinhead that only comments on everyone elses efforts and has to insure that all comments are positive, lest someone be a Hater, you’re not doing the builder any good. 

          When you put a ton of effort into a build and the span time for the build runs up to perhaps a year or more, you start seeing double. New builders (in most cases) tend to start rushing just to finish the project. They fool no one. Yes it’s totally PC to swoon over every bike featured on the “Custom sites”, but frankly, some really are crap. Praising crap because a bike was built in an abandoned building or by a one-eyed guy with a billion tats shows that the commenter really doesn’t know what’s he’s talking about. To me that’s as obnoxious as someone saying “Hey! That looks like crap!”

          So my opinion is, the guy that built this bike should absorb all the comments, good and bad, and then sit in his carport with the bike and a beer and stare at it for a long time while reading a printout of the comments.

          He’s done clean work and if he actually sticks with it, his bikes will get a lot better over the years. All the styling cues are common and have been done quite a bit (I’m sure he knows that), but that’s how you have to start. Work on the skills to see if you can build a bike like other guys. Then build a bike better than the other guys! A few bikes in, the creativity will come and we’ll be seeing Karl Reynolds bikes in the magazines getting nothing but praise. 

          Further on the issue of commenting, I’ll say this. I think there are two types of commenters. People that know jack-shit about bikes, but are impressed by shiny things (or pipe-wrap, Firestone tires and ironing board seats). They think these features are really earth shattering in their complexity and artistic value. Then there are people who’ve been around bikes for a long time,. They know how they work and how they won’t if they are set-up a certain way. When they see something that’s way screwed up, and say something about it, they are labelled “Haters”. To me, they are usually someone who has motorcycle experience and is stating the obvious. To the ones who label these people haters, you’re showing the poeple that know, how little YOU know. You should try to keep it a secret maybe.  

          Karl, you should build a lot of bikes!


          • Agreed.

            There does seem to be a theme lately where a bike isn’t rated on how good or bad it actually is, but by the how many cool tats the builder has, whether they also surf, sell branded organic-cotton v-necks and publish films of them and their super-cool friends doing super-cool things on bikes during their surfing holidays.

            I suppose if you’re new to bikes and don’t have a much knowledge of them (yet) then you’re relying much more on this kind of hype to tell you whats good or not (and since bikes seem to be the latest fashion/lifestyle accessory theres a lot of it out there). For the wave of new builders who are getting into it by simply applying the current fashionable seat/bars/pipes/tyres to their learner bike, thats a great start, this bike included, but the comments here are a powerful way of making your next bike much better.

            I’ve seen a lof of shit bikes on these sites over the last year or so and a lot of criticism for those bikes in the comments and the reason I’m still coming back and looking forward to more is because of that criticism. The builders will have learned new things, taken them on board and their next bikes are going to be really worth the wait.

            At the moment it’s new guys V’s old guys with a bit of lifestyle brand marketing mixed in for the time being. I think its eventually going to produce some amazing bikes. Constructive criticism will help that, non-constructive criticism won’t, but neither will the ass-kissing sycophantic comments.

            Really looking forward to your next one Karl!

          • ZUNDAP

            No accounting for taste. Constructive criticism is usually welcome to anyone who cares, and last but not least, always consider the source of the comment.  ..Z  

          • davmo

            Hey Mule and WideOpenMoto, thanks for the words of wisdom. Just like you guys, I see the comments section as a builders tool. Not only good for the builder in question, but for every builder paying attention. It becomes apparent how closely people are watching your work, and makes me step up my game.
            Karl, take pride in your achievement.  You fought against your challenges and won. The praise and criticism are your friends, both will inspire you to do even better work.

  • Jwanninger

    ^ agreed

  • Bill Jones

    Seriously dude. You dislike atleast 70% of the bikes on this website. Ever taken time to consider that maybe this isn’t the site for you? Guys like GuitarSlinger have become the worst part of every major custom bike website. Custom bikes have become so easy to access that you can literally scroll through the internet all day and look at brand new content. Years back and much before I knew sites like Pipeburn existed, I would see maybe three or four completely custom bikes where I live a season and I would freak out on them even if they weren’t for me. People forget and take for granted the work it takes to save to even buy a bike, and then re build it from the ground up. All for it to fall on spoiled with content, unappreciative guys like GuitarSlinger. I just don’t get why you visit a custom bike website that has the intent of providing material involving custom bikes for people who truly enjoy custom bikes, and still have time to leave a nasty comment. I expect the same narrow minded attitude from say, somebody who like’s big harleys and hate’s crotch rockets, but not from someone who apparently appreciates custom bikes. If you truly love motorcycles, you love them all. Like the old saying goes, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This “I HAVE A KEYBOARD, PEOPLE NEED TO HEAR MY OPINION” attitude you have is played out. Give it a rest.

    • 3p0ch

      Yeah, he’s on a couple of other websites i visit and just as obnoxious and negative on those. He’s definitely the “if I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you” type. Earlier today I seriously had the exact same reaction on another site that you had here: “GuitarSlingers presence in the comments is the worst thing about this website. He actually dampens my enjoyment of visiting.”
      What’s funny is that, like here, he’s virtually ignored by the community and mods. Except for the occasional temper flare-up (you in this case, sorry) he’s rarely acknowledged except to downvote his comments. There are entire conversations, atta-boys, debates and mature, adult arguments that happen around his brash, drum-banging, voice-of-god ‘opinions’. How fortunate we all are that GS has the courage to “call it like it is”, as he so often reminds us.
      Like me, you just have to tune him out I’m afraid.

      All that said, this build doesn’t tickle my fancy stylistically, but what a great story, and what an impressive first go! Guerilla custom. Excellent!

      • I think he’s funny. One has to read through the lines to get to his point. Someone so sure he is right all the time is very difficult to take seriously.

  • Davidabl2

    I think that the great backstory on this the whole story on this bike.”I think that the great backstory on this the whole story on this bike.”revising my own opinion..after all it is very attractively finished.And that’s a BIG plus on what is a first time, budget build,turning what began as a sow’s ear into something that at least resembles a silk purse.Edit

  • I like this bike. It proves that you don’t have to have a dedicated motorcycle workshop and a room full of tools to build a neat little scoot to have fun on. I rode my first motorcycle when I was 13 (Europa 49cc moped, Vouzon, France, 1960)  and have been riding and wrenching ever since. It seems like today the only exercise kids get it is moving their thumbs on game controllers playing fake guitar and Grand Theft Auto. Nice to see fellows and gals skin their nuckles and get some gease under their fingernails and resurrect  bikes that might end up in a bone yard. I’ve also been playing, building and repairing guitars since the 1960’s so I would love to hear some of GS’s pickin’. So, GS, find a clapped out banger on Craigslist and have fun bringing it back to life – I think you’d enjoy it.

  • Cafe King

    this looks fantastic. well done on the build.

  • carlos perez

    sencillez y belleza,aqui en españa no se pueden hacer estas cosas en nuestras motos por la legislacion de trafico,si te cambias el manillar o intermitente tienes que homologarlo todo , esta es mi moto kawa zr-7

    • Ccc40821


  • Guest

    id schlechd… so jezz wadd i nur no druuff, biss da erschde Schwob hier mir fazehle will, dass es “ed” hoißt.
    Schdeggt des mol in de google-Translador rin.

  • Wow! I just love this bike.

  • Karl

    Wow. I had no idea it would get this sort of response. Good or bad. Goes to show how much passion is out there. Taking criticism is the only way to learn, I spent a lot of time on listening to objective opinions about how to do things right. Lots of helpful people on there. @562f90b7126b9527e53e8ffca8bf9430:disqus is about the only one who didn’t have anything useful to say. Maybe he needs to get laid more. At the end of the day, who gives a f**k what other people think. As long as your having fun, then that’s all that matters. This blog is the shiznits, keeping the scene alive!!!

  • Karl

    Don’t know if anyone will read this. But I need to give the guys at S3 Performance in VIC a big shout out. The Acewell you see on my bike was actually faulty and never functioned the way it should have. Not only did the guys at S3 troubleshoot it, they sent me a replacement free of charge when it couldn’t be fixed. Impeccable service, can’t recommend them more highly. Check them out –

  • Tim Mac

    Can anyone point me in the right direction to get in contact with the owner? please email me ttiimmaacc

  • Tim Mac

    @d08a23cbba830f4c53a1f535e13abbe5:disqus any chance you could shoot me an email?

  • Lloyd

    I dont know if these guys are blind or crazy, but there aint nothing stock about this bike and for a first time build it is super clean and its even something I wouldnt mind having, looks great brother well done