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1975 Kawasaki KZ400 by Vast Moto

Posted on March 5, 2014 by Scott in Café Racer, Classic. 16 comments

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Written by Ian Lee.

Motorcyclists sure are a social bunch. Which is weird seeing as the act of riding is a solitary pursuit in itself. However, many a strong friendship has been forged over a rusted bolt or faulty starter motor. And some can lead to greater things. It is thanks to this social aspect that we have today’s feature bike, Vast Moto’s 1975 Kawasaki KZ400. Created in a small Portland workshop, the bike is built on the concept of motorcycles built for the people, by the people. Being the first build completed by a bunch of roustabouts who banded together for a common cause, this little Kwaka is proof of what can happen when you fall in with the right crowd.

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Mike Aberle, the appointed ‘Top Banana’ of Vast Moto, is a self confessed motorcycle tragic. Fifteen years ago Mike was given a KZ900 in return for some masonry work, and the addiction started to take hold. Parked up in a basement for sometime under a sheet, the KZ was given a freshen up and started twelfth kick. It was at that moment that Mike realised he was hooked. A fan of Japanese motorcycles, primarily Kwaka’s, Mike spent the next twelve years working on his knowledge of all things moto.

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With a fairly decent collection of bikes bought, sold, fixed, parted or hoarded for over a decade. Then a chance arose for Mike to throw in his lot with a co-op motorcycle workshop in his home town of Portland. With mixed views as to the direction the shop would take, the first era of Vast Moto’s existence was a tad chaotic. According to Mike himself: “We weren’t all sure what the shop was. Some of us wanted to be a custom motorcycle shop, some of us wanted to fix what others won’t or can’t, and some of us just wanted a place to hang out and talk about bikes.”

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After completing  a couple of builds in collaboration with others, Mike wanted to see if Vast Moto could perform a complete frame up build of it’s own. And he had just the bike in mind. The mid 70s KZ would make a great platform for a classy little British style cafe racer, yet keep the reliability of a Japanese commuter bike. To ensure the longevity of the powerplant, the internals were left standard during the engine rebuild. The airbox was swapped out for a set of velocity stacks, and the carbs rejetted to suit the opened up exhaust system. Mike is a fan of the adage ‘simpler is sometimes better’, enjoying the simplicity of a kickstart cranking system.

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Aesthetically, the bike looks like a million dollars. This is mainly due to the 23K gold leaf inlay on the British Green paintjob. The tank and seat are custom jobs made inhouse at Vast Moto – an aspect of the build that Mike is really proud of. A set of rearsets were considered, but the factory position was retained after measurements showed an awkward riding position due to the small stature of the machine.

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To keep the frame neat and clutter free, the electrics have been relocated under the beautifully formed seat. In a stroke of genius a battery from an emergency exit lamp has been utilised to minimise the bulkiness of the electrical system. You may have noticed the bike doesn’t rock any indicators, the harness is there but Mike prefers the streamlined look and old school hand signals. Smoothing the lines of the machine, the headlight and gauge cluster have been dropped using custom bracketry. Although bulky in relation to the rest of the build, the gauge cluster and hand controls help to “keep the KZ spirit alive”.

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From a chance encounter with a basement find KZ900, Mike Aberle has spent over a decade refining his motorcycle skills. The dream of starting a co-op motorcycle workshop realised, Vast Moto has managed to produce a simple and elegant café racer – all while retaining the soul of this mid 70s small capacity machine. Mike has decided to put the bike up for sale to fund his next project, so if you like what you see then hit him up via the Vast Moto Facebook page.

[Photography by Tom McPherson]

  • Nate Frost

    very nice and simple build. I myself am a bike junkee collecting everything I can. I have built 5 bikes and had nothing but fun wrenching and riding. good luck to you in business. I love to see all old bikes brought back to life.

  • revdub

    Beautiful paint on the tank and seat.

  • MotoTrooper

    Beautifully proportioned and well executed, but PLEASE stop the bullshit velocity stack train! Yes they’re purty and have a pukka race bike look but they only belong on race bikes because race bike engines only need to last as long as the race giving as much power as possible during the RACE.

    Air filters are your friend and if aesthetics are paramount… well if you can build a custom bike you can create a cool air filter shroud. Otherwise why even bother changing the oil.

    • Davidabl2

      Were i to run velocity stacks (except in pictures!) I’d sure as hell fit a modern oil filter and change it VERY frequently.

    • Personally, I run an oil bath filter. It’s like an anti-velocity stack… 😉 It works like a charm on the dusty roads of home and is easy to clean. For the weirdos like me out there, here’s my instructions on how to make it…

  • Davidabl2

    velocity stacks…for races or photos.
    Pods make sense but are truly, truly fugly.
    I particularly like those canister air cleaners on the commandos and wonder if the K&N pods actually deliver that much more power..

    • Donovan

      It seems like K&N’s also aren’t nearly as great as their popularity suggests. Here’s a great article with some hard science evidence that they don’t filter nearly as well as OEM or paper filters and also that they restrict badly when dirty. Also, although K&Ns may have lower air resistance per unit area of filter surface, their small size and overall low area means they may actually have higher overall air resistance. With real life air intake rates, there’s almost certainly no performance advantage, and I personally would prefer to avoid any risk of higher wear, especially on my older bikes without modern oil filters. I’ve yet to see independent side by side dyno tests showing higher power from K&Ns vs stock pleated paper filters, and I don’t trust seat of the pants perceptions of increased power any more than I trust the efficacy of homeopathy. I actually bought a K&N for my 81 Guzzi, and then did some more homework after looking with disbelief at the tennis racket sized holes in the gauze.

  • Davidabl2

    Lovely bike.

  • Sweet ride and very sanitary build. I like the velocity stacks – they add a little Goodwood to mix.

  • Roadracer Al

    Turnout pipes? Really?

    Lovely work on the tank & paint, however.

    I read the line “internals were left stock for reliability”, then glanced down a the velocity stacks and snorted a little bit. You could run a ridiculous cam with monster compression and have better reliability than an open intake.

  • Mauro Toffanin

    Aesthetically speaking, those two trumpet-shaped velocity stacks are marvelous. I am impressed with Mike Aberle’s paintwork skills, and of course with the craftsmanship of the fuel tank too.

  • arnold


  • Nicholas

    love the simplicity, great lines awesome build

  • onanysunday

    would look even better with some side panels and put good good shocks and decent usable handlebars onnit fer chrisakes
    some filters on those stacks that is if YOU ACTUALLY RIDE it

  • Žnidaršič vesko

    Nice KAWA

  • Josey Keith Browning

    does this bike come stock with double carbs? i am a bit confused on why or how that can happen? its a single right?