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‘79 Kawasaki KZ650 – Alex Veaone

Posted on December 18, 2014 by Andrew in Brat. 56 comments


Estonia. No, we didn’t know where it was either. As luck has it, the country is essentially Finland’s southern cousin which should help you figure out how the hell you’d ride there if the mood ever took you. And if, once you arrived, you were looking for one of Estonia’s coolest builders to hang out with, best grab a ticket and fly straight back to the good ol’ US of A, because we’re here to tell you that Estonia’s finest is coming at you straight out of downtown Philly, Pennsylvania, and his name is Alex Veaone.


“I am originally from Tallinn, Estonia,” says Alex. “It’s a tiny pixel on the map located in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. Now I reside in Philadelphia and work as a graphic designer; I love to work on and ride motorcycles in my spare time. This is my second project that I recently completed.”


“The bike is a 1979 KZ650 that I found on Craigslist in a very rough form. It had a title, the engine turned over, the price was right and I was itching for a new project. It took a little over a year to complete. I have to say that this project didn’t come easy. It seems like I have spent the majority of time fixing my own damn mistakes. It took me so many tries just to get the smallest thing accomplished. However, the feeling of completing this project was amazing and all the headache was worth it.”


“I’ve always been a fan of 70’s-era Japanese bikes and this is my second project. The first one was a blue KZ400. Unfortunately, I crashed that bike into a van last month and I am pretty sure it’s totalled. However, I feel pretty lucky to escape (almost) unharmed.”


“I got that bike because I liked the way it looked. It had very nice lines, the tank was beautiful and it was easy to work on. Also, I think the simple tubular frame and proportions of the bike made for a good build platform. The second KZ was an impulse buy. It was cheap and had similar lines, but it was in a lot worse shape. Since I knew a little bit about the 2 cylinder, I thought I would learn about the 4 cylinder and keep the trend going.”


“A few of the mods include a welded a shorter rear frame loop, an 18″ front wheel conversion, all new bearings, a dual front disk conversion, a lowered front end and shorter rears, a bespoke small battery box to fit under the seat, vintage tractor spotlight for a headlight and a rear tail light that has been swapped for a small LED unit under the fender”


“I also fitted a gas tank from an old Kawasaki Enduro and did a custom paint job on it, I fabricated a new seat pan and seat, rebuilt the engine and carbs, added new electronic ignition and coils, simplified all the wiring and relocated all the switches into the battery box. I also added a Kerker 4-1 exhaust and a manual cam chain adjuster, which I highly recommend.”


  • arnold

    There is something in the Estonia water supply.
    Too many ‘way too cool for you” builds coming from the the guys in that neck of the woods.
    There would be a couple of cliche’d remarks, but over all it is an out standing effort.

    (As an off topic aside, we really don’t consider Philadelphia as part of Pennsylvania.
    The City of Brotherly Love and The Cradle of Freedom, let’s just say that it has changed.)

    • TJ Martin

      ” Way too cool for you ” ???

      Seriously ? More like yet another SBDB [ Same Bike ~ Different Builder ] from what I’m seeing . Which is to say ….. one more Metro Retro build in another vain attempt to attain ‘ authentic ‘ nostalgia . The difference with this one of the string lately being that the build quality here is … reasonable … not great .

      • lennard schuurmans

        Is there a option to hide certain people’s comments on Pipeburn? Say if I never would want to read TJ Martin’s comments any more, not just today, not just tomorrow, but hide his comments forever, just as an example off course. If it would be an option to hide the comments from certain people, how nice would that be! I would love that! It would improve the comments section so much. Wouldn’t that be great?

        • revdub

          I too would very much like this option.

          • guest

            There is a little flag that lights up on the right of the poster’s name.

          • James duke

            Same here BJ fartin is a dick head LMAO

        • foiled again

          Lennard, off the unpleasant subject- just wanted to compliment you on Bubble Visor and also your artwork. Great stuff.

        • Davidabl2

          I second that, Leonard. Bubblevisor is a ton of fun.

          • chollo9

            Hey, thanks for turning me on to that!

      • durp

        Nailed it. If you look at each individual detail, its good quality. But when you look at this bike as a whole, it has no personality, there is no theme or style. There is no balance in design anywhere.

        • Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man…

        • itsmefool

          To me, it’s a proportion issue…seat too long, tank and headlight too small, frame too large.

      • nerg

        I’m with TJ on this, but not for quite the same reasons. I love old KZ650’s and despite this being a brilliant build, it’s just not right. It looks like the suspension has sagged and the fuel tank is ridiculous. Beautiful build, but the standard bike had better lines and proportions. It looks wrong.

        • David M

          I love the fact that the previous bike was ridden into a van and written off, and yet this one has the tank that would maim in the same circumstances. Is this an entry for the Darwin awards?

      • Stephen Bacon

        Why the hate? I didn’t see him claim anywhere he was trying to make his bike “authentic”, nor did I see him claim he was doing something radical or ground-breaking. Seems to me he wanted to get a cheap beat-up bike off CL and fix it up the way he liked. Mission accomplished. Not only that, we’re talking about a guy building a bike, not a shop or a professional “builder”. Given that I’d say the quality is quite good. Maybe you have something against BGDFEs (bearded graphic-designers from Estonia)?

        • TwoSmoke

          That’s just TJ man. His shit don’t stink and he knows how to build/design a bike better than anyone. Despite the fact that he never has…

  • edward yakovich

    Awesome bike. Looks great. Nice, clean color-scheme.

    Now it’s time to open up that motor!

    It’s a KZ, which means it can make a ton of power. Put in a high compression piston kit, new valvetrain, street cams and a set of Keihin CR29 carbs. Then get the head ported… then do wheelies everywhere.

  • bjax

    Okay, yeah, the bike looks like many others before it, but I still like most of it. What I don’t like is headlight, and especially the tank, which is the focal point. It’s too small, it doesn’t sit right on the bike at all, the coils are exposed, etc.

    Looking at this and other custom bike sites, It seems like I’ve seen every conceivable style riff on every conceivable bike, except maybe a scrambler treatment on a GL1000 (can’t wait!). Yet there are subtle touches everywhere that make most builds unique, that keep me coming back. Much carping about TJ Martin’s comments carping about the sameness. TJ, I’m interested to know what bikes you actually do like.

    • Fred

      Mate; Martin is a Shinya boy all the way. Maybe Haden one day but not yet. Piepeburn like Martin. We need more Martins given the featured bikes are boring most of the time. But Martin needs to take his Leica and show his builds/likes. Get off Prat’s wagon and submit some of your photos Martin. Give up the music on the Shinya videos and start showing us your credentials for some of the comments you make. Maybe you really are a pipeburn fabrication? Fred.

    • TwoSmoke

      TJ lacks the capability to “like” things.

      • Fred

        More just a fig jam. Cricky that’s not bad really , real music to my ears. Like the band says fig jam. From know on Martin is fig jam. Maybe pipeburn needs to up your salary for all the attention you get fig jam. Fred.

  • The KZ650 motor is a little jewel and takes to performance mods very well. I like the color scheme – the titanium-like color of the frame gives an industrial look to the bike. Some may not like the tank but I think it looks cool floating above the frame. Some builders like to hide mechanical bits but I don’t mind parts showing – after all a motorcycle is a piece of equipment for going down the road. The latest Akrapovic promo bike covers everything up but the Knucklehead motor, the logical conclusion to the custom bagger genre.

  • I like this bike. Yes, I’ve quite a few of these urban scramblers lately, but this bike is nicely done. At first I wasn’t sure about the tank. It looked very disjointed at the back, however the more pictures I looked at, the more I like it. There is a very eclectic assemblage of the components which gives the bike a great personality. Perfect for ripping down the side street and into the alley. Thumbs up Alex!

  • LK from Cali

    Hey bud, looks like a fun bike and project, welcome to the USA and all, and if you run into anymore vans you’re gonna rip your package off with that tank arrangement. I’d fix that somehow.
    Other than that have fun.

  • Laurent

    Nice bike, too sad the gas tank is so ugly… 🙁

  • Patrick, in Ireland

    As an exercise in style, I love how the line of the tank is taken up by the frame downtube. The floaty feel of the tank position only adds to that. Practically, I can see bad outcomes for the family jewels if the space between tank and saddle comes into play.

    I’d either get a front fender, or lose the rear fender.

    As with all the bikes on here that I look at, I’ve learnt something from it, and appreciate people’s efforts and courage in sharing their work.

    The disparaging tone of some comments…, not so much.

  • Leks13

    Everybody’s a fuckn’ critic. Hilarious. Love the same bike comment, how many different genre bikes do you expect to build from a motorcycle? I see too many green Ninjas on the roads. Its just the way it is. No real point in complaining about it?!

    • Michael Kork.

      Indeed. The type of bikes that are ridable and functional and good looking share similar characteristics. It’s just the way it is.

  • Bowds

    Cool bike, only thing I would change is the tank, seems a little to “perched” on top and small to me. Might be nice to see it flow with the lines of the bike a little nicer. Good job though, I would ride it for sure.

  • Davidabl2

    I very much like the bike..even though that “floating tank” takes some getting used to 🙂

  • Filipe

    What about safety? If you crash, can you imagine what could happen? That tank is “danger on wheels”.

    • jackwizo

      any crash on a motorbike is going to hurt. stop obsessing about your genitals, already. “danger on wheels” could apply to any bike, not just one you’re afraid to put your nuts next to.

  • bobfalfa

    OK, then the Tanks wrong, the headlamp proportion is wrong and why bother with the rubber fender guard.?

  • Aaron

    Well please, for those of you who really think this is not the bike for them because of your opinions, don’t ask the guy if you can buy it. This is his self-expression at work, making him as happy as a 6-year-old on christmas. Besides, this is not just about the bike, this is a story. One that most of you opinionated pricks do not have, and if you all feel that there is something wrong, or you could have done a better job, go get your own KZ650, build it, submit, and see if it gets one. Please, let the man enjoy what he built. It was for himself, not for you.

    • bobfalfa

      OK then, there were three items I criticised , not a lot all in all . Maybe I should not have done that , it seemed (to me)the changes would have vastly improved the bike.
      The KZ frame Is a hard frame to sort out without cutting and changing the top tube
      That being the case ,I apoligise whole heartedly

      • cptmatt

        Don’t apologize. If you like something, you like it. If you don’t, you don’t. If you can’t express that, then what’s the point of a forum.
        That said, some people either just nit-pick builds to death, or get rattled or defensive if someone dares not to like a bike.

    • Filipe

      Who are you calling pricks? Do you know freedom of speech?
      Every constructive critic should be appreciated by the constructor.
      If you don’t want criticism you should not put you motorcycle on Internet.
      You stupid ignorant.

  • Fast2Furious

    I”m sure the builder can recommend some fine Estonian cheese to go with all this whine.

  • josh


  • David M

    Z650s, one of the very nicest tank, side panel and tailpiece styling jobs of any Japanese bike ever – all gone and replaced with a mobile guillotine. Gentlemen include me out on this one.

  • Richard

    awesome bike

  • Michael Kork.

    The bikes looks Goooood. Cool color palette : check, Amazing craftsmanship: check, new wave feeling : check, colorful tubes for the gas: check, Wanna be the cool guy with beard riding it: double check. What’s not to like?

  • TJ Martin

    Holy ____ !

    Just recently found and finished reading this ;

    ” So Good They Can’t Ignore You ; Why skills trump Passion ” by Cal Newport

    The perfect response to all the Metro Retro Suburban Urban ‘ Hipster’ wanna be hype concerning the so called ‘ passion ‘ that now surrounds everything from M/C’s , the arts , music , design and right on down to daily life . As well as the perfect book to recommend to anyone thinking about becoming a ‘ successful ‘ custom builder [ or a successful anything else for that matter ] rather than as Paul d’Orleans calls it .. ” InstaFamous InstaBroke ” .. along with being an excellent companion read to ” Shop Class as Soul Craft ” …. adding a healthy dose of reality to the romantic ideals Mr Crawford portrays so well in his book .

    • Fred

      Figjam,s at it again. Go race your mini mate.

    • Dave

      He’s just showing us his bike, you’re showing us what a jerk you are.

  • Clay Woody

    Nice build. I like aspects, if you could cut out the middle of the bike it would be perfect… The wheels and tires are slick, the colors are nice, but im sorry the tank is wrong. its too short, and because of that it looks funny the way its lifted into the air. If you wanted to lay down on it, you’d slice open your abdomen. No disrespect at all because the quality is there, but would change the tank.

  • jackwizo

    Contrary to many opinions expressed in this section, I find that the smaller gas tank exposes the lines of the frame just right. I think that by utilizing smaller components brings some attention outward, in this case, toward the wheels, which look larger in contrast to the petite tank and HL. I find the proportions to be intriguingly cohesive.
    This bike looks like a blast to ride. The builder obviously knows lines and the unspoken rules of bike building, and therefore, knows how to break those rules the right way.
    Obviously, he knew there’d be some hate from folks over the elevated tank and the small light, but was confident enough to follow through on his vision. Way to go.

    • jackwizo

      And also, the dual brake lines look rad. Even the original triple trees look good painted matte black.

  • Russell
  • Garry Parker

    Hey my Girlfriend is getting me these Bohn Armor Pants from
    Amazon for Christmas! They have great reviews, and under my own jeans too..

  • BigPeeWee

    looks like the rider is trying to lift hisself up above the offending tank edge. Smart move!

  • cptmatt

    Great work. It actually looks rideable, which a lot of bikes on this sight seemingly lack (don’t get me wrong, I love an interesting design exercise and a bikes that have artistic qualities). I like the sparseness of it. Nothing EXTRA added except for an extra rotor (much needed).
    Note to Alex: I am renovating and mildly customizing a buddy’s ’79 kz 650, so I could use a little advice and feedback. I am actually stationed at Fort Drum, just over the river in NJ, but am in Philly a lot. We actually have a riding crew there that favors cafe racers and bobbers-would love to have you join us for Ride to Skate, Gypsy Run, Race of Gentlemen, Brooklyn International Show/Indian Larry Party, etc.
    If you’d like Friend me on Facebook (Matthew E. Ryan, or send an email.

  • Luigi Coppola

    Is for sale?