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‘High Noon’ W650 – Speedwerks


Posted on July 6, 2015 by Andrew in Café Racer. 15 comments

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Delaware-based Speedwerks were in an enviable position. They’d been approached by a long-term customer wanting a balls-to-the-wall café racer that could be ridden hard and ridden every day. The customer, local racer and speed boat enthusiast known only as ‘Richie’, had seen a few Deus café racers and wanted something in a similar vein, but louder and better engineered than anything that had come before. Armed with only a Kawasaki W650 engine stripped of its electric start, Speedwerks surveyed the line-up of modern retro motorcycles for a donor frame and found few that could blend traditional looks with modern geometry and stiffness. So they went about designing one. On the back of a beer-soaked napkin at a local sports bar.

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Speedwerks is based less than a mile from Marc Rowe, a local chassis guru who had helped the team with a few previous builds. But building the frame for the W650 was the perfect opportunity to spend some more time working under his tutelage, with Richie not pushing the team for time. “I spent every evening for the next two years drinking beers, bending tubes and making metal chips with Marc,” said Steve Long, head designer at Speedwerks, “He’s the most badass old-school machinist on the planet, period.”

And Marc has the resume to back it up. He’s won Monster Garage and built frames for Aerosmith’s cruiser company Dirico. “If you can imagine it, Marc and Budweiser can make it.” The knowledge that Marc brought to the build, and to the workshop, can’t be underestimated. “I’ve never learned more from one person in my life and unfortunately, his kind are a dying breed”, Steve says.

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For a blueprint sketched on the back of a serviette over a few drinks, Marc did a remarkable job creating the tight, stiff frame that pins the W650 engine firmly in place. And its slick lines aren’t just for looks, with the backbone also doubling as a crankcase catch and vent and also a hiding place for clutch cables and the wiring loom, which feed into an Ignitech programmable ignition and lithium-ion battery. The genius of the design doesn’t end there, with the rear fender able to slide in and out of the frame to hold the licence plate. Those two years certainly didn’t go to waste.

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And all that careful work on the frame is matched by a no-compromise approach to the suspension, which carefully marries modern stopping power with traditional lines. Up front a pair of conventional 41mm Yamaha forks were shaved down and Race Tech springs and emulators mounted inside.

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Speedwerks designed billet radial mounts for Brembo monoblock calipers, so it would have the look of a conventional fork with the stopping power of an improved inverted radial mount. The rear runs a matching brake setup while a pair of Kawasaki ZRX1200R shocks, shortened, re-valved and re-sprung, help keep the tail end of the bike in line.

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Just about everything else you see on the bike was designed and manufactured in-house. The chrome-moly swingarm is also their own creation and the arched steel tank, close-hugging front fender and alloy seat pan were all sketched out and manufactured by the capable team.

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The level of fabrication doesn’t end there – look closer and you’ll see that all the ancillary parts were also designed by the guys at Speedwerks, including the triple trees, brake hangers and motor mounts which were all CNC’d from billet aluminium.

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Despite the ostentatious 70’s-inspired paint scheme completed by John Walls the bike still manages to show an appreciation for the finer touches in a build – and helps me realize how little I know about bike building, fabrication and the black art of frame design. Starting with only an engine, the workshop have managed to create a unique, functional motorcycle held together by a chrome-moly piece of automotive, beer-fuelled genius.

Makes you want to drink more, doesn’t it?

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  • John Wanninger

    Wow. Definitely not a shed build. This is ass kicking. Out of many people’s leauges- mine included. It’s a piece of art.

    Bike of the year material.

  • guvnor67

    Problem is I’d have to drink copious amounts of Vodka to get to 5% of this guys talent! Awesome attention to detail m great engineering with a touch of crazy! Love it!!! A crap night at work just faded to a distant memory! Thanx!

  • Hardley Y Whipsnade III

    Seems to me there’s already an awful lot of hyperbole floating around here for what is a very well done albeit very derivative custom . Craftsmanship ? 10 out of 10 plus . Originality ? 2.5 on a good day . Art ? Not hardly . The word ‘ art ‘ implying a certain level of originality that does not exist here . Better than what you can do ? Seeing as how they’re professionals doing it on a daily basis and you’re a home builder it darn well better be better than what you can do . Conclusion ? Yet another very well crafted ‘ Been There : Done That ‘

    • X

      Is that you again, guitarslinger?

    • Guitarslinger? T.J. Martin? Martin James? Colorado Kid? Are you back?

    • arnold

      “Dogs Playing Poker ” by Casssius Coolidge fulfills all those requirements, especially uniqueness and originality yet still remains my favorite art genre.

    • Duh

      Mr Hardly,
      In the English language there is not a space after punctuation at the end of the sentence…implying a certain level of stupidity but a 10 in originality on your part.

  • Lee Scuppers

    “Your architects were madmen,
    Your builders they were drunk”

    That is one painfully ugly motorcycle.

  • yamahappy

    Those pipes! Gorgeous but I’m betting deafening.

  • David Eakin

    It looks to me like the exhausts dump directly onto the rider’s toes. Seems like an odd oversight given the rest of the build. Maybe this is a cold-region bike, or they only run it in Delaware in the Winter (it is really cold there then).

    • arnold

      Don’t they sell something called a Hot Shoe for that?
      (snikker)

  • Randy Moran

    Speedwerks built an SV650 racebike for me years ago. They’re a great bunch there who do great work. This is no exception. Great job, boys!

    • Marlon

      I’ve heard nothing but good things about their race bike builds.

      I hope their next cafe build uses a frame like this one but with a great honking modern engine in it.

  • like it, shape colour everything

  • Bultaco Metralla

    I dunno about beer fuelled inspiration, i would suspect a combination of orange juice and a fearsome tequila. There’s a lot to dislike here. The colour, the shape of the frame, the line of the tank, the seat and those mufflers. However, somehow the combination of all the odds and ends comes together and makes a great idiosyncratic motorcycle. This is definitely one bike I’d love to take cruising along the beaches..