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Kawasaki ‘KZR-1’ – Classified Moto

Posted on June 3, 2016 by Andrew in Scrambler. 21 comments


Compromise can be a word you just have to deal with in the custom motorcycle scene, functionality often sacrificed in the name of form or go preferenced ahead of show. Until the ’70s many applied the same logic to the very ownership of a motorcycle in that you could have fast or reliable but you couldn’t have both. That all changed with the arrival of the Kawasaki Z sportsbike, the fastest thing on two wheels and you just couldn’t break ‘em! So when Classified Moto’s main man John Ryland picked out a bike to turn into a custom creation that also had to be capable of taking him on a thousand mile journey he hit the proverbial nail on the head with a 1978 Kawasaki KZ1000. That it also features the unmistakable styling and build quality of all the brilliant Classified Moto bikes is testament to the talent of the Richmond, Virginia team.


The build was commissioned by Rebel Yell Bourbon as a promotional machine to be given away, with John to ride the bike from St Louis to Sturgis for Bike Week. He’ll be joined on the trip west into Harley country by Analog Motorcycles, Gasser Customs and Revival Cycles, but before they can ride they had to build! Unlike many clients who come prepared with a list of demands, here Classified Moto were given free rein as John explains, “It’s one of those projects where the customer gives you so much freedom it makes you nervous. They really had no demands other than to build something that looks like one of our bikes and feels like it matches the spirit of their brand.” With this in mind the big Kwaka makes perfect sense, not only has it got the performance and reliability covered it’s on road presence means it won’t be dwarfed by the thousands of Hogs at Bike Week.


Like any Classified Moto build it is thoroughly comprehensive and right back to the frame every detail is taken care of. The beefy rear subframe has been shortened with a new hoop welded into place, which along with the rest of the big round steel is finished in matte black. Not only does it allow the bikes components to stand out it gives the bike the tough looking skeleton of a brawler going into battle. Sitting tight to the engine is a modified KZ1000 tank that is finished in classic Classified Moto style, sans paint and with their logo on the side. It is perhaps the most recognisable look in the current custom scene and as always the raw metal is matched with a brilliant seat. The custom pan has been upholstered by Roy Baird and its vintage utilitarian appeal is part of the overall “WWII messenger bike” styling that John was going for.


A tent for when it rains

Filling the space under the seat is a wax canvas bag with an internal rigid frame that looks as if it comes straight from the ’40s but has a very modern purpose. Inside is where the electrics have been cleverly stored with the ignition barrel protruding, as if a lock to reveal the contents contained within. It’s these magic little details that go part of the way to making any Classified Moto build so good but on this bike it’s hard to go past that set of bars. The custom girder-style bars with integrated waxed canvas windscreen are the work of in house fabricator Danik Herashchanka, who is charged with the unenviable task of taking John’s mind blowing ideas and without computer drawings or exact measurements making them a reality “We lost track of how many hours Danik put into the bars alone, but we’re loving how they turned out. I searched a lot before and after and haven’t found anything that looks similar. So even if the Harley guys eat us alive in Sturgis, at least maybe we’ll get some points for originality”.


The new bars are about as different a set of steed steering reins as you are likely to get when compared to the clip-ons that would normally come with a 2009 Yamaha R1 front end. But with the styling that was to be achieved and the comfort needed for such a long ride the two work together remarkably well. The R1’s USD forks are fitted to the Kawasaki frame with a CM conversion that consists of a custom upper triple clamp and custom axle. The added benefit of the conversion to the modern Yamaha front end is of course the dinner plate sized drilled brake discs with four piston calipers for vastly superior stopping power. Out back the rear end remains a twin shock setup but big dollar Progressive Suspension 970 Series units mean the bike can be dialled in for any rider and road surface combination. Allowing the KZ to tackle just about any surface is the Shinko 700 Series dual sport tyres that wrap the aluminium Sun rims laced to the polished stock hubs with stainless spokes.


John tries it on for size

But if the suspension and tyres are 21st century and the styling straight from WWII the engine meets them right in the middle with the best of the ’70s four bangers breathing fire. So good was the Kawasaki four cylinder in the day that tuners likes Pops Yoshimura and Mamoru Moriwaki were turning out some of the fastest race bikes around with the KZ winning superbike championships around the world. “We are continuing to tweak it with the guidance of David Lillard at Redline Motorsports in nearby Yorktown, Virginia. He rebuilt the motor then kicked some Ducatis and Triumphs off his dyno to help us dial in the jetting.” According to John it’s not only fast but “sounds awfully good at full throttle” which is not surprising given the stunning set of Stainless 4-into-1 pipes that now call the Kawasaki home. The DOHC engine also benefits from a custom stainless airbox that is mated to the Mikuni carbs.


Danik touches the bike inappropriately

Keeping everything looking clean the Shorai Lithium Ion battery now calls a custom box under the swingarm home and powers the simplified electrical system. A single Acewell Digital gauge provides all the vital information, while a mirror and smoked lense turn signals should keep the police happy as the Kwaka crosses state lines. Should they need to do any of the long haul at night time there is a small headlight up front and a custom tail light mounted at the rear. The rear unit sits on a tiny bobbed fender mounted flush to the frame while the front fender is mounted dirt bike style to the underside of the lower clamp. It’s amazing to think that only a few years ago big companies were taking the Harley or nothing approach to promotional and giveaway bikes. But the quality of machines being turned out by the likes of Classified Moto means even the big end of town has to sit up and take notice and it’s a credit to John and his team that once again they’re leading the pack.


Someone’s about to get a rock in the face

[Photos by Adam Ewing]

  • John_Tangeraas

    Nice bike! I though at first that the canvas bag under the seat was a rusty box and thought that was neat. Canvas looks good too, though.

  • Hardley T Whipsnade III

    Now see ! If you’re going to use knobbies on an urban warrior custom these are the kind of knobbies you want to be using not those extreme knobbies so much in vogue these days ! So Harley riders beware . This is one seriously bad***ed jolie laide Kwaka !

    • Hardley gets a featured comment. All little boy’s all growns up!

  • that waxed canvas is good stuff… made my tool roll out of some scrap

  • Jim Roberts

    i’ve seen things that i thought were more out of touch with reality but i can’t remember when. this is the bike that a guy who’d vote for donald trump would be proud to be seen on.

    • Couldn’t disagree more.

      • Jim Roberts

        and if you would like to retain that “right to disagree” let me humbly suggest that you not vote for trump…and i stand by my comment

  • Jester the Clown

    Since when was 1,000 miles a long journey?
    In the old days, when I was a courier, I’d frequently cover that distance and more in a day and be back in the pub at teatime.

    • And when I was a kid, we used to ride Honda CT-110s through the snow in the nude while also on fire to get to school…

      • NIck

        Well, YEAH- you had to be nude, otherwise the fire’d burn all your clothes off, and the fire was to melt the snow in front of you to make a path! And you tell kids these days that, and they won’t believe you.

  • Novak Tomovic

    gotta love those fat tires and all that leather

  • Jim Stuart

    REI called and they want their mini display tent back.

    • W.R.Hinrichsen

      The Kawasaki KZ1000 is such a great bike to build on.Iconic and robust. Bringing up the political subject of Donald Trump in relation to this bike would be like mentioning him at an archeological dig. Sacrilege.

      • Jim Stuart

        Unless Trump works for REI I suggest you address your comment to the person that mentioned him.

    • duh

      exactly…love everything else though.

  • NIck

    “Until the ’70s many applied the same logic to the very ownership of a
    motorcycle in that you could have fast or reliable but you couldn’t have
    both. That all changed with the arrival of the Kawasaki Z sportsbike,
    the fastest thing on two wheels and you just couldn’t break ‘em!”

    I call BS. Try 1969, with the advent of the Honda CB750k. Kaw, Yam, and Suzi were ALL late to the game, and the SOHC 750 wasn’t consistently challenged until the Z1 came out in ’72, and still very rarely defeated. It enjoyed an almost 10-year run virtually unchanged- why change perfection?- and was top dog in most cases.

    • Don Arnold

      Have to agree,when the 750 came out the editors of Cycle went nuts and engaged in an impromtu roadrace with two of them from LA to SF. The new bmw 750 could not hang and everything else would break. 3 years before the 903 kawi.

  • Don Arnold

    I woudn,t call the bars girder style, when you weld thin wall cromoly like that its called birdcage or spaceframe, at least by the sportscar and aviation people who,ve been doing it since the war. Guessing .083×7/8 4130 for the bars and 1/2 around the headlight . I,m in love. But you better get the angle right cuz there,s no changing it later.

  • Leon Litz

    Another rad John Ryland creation/restore! Keep it up! Leon Litz

  • I have this bike and would like to sell it. Are you interested?