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‘Gold Dusk’ Kawasaki KZ650 – Little Horse Cycles

Posted on July 5, 2016 by Andrew in Café Racer. 23 comments


Written by Enginethusiast.

It’s 7pm on a Saturday evening in Portland’s industrial district. The steel train rails glisten in the evening sun and the magic hour is upon us; a perfect time to photograph a perfect bike. The sun is still shining strong as dusk approaches. It’s an unusually quiet time of day in Portland. Normally bustling with people coming and going, the silence is eerie. Even though the location we chose to meet was at the heart of where all the action usually takes place, there’s a sense of calm in the air. Within minutes of talking to Andrew from Little Horse Cycles, I realise that maybe this environment is the perfect setting for him. He is quiet, calm, and collected, but you can tell he is a mastermind that’s really passionate about his work.


Little Horse Cycles is in its third year, and owner Andrew Cornelissen doesn’t see an ending in sight. “Slowly but surely I’ve made it to a point where I build what I want to build. It’s rare and not many builders have the chance, but I made it a goal to build the bikes that I would want to ride myself. It feels like hanging out with friends everyday, rather than a normal 9-5, and personally I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Andrew says with a smile.


After an afternoon with him, I come to the conclusion that there simply isn’t enough space here to capture all the stories about Andrew, Jordan, Chedda and Lee, the foursome team of friends that decided to come together to build this amazing Kawasaki café racer.


Let’s start with you telling us a bit about yourself and your workshop.

I’m pretty much your average motorcycle enthusiast that accidentally created a workshop. What started off as an outlet for me and my friends turned into me meeting new friends with new bikes. I was formally trained as a metal worker and fabricator, but have been into motorcycles for a while, so pretty much one thing led to another. A few years ago I really got into the café racer thing, like a lot of my friends at the time. Slowly, I began looking at the builds and realised I wanted to create my own. Over time, I became fully submerged into building and helping friends with their builds.


What’s the bike and how long did the build take?

The donor bike is a 1979 Kawasaki KZ650SR and it took us close to a year to wrap it up.


Why did you build the bike?

Jordan Green and Lee Kinney–two good friends that I build bikes with often–suggested we do a ‘Greasy Dozen’ build. The Greasy Dozen is a grass-roots sponsorship program where 12 builds are selected and given additional support. The brief was to build a bike with a retro vibe, but with decent performance and practical enough to ride every day. It was also a collaboration between guys who normally work individually, so we completed it during evenings and on the weekends.


Can you walk us through the work that was done during the build?

The forks have been swapped out for a set of 43mm cartridge items from a ZX7 with twin gas shocks at the rear. It rolls on 17 inch spoked wheels with the 320mm Brembo discs and calipers from a Ducati Sport Classic GT1000 at the front. The headlamp comes from a Suzuki SV650. The rear seat cowl is from a GPZ750 with custom seat upholstery in oxblood leather by Ginger at New Church Moto.

The metal flake gold paint with its unusual mix of retro swooshes and pinstripes was done by Bridge City Cycles. Our 4-into-one pipes are hand-made in pie-cut stainless steel that I mated to a Mega ‘Quiet Core’ reverse cone muffler. The sweeping steel double-tube swing arm is also hand-made and uses custom aluminium concentric chain adjusters. The clip-on mounts are blended-in flush to the top triple clamp, adding to the refinement that is seen across the whole build.


Can we expect to see more from Little Horse?

I would hope so. Being able to do this with friends and watching us all grow together has been an honour. I can’t see myself ever stopping because it has always been for fun. I guess I’ve just been fortunate enough that most of my customers are either friends or future friends. Speaking of friends, I definitely want to give thanks to all of the people who have supported Little Horse Cycles. We couldn’t have done it without you.


[Story and photos by Enginethusiast]


Like what you see? Then check out a whole heap of similarly salubrious cycles in the latest issue of Tank Moto.

  • Lowflying

    This bike just works for me. LOVE the paint. The presence of a front fender allows for more paint too! I even love that red seat. Very cool rear swingarm – is it possibly strong enough? That’s my only question/concern.

  • Lowflying

    Also the stance looks good. It hasn’t been lowered to buggery so it should ride well too. Those rear shocks look a bit anemic compared to the forks is another one of my possible concerns. Easily fixed though.

  • John Wanninger

    I love it. Great work. Beautiful exhaust, and of course- paint. The late 70’s had it right as far as style and colors, and this bike goes there perfectly.

    BTW, the swing arm looks plenty strong enough.

  • Looks really interesting! Stainless tubing for the exhaust, pre-bent, has been available for 30 years or so. Why would anyone put this many upgrades into a build, put all that work into the swing arm and then leave the stock 40 year old “spring holders” on the back end. At least it appears we’re moving away from Flintstone tires and that goofy pipewrap! Love the paint.

    • Jordan Green

      It’s actually got a color matched rear hugger as well, just wasn’t installed 🙂

  • The stance is quite nice too. Like to see a shot of the “clip-ons blended in flush”.

    • Jordan Green

      Ask and ye shall receive 🙂

  • rein skugler

    Ha, really attractive! And the tyre moaners should also be satisfied, as should the exhaust wrap whiners …

    • Crappy tires and bandages on the pipes do so much to improve a custom built bike. Damn those performance whiners anyway!

    • Racing Enthusiast

      Rubbishpunk is out.

  • Jim Roberts

    if you’ve ever tried to ride one of these really fast, then you immediately appreciate that swing arm upgrade. you get them really laid over and try to put the power down and the damn thing would flex so bad it felt like it was hopping out of the corner. like the remote auto oil filter…nice ’70’s style cafe racer. nice to see a regular old dunstall style reverse cone on the exhaust as opposed to the lamprey-mouth style we see so much of these days

    • Racing Enthusiast

      I’m pretty sure that handling also depends on installation of engine mounting hardware…

      • John Wanninger


      • Jordan Green


        This shoot was immediately before we began ripping the engine out. It’s been upgraded to a refreshed GPz750 lump with VM29 smoothbores 🙂

        • Let’s see it! Way to take it up a notch or 2!

          • Jordan Green

            Still in the process of getting the carbs set up and a few details ironed out (like the oil cooler). Should be a very nice increase in power fitting of the rest of the bike 🙂

          • One of the hot tricks back in wobbling days of the Z series was to drill/thread the frame where the swingarm pivot bolt goes through. 90° to the pivot bolt. Then thread in a 6mm set screw/bolt to keep the pivot bolt from moving fore and aft in the frame. On the motor mount bolts, take one out at a time and ream (not drill) to the next bigger American size. You can get Grade 8 American bolts and nuts at McMaster-Carr and tap in lightly. Cheap and delivered overnight. Lastly, gussets or tubes welded in up by where the coils mount. Keeps the steering head from twisting. The clip-on picture is the only pic that shows the raised ridge on the top of the tank which ia an extremely cool feature. New shocks in that picture too!!

          • Jordan Green

            Yeah it had some take off shocks in this photo shoot, but has some better piggy back units on it normally 🙂

  • John_Tangeraas

    Isn’t this actually an SR650 (in Europe)? Nice bike, but not too fond of holes in the middle of it.

  • Robert Henry

    I think a six pack cooler would go nicely in that mid frame gap.

  • guvnor67

    Holy smoke!! Love this! Paint, stance, attitude, clean as a surgical ward. But, and It’s a massive BUT … It’s not mine!! (Falls to knees sobbing like a spoilt child). Seriously though, fantastic machine.

  • Andy Rappold

    The paintwork,aside being flawless,doesn’t do it for me, but the exhaust and the flush clipons are plain gorgeous!

  • thumpthump

    guess you can have too much open space, just looks spindly.