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‘Urban X’ Kawasaki Ninja 650 – Smoked Garage


Posted on August 3, 2016 by Andrew in Scrambler. 50 comments

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Written by Martin Hodgson.

When your website has a tab for “Investor Relations” it’s safe to say you are playing in the big time, a one man operation it is not. But it wasn’t always that way for Smoked Garage Custom Motorcycles and this successful Indonesian motorcycle powerhouse is a genuine rags to riches tale. Founded in 2004 by Nicko Eigert there really isn’t a start date to his story but the completion of his first custom build twelve years ago has snowballed into a business that fills an entire warehouse and churns out an eclectic mix of incredible machines. Only a short drive from the Smoked Garage HQ is the largest Kawasaki dealership in Indonesia, PT DUTA INTIKA of Denpasar, who wanted a custom bike to show the public what you can do with a Kwaka; thus begun the design and build of Project X, a Kawasaki Ninja Urban Scrambler to wow the masses.

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Perfect lines, no?

Not only is Smoked Garage close by but such a successful dealership can’t have any old workshop build them a ratty example and put it on the showroom floor. The custom bike had to be perfect in every way and the creator needed to be capable of building any concept that came to mind. For Nicko this isn’t a problem “We have customised everything from small 60cc bikes up to 2100cc S&S engines, so the build that we do is always different, we are not one of those shops that only does one particular style; we love to do different things and also learn new things”. One of the reasons Nicko can build just about anything is not just down to his own skills but the 16 mechanics, graphic design, admin, retail and parts builders he has on staff; OCC eat your heart out! To get the project underway a brand new 2016 Ninja 650 was delivered and while the boys pulled it apart Nicko sat down with his client to draw up a design.

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“We started to go back and forward on some design concepts and where we were both always looking at was an Urban Scrambler, so from that point we were agreeing that Holographic Hammer’s concept of Kawasaki ZX10 is the best candidate for this project.” So back to the bike lift and the team started coming up with ways to turn a modern machine into a retro rocket with the best of both worlds. With the fairing removed from a modern machine the aesthetics of the frame can often leave a lot to be desired, so the team has fabricated a tank, panels and covers that integrate seamlessly from front to back with the tank all the way to the rear guard custom crafted Smoked Garage items. Despite having to cross over onto the subframe, wrap around various shapes and angles one thing remains the same; the bodywork gap is a perfect 2mm all the way around. As Nicko says it’s just enough to slide a thin credit card through without being too loose while never getting stuck.

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That level of quality is extended to the front and rear guards that give the right retro appeal while still adapting to the modern machine without looking like they were just slapped on. The front unit is a combination of a traditional steel guard with the supports mirrored off of the factory items for an incredibly clean finish. The shortened subframe is more of Smoked Garages handy work, considerably shorter than stock it also holds a hand fabricated box for all the electrics that don’t fit under the new tank. The new frame raises the rear to mimic more vintage flat top frames that allows the new seat base to be crafted to hug the lines of the subframe covers and run up onto the tank. Layered with foam the top section was shaped until everyone was happy with the finished result and then it was time to wrap it in chocolate dark leather and double stitched for durability. Having given a new bike old looks it would have been easy to bolt on a round 7″ headlight and call it a day but Nicko explains “we build bikes that people would probably call future retros.”

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So instead a dual headlight setup was created with the use of two unique LED lights attached in an over-under arrangement that is mounted with brackets that have been bodyworked into the triple trees for a factory quality finish. With machined bezels they look trick and with the custom fairing they create a front on look like no other bike on the road. Into the booth and the paint scheme has been taken straight from the Kawasaki showroom floor with the primary colour the famous Lime Green. Broken up by White graphics the Green flows over the tank and seamlessly onto the frame covers making it almost impossible to tell where one part stops and the other finishes. The same trick is achieved towards the rear of the machine with Green turning to frame matching solid black but not at the actual meeting points of the metal for another visual trick to fool the eye. All of which does an amazing job of combining plastic, aluminum and steel into what appears to be bodywork made from a single piece of material; all the while covering the unsightly frame.

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With both companies based in Bali the tyre choice is straight from the old school surfer’s scrambler of choice the Suzuki RV125 VanVan and its factory fitted Dunlop K180’s. But with factory alloy wheels measuring 17″ at both ends a change would have to be made and it was the perfect time to go to spoked setup. Up front an 18″ lightweight rim is laced up to a custom Smoked Garage hub that has been wrapped in a 120section Dunlop. But it’s out the back where things get a little crazy, down to a 14″ rim, spoked up and an 180 section tyre fitted it’s unlike any other Ninja you’ll encounter out on the roads. The look is immediately transformed but controlling the rubber wasn’t going to be left totally factory and although the build was initially slated for 3 months this was one of my areas that doubled the time to get things just right. New Showa USD forks replace the standard telescopic items with a conventional bar adapted to the upper triple clamp wearing Biltwell grips. While out back the stock tubular swingarm is controlled by a Showa monoshock with the preload adjusted for the new rubber.

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Looks like It IS easy being green

But if there is one advantage to picking the Kawasaki Ninja 650 as the basis for any build it’s the unlikely hero, the 649cc parallel twin engine. It’s dominated the lightweight TT at the Isle of Man so much in recent years that most of the other manufacturers have simply packed up their bat and ball and gone home. While proving its versatility the reliable twin cam engine is also becoming a popular pick for Flat Trackers in the US. A new stainless exhaust has been fabricated for the single side Scrambler look but Nicko pulled out one of his many tricks routing it through the body work that neatly buffers up against the pipework. Heat wrap and a custom shield prevent it from melting the all new panel and paint work and a tunable SuperTrapp muffler barks out the rear. To ensure the safety of the engine when Project X is finally let off road, a bash plate covers the sump, drilled for airflow its belly pan like design gives a more subtle appearance.

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The fittings and fixtures are a mix of factory parts and custom items just as the dealership had requested. The stock digital clocks remain in place but the big factory turn signals have been swapped out for some of Smoked Garage’s own design. A vintage barred out tail light looks right at home on the old school rear guard while the new pegs and foot controls are machined to do their job without making a fuss. “We kept refining the motorcycle as we wanted to make sure the bike not only looks really nice but is also really nice to ride and we can with confidence say it rides like a dream!” Nicko is understandably proud of not only his team’s latest creation but their ability to work together as a company to give a major manufacturer something to show their customers that is unlike anything else they’ve seen. With the Urban Scrambler Project X now ready to hit the factory floor of a Kawasaki dealership in Bali you have to wonder if the big wigs at Team Green are going to take Nicko’s design and make it a global competitor to the latest Ducati and Yamaha offerings; if it helps, I’ll take two.

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Nicko dances while the bike’s not looking

[Smoked Garage: WebFacebook – Instagram | Photos by Ksatria Pinandhita]








  • John in Pollock

    Just stop it with the brown seats already. It looks like a repurposed old slipper/football. C’mon.—Also the pipewrags.

    Other than that, I think its relatively cool. Sort of like a Yamaha TW200 that sprinkled steroids on its Wheaties. Just keep the speeds sane and don’t get overconfident in the twisties with those meats…

  • Blackbird

    Viewing the first couple of photos it is easy to imagine the article will feature a 50cc bike.

    • It’s the tyres, I think.

      • Blackbird

        Yes, and the lack of background for reference.

  • Dave Coetzee

    Looks like a whole lot of fun to ride, although I think more in supermotard cum canyon carving way, than off-road, so an easy tyre change may be needed.

  • Cam

    Header wrap retains the exhaust gas heat IN the pipe, reducing the passing by air from dropping the temp until it exits the pipe. The reason for this is increased exhaust gas velocity…..heat moves towards cold due to it’s higher pressure….example, in your bathroom, turn on a space heater and run the shower full hot, leave the room and close the door, come back in five minutes and open the door, you’ll get blasted in the face with the heat build up as soon as you open the door…..

    The reason for wanting this effect in your engine is INTAKE SCAVENGING. For a few degrees of crankshaft rotation at the end of the exhaust stroke and beginning of the intake stroke, both the intake and exhaust valve are slightly open, this is called valve overlap. Overlap uses the speed of the exhaust gas as a “vacuum” to help draw a fresh intake charge into the cylinder, the faster the exhaust gas speed, the more vacuum you have to stronger draw more of an intake charge into the cylinder. This results in an increase in both horsepower and torque.

    https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110222095716AAptmwl

    • motomick

      Speaking as one who doesn’t particularly object to pipewrap (Please, y’all piperag haters out there, don’t turn me into an instant pariah!) but having never fully understood its evolution in practical terms, not just as a fashion statement, I really appreciated your contribution. It’s been copied and pasted to my donkey-uments library under the title “pipewrap explained . . . finally!” with proper attribution to “Cam.”

      • Cam

        tee hee, just never understood the hate..

    • Racing Enthusiast
      • motomick

        After reading that, I’m now more confused than ever!

    • You would think as fantastic as it sounds, WSB, MotoGP, Motocross, flattrackers, Indy cars, NASCAR’s, F-1, etc, etc would all be using it. But NONE are. However the theory sounds good. I guess only the current crop of “Custom” builders really appreciate the true value.

      • Cam

        yeah, good point. Maybe the additional weight does not counter the benefits of heat dispersal in a performance machine.I am curious though about the dislike of the the method based soley on aesthetic. There are other questionable form over function aspects of cafe racers that dont get so many comments in bike forums… and as a deterent to pipeburn. it seems feasible 🙂

        • Lots of questionable fads are growing deep roots in the current, fertile soil world of FFC (Form First Customs). It used to be choppers that took all the heat for looking ridiculous. Now, it seems it’s transitioned into the streetfighter, scrambler, cafe, brat styles with flat seats, no inner fenders with wide open carb intakes, Firestone tires or tires that are 180 out from their intended use/design, clip-ons with full knobbies being applied to previously good functioning bikes. But they look a certain way which trumps all reason. Oh yea. Throw pipewrap into that group as well.

          • the watcher

            I agree entirely, but as I’ve suggested before, there’s no cheap or easy way to disguise a horrible chrome pipe or, as here to make a (possibly) s/s pipe match the blacked out look; in fact this particular build is probably the best example of what I’m talking about – and at least when sprayed black it looks less like a wino’s broken wrist. BTW, the only place I’ve seen p/w used justifiably is on a build-your-own helicopter kit, where the pipes were v.close to the fuel tanks.

          • John in Pollock

            A wino’s broken wrist…. BWAAHAHAHAHA!!!

            Thank you. Awesome.

          • martin hodgson

            Cam is right I’m afraid and you have to compare apples to apples to make a reasonable comparison. F1, WSBK, MotoGP all use full titanium exhausts both for it’s lightweight properties and also because it is a poor conductor of heat. Thus the heat remains in the exhaust gas increasing its velocity. It is why many of those very forms of motorsport you mentioned not only use titanium for exhausts but in shielding for body work components etc

            But the bikes we feature here and the vast majority of custom bikes that aren’t new superbikes with 2k’s worth of exhaust don’t use titanium, they use steel, usually stainless which unlike titanium will absorb the heat from the exhaust gas at a much faster than titanium and not only does that reduce the exhaust gas velocity it also means you’ve stuck a giant heat sink next to your engine, many of which are air cooled and all of which are drawing their induction air from nearby. So wrapping increases the gas velocity, reduces engine temps and reduces intake temps. Where titanium is banned in racing you will still see wrapping, much of which contains woven titanium 😉

            I know this because I’ve worked for major V8 supercar teams, SuperBike teams and previously been a technical editor of a racing magazine. The science is long since settled, but if you compare different metals you can’t have a rational debate. So if you don’t like wrap its actually because you favour looks over performance which “trumps all reason”!

          • motomick

            Thanks! Y’ll are making me smarter day by day. I’m starting to feel like I can stand up to all them piperag haters and hold my own. I don’t actually use the stuff myself, but I did almost once buy a Kawa 650 that desperately needed it, in its case for cosmetic reasons.

            My lovely Hawk:

          • the watcher

            Please tell me you don’t really believe that a 40 year old R80/7 or CB750 derives any performance benefit from having its pipes lagged or that that’s the real reason it’s done.

          • martin hodgson

            The benefit is probably less than 1/2hp or even less. But the lost power of heat soak is can sap a good 5hp. It’s preventative as much as anything. I’ll dig out some dyno runs of a 78 CB750 where the HP figures drop and drop and drop over consecutive runs and that’s with multi industrial fans etc I’m not saying people don’t do it for the look alone, nor am I saying the performance gain is large. It isn’t. But dismissing it as a fad and doing nothing at all is wrong.

          • the watcher

            Please don’t put yourself out on my account; I care more about the use of horrible brown seats than I ever will re. the pros and cons of p/w. Although if your stats provoke a rush of glorious titanium pipes……

          • Racing Enthusiast

            I detect expertise on the flowing of hot air…

          • Cam

            dude, that is funny…. wish i could claim the expertise, but just an article I found.

          • Cam

            Martin, I am wondeing whether you may have stumbled upon a more concise republican slogan.

          • So that’s why the fad has taken hold. Because of the performance advantage? I’m gonna disagree 100%. I also read a report that rust and dirt create a boundary layer and improves aerodynamics .0003%, which means bikes that look like crap are actually faster Comparing Tomatoes and Tangelos I’d say. What?

        • Who’d ever want to deter Pipeburn? Except maybe that old Chris Hunter dude… 😉

          • Cam

            really enthusiastic crack smokers?

          • Cam

            not me though Andrew, I rate this blog.

          • And we rate you, Sir Cam. 🙂

          • Hahahaha!

  • D’s Nuts!

    TAKE MY MONEY! To bad it will never see the shores of the States….. sad….

  • ShS

    Le gomme serie TW stanno da paura, non c’è limite all’immaginazione con ste moto…

  • A TW on steroids! This is outrageous funky, and the craftsmanship is sublime!
    I try to pick up my jaw up off the floor!

  • the watcher

    About time. Well, not quite a paradigm-shift but at least a jerk in the right direction. Anyway I’m a sucker for anything TW-ish.

    • Yes, this machine definitely got us jerking in the right direction…

  • Great build once again from Nicko and his team. The guy is full of enthusiasm and his workshop just keeps getting better. If you’re ever in Bali get out of Kuta and go check out Smoked Garage, you won’t regret it.

  • aaron snyder

    There it is guys and gals, something new. couldn’t be cooler. great bike, lovely work.

  • guvnor67

    I would buy this tmorro if I could. Looks great, and throw on some Supermoto tyres (as suggested already) for a great twisties eating commuter bike. The more I look at it, the more I like. Excellent!

  • John_Tangeraas

    At last! I have been waiting for something like this. Original and good looking.

  • Awesome build, I say go the extra mile and bin that whopping great plastic dashboard unit and replace it with something a little smaller and rounder, then you’ve got yourself a winner!

  • Andy Rappold

    Really?? Everybody is over the moon for that build and honestly I dont understand why. There is not a whiff of creativity on on it …only modern parts somehow put together that it looks slightly classic. I think a shop like Smoked can do way better. :/

    • the watcher

      Not really over the moon, just grateful to get away from Boxers with knobblies, Bonnies with Firestones and ancient SRs with suspenders worth more than the bike.

      • Coming up tonight, a Bonnie/Beemer/Yamaha cross with knobby firestones and top shelf Ohlins…

        • guvnor67

          Meanwhile, …

        • the watcher

          Careful what you wish for, eh?

  • Sean

    Did they cut the frame to route the exhaust or does the frame have cutouts like that from the get go? I’m not that familiar with new Kawas.
    Nice little bike though, I could see myself commuting on it.

    • If I’m not mistaken, that ‘frame’ piece the exhaust tucking in behind is actually a new panel that they’ve created. Cool, huh?

  • Jeff Shaw

    It seems no one ever talks about design, the art of making or creative expression. We are all just sharing our own ideas on how bikes should look and function. I swear every time I venture into the comment section, my bones ache with disappointment.
    The discussion always goes off on some tangent about pipe wrap or tire choice.

    Hats off to the builder! great concept and execution. I can imagine myself ripping from the city to the back roads, hitting up a beach or a quarry!

    also amazing job at camouflaging the massive frames of todays modern bikes.

  • The Ogre

    No, so sorry. You folks all seem to like it – that’s all right, but the proportions with those tires just do *not* work for me at all. Perhaps I’d like it better in person? I dunno.

  • BobFalfa

    The bike is well above average and very clean………
    The narrative is to be questioned
    “OCC eat your heart out!”……….That lot wouldn’t have the imagination to think of a bike like the featured one, and put it together without the teddy getting thrown out the pram