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AIR-COOLED AIRLINES. KickMoto’s Flying Suzuki GS1150 Neo-Racer


Posted on November 4, 2017 by Andrew in Café Racer. 39 comments

Written by Martin Hodgson

More than a decade ago I watched a team rebuild a 1000+hp Subaru WRX engine in just over 20 mins with the lead mechanic screaming, “just slap it together!” On the very next run it broke its class world record; incredible to observe but not the attitude I hoped the Qantas engineers would adopt for the aircraft flying me home. So when a client with a background in aviation engineering approached KickMoto in Halifax, Nova Scotia, they decided to adopt that meticulous aircraft attitude for the build. The result is KM006 an incredible 1985 Suzuki GS1150 Neo-Racer that’s poised and ready to hit the runway.

The client had owned the bike for over a decade riding it plenty and had always wanted to give it the transformation it deserved but a lack of time and the right equipment had held him back. Knowing the bike would be regularly racking up the miles and with the client’s aviation background in mind it gave the KM crew an idea. “We were keen to grab some inspiration from the world of aviation design. In the same way that we modify vintage bikes with a modern take, we wondered what would happen if the same approach was taken to a vintage war bird or fighter plane.”

The GS arrived at KickMoto with the clock showing 100,000kms, this was going to be a full frame off rebuild and the engine would need a full overhaul. “After stripping the bike down to the bare essentials we found ourselves with only the engine, header, carburettors and half a chassis. Everything else was either modified or made from scratch after this point.” For the first time in the company’s history they sent the engine out for the rebuild which would free up their time for the extensive transformation that had been planned.

With the bare frame on the bench the entire rear end has been redesigned and fabricated and the quality of workmanship is remarkable. The subframe was the first part to get underway with a tall rider requiring a high seat height. But the main challenge was to adapt the Suzuki to accept the asymmetric shock mount required for the planned swingarm conversion. The challenge became one of the crew’s favourite aspects of the build and the top shock mount is neatly secured by a detailed end cap. The bottom mount sits in its original home, a beautiful single sided swingarm from the Italian engineer’s par excellence at Ducati.

Hunk dressed by Pagnol and Hedon

With the chassis work complete the old and new was given a coat of hard-wearing black paint and the ‘80s front section merges seamlessly with the custom rear end. Now attention could turn to the front and a great deal of research and design was undertaken to get things just right.

KickMoto were removing plenty of weight but the GS is no feather and so a total front-end conversion from Kawasaki’s similarly sized ZX14 was given the tick of approval. Using their brand-new CNC machine the top triple clamp was the first item produced by the expensive purchase and it was more than worth it the cost. Not only providing a lightweight, high strength item it also allowed for the use of the ZX14 bars in a flipped position and a recess for the speedo to come.

The rolling chassis was now totally transformed and like nothing from 1985, but in many ways the work had only just begun. Starting the visual changes at the front, “Our headlight design was inspired by the front elevation of a single engine prop driven fighter aircraft of WWII.” But execution is all 21st century with no less than six individually CNC’d components required to create the stunning look. The seamlessly integrated turn signals have been especially wired to work with the LED halo as running lights, while the main light is a round projector style 5 3/4″ unit. Now totally in sync with their CNC machine and software the party rolled on.

There are details on the details

The gas cap is an incredible piece on its own but it also packs a party trick just in case you need be further impressed. Press a tiny button hidden out of sight but in easy reach of the rider and the cap illuminates bringing the machined piece to life. It must be one of the most labour-intensive fillers ever created with a combination of lathe work, CNC machining, 3D modelling and 3D printing with stainless steel all required to produce the part. The team even created an all new logo for the bike that is applied to the sides of the tank and gas cap and draws heavily on the aviation theme.

There’s a backwards ‘K’ and ‘M’ surrounded by a wing style emblem derived from vintage horizon gauges once found in various fighter jets. Moving further rearward and sitting atop the custom subframe is the all new tail section and seat. Back to traditional methods and hand formed sheet metal was used to create the tail-piece from two sections with a very purposeful gap left between the two. Inside the recess sits an LED taillight that is held in place by aluminium trim that further helps to radiate the light. The seat itself is generously padded extending onto the tank for extra comfort.

Gas cap of the year?

The paint job couldn’t let the bike down and the KM crew tell the story best, “We went back and forth on this one for a while, the client really wanted a lot of black, but don’t they all. We really wanted to do something that would just set it apart from a lot of bikes out there. We decided on the wheel colour first and used that as the driving force of the scheme. The wheels, headlight ring, and shock spring were all coated in a triple bronze with a satin clear. The body work was all painted black with a copper and bronze combination added to it. At the front of the tank we knew we wanted to break it up a bit here with a panel. Our painter suggested we do the panel in a bronze colour as well but keeping it pretty subtle”

LED sandwich

The finished product looks a million dollars, but it would count for nothing if the Suzuki engine couldn’t handle the abuse the owner planned to throw at it. Engine builder Colin Walker gave it everything with a full rebuild that included new pistons and rings as well as a mild cam swap. The carbs have been rebuilt and jetted for the exhaust change to come and now draw air through a set of black Uni filters. The client had wanted a high mount muffler but the addition of the Ducati swingarm changed all that, now there was a void to fill. That space is brilliantly complimented with a box section muffler that mirrors the shape of the tyre and vents out of perforated plates with CNC trim.

Now they just needed to make the rider feel at home, with the first step a set of machined rearset adapters to allow the tall owner a perfect level of comfort. Up on the bars are a pair of Rizoma reservoirs and the 3-button switches are part of the Motogadget party pack. An m-Unit controls the show and a pro scope gauge sits in the previously recessed triple clamp for a perfect fit. There is an m.lock with RFID technology for 007 style keyless ignition and a Dyna 200 CDI digital system ensures even the engine fires with the latest technology.

Dressed in leather by Pagnol next to a private jet in a cleaner than your kitchen hanger it’s hard to imagine this GS was once a well-used banger. But set KickMoto a challenge and even an ‘80s Suzuki showing a 100,000km can be transformed into an aircraft precision Neo-Racer for the owner who wants it all.

[ Kick MotoPagnol MotorHedon | Format FilmsOmar Gandhi ]








  • Kubek

    Great bike, this cnc machine payed off here. But tell me people where are the aircraft tributes ? I always wonder about those… trace fly there was red Honda which supposed to be Ferrari tribute… can any1 tell me how?

  • Artem Terekhov

    “Knowing the bike would be regularly racking up the miles…”. And yet, no front mudguard. This completely ruins the everyday bike attitude for me. Is it just me?

    • Jonesy

      Nah —

    • Marlon

      To be fair I did something like 80,000kms in two years on motorcycles that had no front or rear fenders to speak of. Didn’t have any real problems at all.

      • Artem Terekhov

        Must be some pretty clean roads in your area 🙂

        • Marlon

          Lots of dirt, some snow and daily commuting in rain, hail and shine.

          It’s not nearly as bad as everyone makes out.

          • Artem Terekhov

            One rainy summer and i’ve had enough riding without front fender. To each their own i guess.

          • guvnor67

            Funny you should say that. The front ‘guard on my trusty Honda directed water etc mostly into my left leg from the bottom of the guard, and flicked up towards my helmet from the front. Well, I took the ‘guard off for a cleanup and repaint and ran a few days with just the fork brace and none of the above occurred! Needless to say, the brace is now cleaned and painted and the ‘guard is sitting on a shelf in the garage with a plethora of other bits n pieces.

  • Jim In Solvang

    Another great pick, Pipeburn. Love the bike. Take-away from the video is you’ll need to be a somewhat indecisive rich guy if you want to park one in your hangar. (Agree with Artem that the front mudguard delete trend still makes little sense if the bike’s going to be ridden regularly)

  • MayDayMoto

    Why is this a “neo-cafe” and the bike below it on the main page is a “cafe fighter”? These terms are nonsense. I particulalry dislike the “neo-cafe” term, it’s silly. Anyway, all that aside, this is a very nice bike.

    • We were going to go with ‘aero-neo-cafe-fighter’ but decided against it… 😉

    • AB

      Yeah I have been wondering about the splattering of ‘Neo’ this year:
      Neo- (prefix): Prefix meaning new. From the Greek “neos”, new, young, fresh, recent. Examples of terms starting with “neo-” include neonatal and neonate (the newborn), neoplasia and neoplasm (new growth = tumor), etc. The opposite of neo- is paleo-.

      • Marlon

        So if this is a ‘neo cafe’ which would mean an Enfield GT could be a ‘paleo cafe’?

    • Marlon

      In the previous bike’s case the builder called it a ‘cafe fighter’.

      But meh. Arguing over the definition of custom motorcycles is possibly the least exciting thing about motorcycling.

      • Greybeard1

        C’mon now, where’s the politician/news monger/neo-radical in you?
        Nattering on about nothing at all is a highly sought attribute these days!

      • MayDayMoto

        “Arguing over the definition of custom motorcycles is possibly the least exciting thing about motorcycling.”

        Well yeah, that’s pretty much the point. Why do silly terms like “neo racer” or “cafe fighter” exist to begin with? What does that add to our appreciation of the bike? Those terms are silly and get in the way. I’d be in favor of letting the images of the bikes and descriptions of the work done speak for themselves, and ditching all those prepackaged “definitions” altogether.

  • Laurie Faen

    Another great bike and I love my daily Pipeburn fix. The quality of the work and the talent of the builders is mindblowing. I’m often left wondering…who can afford this kind of bespoke craftsmanship. Apart from the cost of the donor bike, is there anyway you could give a ballpark indication of what your featured builds cost?

  • Andy Rappold

    Meh..duce swingarm, weird exhaust,loots of led…have seen that a hundred times…not my thing.Sorry

  • guvnor67

    After a full-on week at work, a toss n turn sleepless night, I awoke to this! The wiring alone would test my patience, but the results, especially that headlight combo are stunning. A quick release front ‘guard would fix the only niggle I can find (and I don’t believe would hurt the owner’s budget!). I have a Honda Cafe-Fighter project on hold due to finances with a similar exhaust to this, so thanx ‘cos today I believe negotiations will have to take place! Gotta love it when bleary eyed and knackered, inspiration kicks in like 7 cans of Red Bull!!!

  • the watcher

    Spurious “inspiration” concept aside, this is one tasty cycle. Classy as fuck ( just like me, ha ha).

    • I don’t think it’s spurious – check the details…

      • the watcher

        Build a bike, then put RR on the petrol cap; it’s a Rolls Royce “inspired” bike. Positively specious.

  • Watch the video if you haven’t already – there’s some sweet metal in there and Jeff from KickMoto dropped a hint about his next project bike/s (Hmmm) being teased. Anyone?

    • Andrew Obrigewitsch

      We need a version of the video with bike and porsche sounds ;).

  • You might have missed it (like we did), but note the TWIN lights on the gas cap. Watch the video for more…

  • AB

    This is quite beautiful. Detail, detail, detail. The headlight/indicator combo is superb. Colour, etc spot on. And it has a Ducati part 🙂

    I have a theory though …… a rear end should not be terminated before the rear axle on a build. It’s getting …. hmmm tiring.

    Side note – man that video pissed me off – most of it did not feature the Suzuki – WTF man!

    • the watcher

      I thought that. If I want to look at Porsches I’ll go to “imamiddleagedovercompensator.com”

  • Mayakovski

    Interesting, nice looking bike but that exhaust box is a real eyesore. It just stands out like a sore thumb and not in a good way. The front light and turn signal combo, that is beautiful.

  • Zundap

    Very nice. A bike that is a piece of art and can really ride. It took me a while to figure out what a mudguard is but so did oilbag. I’m sure the owner has other bikes he can ride on dirty roads or rainy days. “But Anyway’ I wonder how the Flat Track guys run 140 mph on a dirt track with no front fender?

  • Greybeard1

    The longer it’s up here the more I like it.
    Not easy to pull off that “fusion” style but this one does it well.
    Very pleasing integration of analog and digital eras.

  • bill smith

    Perfection in execution, detail and imagination

  • The logo of the bike is not new, actually it’s Dead Kennedys’ logo with a twist, and this is not a bad thing at all 😉

  • Awesome work, but the muffler(s)? Got to go.

    • Not sure I get the muffler hate. They’re not exactly in your face. I quite like them, actually… ?