WERKING CLASS. Schlachtwerk’s Kawasaki W650 Racer
Written by Marlon Slack
Schlachtwerk’s Tommy Thöring is obsessed with the Kawasaki W650. As everyone should be. They’re dead reliable, have handling so neutral it could be described as ‘Swiss’ and look more like a Triumph than a Triumph could ever hope to. If you’re in Germany and you own a Dub you want chopped into something special, it’s Schlachtwerk’s number you’d be punching in your phone. And here’s a great example as to why – their latest creation built around a 2000 Kawasaki W650 dubbed the ‘Silver Racer.’
“The blokes who want to ride a custom-built W650 or W800 in Germany usually find their way to Schlachtwerk HQ,” Tommy laughs. And they should. He’s got a long-standing reputation for building gorgeous, highly-tuned takes on Kawasaki’s modern classic. Some, like the W650 drag racer he built for Sultans of Sprint are off-the-charts insane. But the Silver Racer is a more restrained, practicable bike than that. Which is what Tommy loves to create.
“We specialise in building lightweight, classic looking bikes,” Tommy says. “I build them because I love riding a nice and vintage-looking motorcycle but hate old bikes that are really wobbly through corners, can’t break properly, have weak engines and are as heavy as a cruise ship.” In case you were wondering, a quick scan through Schlachtwerk’s back catalogue shows no Harley Sportsters.
Curiously, Tommy’s inspiration for the Silver Racer was a cancelled project, an idea for a rolling chassis for a very special W650 engine. It was going to be the biggest one ever created – all 1200cc’s of bevel-driven insanity. The customer never quite finished the engine, so Tommy was left with a whole bunch of neat ideas bouncing around inside his head.
That proved fortuitous when a customer approached Schlachtwerk with a very particular set of wants. It damn near married up perfectly with his plans for the W1200. The customer wanted forged wheels, proper brakes, a lightweight swingarm, fully adjustable forks and a 2 into 1 exhaust system. The brief was perfect for Tommy. “The customer wanted a lightweight, classic racer with a moderate seating position and reliable enough for everyday use,” he recalls.
“The process of building a bike isn’t really that complicated,” Herr Thöring explains. “Find a bike, take off all the useless parts and take a look at what’s left.” It sounds easy when he puts it that way. It’s the bike version of a guide to playing the piano that says ‘just press the right keys at the right time’. He’s right, but he’s simplifying things more than a bit.
Being a man of few words and in the midst of a move to Australia (lucky us!) leaves fellow W650 addicts picking through the finer points of the Silver Racer, with precise details being thin on the ground. The frame’s been trimmed and refinished, the engine painted and electronics squirreled away. There’s a custom swingarm and a stripped-back wiring loom. The bike runs YSS rear shocks and 43mm fully adjustable conventional forks into CNC triple trees.
Engine wise, there’s nothing as spectacular as a beefed up 1200cc engine, but the tidy two into one exhaust, pod filters and a bit of carb tuning on the dyno has it putting out 58 horses. And hell, why mess with the engine? I said before they’re reliable and I mean it – in near-standard trim, one fella in Japan just clicked over two hundred and forty thousand miles on his.
Tommy makes all this look easy. “My favourite parts are the suspension, brakes and the natural beauty of the engine,” he says. “I like simple solutions which work properly. I want to build bikes for riding, not for exhibition. And this one looks like a racer and brakes and corners like one too!” Here’s to more bikes on Pipeburn that fit that brief – and as Tommy starts to settle into his new life in Australia, we can’t wait to see what he turns out next.