In an industrial area near the wharves, on a white weather beaten wall, is an old Castrol sign that looks like it marks the spot of an old English workshop. Welcome to Hiroshima and the now world famous workshop of custom builder extraordinaire Kengo Kimura…
Insanity comes in many forms. But the best kind of crazy is Tom Thörig from Schlachtwerk, who corralled some of Germany’s finest craftsmen into helping him produce this – an amazing Kawasaki W650 dubbed ‘Wasabi’ that’s built to tackle our favourite race series, the Sultans of Sprint…
Most of you can jump onto Craigslist or eBay, rock up to a darkened car park, meet a stranger and take home a project bike of your choosing. It can be old, it can be Italian, it can be American, it can be British. Living in the West rocks. But we’re not all that lucky….
Think of your perfect desert island bike. For the purposes of the exercise let’s say that this island is blessed with amazing roads; roads that you have to ride indefinitely. Suddenly all those dream rides like the Brough, Moto Guzzi V8 and the Britton look a little painful, yes? They’d be like having to share paradise with a megalomaniac millionaire or a narcissistic supermodel. You’d be better off with something that does a whole bunch of things really well, is super comfy and that will last the distance without breaking down on the first day. A bike a lot like the latest Kawasaki W650 from Germany’s Schlachtwerk.
Nitrous oxide. Turbos. Superchargers. We’re as guilty as the next guy and or gal for drooling over flashy go-faster parts that make good headlines and get those website clicks a-clicking. But there’s a much more traditional approach to speed that doesn’t involve mega bucks and a team of rocket scientists. It’s what bikers have done since the dawn of time. Drop weight, increase capacity and work on the heads. And for Schlachtwerk’s Tommy Thöring, it’s just this approach that turned out this little gem. Meet his Kawasaki W740 he calls ‘No Fat’.
Two years before Triumph relaunched the ‘new’ Bonneville range in 2001, Kawasaki had delivered their W650 to the market. It was a bike that was described years later as being “closer to a ’60s Bonneville than Triumph’s own latter-day replica”. Of course, that line alone will kick off the greatest of debates between purists of the British brand and those who fell in love with the new Kwaka, but what can’t be argued is how good a job Kawasaki did at re-creating a retro machine with plenty of modern-day improvements. While the late ‘90s ushered in the era of the modern race bike for the road with the launch of Superbikes like the Yamaha R1, the W650 gave new bike buyers the option for a much more laid back, classic ride. When German motorcycle enthusiast Uwe Kostrewa first saw one he instantly fell in love and now, years later, he’s been able to create his perfect W650, a ‘99 model come Street Tracker with all the goodies you could ever hope for.
For the last few years French brothers Ben and G have been running Angry Lane, a Hong Kong-based store specialising in bike parts and all manner of low-key riding apparel. Keen to expand their business they’ve moved into modifying motorcycles, hoping their creations will act as a showcase for the products they have on hand. Now 16 bikes in, they’ve produced this unusual Kawasaki W650 dubbed ‘Superrench’ – a slammed down tracker that ticks off the motorcycle axis of evil – polished aluminium, header wrap and Firestones – and still comes out looking fantastic.
Delaware-based Speedwerks were in an enviable position. They’d been approached by a long-term customer wanting a balls-to-the-wall café racer that could be ridden hard and ridden every day. The customer, local racer and speed boat enthusiast known only as ‘Richie’, had seen a few Deus café racers and wanted something in a similar vein, but louder and better engineered than anything that had come before. Armed with only a Kawasaki W650 engine stripped of its electric start, Speedwerks surveyed the line-up of modern retro motorcycles for a donor frame and found few that could blend traditional looks with modern geometry and stiffness. So they went about designing one. On the back of a beer-soaked napkin at a local sports bar.
Written by Martin Hodgson.
If I sat down with pen and paper and began to brainstorm my perfect café custom I could never limit myself to just one influence. I’d want the vintage appeal of 1950’s British bikes, the beauty and charisma of Italian styling, the function and reliability of Japan’s best and then I’d entrust the whole build to a workshop of builders who understand the beauty of raw mechanics and properly engineered fabrication. Pen and Paper can be pushed aside, silence and admiration is all you need and join me in feasting your eyes on Revival Cycles Kawasaki W650 “Bean”, my dream bike come true.
Wales. A rather quiet place, all things considered. Unless coal mining or male choirs are high on your list of wow, it probably doesn’t cross paths with you all that often. But magically zap yourself back in time a few thousand years and Wales would be offering up a whole different set of attractions. And the foremost one amongst a list also featuring dragons, giant Celtic armies and beautiful maidens would be one Mister Myrddin Emrys, a.k.a. Merlin the Magician. So, inspired by Wales’ greatest ever son, our favourite Brit builders have taken inspiration from their wand waving western neighbours and conjured up this little wonder from their alchemic cauldron. Hey presto, meet Old Empire’s magical ‘Merlin’.