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Custom of the Week: Z650 by Smith & Sons




We often bang on about that haves and the have nots.

But it’s not whether you have money, loads of tools, a cavernous workshop or a degree in engineering. It’s the care and attention that separates a good custom from a great one. Taste, looks and donor are mostly irrelevant, quality shines through a logo, paint job or exhaust note.

A young chap got in touch with us last year and submitted a CB550 for the Bike Shed London show, and we immediately liked the cut of his jib. An amateur bike builder with a humble and gracious attitude, which turned out to be totally out of kilter with the quality of his craftsmanship. The evidence of Jamie Smith’s endeavours arrived at Tobacco Dock and we promptly exhibited it right alongside the cream of Europe’s pro-builders. The quality was that good.

18 months on and Jamie is back with this Kawasaki Z650 which from here not only looks like a meticulously prepared and finished motorcycle but a considered one, rather than a cookie cutter carbon copy of what has gone many, many times before. OK, so there’s not a lot new in the custom scene these days, but we liked Jamie’s latest bike the moment the images appeared in our inbox.

Jamie had always fancied a big ol’ Kawasaki Z1000 but a restrictive budget saw eBay searches aimed at the slightly smaller displacement versions. A badly modified and scruffy Z650 from 1980 caught his attention, the next day it had been procured and strapped into the back of a van.  “It sat for a little while whilst I finished a café build. Then one day I took it out, did a few sacrificial burnouts, rode it home, and started to strip it. That was about a year ago, blending the build in with a full time job, family and a new baby.”

“The design brief for this build was simple, big spoked rims, a monoshock, USD forks, declutter and lose some weight.”

A Nitron shock was pinched from another build along with a chunky, braced swingarm from a Kawasaki GPZ. With these and a few other crucial parts offered-up the cutting, grinding and fabricating could commence.

The neatened subframe now has tiny LED indicators plugged into the end of the rails and alloy rearset brackets bolt onto new tabs. With the twinshock setup removed and braced swinger in place the medium-Zed is transformed into something far more burly and purposeful.

The beefy theme continues up front with a GSXR1000 fork, re-anodised black and mated to a Cognito Moto front hub and 3.5″ rim. Oversized rotors and R6 calipers will deliver more stopping than engineers could have dreamed of three and a half decades ago when the Zed rolled out of the factory. The whole combo looks the business too.

Further proving the creativeness of his sourcing process Jamie had a Honda CRF motocross hub relaced to a 5″ rim, grabbed by brake setup from an XR650. Dunlop’s acclaimed Mutant tyres provide proper levels of grip along with the race wet aesthetic. There can’t be any arguments about that being anything other a good thing.

The fuel tank is nearly stock but with the addition of a GSXR400 filler. The rest of the bodywork is modular. In 10 minutes stock side panels and headlamp can be removed, to be replaced by the setup you see here. Drilled number boards and a Darth Vader front board with integrated LED light. Beneath the ducktail rear lives a stealthy tail light, guarded by an aluminium grill.

The engine only required minor internal work. The head was popped off and valve stem oil seals replaced, along with a conversion to a manual cam chain tensioner. The obvious and obligatory service and inspection work was also carried out, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out Jamie is a fastidious chap and the Kawasaki’s innards are as clean as the bits on show. A Boyer Branson electronic ignition and GPZ750R1 carbs replace the recalcitrant originals and add crispness to the performance. Deklavic stainless headers lead to a homemade collector and Danmoto silencer, which should all combine for a an lovely soundtrack.

There was no way Jamie was about to entrust all of this handwork to a near four decades old wiring loom, especially one that had been this butchered and messed with, so that made the bin. A fresh harness based around Motogadget’s now industry standard system is now hidden away, operated by minimal Motone switches.

The final job was the paint, which took an age. Outer engine casings were removed and powder coated with a cast black finish, similar to the hardwearing stuff that make expensive wood burning stoves look good and last a lifetime. The frame, swingarm and rocker covers were treated to the same, contrasted with gloss black barrels and heads.

Like some of the OCD people I have to work with at the Shed, Jamie is a symmetry guy. But on this occasion he forced himself to accentuate the crisp white paintwork with off centre, asymmetric blocks of colour. Kawasaki green to grey gradient, with the tail and front mudguard mismatched in angles to the tank. Then he went around the blocks with a pinstripe, by hand. All of this freestyling must have pushed Jamie into a state of insomnia.

Finally a seat pan was made to accept the full grain Italian leather saddle, “I’ve never had to buy half a cow before.”

Jamie claims to still be an amateur, working from a shed at the end of the garden when time off from the day job allows, with the aim of turning dream into reality one day and supporting his family with building bikes full time. Ammeter in approach certainly hasn’t led to any compromise in finish.

The name Smith and Son Motorcycles hangs above the door but this is far from a commercial enterprise, simply passion combined with graft and a keen eye. “I hope I’ve taken a fairly ugly duckling and given it a new lease of life using some up to date parts. The 650 is never going to have the grunt of the Z1000MkII I wanted, but I think it looks pretty cool.” And he may have just given us an idea for a t-shirt with his final words “When the kids go to bed, I go to the shed.”

We hope to see Jamie’s bike in the metal at some point soon and more builds from Smith & Son Motorcycles.

Article first appeared on The Bike Shed; republished here with permission.

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Custom of the Week: Yamaha SR500 ‘Scrambler’ by Daniel Peter




SCRAMBLERS ARE A HOT TOPIC. Build one, and you’re sure to be judged solely by how well equipped it is for hardcore off-piste use.

But that’s not all that scramblers are about. Daniel Peter compares his latest build to his childhood BMX—and it’s pretty much how we feel about modern-day scramblers too.

“When I was four years old, my BMX bike became my life,” he explains. “It was so simple, yet so fun. Just wheels, pedals and brakes. I’d ride it to the beach, jump a few curbs along the way, race my friends. Those were the good days.”

“30 years later, I set out to build a motorcycle based on the same principles. There’s nothing on this bike that doesn’t need to be there. It has wheels, a punchy engine and great brakes. I didn’t even put a speedo on it, because I never looked at the one on my last bike.”

Daniel works as a photographer in Chicago, but wrenches during the winter to keep his passion for riding alive. He keeps a workshop in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, outfitted with a tool cabinet, a welder, and a 1940s South Bend lathe.

This 1978-model Yamaha SR500 is the fourth Yamaha 500 he’s built to date. “It’s the most simple, yet the most thorough, of the bunch,” he says.

The motor’s been bumped to 540 cc, with a grocery list of go-fast bits that includes a lighter XT500 crank, a new piston from JE and a Megacycle cam for better torque down low.

R&D valve springs with titanium caps, a Powerdynamo ignition and a high-flow oil pump from Kedo round out the package.

Hoos Racing refreshed the crank and cut new valve seats for Daniel, but he tackled the rest of the rebuild himself. Every single bearing and seal was replaced along the way too. As for the carb, it’s been swapped out for a 39 mm Keihin FCR flatslide number, fed by a fat K&N filter.

The exhaust system is a combination of a custom made stainless steel header, and a Cone Engineering muffler.

The SR rolls on 17” supermoto wheels, borrowed from a KTM (front) and a Honda CRF450 (rear). They’re wrapped in Pirelli MT60 Corsa tread; a 120 up front, and a chunky 160 on the 5” rear rim. (“It juuust fits,” says Daniel.)

The brakes have been upgraded with a mix of Brembo and Beringer parts, with an RCS 14 radial master cylinder up front.

On top is an aluminum Yamaha XT500 fuel tank, wrapped in a paint scheme “inspired by an unforgettable riding trip through Baja.” Just behind it is a new saddle from MotoLanna, with a new kicked-up subframe loop.

It’s just about spring in Chicago, so Daniel must be itching to rack up the miles on his SR500. And we’re betting it’s going to be impossible to get him off it.

A version of this article first appeared on Bike Exif. It’s republished here with permission.

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Icon claim back the streets in their latest, epic video



Street’s Not Dead.

Regular readers will know that we eagerly await anything released from the US streetwear firm Icon Motorsports. So the moment that a video drops from the Portland firm we’re bound to pay attention.

That’s an interest piqued double when they post it alongside what is essentially a call to arms…

“Street’s not dead. If you think it went away, you’d be wrong. Street’s still here undermining pompous authority, rejecting standards, and bucking the status quo..”

And they’re not kidding either. With the Icon clad rider thrashing their Kawasaki ZX-10R through city streets, car parks and even a public fountain at one point, there’s a lot to take in.

Couple that with their usual loud, Icon style and you’ve certainly got a statement of intent.

(Don’t try this at home kids).



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