Kawasaki’s W650/800 doesn’t get as much custom-love as you’d expect. Sure, the bike was adopted by Deus as one of their main build platforms but considering how well suited the bike is as custom donor you’d think that everyone would be having a go on one. The basic bike has a punchy pushrod twin cylinder engine, which is very pretty, held in a simple double-cradle frame with a lovely Kawaski-shaped tank, wire wheels, simple clocks – plus it’s fuel injection and electric start. In other words; old-school styling with all mod cons. What’s not to love?
When people do mess with them, most go for an urban scrambler, but not Down & Out Cafe Racers. When this 4000-miler came in as a part-ex against their CB450 build last year Shaun decided to go down a very different road – and it wasn’t just a re-styling exercise.
The plan was to build a very modern-retro cafe racer, starting at the back with a single-sided swing-arm from a Honda NC24, which instantly transformed the rest of the build. This setup had to be matched with a beefier USD front end, donated by a ZZR1400 adding mega-stopping power, although it needed a lot of work to graft-on and set up.
D&O excel at building sub-frames, so rather than modding what was already there they cut the whole of the rear off the bike and started from scratch, building a simple sub-frame to support a hand-made aluminium cafe racer seat. Most people keep the W tank, but Shaun & Carl opted for a long and slim Honda race-style unit which needed to have a new tunnel cut to fit the Kawasaki frame at the right angle.
The rest of the bike came together with Brembo controls, new lighting and wiring, rear-set footrests and a GPS speedo and micro-switched all-round. Ally battery box and fenders finished-off the bodywork and the ally seat was upholstered in diamond-stitched black leather. The fully stainless steel exhaust system was also specially made. The paint and finished were taken care of by Arnie and Pro Kustom Paint, in matt silver and black.
It’s certainly no cookie-cutter custom, and when the bike debuted at the Bike She’s BSMC III exhibition last my there was a lot of chin-rubbing while onlookers tried to work out exactly what they were looking at. What wasn’t up for debate was the quality of workmanship and attention to detail that goes into every Down & Out Cafe racers build.