RealClassic.co.uk Home

Bikes | Features | Events | Books | Tech | Magazine | About | Messages | Classified | Links

more bike profiles...

Bike Tale - Posted 11th May 2015
Home -> Bikes -> Road Tests and Profiles ->

Kawasaki Z650

Way back when, Darren Carter began the transformation of his standard Z650. At the time, he didn't know this was going to be a long-term project. Here's the start of his cautionary tale about planning (or not) a custom build...

This is a tale of a good idea which became a bit of saga, back in the long ago days before eBay, when mates, breakers and classified ads were the main sources of spare parts. I first bought this bike, my second Z650 in about 1988. My first Z650, to my eternal shame, got chopped into a stretched, drag-style low rider and then shortened back to the late-80s style peanut tank bobber, and was sold as an unfinished project. The second arrived as a ‘normal’ modded Z650. You know: gloss black, cast wheels, 2-4 seat, 4-into-1 pipe, etc. I sold it (can’t remember why) to a mate and then bought it back some months later as he hadn’t got a licence and wasn’t planning to get one!

Kawasaki Z650

So I rode the 650 happily for about five years, commuting, trips to family in the Midlands, days out and so on. Then a house move spent all my money and the bike was put to bed at the back of the shed. I was determined to keep it until things became more ‘comfortable’ financially. I have seen too many people sell bikes at the first hint of a problem, or to deal with a problem, only to deeply regret it when said problem has been dealt with or gone away.

During this dormant period there was one day when the bike wouldn’t start when I wanted it to. That’s when the changes started. I hadn’t really planned to transform it into a custom bike, not to the extent you see here. But after it wouldn’t start, one thing just led to another…

Kawasaki Z650

The initial plan was to fit a monoshock swinging arm to update the looks and improve the handling. After a bit of research and phoning around, a GPZ600 arm was found in Somerset. This was couriered overnight because I absolutely had to get on with the job right then (even though I didn’t get to ride the damn thing for another 15 years!).

This arm was chosen because it goes straight into the frame with just a couple of washers to space it. It’s roughly the same length as the original for chain fitment. However the twin tube metal-work for the top shock mount got in the way of the standard airbox, so K&N filters now have to be used. One drawback of this swinging arm is that it is designed for a 16-inch rear wheel so chain adjustment is compromised when using a larger wheel. I have to start halfway along the adjustment with a new chain, so the tyre doesn’t rub the front of the arm… but I just have to put up with that.

Kawasaki Z650
650cc Kawasakis on Now...

Originally I braced a standard Kawasaki swinging arm and once the arm was fitted it became obvious that a 17-inch wheel was going to be biggest I could use. Luckily a mate had a mate who was breaking a GS500 and the wheels were available. Not an obvious choice but the sensible tyre sizes (140/80 rear and 120/70 front) meant I could get the drive chain past with no drama.

Well, I say ‘no drama’; the GS500 uses a smaller chain than the Z650 so I had to do a bit of thinking on the sprocket choice to get the 530 chain to work. A quick spin with a lathe saw a spare CBR600 sprocket fitted. It was lucky that the bolt centres were the same pitch. With that arrangement the bike always felt under-geared, so more recent research found that an FT500 sprocket would fit the hub with a bit of machining and raise the gearing by three teeth.

Kawasaki Z650

That was the back end of the bike sorted, pretty much. The front end, however, wasn’t going to be as straightforward…

Photos by Darren Carter and Richard Jones


Like this page? Share it with these buttons:

Home


More Kawasakis on Right Now...

Bikes | Features | Events | Books | Tech | Magazine | About | Messages | Classified | Links

More Bike Profiles...


RedLeg Interactive Media

© 2002 The Cosmic Motorcycle Co. Ltd / Redleg Interactive Media

You may download pages from this site for your private use. No other reproduction, re-publication, re-transmission or other re-distribution of any part of this site in any medium is permitted except with the written consent of the copyright owner or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.