As far as iconic naked sports bikes go the Kawasaki Zephyr may not be one that first jumps to mind. However that may be because, like me, you don't live in the UK. When the Zephyr hit the UK market back in the early nineties it was responsible for the boom of the retro naked bike market. Kawasaki had hit a nerve in the market and their Zephyr had other manufacturers starting to look back at popular models of the sixties and seventies to develop their own retro inspired motorcycles. With a design based loosely on Kawasaki's legendary Z1 and a powerful DOHC inline four it was a great looking performer, especially in its larger capacity 750cc and 1100cc versions.
The last time we spoke to Derek and Sven from Belgium's Barn Built Bikes they'd just finished building their stunning Ducati 900SS. Sven is a self confessed Ducati fan, but his mechanic Derek who is originally from the UK knew the Zephyr platform well. The project began when a customer rolled into the workshop on his 1991 Kawasaki Zephyr 750 inquiring as to whether the bike could be converted into a cafe racer.
Along with his query the customer also provided a collection of photos he'd pieced together of his favourite cafe racer builds helping the guys to get a clear idea of his vision for the bike. After a few minutes pawing through the shots the general lines, colours and details of the project had been planned out and the bike. Getting the bike to the stage you see here was then a 4 month process that was primarily undertaken by Derek who also called in a professional welder and a local paint shop to get the job done.
For the Zephyrs cafe racer conversion Derek began with the bodywork. Unlike many of the builds featured here he opted to stick with the original tail unit. Beneath the tail he created a new subframe and rear loop, raised it slightly for a level out the bikes stance. He then cut the original Kawasaki tail unit down, retaining the duckbill lip at the rear and tucking it in as close as he could to the revised subframe.
"The owner wanted it to be 'as tight as possible!' says Sven, so they looked for areas where it was possible to reduce visual mass. He began by trimming down the chain guard and the mudguards, removing the plastic at the rear and trimming the front one down to half it's original size. Next the airbox was removed to open up the frame and the carbs received a rejet and pod filters. The huge headlight and indicators were replaced with LED and LSL parts and the factory gauges were replaced by a Tiny Motogadget unit.
A new license plate bracket with integrated tail lights was then fabricated to tuck up beneath the lip of the tail and a custom seat was upholstered to flow with the lines of the tank and tail. The chunky stock footpegs were also swapped out with milled aftermarket units and clip on bars with bar end mirrors mounted to complete the bikes cafe racer stance. Unsightly electrics were addressed by relocating them to inside the tail where you'll also find a lightweight lithium battery.
As it turns out the owner of this Zephyr has had the bike since new and already enjoyed 46,000kms of riding on it. The bikes now been given a second lease on life and is ready to clock up many more great memories on the road. This is the first 4 cylinder that Sven and Derek have worked on together. With such a great end result I'm hoping we'll be seeing more soon!
Looking for Cafe Racer gear? Visit the...