According to Sven Decoux of Barn Built Motorcycles, the decision to customise a Kawasaki ZR7 was more ‘right place, right time’ than anything else. During an open “barn day” a local enthusiast visited the Barn Built workshop to view Sven’s Ducati 900SS cafe racer. He explained to Sven that he was keen to commission the build of an inline four such as Honda’s CB750, but wanted the rear wheel to sit unobstructed like a modern sportsbike. After researching different options Sven noticed the 2001 Kawasaki ZR7 sitting in the back of his shop. He’d purchased the bike after building his Zephyr cafe racer with a plan to one day modify it, and it’s mono-shock rear end made it the perfect candidate.
The agreed brief was short and to the point. A big rear wheel, short carbon exhaust, tight tail end and paintwork to match his customers Porsche. Since it was the rear wheel that decided the direction of the build Sven began there. The stock swingarm was promptly replaced by a Honda CBR1100XX Blackbird item that would allow a for some wide profile rubber. Modifications were made to the suspension linkages to get it sitting right and the Honda rear wheel retained since it matched the 3 spoke rims used on the ZR7.
Next, a new subframe was designed that would pull the tail in over the wheel. Since passengers weren’t on the list of requirements a single, wasps tail cowl was created with the taillight integrated into its design for a clean finish. Local leather experts JVS finished the job with 2 suede covered seat pads and essential electrical gear was stowed inside. To create the appropriate cafe racer riding position Tomaselli clip-on handlebars were slid onto the fork tubes and to help expose more of the Michelin Pilot Power rubber on the front end, they fabricated a tiny custom fender. Sven then went shopping on the Motogadget website for some suitable aftermarket additions.
It wasn’t long before a package arrived at the Barn from Germany. Sven unpacked and mounted each MotoGadget part to the bike rewiring it as he went. The ZR7’s electrics are now managed by a Motogadget M-unit and an M-lock replaces the original key with a touch on key fob. M-Blaze indicators and matching M-grips were fitted to the Tomaselli bars and tiny M-pin indicators poke out from behind the rear numberplate. On the bars you’ll also find a single bar end Motogadget mirror and M-button switches. If all that wasn’t enough Sven also mounted a slick Motogadget Motoscope pro to the bikes top clamp.
Sven enlisted the help of a grinder to modify the ZR7 factory exhaust. After cutting off the stock muffler he trimmed the pipework to position the aftermarket carbonfibre can alongside the rear of the engine. Despite it’s short length Sven assures us that it still manages to keep the exhaust note at an acceptable level. The carbs now wear mesh covered velocity stacks and have been jetted to suit the huge increase in airflow.
Kawasaki’s ZR7 passed through the motorcycling world quietly. It never attempted to be the fastest in its field and didn’t earn a reputation for being particularly bad at anything. In fact, it was in every sense of the word, an ‘ordinary’ motorcycle. What the ZR7 did have going for it though was outstanding value for money and the reliability of Kawasaki’s tried and tested 750cc inline four. Being such an easy to ride, mid-range motorcycle meant the ZR7 became a popular choice for both new riders and motorcycle couriers and it’s because of this, motorcycles like the ZR7 are often overlooked as potential custom donors. For Sven Decoux of Belguim’s Barn Built Bikes, the ZR7 presented a challenge he was well versed in tackling. How to make the mundane captivating.