Asymmetrical design is a difficult concept to grasp. Finding harmony in the unharmonious is as challenging as it sounds, and it takes a unique mind to master. In the world of custom motorcycles, the unequivocal expert of asymmetry is Koichi Fujita of Japan’s AN-BU Custom Motors. Since 2000 Koichi-san has used his fabrication skills to build unique, punk rock-esque machines shod in asymmetrical race-inspired bodywork. His unique approach has built him quite a following and in the past, we’ve seen him team up with IMB14 in Italy and Addiction Customs in Australia.
For his latest collaborative work, Koichi-san was approached by Royal Enfield. The Indian manufacturer offered AN-BU the opportunity to create the first Japanese-built Continental GT650 for their ongoing ‘Custom World’ series. But after seeing the GT650 in the flesh, Koichi-san considered the proposal with trepidation. Thankfully, after Royal Enfield explained he would be given carte blanche with the build, he accepted the challenge and went to town on the burgeoning 650 twin.
“I named this bike ‘Royal Enfield – KAI’,” says Koichi-san. “When I started to customize motorcycles as a teenager we did not have the word custom so we called our motorcycles KAIZO which means modification. I modified it to the shape I envisioned and named it ‘KAI’ to acknowledge my origins as a custom builder.”
It takes a keen eye to realise there’s Royal Enfield GT650 beneath Koichi-san’s custom work. In typical AN-BU style, the GT650 wears an Endurance racer-style full fairing which all but conceals Enfield’s unmistakable parallel twin. Fashioned from carbon fibre and featuring an asymmetrical headlight in a handbuilt alloy surround, it’s the epitome of AN-BU style.
If the fairing isn’t enough to throw you off the GT650 scent, Koichi-san’s frame mods and wheel choice undoubtedly will. The subframe is an entirely new design that’s shortened and narrowed to accept the new tail unit. And beneath the tank, the top rails of the frame have been given the look of an eighties sports bike. As for the wheels, the classic spoked rims are gone and in their place are cast hoops wrapped in purposeful Pirelli Phantom Sportcomp rubber.
“A very important concept to making my custom bikes is to create a motorcycle that looks cool on the street when ridden. I wanted to express a sense of speed by creating the form of a racing machine. I imagined a motorcycle that was used on the track in the ’70s and ’80s, but modified so it could be ridden on open roads.” Koichi-san explains.
“I did not want to show the carbon weave, so I’ve painted the surface matte black. It shows the weave of the carbon depending on the intensity of the light and the angle of view. The fuel tank and seat cowl were finished by utilizing the hammered surface as it is. I think it would be unnatural if the surfaces were evened out to a shiny finish. The bikes I build are designed to fit in with the city and to look good on the street.”
To realise his street racer vision, Koichi-san has built entirely new bodywork from sheets of aluminium. Inspired by the brawny bodywork that dominated race tracks during the ’80s, he’s exchanged chiselled edges for organic lines and narrowed everything down to form a slender physique for the 650 twin. An endurance-style filler welded to the tank and rubber frame mounts completes the ex-track bike look while a tuck-and-roll seat adds a touch of classic custom style.
To further enhance this bikes racer vibe, Koichi-san has handpicked a selection of aftermarket components. In the cockpit, you won’t find any sign of the original GT650 equipment. The twin gauges are gone and in their place is a single Motogadget Chronoclassic Tachometer in a custom surround. The clip-on bars are bespoke as is the chunky CNC machined top clamp. The ignition has been relocated out of sight too.
Similar to race bikes, KAI appears to be devoid of standard lighting equipment. However, since this bike needs to be roadworthy, Koichi-san opted for discrete Kellermann lighting. Tiny turn signals fulfil the front-end signal duties while at the rear, tucked away under the tail, you’ll find a pair of dual-function Bullet Atto blinker/brake lights.
Although the GT650’s engine remains essentially untouched, several well-planned modifications improve this bike’s overall performance. For starters, the airbox has been removed to help the parallel twin breathe easier. In its place are mesh-covered velocity stacks that are again a salute to racing machines. The exhaust is a full custom system built entirely in-house. The bespoke headers, which snake around the engine, make cameo appearances as they weave in and out of the fairing, but the bulk of the lengthened system is almost entirely hidden from sight before it merges into a single shorty megaphone muffler.
Handling improvements are where Koichi-san really focused his attention and as a result the GT650 now wears an entirely new suspension system. “The fork is made by KAYABA, and is 38mm in diameter, inspired by the racing machines of the ’80s,” he says. “The triple tree has a pitch and offset for sport riding and together with the change in the rear suspension, which has a longer length and a wide adjustment range, the ideal handling was achieved for me.”
Last of all the brakes are all new too. Using a mix of Nissin and Brembo equipment Koichi-san has put together a package that offers more than ample stopping power.
“Of course, I am also interested in the latest racing machines,” says Koichi-san. “Their technology is always evolving, and their mechanisms are very interesting to me. Since I race on the track I want to incorporate new ideas and experiences into the creation of a bike, and I also want to evolve the bikes of my customers who are also racing on the track.”
In the past modern motorcycles like the GT650 haven’t been on AN-BU’s radar, but thanks to Royal Enfield this could mean a whole new approach for the Japanese workshop. With KAI, Koichi-san has proven his unique style can transcend any era of motorcycle. Hopefully this means there will be more builds like this rolling out of his workshop soon.