Return of the Cafe Racers - Cooley Suzuki GS550 Cafe Racer

Cooley Suzuki GS550 Cafe Racer

Nothing pleases me more than featuring a build from a part of the world I’ve never featured before. Today’s “readers ride” hails from the third biggest island on the planet, Borneo. Home to the world’s oldest rainforest (140 million years!) and to photographer, videographer and budding backyard builder Nasir. Resurrected from the dead, the first time builders Suzuki GS550E was inspired by Wes Cooley’s GS1000S Yoshimura race bike of 1979 and it’s every bit as cool.




“I fell in love with the custom motorcycle culture in 2011 after seeing a friend’s Honda CB175T Cafe Racer.” Inspired by his mates build and keen to start his own custom project Nasir began his search for a donor. “A year later in 2012, I found the perfect bike. A barn find ’81 Suzuki GS550E that hadn’t run since 2000.” One might say that Nasir had jumped into the deep end with the decision to buy the non-running Suzuki, but against better judgement money changed hands and the tired old Suzuki was transported to its new home.


First step was a full tear down to asses the state of the engine and blow out the cobwebs. The bike was completely stripped to a bare frame, the wheels were dismantled and the engine was opened up for inspection. Shaving off unwanted tabs on the frame came next along with the removal of the original tail tail loop prior to a fresh layer of black powder coat. The wheels and hubs were also treated to fresh black paint before being re-laced and once the engine had been given an overhaul it was blasted and finished in heat resistant black.

To improve the handling of the tired old Suzuki Nasir rebuilt from original forks dropping them on the trees slightly to level out the bikes stance. The original rear shocks were replaced with new, aftermarket adjustable units from Sayasuka and braking wasupgraded to race bike spec by adapting twin discs to the original front wheel. To prepare the bike for it’s bodywork clip on bars with bar end mirrors were slid onto the forks and a mini tacho and speedo were mounted tightly between the forks.

In ’79 and ’80 Wes Cooley took home first place at the AMA Superbike Championships on his Suzuki GS100s. The Yoshimura team GS wore an unmistakable blue and white livery and was styled personally by Wes using body parts he found and adapted to the Suzuki himself. Wanting a similar look for his 550 Nasir adopted the same technique as Wes and hunted down his own fairing and tail end. A classic Ducati style fiberglass fairing was the first purchase soon followed by a hornets tail style seat. Both were then modified to fit the bike using homemade mounts.

With the bodywork in place the build was in it’s final stages. Nasir designed and fabricated a new 4-into-1 exhaust system that tucks neatly below the engine and added final touches like the leather wrapped grips, frame mounted indicators and LED warning lights integrated into the triple tree. Last, but certainly not least came the paint. A white base coat dressed with trans blue racing stripes and thin black pinstripes in honour of Wes Cooley’s Yoshimura race team Suzuki. In just under 300 days the bike was complete and I’m sure if Wes was to see it he’d be giving Nasir an affirming pat on the back

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