Kawasaki Fighter Cafe Racer – Update!

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    Well it is a couple of months on from the day of the Speed Build and the excitement of the build up to the big day.  So how are me and my cafe racer/fighter getting along? I am pleased to report just fine. Being honest I have not ridden the old thing as much as I should; the usual trials and tribulations of real life all too often getting in the way. But the first outing was to my favourite ‘bikers cafe’. I mean, it is a cafe racer, the first outing had to be to cafe really!  The ‘Food-Stop’ at Quattford is about 11-12 miles from where I live and it is a cracking traditional set up, situated on a storming piece of road.

    Now the conversion of the 550 had its constraints; the team had only four hours to work their magic remember. This meant that suspension, engine and brakes were left alone. But those elements of the bike that were changed have radically changed the stance and feel of the bike. The wide, straight bars and low single seat means the whole attitude seems more aggressive and the bike is more stable through open sweeping bends. The stunning looking and very loud exhaust also tends to egg you on way more than the somewhat hushed stock system it replaced. What we have here is the same bloke, only before he was Clark Kent, now he is Superman! The contrast has surprised me by how stark it is. The 550 is seriously great fun to ride! Once parked at the cafe up the bike drew plenty of admiring glances, as many as a Bimota parked nearby. I think I got the better deal! I have to say it looked very at home parked up there!

    Looking very at home outside my local ‘bikers cafe’

    I have been in discussions with RAF Museum at Cosford too in a bid to get the bike photographed alongside their WW2 era Kawasaki fighter that is on display there. However I am not making much progress. They say as the display is inside I would have to drain the oil and petrol from the bike before they would allow it, and they are reluctant to allow professional photographers to take the pictures without payment. Negotiations are ongoing….watch this space

    Kawasaki Ki100 fighter, the one I am trying to get the bike pictured alongside. It isn’t the Ki-61 that inspired my build, but it does have the same airframe. It is just fitted with a different engine. Sadly no Ki-61 survives or is on display in Europe 

    It latest outing was to a big open day at my local Indian dealership (Midwest Moto)  as I thought it would be amusing for a Japanese fighter to be mixing it with the yanks once more! The dealership sits on the end of section of road known locally as ‘the switchbacks…this is how I described in my review of the MWM115 recently….“this road bobs and weaves it way across the Severn Valley: Sinuous, undulating but it opens out it a long straight as it runs alongside the River Severn before you complete the section with a tight left and then an uphill right/left sequence as you get to the outskirts of the local town. It is a challenging piece of road” . The little Kawasaki was great fun on here, again that new, more focused stance coming to the fore. The bike is perfectly suited to this sort of running. Once again the bike drew many admiring glances and comments despite being parked amongst some expensive and exclusive machinery. The Open day was good too, with a bar-be-cue and a band playing. It all adds to the enjoyment of this corking little bike!

    Looking good at the Midwest Moto open day recently

    The Indian demo fleet

    There was a band playing adding to the excellent atmosphere

    So have there been any downsides in my first few weeks as the owner of a custom, non-standard bike? Just a couple. The speedo is having trouble sensing the pick-up. So I will have to have a looks see what is going on. I suspect the disc fixing bolts could be confusing things. I have been meaning to have a natter with Digital Speedos to see what they think. All the other features work well, and the I loved the look of the unit. The only other thing that have given me an issue is the seat fixing. It is actually too good! There are four bolts holding it in place and with the area under the seat now fairly congested they are hard to get at in order to get the seat off. I will have a ponder about how else it can be located to make life a bit more simple. Well they say a custom bike is never truly finished so that doesn’t bother me too much!
    Nearly three months I remain pretty much as excited about the bike as I did on day one! I am hoping to get to the June ‘Turnout’ at Your Garage meet in Oxfordshire and I will definitively be at ‘The Happening’ in September to show the bike off. More updates to follow!

    Some links for those of you who might not know the background to my cafe racer:

    The story of the four hour speed build:

    Or you can just watch it…


    If you want to see the bike in the metal…and loads of other much cooler stuff too!


    String Thompson – Raw Steel Choppers (fabrication)
    Mark Williams – Naked Speed Customs  (build & electrics)
    Ben Attwood – Bear Knuckle Customs(paint)
    Tony Groom – Build helper
    John Pullara – Digital Speedos for help with supplying electrical parts
    Bert – Vontezi for making the seat as a special and donating it to the build
    This is Your Garage

    Midwest Moto:

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