The features list of a modern motorcycle these days reads like a novel and that’s before you get to the endless number of options you can select. But there is something to be said for a simple machine that you can just press the start button on and ride, no mess no fuss, just years of two-wheeled joy. Very few machines have offered that kind of fun like the Kawasaki KLR and its ability to go just about anywhere, without ever needing much more than the odd oil change. Now the uber-talented team at 485 Designs in Denver Colorado have taken a 2006 example of the 650 single, and given it a street tracker enhancement that turns the admirable all-rounder into a killer creation.
We first met Nick a long while back when as a 20-year-old he was stunning the world as one of the brightest young stars in the custom scene. How many people barely out of high school have their own custom shop and help put a motorcycle like the Yamaha XV on the map with his brilliant makeovers? Since then business has boomed, and in addition to building all kinds of cool bikes, the shop also builds some incredible exhaust systems for supercars, including those used to turbocharge some megabuck Audis and Lamborghinis.
But turning his attention to his roots, Nick found a super clean 2006 Kawasaki KLR650 with just 4,000miles on the clock and was ready to get down to business. “The goal for the bike was to be super rideable, unlike a lot of builds, and to be simple for the rider. Hop on and go sort of deal, as a motorcycle should be.” To get started on the customising process, first, the bike was stripped down to every single last part and the frame sandblasted to prepare it for what was to come. A slick new subframe has been fabricated that shortens everything up, and the frame has been smoothed out.
To get things rolling the adventure sized 21/17 wheel combination had to go and a more street-friendly 17in front and rear was optioned. But rather than using cheap OEM parts, a custom set of CNC’d hubs and Warp 9 Racing anodized rims get the big tick of approval. Stainless spokes bring them all together and quality Michelin rubber ensures there is excellent grip. The suspension too had to become more street-friendly and Nick chose to use a full front end from a Suzuki GSXR750. This brings with it the adjustable forks, big radial mounted Tokico calipers, and a set of wave style disc brakes.
But this is obviously not a bike for clip-ons and a set of risers holds a trick flat bar in paint matching orange with a host of orange anodised parts to match in the form of levers, fluid tops, and painted triple trees. The switchgear is kept standard and turns on the simple LED light bar that serves as the headlight and a strip LED in the rear for the tail. But to keep the rest of the electrics package simple, the entire bike was re-wired with a Motogadget m.unit that includes a keyless entry fob, and the battery has been neatly hidden at the front of the bike.
The aesthetic makeover brings possibly the biggest change to the KLR with the simple adventure styled bike, with its hoards of plastic, now taken in a whole new direction. To begin the process the mounts were fabricated to allow for a change to a steel tank and the unit is an aftermarket piece that has similar lines to some of the early KZ bikes. To match its look, the brilliantly fabricated tubular subframe is topped with a new seat base, that has then been upholstered in black leather, with the stitching a vibrant orange.
This is of course the colour of choice for the build, but rather than have it splashed all over the tins, Nick opted to make the frame, rims, and other chassis components the standout feature. The tank’s paint is one of the only jobs not done in-house, but the spectacular orange is perfectly complemented by the silver that ties in with the engine and the re-blacked functional components. These include the bash plate that protects the bottom of the motor and the front number plate and the minimalist high rise front fender.
The power unit is the bullet-proof 651cc twin-cam single and with it opened up and tested, it was found to be in mint condition. So it was left to the little things like the fuel and overflow lines to be replaced and a pod filter adapted to the carb before one big change was made. That comes in the form of the exhaust, and given Nick is a beast with a welder in hand, it’s no surprise that the stainless single pipe system is a work of art.
From the logo clad powerbomb to the exacting finish of the reverse cone muffler, it is the finishing touch to a hell of a bike. It’s simply a no BS build, with everything done right, looking sensational and all that is left to do is throw a leg over the KLR and ride this kick-ass custom as hard as you can.