The top ten bikes of the year have been revealed and whether you’ve been thinking about it for a while or are a young person who’s just come of age, those beautiful machines and the Christmas period have convinced you it’s time to get your motorcycle license. The problem is you’ve got a craving for something custom, and well, most learner-legal bikes are less than exciting in terms of looks and performance. Enter Jérémie Duchampt, the French bike builder extraordinaire who’s gone into the kitchen and cooked up the perfect fit for the first time rider. A 1981 Kawasaki KZ400 LTD by Jerem Motorcycle, which will make your welcome into the world of two-wheels, one terrific ride.

Around the world, most nations have a restriction on the kind of bike you can ride when you’re on your learner license. Some use an engine capacity cap, others a power-to-weight ratio or a host of other ways to limit learners. And it’s a wise thing, we don’t need people with no experience on 200bhp superbikes. But with modern offerings relatively boring, some older machines make a whole lot of sense. In France, the Kawasaki KZ400 is an approved motorcycle for new riders and while he was building this bike up, Jérémie made sure that this bike was as cool as can be, while still retaining its legal learner status.

With the right donor bike acquired, Jérémie had to come up with a course of action to turn the cruiser-styled machine, into something more of a cafe racer meets street tracker bike. To achieve this he fired up the angle grinder and cut the entire rear end of the bike off, from the centre post back. This would allow him to completely redesign the geometry of the machine and it starts with the all-new subframe that is fabricated from frame matching tube, with a serious up kick to the rear hoop. The bar work is brilliantly done to create a stubby look and has a perfectly enclosed underside for an ultra neat finish.

Getting the rear rolling was next on the list, and giving better feedback to the rider and allowing for a wider rear tyre is the fitment of a Z1000 swingarm, that features a bunch of custom touches. New bearings go in and a custom machined main bolt, before a set of shock mounts were fabricated up. These hold a set of fully adjustable shocks, with progressive rate springs for excellent dampening. Speaking of quality handling products, to get the front end performing the way he wanted, Jérémie grabbed a set of Triumph Speed Triple USD forks, and did the appropriate work to make them fit.

The Kwaka now rolls on a set of custom-made spoked wheels, with machined hubs and lightweight rims, which have been wrapped up in quality Dunlop rubber. The braking system has all been upgraded too, with a single radial caliper more than enough, and wave style rotors at each end. It’s hard to imagine a KZ400 that would handle and stop as well as this bike, but Jérémie was far from done. Next, he wanted to make it look amazing and form and function combine in the fender combination, with a lightweight sporty item for the front and a custom rolled rear end on hand-fabricated mounts.

The stock tank has been reworked to perfection, with all of the years of dents and dings taken care of, and a new set of decals sourced to replace the weather beaten factory pair. The bike was stripped down for a second time and the frame, swingarm and other small components have been finished in anthracite grey. The tins were next and it took a deep dive into the Renault colour catalogue to find the right hue, fire orange which is offset by black and white graphics. The stock fuel cap cover was sanded back and hit with some satin clear, while the colour combination has been completed with a two-tone brown leather seat.

Building the bike back up allowed Jérémie to ensure nothing of the old machine that would compromise the functionality was left in place. This meant that a custom wiring loom has been created, and is neatly hidden inside the backbone, as well as under the seat and tank. LED lighting is used throughout, from the custom taillight with handmade enclosure, to the machined mounts for the headlight and minimalist indicators. The controls are a set of clip-ons with high quality master cylinder and levers. And the foot controls are taken care of with a set of CNC’d aluminium rearsets and custom linkages.

To retain the learner legal status meant not going crazy with the engine, but that didn’t mean the little parallel twin couldn’t come in for a hot up. The look is a mix of heat proof black paint and heavily polished covers. Before the stock carbs were pulled down, rebuilt and given a set of pod filters.

Loud pipes save lives and ensuring you’ll hear the little 400cc coming is a replacement set of stock header pipes that bark through slash-cut Mivv mufflers. A digital speedo has been integrated into the top clamp and NOS switch gear completes the comprehensive rebuild.

To sweeten the deal on this cool little scoot, it even comes with a paint matched Bell helmet, and it’s hard to think of a better way to learn to ride.

Jerem Motorcycles | Photography by Jonathan Silene ]