How to build a Cafe Racer: KAWASAKI W800

The Kawasaki W-series make a great starting point for building a nice Cafe Racer. I’ve tried it myself, check out the result and feel free to tell me if you like it or not.

You can turn an ugly piece of shit into a beautiful bike, sure enough. It has been done before and people are constantly (trying) to do it. But is it worth the effort? Why not just take a motorcycle that already looks decent and make it even better?

When my friend Pascal approached me with the idea of building a Cafe Racer for him, we put a lot of thought into what bike we should use to start off this project. He wanted something reliable, something that wouldn’t break down and more importantly something that would be comfortable so he could ride it more than just to the next coffee joint in town back.

We fairly quickly agreed on using a Kawasaki W-series motorcycle as a starting point since they already look kind of not too bad. Pascal soon after our discussion bought a new 2016 Kawasaki W800 Black Edition that I in the following months transformed into our common vision of a great bike. Here’s the before and after:

So, what has been done on the bike (so far, since we’re never really done modyfing our scoots): First of all I had to change the handlebars for some classic M-bars (sometimes also known as Clubman style bars). Those combined with Biltwell Kung Fu Grips not only provided a classy look but are also quite comfortable to ride. After this, all of the emblems and stickers that were there from the factory had to be removed. Cleaning the bike off of unnecessary stuff even more I removed the huge original front and rear fenders to replace them with some shortened ones.

I found an original seat mold on the internet so we could keep the original seat untouched. I took the bike to my friend Rudy from Rudy’s Upholstery so he could adapt the seat mold even more to make it complement the lines of the bike even more. I also gave him the knee pads that were on the fuel tank to have them upholstered together with the seat that he completely plumped up and later covered in genuine leather.

While this was done I worked on some smaller stuff: I installed a narrower headlight bracket with some stylish Kellermann turn signals, wrapped the exhaust, put on some mesh injection covers, a stylisch bezel cover and a slinkier chain guard.

Thanks to the help of my dad (who is a master on the lathe), BMX style Bilwell Mushman foot pegs were adapted to the original foot controls of the Kawasaki. I also fabricated a license plate bracket and rounded the rear look of the bike with combinated turn signal and tail light assemblies from Kellermann.

As a final step, my friend Alex from Art of Color painted the tank and side covers black, laid some silver flakes and a ton of clear on top and really made the bike shine and stand out from the crowd. Front and rear fenders were powdercoated black.

After some fear that the bike would not get street legal (you just never know with what new ideas those people come up with when showing them a modified bike) the bike passed inspection flawlessly and is now residing in his new home somewhere near Zurich where it will likely get a lot of miles done and will hopefully show some fancy Zurich city hipsters what real Cafe Racers look like.