Thomas Parrish started building custom vehicles about 15 years ago, working with cars and trucks, which is where he learned most of his fabrication skills and techniques. Without support from the crop of internet how-to sites that exist these days, Thomas learned a lot from his mistakes.
Four years ago Thomas felt like he was burnt-out on four wheeled machines and turned his attention to two. He started out with a couple of mildly customised sportsbikes before moving on to building a custom chopper. After 400 hours spent over two years Thomas had a beautiful bike that he was very proud of, but he missed the handling and performance of his sportsbikes, so he decided the new cafe racer scene would give him the freedom to build something that didn’t fit into any specific category and would allow him to build bikes with the performance to match their looks.
This is Thomas’s most recent build, a 2007 Ninja 650R. “I bought this bike with the intention of selling it. It was cheap, and I needed something to ride alongside my girlfriend as she learned to ride – all of my other projects were too far from being done. So I got to work on the bikes major issues, seriously controlled myself, and this is what I came up with.”
“It would have been nice to add a wider back tire, make my own exhaust etc. etc., but I just wanted something respectable. I didn’t want to spend my whole summer fabricating, I just wanted to ride, and not on a wanna-be sportbike looking high handlebar dork machine! So this is what I came up with, hope you like it.”
It’s not easy to capture any of the old school cafe racer aesthetics on some modern bikes, with their complex frame shapes and major components in strange new places, and this 2007 Kawasaki must have presented some big issues, but the overall essence is clearly present: A shortened rear-end with a single seat, designed with a nod to some classic shapes, simplified instruments and minimal lighting, with clip-on bars hunkering down around the tank, ticking all the right boxes.
Purists in the cafe racer and the sportsbike scenes may or may not approve, but we applaud bold machines like this, that in many ways reflect the approach of builders like Radical Ducati and Shed X, taking modern machines and stripping them back to basics with half and eye on the future and half and eye on the past. What we can be sure of, is that this bike would be fantastic to ride.