As gangly trackers continue to give low slung cafe racers a literal thumping in the popularity stakes, certain donors rise to the top; and it’s normally the Honda XR which most type into the search bar first. There are alternatives abound, but they require a little more looking for, like Suzuki’s long-standing DR650. Not commonly found in the EU thanks to the interfering luddites in Brussels, Suzuki instead deemed fit to bring the flatulent Freewind to our shores. But as with the Dominator, behind the plastic lies the prime ingredients for a thumpingly good time.
Yannick Gosset from Dijon in the heart of France sure noticed it. As someone happy to turn his creative hand to a diverse range of media, Yako steadfastly straddles the world of art. Painting both classic frescoes and spraying top notch graffiti, as in our world of bikes, he cares not for the boundaries defining the old and new.
Also a dab hand at building and restoring furniture, it’s his appreciation of material properties that help Yako form this build. With no pretense of being a pro-builder, Yako is like many of us, just a garage tinkerer. Working away in his spare time, without the pressures of clients and profit.
So it was the 1998 Freewind lying deflatedly at the back of his workshop that sparked an imagination. The somewhat insipid styling not really doing it for him, there was soon 25kg of ‘unnecessary’ parts on the floor. Despite being stripped back the bike was to be his everyday ride, so had to remain functional; a twin seat, decent lighting, mudgards all required.
But in that pile on the floor lay one big problem. Freewind builders take note: Once the loom had been simplified no amount of fiddling managed to breath life into the bike. Even Suzuki mechanics pulled out their hair at this mystery failure. Yako finally figured out that the original ignition switch contained an LED that signaled the CDI. Without it no spark, no bark. Lesson learned so back it went.
Working out of a shared creative space, a fellow artist Florent Gautier, happened to be a dab hand with the welder and helped Yako get the bike’s foundations in place. The entire rear end of the bike was redesigned, using various cardboard models, Illustrator sketches and finally with the aid of a giant frikkin’ laser, the sheet steel frame was bolted on.
It certainly defines the character of the bike, along with its name: Bekano. A sly nod to the famous Mecanno toy, it shares the looks of the perforated metal pieces that formed hours of childhood wonder for many of us. The look continues around the bottom edge of the tank, helping bridge the integration with the seat. As Yako wanted, it adds a creative, fun aspect to the bike.
The tank is another rare item, and forgive yourself if you couldn’t place it. Originally residing on a ’70s Malaguti Cavalcone Cross 50cc, it was pilfered to transform the look of the Freewind. The inset storage and leather cross straps beautifully combine form and function, meaning no more thigh-jabbing from pocketed keys when riding.
The primary colour-way for the bike was shades of brown, “a Cappuccino with a dusting of chocolate”. Used to working with vintage items, Yako wanted the bike have that old-timey influence, but without sacrificing a quality finish: “For me, to renovate or build a motorcycle requires a clean, new look, so no question of painted patina, rusted effects or faking age!”
So with the vintage looks, comes a modern reliable engine; and no need to mess it about. It remains completely original apart from a K & N filter; itself awkward to find thanks to Suzuki’s twin carb setup. Though it’s the reason the Freewind could pass emissions tests when the big DR couldn’t.
A DanMoto silencer on the end of a single piece bent stainless header is about as clean an exhaust setup as you’ll find; tucked neatly away so as not to fry your calf in traffic. Fully rebuilt rims clad in Twinduro tyres give pavement pounding traction while trusted Renthal bars and grips get the riding stance just so.
The bike has been more or less finished for a year now, but refreshingly Yako wanted to spend time tweaking the Bekano to remove all those little snags you find once a fresh build hits the road. Now debugged, he has a fantastically unique ride to rip about on and all put together for less than £2000. With 50-odd bhp and only 130 kg to haul along you can bet there’s a broad smile on his face.