We wondered how long it would take the other manufacturers to wake up and smell the custom coffee. Yamaha and BMW have had a free run at the custom scene for a good few years but now Kawasaki have rocked up to the party. They might be quietly tapping a foot on the edge of the dance floor nursing a glass of punch but their calculating approach has resulted in some rather fantastic builds.
If you visited Bike Shed Paris & London 2015 you will definitely have noticed the exquisite craftsmanship on display from MRS Oficina. Founder Mário’s carbon tanked CB750 is one of the finest we’ve seen, not just CBs but bikes in general. Hailing from Portugal but living in Paris, Mário makes a point of machining and fabricating as much as he can from scratch in his understated workshop. The fit and finish are as good as it gets.
No surprise then that Kawasaki commissioned Mário to give one of their bikes a new wave makeover. The obvious would have been to tracker a Versys or KLR but in an inspired move they sent him a Vulcan S. No, not a post war bomber but a mid sized cruiser with forward controls. Kawasaki’s website suggests “sports cruiser performance meets café styling”, thankfully they let Mário be the judge of that.
The Vulcan’s engine is the tried and tested 650cc twin found in many other Kawasaki models. And if you’re not sold on this being appropriate for a café racer as we know it, Google Ryan Farquhar and see what he can do with one of these power units. The full stainless exhaust system is a one-off courtesy of Mário’s handiwork with the TiG torch and mandrel bender.
Despite the arse down, nose up stance of a stock bike the tubular perimeter frame now looks aggressive see-sawed forwards. In fact, it’s really rather handsome. The off-centre shock mounting with direct actuation keeps the rear end neat, leaving space to see the custom made Öhlins unit with remote reservoir in all its glory.
The swingarm is stock but modified to cant the whole bike forward, without having to spec a super long shock or ugly mount. Obviously this created chain tension and alignment issues so the pivot point required careful fettling. Whilst in that region foot controls and pegs needed a new home. Brackets for the rearsets appear factory fresh in their new go-faster position.
Remarkably the standard forks didn’t require a huge chop, just a 20mm lowering in the clamps and shorter, stiffer springs which not only balance the stance perfectly but allow for more spirited riding rather than comfy cruising. The original bar mounts are now covered with alloy blanking plugs which we can guarantee will have been perfectly machined. In fact we’d like to see Mário at work on a lathe, his turning work is exemplary. If you look closely, the lower engine mounts are in fact turned acrylic indicators.
Who’d have thought that a box section subframe could look so purposeful. With the lardy cruiser saddle and giant mudguard out of the way the seat mount flows perfectly with the rest of the lines. But of course there’s nothing stock about the unit floating above.
The fuel tank and seat are single piece, unibody construction hammered and rolled from sheet steel. And being a Kawasaki could it be any other colour than green? I’ll answer that for you, no, it couldn’t. Old meets new with this gorgeous metallic paint job, a homage to the past while looking bang up to date.
Keeping it local, Mário sourced a front brake master cylinder and clutch lever from French braking experts Beringer, which look stunning clamped to the adjustable clipons. Simple quality the name of the game here. A plain all-in-one Motogadget speedo and tacho unit blends in with ease and the front mudguard is of course hand-rolled.
The cruiser’s cast wheels were never going to cut the mustard so a pair of alloy hoops with stainless spokes were built to suit. The good people from Pirelli had seen previous work by MRS and didn’t need to think twice in donating a set of race slicks to the project.
Up against the clock, Mário had to have this bike built in time for the Salon de la Moto in Paris at the end of last year and despite having not seen it in the metal I can confidently say that this is one of my favourite bikes of 2015, or 2016 for that matter. Mário hasn’t just added a sip of café to a cruiser, he’s probably caused some designers back in Japan to kick themselves for not coming up with something similar in the first place.
Hopefully we’ll see more from Kawasaki real soon, and as they say at HQ – “Let the good times roll”.