Despite a very crowded market the allure of working with one’s hands remains strong, especially for those who’ve become disenfranchised with the concept of a traditional career. Rick Geall from Northamptonshire is a successful senior exec but found himself in-between jobs and therefore armed with a few less excuses not to scratch a creative itch. Driven by a lifelong love of design and motorcycles Rick decided to take the leap and build some bikes and see what happened. Gotta be in it to win it, right!
Wreckless Motorcycles is a tight pro-am tag team consisting of self proclaimed rank amateur Rick and his skilled mechanic pal who owns and runs an existing motorcycle shop. In a bid to pull a bit more weight around the workbench Rick returned to college after a 30 year hiatus and learned how to weld. The design and component sourcing are Rick’s domain too which initially seemed like a natural fit but proved more challenging than expected. More on that in a minute.
This 1999 Kawasaki W650 was an accidental purchase spotted in another friend’s shop, bought despite knowing there had already been a considerable number of Ws trackred, bratted and scramblerised over the last decade or so. But rather than attempt to wow a well versed and picky audience Rick thought it best ingratiate Wreckless by concentrating on producing clean, well finished builds where the details and quality do the talking.
The engine (one of the best looking of the modern classics) has been overhauled and treated to new gaskets, seals and bearings internally while externally the cases were blasted, painted and polished. A neat 2-into-1 stainless header and downpipe feeds a single reverse cone muffler which will sound great – these carb’d Ws really bark. Whilst in bits a new EBC racing clutch pack was installed.
Stock braking isn’t exactly modern though. But here the overhauled rear drum looks suitably retro and is now actuated by a modified KTM 1290 pedal while the front set-up is replaced by a new EBC disc and Beringer Aerotec 6-pot caliper, pumped by a classic axial master cylinder. The cheap footpegs are gone too, an oversized pair from a KTM Adventure are grippy and gnarly looking. The gear shift and side stand are billet alloy aftermarket items, lighter and better looking than those the Kawasaki was born with.
Repainted, refurbed and gaitored forks remain stock internally but the rear shocks are now Öhlins Black Edition. Satin black rims with new stainless spokes and Continental TKC80 rubber look the part and offer plenty of potential should the owner find themselves near a green lane. For a bit more zing the transmission kit was upgraded to a top notch arrangement from DID with shorter gearing, 14 teeth up front and 40 in the rear.
The original mudguards are now shorter and reshaped slightly, the front actually long enough to actually prevent splatter off-road – rather novel these days. The seat is also stock but with alterations to the shape before reupholstering. Rebuilt CV carbs breathe through an airbox rather than pods and the side panels feature slits with mesh inserts. While the frame and swingarm were being powdercoated satin black the bodywork was prepped for paint, which included reshaping the tank and smoothing the badge and kneepad rebates.
The cockpit proved a bit of a challenge as the Kawasaki’s bar clamps are a 25mm bore necessitating head scratching and then machining of spacers to accept the 22mm high-rise Renthals. A Daytona Velona 80mm digital all-in-one speedo looks the part and is a refreshing change from the frequently fitted Motogadget. The headlamp is stock apart from a discreet visor and combination coating of satin and gloss black. Rizoma LED indicators up front match stop/tail/indicators at the rear.
Rick’s first attempt certainly looks accomplished and it appears he’s learned a lot already, telling us “Fitment issues and challenges also played a big part – ‘fits your bike’ is a phrase I now treat with a degree of caution. Some manufacturers/suppliers promised lots and delivered little – what we ended up with was hard earned as well as a function of who delivered on their promises. The importer for a very famous brand strung us along for over 4 months on a critical component eventually causing a last minute change of direction, which was delivered in 2 weeks from some new friends in Belgium. I guess this is what custom is all about, dealing with lots and lots of micro fitment issues and oddity’s. Finally, and I’m sure people doing this will empathise, knowing when to STOP is incredibly important.”
“As for the future, 3 other bikes are in build at the moment, all very different – 2 vintage Ducatis and a real marmite bike from Aprilia. I guess we aren’t afraid to tinker with the odd classic and make it custom. After all, we are Wreckless!”
The W650 and 800 are perhaps less frequently featured donors as secondhand residuals are strong but it would be nice to see a few more, especially if they’re finished this well.
Images by Daniel Du Cros at Junction Eleven