Kawasaki KZ400 custom

Kawasaki KZ400
Alex Patrocinio edits the Barcelona-based custom culture magazine El Diablo, and this is his bike. It was a 35-year-old UJM with a seized engine when Alex found it, but his friends at the custom shop Mad Crow Garage have turned it into a very smart street tracker. A select few mods have transformed the stance of the bike, particularly a cut rear frame with repositioned shock mounts. The engine was rebuilt, and a new battery box and wiring system were installed. That tight-fitting rear fender is a 5” Triumph unit, but the tank and bars are refurbished stock items. A rich, vintage-themed paint job is the icing on the cake, courtesy of Welok Studio and the Rocket 88 Hot Rod Speed Shop. Muy bonita.

Kawasaki KZ400
Kawasaki KZ400
Kawasaki KZ400

  • Larry Pearson

    At first glance, I think this is really an attractive bike, but I guess I just don’t get the whole, no-front-fender, vintage fat tire-thing. Those tires look like they belong on a bike from the 40′s. I know it’s a current styling trend, because you see it all the time. Same with the ultra-limited rear suspension travel. You might think by looking at it, that it would bottom out on the slightest bump. Is it a bobber or a cafe’? I want a cafe’ bike to handle. And, to me, that means equal participation of suspension, brakes (which it has), and tires that are all up to the task. If it’s a bobber, then I guess (stylistically) it can get by w/o any of those. Hard to tell which this is supposed to be. It’s definitely pretty, though.

  • FansMotoGP

    Is an unusable motorcycle still really a motorcycle?

  • mudplug

    This whole “unusable” thing seems to be getting out of hand, lol.

    Anyone that’s pedalled more than 5 miles on an under-geared, single-speed BMX bicycle will have a different outlook on what makes a bike rideable!

    This bike is no Honda Pan European and was never meant to be. No, you couldn’t comfortably cross a continent on it – in good time, anyway. That was not the intended purpose of the build.
    But if it moves under its own steam, someone will enjoy riding it – even if that person isn’t you.
    Haven’t people gone round the world on Enfields?
    (I’d rather own a 125cc 2-stroke than an Enfield myself.)

    I’ve visited the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, England, and the nearby Sammy Miller Museum. Some of those glorious bikes will never move another inch under their own power, yet many people still appreciate their value as (historic) motorcycles, even if they’re now obsolete.

    Some bikes are toys, some are workhorses, and some achieve both roles.
    Not everyone chooses to ride an armchair or the Starship Enterprise.
    Do any two people share an identical view of their ideal motorcycle?

    For reference I ride a cheap, battered mid-90s semi-retro Japanese 500cc twin workhorse, with a few mods to make it brake and corner better. I ride it in most conditions but not snow / ice, and I’m a keen cyclist too.

    I want to enjoy my own motorcycle’s performance.
    BUT that doesn’t stop me appreciating the aesthetics of bikes which I wouldn’t choose to ride.

    (I promise I’ll return to read the opposing views, lol.)

  • Guest

    Thank you mudplug for the reasonable and non-vitriolic post. I’m still on my first bike, an underpowered Honda Rebel, and maybe it’s the fact that said bike lacks horsepower and the ability to travel safely on freeways or for substantial distances with a passenger that helps me to appreciate the many imperfect bikes that show up on this blog for what they are. Mr. Patrocinio and his team took an inoperable hunk of metal and turned it into a smart looking and quick (relative to my ride) bike, and for that I think they deserve some kudos. I find the comments about the tight suspension and lack of a front fender interesting but the tone of some of these commentators makes me wonder: how can people be so pissy while looking at freshly painted motorcycles?

  • RobL

    This bike has good proportions, clean lines, and interesting details (dig that headlight!) without being gimmicky at all. Chris, you hit the nail on the head about the paint job – very rich. The color-matched wheels are understated and evocative of a classic coach-built car.

    As for the comments on the rear shock, with the right valving and spring rate, there’s no reason that can’t be perfectly serviceable. If you want to see a shorty shock/spring that works, look at a BMW R1200C… it’s not the best shock, but it’s smaller than what’s on this KZ400.

    The seat bears some comment; I’ve yet to ride a bike with that flat of a seat and wonder what happens when you’re really on the throttle (for all that a KZ400 can pony up). Likely usable for a taller rider, but the guy in the pic already looks like he’s sitting directly over the rear axle line.

    A great feature in these articles would be some feedback from the owner as to how the bike rides.

  • http://twitter.com/adamjohndoyle Adam Doyle

    There would be a few million motorcycle riders who would argue that unless you can carry your wife, a couple of children and a few chickens, a bike is ‘unridable’. All depends on your needs. Cool bike.

  • Kerry

    I think the word “Custom” used in the title or description of a bike like this might help find a place for a bike like this amid the more traditional cafe designs, current street tracker themed bikes like one from the other day and a number of Japanese/ Brat style bikes form which I think this one borrows heavily.

    As has been pointed out, the rear end and limited suspension travel, while looking cool, I think makes this a bike that will frequently bottom out. He’s using the cheap $100 Chinese rear shocks that everyone has (myself included) that give a pretty crappy ride and have a good bit of travel.

    I like the look and feel of this bike but both of these points are very familiar because I can find a dozen bikes that share similar lines, style and design cues. That said, I’m happy to see it.

    I’d say the bike is rideable since obviously it seems to have been ridden somewhere – there’s even a picture of someone on it. Could it be ridden everyday? Probably depends on the rider, road conditions and where they’re riding. I don’t think this is the major or sole criteria by which some of these builds should be judged but if it does then it justs going down the same path as many of the huge, pro-street, OCC style unrideable choppers of a few years back. And I don’t think that helps motorcycling one bit.

  • Zyon

    If it stays upright when you turn the throttle….it’s ridable! Now comfortable is different and all in the eye (or butt) of the beholder. I ride an 88″ rigid framed motorcycle with a 15″ rear and 22″ front. It isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of comfortable. However, it’s 100% ridable. To me, it’s the most comfortable motorcycle I’ve ever owned. So much so, I’m building a second one.

  • http://chalopy.blogspot.com Ralph

    Nice bike, but why do people paint spokes? Maybe raise the mega’s to horizontal level or a bit upswept. It’s just missing the obligatory fork gaitors..
    If it has wheels, a working engine and fuel in the gastank it can be ridden. Who cares about comfort or whatever practicality. It’s up to the owner how much beating his body can take. He likes the bike, that’s the most important.

  • Lew

    Only one things really bugs me.. if a bike is designed by a professional engineer to have certain types of tire diameter and we come along and chuck any old ones we choose based on a fashion are we saying we know something more than the original engineer? Did he and the R&D department get their job wrong?

    I like the look of the rear end, if the tire doesn’t grind on the bike ever…good job! If it does get some shorter travel shocks!

    • elven

      It isn’t always the case that the R&D department knows best, production engineers usually design to a budget and use available technology. Simply changing the rim and tyre sizes on old bikes can transform and improve the handling. Try an old V-max on decent 17″ wheels and modern sports rubber, the difference is amazing even without upgrading the suspension and brakes.
      Agreed that in this case it is purely fashion dictating the bad rubber chosen for the bike.

  • elven

    Personally, I’d have to change the tyres and back suspension.
    Should be practical for riding through the Barcelona traffic, as long as the Guardia don’t pull him for no mirror, chainguard etc.

  • Andrew

    …Did he and the R&D department get their job wrong?

    Oh heck yes, we’re saying we know fashion and yes Kawasaki got it wrong in total. When the original and “as new” bike was so limited in its functionality, that’s true. You are assuming that factory engineers always know best. But they are only one part of manufacturing a machine. They also are forced to compromise, hence the marketing phrase, “shoot the engineer and sell the product before we go out of business.” Cycle World received their first model of this bike and called it a “commuter” bike. They weren’t known as beginners bikes, but rather commuter bikes because it was right in the middle of the gas shortage in the States. The reviewers were immediately scared silly by the suspension until they changed the front damping rods and then the rear shocks with aftermarket units. Then it vibrated at 60mph and above, to the point of not wanting to hold it above 55mph very long. Then the base gasket began leaking oil. They pronounced the tires “cheap” that wore out in short order and got downright dangerous. It died at every light attempting to idle. I remember hanging out in bike shops when I was much younger (and much more tribal and less open-minded), we cursed these bikes as new. They were crap rides and constantly in for repairs. They vibrated, were low on power, leaked oil all over themselves and didn’t handle at all. The manufacturing machine know as the Universal Japanese Motorcycle was beginning to pump out a bunch of models of bikes, a lot of which were total crap. This was a prime example. Possibly one of the crappiest. So to see one resurrected and looking so cool, all I can say is, “Well done!” It can’t be worse than what Kawasaki manufactured. No way.

  • Tonytiger29

    I have to agree with alot of many of the posters who say if the owner likes it and can ride it, it’s rideable. I think most of us ride for essentially the same reasons no matter their taste in bike. I like the look of this bike overall. My opinion which is just that, I’d like to see the back end up off the tire some, but that’s my aesthetic taste. I love the devil tail detail on the tank.

  • Lew

    Andrew, what you are saying is valid, as it is based on your experience. However with a hugely over-sized front tire the bike looks crap, and probably handles like shit, which is the reason the idiotic guys at Kawasaki didn’t chose those tire sizes.

  • Willy Rico

    For the potential of kz 400 they couldn’t have done it worse. That’s my opinion, a flashy bike with some novel mistakes: the color of the tires is horrible, the exhaust is looking at the floor, a never ending seat, a very thin front and very high, a rear poorly completed…
    In conclusion, a bike that is on the media without worth it. Coult it be for the contacts of the owner?

  • Frank

    Not bad.
    The KZ400 if you find one is a great platform for a variation of custom builds, from chopper to tracker. My first “build” was a free Z400–made it into the “Twinja” which looked like a scaled down Commando with a green paintjob. Fun and cheap to run.

  • Revdub

    I dig this, minus the tail on the tank and a few other details. It almost ruins it for me. A “Diablo” theme is one thing, but the tail takes it to a cheesy level, in my opinion. The cases would have also looked nice powdered up black, along with those silver fork arms. Still, this is really clean build.

  • Petersellersontheroad

    I just don’t get what’s going on around this crappy motorcycle…
    Why is it everywhere…
    … for sure it shouldn’t be in here!!!!!
    Please Owner Stop Spamming us!
    The stance on the bike is all wrong, (looks like his 300kg girlfriend was still sitting on its seat, making the poor Kawa cry for help to the divine Gods up in the Sky) and un-driveable. The color combo is evil and tacky, no comments on the molding touches… the seat was inspired by my grandma’s ironing board and someone forgot the speedo on the “top shelf” while screwing the headlight. No comments on that pipe trying to pee on the floor…
    Hey Alex, thanks for your huge communications ego, we all know your flashy bike now, and please do the world a favor, don’t “customize” anything faster than your toilet seat.
    Sorry for my bitterness but I just couldn’t hold myself anymore with this bombardment.
    PS

  • Elpelonconsuelas

    ¡ Que hay güey !, otra ves esta motosicleta en la net. Esta claro hermano que te curras buena publicidad güey. Ya la vi como menos 5 o 6 veses, creo que la vi más que las motos de Shinya Kimura.

    Me gusta mucho el color del depósito, puedes pintar las llantas del mismo color que el depósito encima de esa capa de imprimasión que le pusiste.

    Mira queyo también llevé años con motosicletas de media cilindrada hasta que me compré mi primera moto de verdad. Me recordó mucho a mi abuelo, que tuvo acá una como esta importada de Europa, que buenos recuerdos, buey, que acabó usando para acarrear las patatas desde el huerto.
    Le hubiese ido muy bien tener un asiento tan largo como ese para acomodar bien el saco. ¿tu también la usaste para cargar?. Deberías cambiarle la suspensión, que se te debió reventar de llevar tus utensilios desde el campo.

    Por cierto, ¿donde encontraste ese faro?, estuviste muy chingón poniendoselo. La elevadora con la que trabajo lleva uno igual. Supongo que de momento, mientras no encuentres algo mejor para ponerle ya le vale.

    El marcadorsito que llevas , es el de origen, la pegatina no le queda mal, seguro que te va muy bien cuando bayas a tope por los caminos para ver a que velosidad vas. A mi abuelo también le encantaba ese marcador tan bien grandote.

    A ver si la acabas bien el remate, buey, que aunque parese que vas poco a poco, ya te queda menos.
    Ya nos quedan ganas, despues de tantas fotos en todas partes de verla acabadita. Por sierto, procurate unas buenas trincaderas para el escape, que se te va a caer, y a escape libre, buen estruendo vas a dar.

    Un saludo desde México D.F..

  • elven

    The headlight is the same as I have (x5) on my Kinroad chinese buggy.

  • Mingh

    all form, no function.

    looks like a wrenchmokee in technicolor.

  • Evilgiles

    I really think it is strange when people who don’t own the bike, didn’t build the bike, or have never been on the bike make statements about how it isn’t rideable or has no function. You can’t cut steak with a butter knife, and you can’t butter bread with a steak knife. But you do need both to make a steak sandwich! Personally I like the bike… I’m thinking that even though there isn’t much suspension travel at the rear that the large rubber will assist a bit with the ride. If it doesn’t help the handling then just slide her around the corner…;)

  • mudplug

    Enjoying reading the replies :D

    A bit more on-topic this time, I agree about the stance of the bike, I’d prefer to see the back a touch higher and / or the front lower.

    The tail on the fuel tank’s part of the Marmite factor; it intrigues me, but I’d only do something similar on a light-hearted bike, not a serious one. (I don’t know which this is?!)

    Hooray! A low, stylish headlight! But then they fitted THAT speedo, UP THERE.

    I’m surprised that the painted wheels divide opinions so much. I’m for them!

    ^ none of that is factual statement, just my personal view, lol. your differing view is just as right ;)

    I would like to point out the obvious: in the photo with the guy sitting on it, there is no fuel tank fitted, and it looks to me like he’s trying to find the kickstart lever – so it doesn’t really give many clues to the ergonomics of the bike.

  • Kristaps

    Could anyone please tell if this bike (and other similar bikes) has same sized front and back wheels?
    Thanks!!!

    • Zoranholtkamp

      The KZ400 has the same front and rear wheel.

      • Gebeme

        Both were 18″ diameter. The front wheel was a bit narrower than the back. 3.25-18 front 3.5-18 back

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=767783791 Chris Gillham

    Too many mixed styles for mine. dont like the color, the odd molding tail thingy, stance (looks like the rear shocks are rooted), speedo, bike peddle kick starter or the treatment to the headlight. I do like the exhaust (could be longer towards the rear), the seat, the ignition relocation, the low headlight and pretty much everything else. Im building a z650 (kz650) so stuff like this is good inspiration, its also good to see a few kwaks rather than xs’s and cb’s.

  • Mike T.

    My favorite KZ 400 factoid is that the crankshaft rotates in the opposite direction (backwards) from most other bike engines. I no longer remember the reason for that.

  • freak power ultd.

    This bike and Woody’s CL350 “brat tracker” are giving me a lot of inspiration on where to go with my cb360. I’ve already got the forty dollar a piece EMGO shorty mufflers. Those swingarms should be slightly adjusted so there not pointing toward the ground. These mid-size (by 70′s standards) jap inline twins are the perfect platform for the street tracker style. Low, narrow and exceedingly maneuverable. Oh yeah, and they’ll stop on a dime. The seat is way too low for anyone over 5″ 5″. Something closer to stock height would be preferable. Otherwise it looks like it’d be a lot of fun to tear up the streets with, which is what it was customized to do. Anyone who says this bike is “unusable” is a pompous fool. I know a guy from a local bike crew who’s done four cross-countries on a cafe’d 82 cm400. All bikes are rideable by someone.

  • http://knsweb.net Kumo

    Maybe it’s not a very confortable bike, but it’s rideable (at least more than other we’ve seen here). A thing is clear, with no mirrors or indicators lights it’s not street legal in Spain.

  • Oliver

    If I want performance, I ride on a racetrack and don’t care much anymore what the bike looks like, since I can’t see it while I’m riding it. And besides, if I’m pushing, sooner or later I will crash. That’s a fact that will occur on a track. I don’t want to cry if I crash too pretty a bike. And for those who say they have not fallen down (or will not fall down) on the track, just wait. If I ride on the street, I want a bike that gives me a strong emotion when I look at it and when I ride it. I don’t need to go fast on the street. I just want my senses stimulated, through sight, sound, feel, texture, etcetera. Bikes like these work because they provide a strong emotion. I’m sure it’s plenty fast for local backroad duty and handles equally. Again, with modern sportbikes, the second things get interesting, you’re at triple digits and that’s no place for public roads. This bike can be ridden likely at a reasonable pace that will stimulate the senses and put a grin on the rider’s face while approaching the bike to get on it, while riding it, and while turning around to oggle it after riding it. That passes my acceptability test whether it’s a cafe, a bobber, a cruiser, or whatever nomenclature one attaches to it.

  • Desotojay

    Just wondering what part of the rear shock mounts have been repositioned? I own three KZ400′s, and aside from the addition of a rear loop, and shorter shocks the frame looks fairly stock too me. Just curious.