Occasionally a bike comes along that stops me dead in my tracks. It’s usually a motorcycle that’s a little ‘different’: perhaps not 100% perfect, but with charm and style. And with that indefinable quality of begging to be ridden.
This Kawasaki W650 is one of those bikes, built by French graphic artist Nicolas Barthelemy of Skuddesign. And he’s got the blend of drop-dead gorgeous looks and practicality just right. “I wanted to mix aesthetic codes—bobber, brat style and street tracker—to create a motorcycle that corresponds to my world,” he says.
This W650 looks clean. To keep the front end as uncluttered as possible, Nicolas replaced the stock headlight with a smaller, satin-black finished Bates light, and removed the instrumentation. A compact ‘Motoscope Tiny’ digital/analog speedo from Motogadget is now mounted in front of the fuel tank. The bars are from a 1976 Kawasaki KZ400, cut by 25 mm, and fitted with vintage-style black Amal grips.
The motor breathes easier via K&N filters and a custom-fabricated exhaust system built by Mecatig-Vattier of Autreche. The seat has been reshaped and re-covered in Ash Black imitation leather by Jean-Philippe Duval of Automobile Sellerie. Sitting in front of it is the tank from a 1976 Honda CBS125, resprayed in a gray color that Ateliers Ruby used for its helmets.
Helping the retro look are Hagon shocks, made to order and 295 mm long, flanking a custom rear fender. The tires are equally timeless in appearance, but modern in construction: they’re Mitas ET-01, an effective enduro/trial hybrid.
I’d rank this W650 as one of the custom bikes of the year so far. What say you?
Images by Götz Göppert.