We love perfectly manicured, high-gloss customs, but we’re not purists. For some, this cheeky Kawasaki Z500 may be too brash—but it’s right up our alley.
It’s the work of Titan Motorcycles: an Austrian workshop founded last year by friends Tom Possod and Michael Siebenhofer. Based in Graz, the duo had one idea in mind when they kicked off the project…
“Winter was coming, and we needed a bike to go snowboarding,” they explain. “It should take us to the nearby mountains—there could be snow and it might be off-road at some times.”
The Z500 seems like an odd choice, but Titan were dead set on it. “Motorcycle magazines call it ‘The insider’s tip.’ Probably too much of an insider’s tip, because no one’s ever wanted one. Except for us.”
Titan found a 1982 model parked under a cover, outside a garden shed. The owner regaled them with stories of trips to Greece and South Tyrol. With some deft negotiation, the guys finally took the bike home for a good price.
“We felt sorry for it, the way it stood there with its 80s-style Krauser cases—we knew this was going to be hard work,” they tell us. “The guy was not thrilled about selling it. A lot of memories for him, memories of the good old days—his wild days perhaps.”
Despite the shabby condition, the engine was still in pretty good nick. So Tom and Michael treated it to a thorough service, stripping and cleaning the carbs along the way.
The rest of the bike hadn’t fared as well. A number of bits had to be cleaned up and sent for powder coating—including the frame, which was shortened too.
When it came time to overhauling the body work, the project started changing direction. The original plan was for a fresh coat of paint and a slick new seat unit, but suddenly new ideas developed. That orange paint is original—believe it or not—but the scuffs are the result of an abandoned resto-job.
“Even though we liked the color, we had to start with sanding the tank to prepare for new paint. While grinding down, the little flaws got our attention and we started to like it. So we stopped the process in the middle and just polished the paint.”
The tail unit has a similar story behind it: it’s the bike’s original tail piece, cut and adapted to fit the new rear frame. “It just fitted the shape of the tank perfectly, and we thought we wanted to keep this original piece.”
The seat pad itself is new, built on an aluminum base. The upholstery is another inspiration from out of the left field: the guys like to collect old racing leathers, and had a blue suit from the 70s that matched the orange bike perfectly.
The suit didn’t fit either Tom or Michael, so they briefed their upholsterer to use it for recovering the seat. The race stripes over the bum stop are a nice touch, and there’s even a small zippered pouch for a driver’s license or gas money.
The rest of the Kawasaki is sprinkled with hand-made parts. The exhaust headers are custom, terminating in a Remus can that’s been placed as high as possible to keep it away from mud and snow.
The aluminum headlight plate is a one-off too, along with smaller items like the rear brake reservoir bracket, license plate holder, and the fuel level indicator on the right of the tank.
Twin tail lights are embedded in the rear, with discreet LED turn signals mounted to the forks and shocks. And there’s a small speedo mounted off the left of the bike.
The handlebars, grips and foot pegs are all motocross parts, matched up to enduro-specific Mitas tires. The front forks have been lowered a little, while the rear shocks were replaced with longer-than-stock off-road units.
Would the original owner recognise his 1980s Krauser-equipped tourer? Probably not. But we’d take this bold scrambler for fun times in the hills any day of the week.
And no, there’s no front fender—but who cares when you’re riding in snowboard gear, right?