Mixing It Up: A Suzuki GS 550 cafe racer from Poland

Suzuki GS 550 cafe racer by Eastern Spirit Garage.
We all know that the cafe racer originated in Britain—but these days, the bikes themselves are just as likely to be Japanese. And one of the best Japanese cafe racers we’ve seen lately comes from…Poland.

This fine example of cross-pollination comes from Lukas and Sylwester of Eastern Spirit Garage. The boys keep a fairly low profile, but every build seems to take them a step closer to perfection.

Suzuki GS 550 cafe racer by Eastern Spirit Garage.
Their English isn’t too good, but they’re fluent in the lingua franca of custom building. As this 1979 Suzuki GS 550E shows, bought from a friend who no longer wanted to maintain an old beater.

“It had been repaired a few times,” explains Sylwester. “Totally normal for a 35-year-old motorbike. In the end the owner had enough, and shouted, For sale!

Suzuki GS 550 cafe racer by Eastern Spirit Garage.
Eastern Spirit’s last GS build—a 750—went down a treat. It also gave Sylwester and Lukas an overflow of ideas to pump into their new project.

“I had an idea and a bike,” says Sylwester, “but we believe that great looks are not all that make a great bike.” A checklist was formed: improve the brakes, bring the weight down, and create a vintage—yet sporty—look.

Suzuki GS 550 cafe racer by Eastern Spirit Garage.
To get the visual balance right, the guys tore into the frame—cutting, bending and welding until they were happy. They then reshaped the tank, and fabricated a traditional bum-stop to match.

The new bodywork’s just the tip of the iceberg—there’s a mountain of work hiding below. “Despite the fact that the Suzuki engines are very durable,” explains Sylwester, “we had to change the piston rings and all the gaskets…and also rebuild the cylinder head.”

Suzuki GS 550 cafe racer by Eastern Spirit Garage.
There’s not a bearing, cable, gasket or wire that isn’t new. Eastern Spirit also redid and synced the carbs and installed a new electronic ignition. The battery and wiring harness are fresh, and everything’s been hidden away to keep the GS as neat as possible.

Suspension and brake upgrades were on the cards too. The front springs were replaced, and the rear shocks swapped out for a pair of Triumph Bonneville units.

Suzuki GS 550 cafe racer by Eastern Spirit Garage.
The entire braking system’s been upgraded with a mixed bag of parts, ranging from Tokico calipers (from a Kawasaki ZZR600) to floating discs (from a newer model GS).

“It did the trick,” says Sylwester. “Finally: control at your fingertips. And the bike doesn’t slide!”

Suzuki GS 550 cafe racer by Eastern Spirit Garage.
The rearset foot controls are custom made and bearing-mounted. The stainless steel exhaust muffler was made to order by a friend, complete with a dB killer insert.

The bike’s also been treated to a tidy new cockpit, complete with clip-ons, upgraded controls and slimmer switches. There’s a small MMB speedo too, and new bar-end mirrors.

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Finishing it off is a gorgeous blue and black scheme that’s somehow both playful and refined. Details abound—like the neatly finned covers—but Sylwester hasn’t told us much more than we’ve already written.

Suzuki GS 550 cafe racer by Eastern Spirit Garage.
“The photos show it all,” he quips. “I was never great at describing motorbikes—how to write about building bikes in a way that will interest readers and inspire them to do similar projects?”

“I don’t know. But what I do know is that motorbikes are our passion. Maybe that’s the problem…it’s not easy to talk about love.”

Eastern Spirit Garage on Facebook | Instagram | Images by Zbigniew Szych. With thanks to Mateusz Stankiewicz.

Suzuki GS 550 cafe racer by Eastern Spirit Garage.