Suzuki Katana custom

Suzuki Katana
A couple of weeks ago, there was a Suzuki Katana in my local motorcycle workshop. And it was a magnet for everyone passing by, despite the presence of some very high-end modern machinery. This was the first time I’d seen the legendary Katana up close, and I thought it looked better in the metal than in pictures. Steve Adams’ Katana, however, looks fantastic in pictures, and shows the enduring power of the Fellstrom/Kasten/Muth design.

Englishman Adams tells us he started riding bikes in 1980, when he was just 16. He started off with Vespas and Lambrettas, but by the time he was 19, he’d progressed to a mighty Katana 1100. “Although I only owned it for a year or so before moving on, it left a big impression,” he says. (Personally, I’m surprised he’s still alive.) “About three years ago I started to question what I really wanted in a bike, and came to the conclusion that a Katana would fit the bill.”

Suzuki Katana
Adams was under no illusion about thirty-year-old running gear, though, knowing it would “turn my rose-tinted glasses a crappy brown color”. So he started searching for a donor Kat, something he could butcher mercilessly without feeling guilty. “I bought a non-running ’82 750, transported it home and just ripped it apart. My initial thinking was to use the engine and running gear from a 1200 Bandit, so I bought a donor Bandit as well.” But Adams soon realized that the Katana’s big air-cooled engine was part of the bike’s character, as well as the bodywork—so he sold the Bandit.

Suzuki Katana
“The whole build took about 18 months and got out of control—what was going to be a quick update became a full reworking; my interpretation of a modern Suzuki Katana,” says Adams. (If you check the build sheet below, you’ll see some serious kit.) His Katana isn’t a checkbook special though: in total, the bike owes Adams about £6,000 (US$9,200), including the original purchase price. “Ebay became my best friend. Although there are many top-flight parts on the bike, my goal whenever I build a bike is to make it look like a factory bike. And in fact that’s what most people say about it, that it’s so subtle until you really start looking.”

Adams’ Suzuki Katana has had a huge amount of positive feedback from all over the world, and although he built the bike for himself, he’s gratified to know that others appreciate what he’s done. “Off the back of this bike I’m now building bikes for paying customers. Imagine that: building bikes and getting paid for it! I’m living the dream.”

Adams can now supply other Katana owners with some of the parts he had made: contact him via email if you’re interested.

Images by Paul Bryant.

Suzuki Katana
* Braced frame inc headstock and all weak areas, rear shock mounts moved, left hand side frame reworked to accommodate 6″ rear wheel.
* Magnesium Dymag wheels 6″ rear 3.5″ front
* Bandit 1200 Swinging arm
* Bandit 1200 rear caliper and disc
* GP Tech thumb brake
* Titanium rear brake torque arm
* Ohlins rear shocks with hydraulic preload adjusters
* All electrics relocated into custom fabricated tray under seat
* Recovered seat
* Custom fabricated rear sets with titanium shift linkage
* CBR954 Yokes (triple clamps)
* TL1000 Clip ons
* GSXR750 k4 forks and mudguard
* Yamaha R1 calipers
* TL1000 discs
* Brembo radial master cylinder
* SPA Tacho/speedo
* Titanium bolts throughout

* 1170 Wiseco piston kit
* Gasflowed head
* Dyna coils relocated to inside the fairing
* Dyna S ignition
* Electrex generator
* Electrex rec/reg
* EFE 1100 cams
* Adjustable cam sprockets
* H/Duty cam guides
* Manual cam chain adjuster
* Keihin 37mm CRs with stacks and Q/A throttle
* Custom fabricated titanium exhaust
* Custom fabricated catch tank
* Earls oil cooler with Yoshimura take off
* Earls hose throughout
* Titanium Bolts throughout

  • This bike is one of the better looking bikes that ever lived….modified. Stock, they were a little wierd. But lose that screwy front fender, add fat 17 inch wheels, a liitle kick up in the tail and this bike has been totally transformed. Plus the “see-through” section under the seat. I love it.

    I have a large collection of Japanese magazines where these mods have been performed to lots of Katanas and they look superb!!

  • Lovely sympathetic customisation. One thing that is bugging me how the lower fariings end abruptly… it’d benice to see those taken along a little and then a angle up to the line in the seat just before the shock mount.

  • johnny

    Beautiful, I want one. I’ve always loved the Katana,a design that still looks so contemporary after 30 odd years…amazing.

  • Emmet

    ohlins/gsxr suspension conversion is trick

  • One of the best bikes ever designed and built. Love the light touch that has made this one even cooler.

  • Carbon-arc

    Way cool

  • BM

    Ive always liked the Katana also, i think its a great design that hasnt really aged. This example is beautifully done.

  • favorite Katana ever!!!!!!

  • factsmachine

    “the legendary Katana??” – these bikes are the laughing stock of the sportbike world.

    be that as it may, I would ride the one above in a heartbeat. excellent build.

  • great work!!! love this bike!

  • Badseed

    I totally agree with what Tony M said: “Lovely sympathetic customisation. One thing that is bugging me how the lower (side) fairings end abruptly… it’d be nice to see those taken along a little and then a angle up to the line in the seat just before the shock mount (fabrication needed).”
    This way the timeless beautiful design seems incomplete.
    I believe that this was a motorcycle that I once followed in a site which I have lost, could you please post the original site in which it appeared.
    Thank you.

  • Brett

    I still have to hold up my hand to block out from the seat back.

  • I used to have one of these in the late 80’s. Awesome bike, looks a little like a transformer now, but still an awesome ride.

  • Joel

    Steve is currently working on my 1100 Kat for me and I have to say his attention to detail, ideas and positive work ethos put many so called ‘professional’ specials builders in the industry to shame.

    The pics of Steve’s Kat are great but you really have to see it in the flesh to truly appreciate the level of work that’s gone into it.

  • Mark

    I never saw the appeal of the Katana – that is, until I saw this one! Amazing job all around on this bike.

  • I had a poster of a Katana on my bedroom wall as a teenager, it was the most futuristic looking thing on the roads in those days, and I’ve had a soft spot for them ever since. I’d love to have a modernised one, including a Hyabusa motor as part of the package.

    Thanks for reviving the retro nostalgia!

    Cheers guys, and ride safe!


  • Hiruan

    Had a GSX750EX back in the 80″s and had always loved the Katana but could not get my hands on one! Till today, I think the design is way beyond it’s era and its still gives me the goose-bumps when I read about it. Can’t seem to see anymore of the Kats here in Singapore..