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Beach Cruiser: An Upcycled Suzuki GS650 from California

Beach Cruiser: A Suzuki GS650 customized by Upcycle Motor Garage of California
It’s not unusual for car guys to transition to motorcycle customization: after all, the skills required are similar. Johnny Nguyen proves that theory—he’s worked on cars most of his life, but lately he’s been building some pretty slick bikes.

Johnny operates Upcycle Motor Garage as a one-man-band out of his workshop in Anaheim, California. This stripped-down 1981 Suzuki GS650 GL is his latest work, and it’s a total product of its environment.

Beach Cruiser: A Suzuki GS650 customized by Upcycle Motor Garage of California
Built as a personal project rather than on commission, Johnny’s concept was pretty straightforward. “I wanted a fun and aggressive bike to ride up and down the SoCal coastline,” he explains. So it’s no surprise that the Suzuki now has a strong two-wheeled hot rod vibe going on.

As donors go, the GS650 GL is as quirky as they come. Like many manufacturers at the time, Suzuki took a mid-sized UJM (the GS650), and chopper-fied it. So you get a four-cylinder DOHC motor with a shaft drive…but you also get swept-back bars, a teardrop tank, a king-and-queen seat and a smaller rear wheel.

Beach Cruiser: A Suzuki GS650 customized by Upcycle Motor Garage of California
Johnny scored big at the start of this project, though—he managed to pick up a donor with a mere 1,100 miles on it. But that laid-back stance had to go, so he still had his work cut out for him.

He started by dropping the forks 3”. Then he took the time to fiddle with the preload, air gap and oil weight, so that the bike would still handle and feel comfortable.

Beach Cruiser: A Suzuki GS650 customized by Upcycle Motor Garage of California
There are even bigger changes lurking at the back. Johnny wanted a seat that looked like it was floating, but the arrangement had to be structurally sound. So he designed two subframe rails that would support the seat, and provide a mounting point for the new monoshock setup.

The rear shock, and its linkage system, are from a 2003-model Yamaha R6. Johnny modified the swingarm to accept it, and added some latticed bracing for extra strength.

Beach Cruiser: A Suzuki GS650 customized by Upcycle Motor Garage of California
Finishing off the rear end is a super-slim perch finished in leather, and a pair of brake lights sunk into the ends of the frame rails. The rear hugger is actually the Suzuki’s original chrome front fender, cut down and held up by an asymmetrical bracing arm.

Up top, you’ll find the GS650GL’s OEM fuel tank, lifted a touch at the rear to balance it out. Everything below the line is extremely tidy, too.

Beach Cruiser: A Suzuki GS650 customized by Upcycle Motor Garage of California
Johnny rewired the bike around a Motogadget m.unit Blue controller and an Antigravity lithium-ion battery, all tucked away under the tank.

The motor itself was treated to a deep clean, and now looks good enough to eat off. The airbox is gone, replaced by a row of velocity stacks. And the exhaust is a custom four-into-one system, featuring pie-cut headers and a stubby aftermarket muffler.

Beach Cruiser: A Suzuki GS650 customized by Upcycle Motor Garage of California
Johnny kept the cockpit pretty minimal too. He fitted new clip-ons, then trimmed down the top yoke to shed its bar mounts. Add-ons include Biltwell Inc. grips, CNC Racing levers and a set of bar-end turn signals.

The headlight’s been mounted upside down, tucking it in tighter, and there’s an off-the-shelf speedo mounted to the left of the tank. Keen eyes will also spot a reservoir on the clutch side too; Johnny went to the effort of installing a hydraulic clutch.

Beach Cruiser: A Suzuki GS650 customized by Upcycle Motor Garage of California
For paint, he opted for a pinstriped ‘surf blue,’ leaving a little chrome in the rear fender, and finishing the original star-shaped wheels in white.

As a slick and simple ride for chasing sunsets and hunting tacos, Upcycle’s Suzuki GS650GL is as good as it gets.

Upcycle Motor Garage Facebook | Instagram | Images by Ryan D. Cheng

Beach Cruiser: A Suzuki GS650 customized by Upcycle Motor Garage of California

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