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Dutch Treat: A scrambled W650 with a hint of XT500

Custom Kawasaki W650 scrambler by Martin Schuurmans
Scramblers are hot property right now, but we love the traditional style just as much as the modern. And the look doesn’t get much more classic than this remixed Kawasaki W650 from Dutchman Martin Schuurmans.

Martin is a product designer who hails from the city of Eindhoven, but he grew up in a little village in the north of the country. Petrol has coursed through his veins since a young age: “Our house was on the route to the TT circuit in Assen, so my brother and I watched hundreds of bikes passing by each year,” he says.

Custom Kawasaki W650 scrambler by Martin Schuurmans
This classy Kawasaki is an intriguing blend of W650 parts and Yamaha XT500 design cues. It’s one of those mash-ups that shouldn’t really work—but a smart designer can pull it off.

Martin is smart, but also a relative latecomer: he parked his interested in motorcycles for ten years, using his spare time to set up and run an incubator and shared space for young Dutch designers.

Custom Kawasaki W650 scrambler by Martin Schuurmans
Fortunately, his brother Lennard has always worked on motorcycles and inadvertently rekindled Martin’s interest. “Lennard’s passion for motorcycles exceeds mine by far,” says Martin. “He was drawing motorcycles when he was five years old, and he still is!” Together, they built a Dirt Quake flat track racer. Martin got back into the game, and commissions followed.

This desert sled was briefed in by W650 owner Vincent. “He wanted the looks of a vintage desert sled and he wanted to merge his 2001 Kawasaki W650 with his 1980 Yamaha XT500,” says Martin.

Custom Kawasaki W650 scrambler by Martin Schuurmans
“He loved the aesthetics of his XT500, and the reliability and looks of the W650 engine.” So Martin and Lennard bounced ideas around, drew up some sketches, and presented a design to Vincent. “Thanks to Lennard I know what makes a true desert sled, and where to draw the line. We went back and forth with the design until we were all satisfied with the result. And then I was the one who was building the damn thing…”

He’s done a great job. The XT500 petrol tank slotted on with revised mounting points on the frame, but the position of the petcock became a problem—it was touching the cylinder heads. So Martin came up with the idea of a floating petcock: “My old workplace instructor André Wiersma made a really nice piece out of brass to solve the problem.”

Custom Kawasaki W650 scrambler by Martin Schuurmans
The rear fender from the XT500 is in play too. After rust repairs and a spot of welding, it fitted after Martin chopped the W650 rear frame to make room. “I decided to keep some of the dents in the fender to preserve the original character.”

The XT500 tail light mount was slimmed down and reshaped. “We wanted to keep the basic shape, but slim it down a little. I also cut off the license plate holder and fabricated a new one, which is mounted under the fender so it ‘s not interrupting the lines of the fender itself.” A much smaller, Lucas-style rear light also replaced the original giant rear light of the XT500.

Custom Kawasaki W650 scrambler by Martin Schuurmans
The plush new Bates-style seat looks the part, and will also help to cushion hard landings. Martin has even repositioned the quick release system, so the seat is still removable with the turn of a key.

Lennard did most of the shaping work, and Martin made the seat pan. “I upgraded my MIG welder so I could weld my first aluminum creation, and the fine upholstery job is done by Klaassen Originals from Eindhoven.”

Custom Kawasaki W650 scrambler by Martin Schuurmans
“Nowadays it’s a trend to make thin, sleek seats, but in the late 60s they wanted comfort over looks,” says Martin. “And for desert racing they raised the seats so it was easier to stand up while jumping over rocks and dunes. That’s also why they had higher and wider handlebars—it allows for more control in the loose sand.”

To keep the desert sled vibe going, Martin changed the stock W650 bars to a wider and higher flat track version, supplied by Rusty Gold in Amsterdam. (“Thanks Zoran for your great suggestion to go for the chrome one, instead of the black one I originally intended!”)

Custom Kawasaki W650 scrambler by Martin Schuurmans
The stock rear suspension was replaced by new fully YSS adjustable shocks, to give the bike a racy look with a bit of a modern feel.

The W650 engine was strong, so Martin gave it a thorough service and left the internals alone. “It’s probably one of the best looking old school engines of the last three decades,” he says. “Together with the tubular steel frame, it provided the perfect old school bone structure for the late sixties desert sled feel we were aiming for.”

Custom Kawasaki W650 scrambler by Martin Schuurmans
The exhaust pipes are made out of 304-grade stainless steel. “A bending machine gives me the ability to do everything myself by hand,” says Martin. “It’s not possible to bend beyond a certain radius, so I have to make the sharp corners with the ‘lobster’ technique.” After a few detours, Martin managed to come up with something elegant and practical at the same time.

Martin’s client Vincent gave the almost finished W650 a test run at the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in Amsterdam. Back at the workshop, Martin added the final touches—including a front fender and skid plate, which adds a slightly more modern look.

Custom Kawasaki W650 scrambler by Martin Schuurmans
There’s plenty of patina on this machine already, but Vincent has already added more. And we’re slightly jealous of him. If only there was a way around modern emissions regulations to recreate a simple, classic scrambler that could be sold in showrooms around the world, at a decent price.

Martin Schuurmans Design | Instagram | Studio images by Ronald Smits, outdoor images by Lennard Schuurmans

Custom Kawasaki W650 scrambler by Martin Schuurmans

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