RBC ASome motorcycles define a generation, or at least a movement – the Trition of the Ton-up Boys, Steve McQueen’s Triumph, and Top Gun’s Ninja are perfect examples. Kawasaki's Zephyr is not one of them, but it was the first of a new breed of motorcycles (the retro naked) and for that it deserves a special place in the history books. Zeljko from Retro Bikes Croatia agreed, recognising the old Kawasaki for what it is – a back to basics bike that captured the pure joy of riding that had been lost amidst the storm of expensive plastic and faux-racing decals that ruled the 80s. He also thought that he could make it even better by playing up the bike’s classic, nostalgic elements, and when a clean, mechanically sound 1996 ZR550B surfaced with known owners and a service history he finally got his chance to prove it. RBC BThe Zephyr’s profile sat somewhere in between a chopper and street fighter, so the first job was to decide which direction to take it in. The swept back pegs meant that clip-ons were infinitely more workable than ape hangers, so the choice an obvious one, and Zeljko set about giving his Zephyr a new, sportier look. A 70s Ducati style half-fairing and the sleeker tail from an older Kawasaki Z were sourced to define the bike’s new silhouette and give it a completely unique, period feel. This required re-shaping the rear of the frame and creating a bespoke, one off leather seat, but all of the effort was repaid many times over by the final result – it just looks right. Rbc CWith the major aesthetic work done it was time to get down to the details. The engine was in a good state with only 55k km under its belt, but the top end received a new set of gaskets, a cylinder head overhaul to put rest to a minor oil leak, common to these engines. After a carb clean and balance the engine was ready for reinstallation and another two decades of service. Achieving the desired retro look was complicated somewhat by the need to keep the stock airbox to hide the Zephyr’s decidedly modern frame, but the guys pulled it off perfectly, and the thicker, denser look serves to make the finished bike look more powerful. RBC dThe Zephyr’s brakes had more than enough stopping power, so they received a good clean, new oil, and sexy steel braided hoses front and rear, but where otherwise left alone. The suspension in contrast was soft and springy, so the stock rear shocks were discarded and the front end overhauled completely; new oil, seals and progressive fork springs were all added to ensure the Zephyr’s handling could live up to newly heightened expectations. RBC EOne of the advantages of working with a newer bike was that the electronics were in a great state, and only minor adjustments were needed to get the sleek mini-indicators and LED tail light working properly. The cockpit was kept nice and tidy, with no trailing wires, and the dual dials capture the 70s feel perfectly. Finding a way to mount the front fairing was by far the largest job, but Zeljko managed to find a solution that worked mechanically and aesthetically, and the dash was finished off with a signature Retro Bikes Croatia steel plate. RBC FFinally it was time for the finishing touches, with the frame, wheels, fork legs and swing arms getting a black powder coat. The rest was painted in a deep satin gloss black, which goes perfectly with the brown leather seat and the tan racing stripe along the bottom of the tank – the three colours chosen to mirror the look of a retro racing jacket. RBC GNew rubber was chosen for better grip, and the exhaust replaced by a shorter pipe wrapped 4-into-1 for a sportier growl. Lastly the bike was registered, christened “Innuendo” and given a good polish for its opening night photo shoot with locals OneDayStudio. Innuendo is now road legal and looking for a new owner to show off with. See more from the RBC crew on the Bike Shed Archive | Web | Facebook
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