Is that a Norton? What year Triumph is that? That’n old BSA? Just a few of the many first-glance questions I field on this 2000 Kawasaki W650. When it was in stock form, the British looks were already in place, but a few key mods helped create a more racy cafe persona to this Wilkinson Bros daily rider.

Kawasaki will tell you the roots go back to its own 1967 W1, which does bear similarities, but the late-sixties Bonneville vibe is clearly evident. Only a couple years of this model usually surface in the States, the 2000 and 2001. My brother, Casey, and I were on the lookout for one, knowing it’d be a great base for a cafe racer. Luck on our side, we found a stock W650 just a mile down the road with dialed-in jetting and a modified airbox. This W ran smooth as silk.

To start the cafe conversion, I bought 29-dollar ace bars and 15-dollar Gran Turismo-style grips. Easy enough. An online search for hand-built aluminum gas tanks turned up several vendors – mostly overseas. The craftsmanship was beautiful, but I couldn’t bite on the cost and shipping fees. After scrolling through eBay auctions, I ran across what looked like the same Gold Star tank offered by French accessories provider, VD Classic. This one, however, was in North Carolina sitting on the hood of an old pick-up. It had a crude patch in the tunnel, but looked pretty good in its so-so eBay pics. I was highest bidder at $600; fingers remained crossed until it showed up in the mail. The exterior was perfect and the patch would later be fixed by our buddy Cliff at Meyerbuilt Metalworks. He also relocated the mounting brackets and ears to help it fit nicely to the Kawi’s frame.

The tail piece was next on the list. A mass-produced fiberglass option was considered, but the desire to have something more unique prevailed. I called on Cliff Meyer of Meyerbuilt Metalworks to hand-form a tail section that would envelop the W’s ascending subframe and flow right into the alloy tank. It utilizes existing mounting tabs, has a built-in LED taillight bracket, and sits solid as a rock on the bike. The Meyerbuilt touch on this tail is the perfect complement to the polished tank, both of which get their fair share of fingernail tapping and admiration at bike gatherings.

We built and primered a steel seat pan to fit down over the aluminum tail section for an upholsterer to work with. Using photo references and our pencil drawing, Indianapolis-based Kent Auto Upholstery created a top notch custom seat.

After handlebars, tank, tail and seat, the remaining cafe elements needed were rearsets. Creating custom pegs and linkage was tempting, a task that Casey had just completed for his airhead BMW cafe racer. But, on a quest for a simple solution, I opted for the W650-specific Raask rearsets. In one quick garage session, they were on and ready to go.

Many elements remain stock, like the chrome pea shooter exhaust, spoked wheels, headlight, front fender, black hubs, fork gaiters, side pods, and faux Smiths gauges. This wasn’t a major overhaul, just enough to evoke the spirit of a cafe with a bulletproof engine.

Wilkinson Bros is a graphic design studio, but our daily distraction is motorcycles (which led to our creation of Good Spark Garage). If we had more shop equipment and time, perhaps it’d evolve into a full-blown custom bike shop. Who knows. In the meantime, we use the tools we have, take our projects as far as our skill-sets allow, and call on friends/craftsmen when limitations arise. It’s a way we can achieve exactly what our minds and pencils conceptualize rather than stopping short of a goal. We then ride the heck outta the bikes.

© Photos by Wilkinson Brothers, Inc.

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26 Responses to Wilkinson Bros W650 Cafe Racer

  1. Sean Guthrie says:

    She is a beauty. Seen it in person many times. Need to share some road with it sometime on my TT.

  2. william ganis says:

    I have a w1 650 twin motor and tranny. A original one from the 60′s. Make me an offer. I will send u pics. Very rare hard to find motor. I live in portland oregon

  3. Drew W. says:

    Those bars and grips look perfect. Where about did you order them?

  4. Luke says:

    I live right down the street from your shop. I made a left to avoid the red light at Main and Rangeline and ended up making a turn around your parking lot to check this bike out. When I saw a Duc parked out front the next day, I knew we are of the same mind. I’m the guy on the root beer Harley bobber.

    • corey says:

      Hey, Luke. Sounds like you’re moto-minded, too. If you see our bikes out, feel free to stop by and say hello. If our bikes are there and we’re not inside, we’re probably just out for a sec. Take care. -Corey at GSG

  5. Todd says:

    I have a stock 2000 and love to cruise the city here in Indy on the N/E side.
    That bike reminds me so much of my 74 Motto Guzzi V7 Sport I had in the 80′s…very nice work!

    • corey says:

      Hey, Todd. I may have seen you running around town. I love the W650s in stock form as well; getting harder and harder to find. The seating position and ergonomics just make sense. Thanks for tuning into Good Spark! –corey at GSG

  6. Kostas Kranidiotis says:

    Hello,
    I am from Greece and i have a W650 of 2006.
    As you know this model’s bar is 1″ with 7/8 ends.
    So, how did you overcome this issue?

    BR,
    Kostas

    • corey says:

      Hi, Kostas. I used 7/8 clubman bars (or “ace” bars), which means the stock throttle, starter assembly and turn signal assembly all fit with no problem. For the risers, front brake control, and clutch control I had to insert bar reducers (or bar “spacers”). You will need two sets, or 8 halves total. If you search eBay for “bar reducers” or “handlebar spacers”, you’ll find examples of these that will make 7/8 bars fit into 1-inch openings. Hope this helps! -Corey at GSG

  7. Kostas says:

    Hello,
    What kind of tyres you use?

    BR

  8. Pete says:

    Wow, that bike is somethin’ else! I’m torn between a W650 and a Bonnie at the moment. I just can’t make my mind up. My heart says thew Kawa but my head says the Bonnie, having owned a Bonneville America which had to go to pay off the ex!
    If I could build one like you caff, there would be no question. Love it!

    • corey says:

      Thanks, Pete. Either Bonnnie or W650 would be a fun, good-lookin’ ride. For this one, I was drawn to the uniqueness of the W in the States, then wanted to tear into it to make even more unique. :) If I lived in a location where the W800 was an option, that’d tempt me as well. Good luck with the decision; either way, you’ll be a happy motorcyclist.

  9. Craig P says:

    I’d have been really tempted to work some tiny lime green accent in there somewhere to acknowledge the Kawasakiness of it. Maybe switches or instrument faces.

  10. bart says:

    That is a gorgeous motorcycle. Fantastic job. If only mocos would go back to making bikes that looked like this (ie: like motorcycles) instead of their ubuiquitous garishly painted Moto GP, transformer/insect style bikes.

  11. Kevin says:

    Wondering if you sell the Rearset pegs similar tone ones in the pics? Also interested in tank, side covers and seat/cowl. Thanks for your time.
    Kevin

    • corey says:

      Kevin, we don’t sell bike parts, but if you google Raask Rearsets you’ll find sources who sell ‘em. The side covers are stock. As for the tank and tail, you’ll find origin details in the article above. –corey at GSG

  12. Hello! I have a 2001 W650 and love it… but recently been starting to think about going full CR with it :)
    I just been having an issue with the rearsets… Did the raask ones you implemented invalidate the use of the kickstarter? they seem that they are a tough fit.. but they work…

    • corey says:

      Hi, Joao. I also have a 2001 W650 stock bike in addition to this cafe racer. Great bikes! Yes, the Raask rearsets make it impossible to get a full kick on the kickstarter. They did disclose this info when I bought them, I just knew I’d mainly be using the electric start anyway. There’s a chance one could modify the peg or its mount to create a moveable/foldable system to let the kick arm go past, but I haven’t looked further into the possibility. –corey at GSG

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