We were asked to turn a KZ900 with and extended swingarm, lots of chrome and drag pipes into a cafe racer. This is how the conversation went:

Me - "So, you want to cafe your KZ900? OK, let's have a look at your bike. Wow... so much chrome... and how long is that swingarm?"
Customer - "Yes... it's in great cosmetic shape, but runs like crap. So, I was thinking I'd like to make it run well and have more of a cafe style"
Me - "OK... so, it would be helpful if you could send us some pictures of what kind of style you are looking for, as KZ's don't make the best vintage style cafe's due to their fat old tanks and slightly weird geometry. Plus they handle like they have a hinge in the frame"
Customer - "OK, here's some pictures"
Me - "Erm... they are all pictures of CB750's. Why not buy a CB750 it will be a lot easier"
Customer - "But I like my KZ... OK, I'll send more pictures"
Me - "Well, at least they are KZ's now... but more street-fighters than cafes. I stand by my earlier remark about buying a CB750, but we will do what we can... and on a small budget too. Yay!. At least it's a clean bike to start with... although it seems to only run on 3 cylinders"

So, after deciding that the only way for this to look good and handle well is to pretty much go with what I grew up with in the 80's and follow more of a street-fighter look with a cafe feel. The end result was surprisingly good... it felt very light (about 100 lbs lighter to be exact), very small and very stiff. Handling was hugely improved and it ran nicely on all four cylinders.


  • GS1100 aluminum swingarm to allow for 160 rear tire and better handling
  • Gas shocks and rebuilt forks (heavy fork oil and springs)
  • Mikuni VM29SS smoothbores with Dragon velocity stacks
  • Taper steering bearings and needle swingarm bearings
  • Steering damper and Tarozzi fork brace (from and XL600 as they don't make one for the fatter KZ forks)
  • Fabricated battery box with lithium battery, simplified wiring and key-turn electric start
  • V&H pipe and fold-up rear-sets.
  • Hand made steel cafe seat with leather upholstery (Courtesy of Matt from Working Mans Customs)