Kawasaki are making waves in the neo-retro scene with the well-reviewed Z900RS. But truth be told, we still really miss the simple, compact W-series.
Made right up until last year, the W800—and its predecessor, the W650—had a cheerful parallel twin motor with some of the best styling we’ve seen on a modern classic. And there are more than enough W-based customs on these pages to confirm how well they respond to modification.
This latest testament to the W’s charm comes out of Lyon, France. It’s a no-fuss 2002-model W650, and a collaboration between friends Nicolas and Sebastien, who run the custom workshop Egerie Motorcycle and apparel brand Age of Glory respectively.
They first met two years ago, at a flat track race, and quickly realized they had a lot to talk about.
“We shared a love of vintage machines, and a taste for simple and uncluttered aesthetics,” says Sebastien. “So the W650 project started naturally.”
“I had the motorcycle to work on, and a lot of ideas—but not all the required skills. I realized that Nicolas had those skills—and we shared a common love of good workmanship.”
Before long, the W650 was on Nicolas’ bench, along with a sketch and a mood board that Sebastien had put together.
Sebastien loves racing flat track, but this bike would be his daily runner, so it also had to be street legal. A final direction was quickly decided on: neo-classic street tracker, with vintage touches.
The guys were working to a budget too, which meant finding clever ways to execute ideas. Case in point: the front end. Sebastien wanted to upgrade the forks to a set of upside-downs, but needed a set that would require minimal fettling.
After doing the research, an Aprilia SXV 550 setup proved to be the best option. Nicolas adapted the Aprilia’s triples, forks and front brake, but eventually had to swap out the caliper for a unit that fit better. The forks were also refinished in gold to match the style of the bike (they were originally black).
A pair of chrome Hagon Nitro shocks was added out back. The rims are stock, but they were repainted, re-laced and wrapped in classic Firestone flat track rubber.
The W650’s 676 cc mill makes an adequate 50 hp out-the-box, so Sebastien decided to leave the engine internals alone. But Nicolas freed up a few extra ponies with a set of K&N filters and a Dynojet jet kit. Then he capped it off with a simple twin stainless steel exhaust system, equipped with homemade dB killers.
For the bodywork, Nicolas mounted a generic, Brit-style aftermarket fuel tank to custom brackets that he added to the frame. He then shortened the rear section, welded in a new hoop and did a little tweaking under the hood to accommodate the new seat.
The seat itself is delightfully old school: a two-piece affair, wrapped by a friend in the same camel-colored leather that Sebastien uses on his jackets. The pillion pad looks like it’s putting all its weight on the rear fender, but there is actually a hidden support structure.
There are custom fenders at both ends, with hand-made brackets to hold the front fender and an LED headlight. A set of teeny tiny Motogadget LED turn signals are mounted into the headlight supports, with a pair of LED units out back doubling up as taillights and turn signals.
Up top you’ll find a set of flat track bars, mounted up on custom-made risers, and capped off with leather grips to match the seat. The vintage-style controls are from Kustom Tech, and there’s a small Motogadget speedo mounted in a custom housing. Lower down are a set of serrated foot pegs.
Nicolas rewired the bike around a Motogadget m.unit controller, swapping the battery out for a lighter Lithium-ion number. Everything was stashed in the original electronics box under the seat—which helped keep the budget in check. (It had to be trimmed at the back to match the shortened tail section.)
To hide it away, Sebastien designed a pair of side covers, then had them laser cut from aluminum. Nicolas bent them to fit, added a mesh backing to the cutouts, and mounted them up. The ignition’s been moved to the side of the bike too.
Sebastien stuck to a classy color palette to finalize his W650. The tank and side panels were done in a metallic blue, adorned with gold Age of Glory logos. The frame, wheels, engine covers and a few select parts were then redone in a warm grey. And everything else was given a matte or satin finish, either through sandblasting or varnishing.
Sebastien’s W650 ticks all boxes: charming, simple, compact and fun. He’s already put it to work as an about-towner, but that might not last long: “I loved the experience of designing and imagining this bike.” he tells us.
“I loved the whole process, so I will probably sell the bike to work on a new one with Nicolas. But for now I’m enjoying it!”