One of the problems with building the perfect bike is, well … then what?

TWENTY-six-year old boilermaker James Alkins recently came to the conclusion that a hyper-powered sports bike just wasn’t the type of bike he wanted.

“I wanted something I could ride on my property down in Denmark; something that I could get a bit dirty, but something stylish and individual. Something out of the ordinary.”

James, from the Perth hills suburb of Lesmurdie, did not have a big budget to work with. But he did have some ideas, and he was pretty competent on the tools.  Apart from his own trade skills, he knew how to swing a spray gun and was no stranger to motorcycle mechanics.

“When I came across Perth’s cafe racer community, I realised this was the sort of support I needed; people who liked the idea of being creative, of thinking outside the box, of creating something just for yourself. People who weren’t all about horsepower and who’s got the biggest wallet.”

CAPTION: Cafe racer? Road bike? Dirt bike? Yes.

James’ starting point was a reliable, competent and powerful big-bore dirt bike, but not one that would readily spring to mind as a potential cafe racer: a ten-year-old Suzuki DR650.

CAPTION: The DR650 is a faithful big-bore dirt bike, but not the most obvious starting point for a custom cafe racer.

“I started by stripping off all the bits I didn’t want — the tank, plastics, seat and so on. It turned out the bike I’d bought had been optioned up, so it had quite a lot of extras that people were prepared to pay good money for. When I’d sold off all the unwanted parts, I had a lot more money than I expected. What a bonus!”

With some money in his pocket, the fun began. While James set about rebuilding the motor, the accumulation of parts began — a headlight and muffler that might have been nicked from an old Triumph. Then an alarm, immobiliser and dash set-up that were all very much 21st Century. The wiring was simplified and tucked away, leaving perhaps the two defining components of any custom build — the tank and the seat.

CAPTION: Wave a magic wand of focused creativity and, viola!

“Honestly, I’d say the tank took probably one-third of the total build time. Between researching and deciding what I wanted, finding one and getting it to Perth, making it fit properly, deciding on colour scheme and decals, then painting, it was a lot of hours.”

CAPTION: Tanks for the memories. James says the tank took as much as one-third of the time he spent building his custom dual-sport cafe racer.

That tank — from a mid-70s Yamaha XS500 — was sourced on ebay, from a couple in Adelaide. The colour was chosen to match James’ other toy — a rather tough looking Land Rover Defender. Keep in mind that, at this stage of the build, James had no intention of selling his creation. He was building it for himself.

“I had a couple of attempts at the seat,” James says.

“At first I made it straight flat, but the back of the bike looked like it just tailed off. It looked weak. When I went for the more traditional cafe racer hump, I thought ‘yes, that’s right’.”

When he finally got to stand back and admire his creation, he was very pleased. The bike attracted lots of attention from Perth’s cafe racer crowd, and even found its way onto prestigious custom bike website, Pipeburn.

All the attention gave rise to a perfectly reasonable thought — James couldn’t help but wonder how much his ‘dual sport cafe racer’ might be worth.

“I decided to put it out there, mostly just to satisfy my curiosity.”

When James was approached by The Bike Shed Times editor Peter Terlick to advertise his bike on ‘Bikes For Sale‘, he was hesitant.

“I’d started to swing back the other way. It was exactly what I wanted it to be. Perfect. Why would I sell it?

“But then I thought, well, if I do sell it, I can start building something else!”

CAPTION: Some people think a cafe racer is something you can buy. We reckon it’s something you build. This one’s built.

The custom bike bug had bitten, and James was gone — hook, line and sinker. And, predictably, a seller was soon found and the bike is headed east.

James has already moved on to his next project; a 1978 Honda CB650 Four, located by his wife Liza who seems to have caught the bug too.

“I’m thinking something in a scrambler style,” James says. “A tarmac scrambler. The Suzuki was my first custom build, but it’s not going to be my last.”


Looking for a new (or old) bike? Check out our ‘Bikes For Sale’ page here.


The Postman