RBC Z650 Heritage
By Ross Sharp - 28 Jan 15
Anyone who's heard of Seth Godin will have undoubtedly read or listened to his book, Tribes. Perhaps slightly tangential an intro to a Brat Kawasaki from Croatia but if you're reading this rather than simply clicking through the images on Facebook then there's a chance you'll appreciate what Zeljko and Retro Bikes Croatia is striving to achieve. It's not about jumping on a bandwagon and cashing in on a fad but that allure of working with your hands, creating something and perhaps most important of all, belonging to that tribe. The powder coater, the gasket supplier, the machinist, the painter, the upholsterer and all those whose skills are required to bring ideas to life. Explanation and justification are not welcome in their workshop, but expectation is. Expectation to restore, refurbish or build to the best of your own abilities something that is completely unnecessary but totally desirable, and therefore completely necessary; to other tribe members. Zeljko sacked in the day job and put his all into Retro Bikes Croatia, and why the heck not, their CB250 sold in a flash so hopefully he'll be able to pay the bills if this Z650 tempts a new owner. After some friendly interrogation regarding the cubic capacity of their first build Zeljko plumped for a bit more beef on this one, and searched out a road worthy, one owner 1977 Kawasaki z650b1 with a mere 50,000 kms under its belt. This is the early model, wire wheels, brake callipers ahead of the forks etc. Older is purer, right? This example was completely original, factory date stamps on parts that should have perished or been upgraded years ago. Makes a big difference working on a donor that isn't completely caked in rust. The donor was so good that there was a moment where its fate could have been a day out at the Zagreb Autosol Convention, thankfully a pair of semi-knobbly tyres were ordered and a scrambler-brat style was settled on. Yup, you guessed it, the frame was stripped bare and looped at the rear. Why manufacturers didn't do this in period seems churlish, such as the ease at which the tidying can be done today. Whilst the grinder was still spinning the ignition barrel was lopped off and errant factory weld splatter smoothed over. A new seat base was fashioned, with a decent wedge of foam under the diamond stitched, leather cover. Under the fine upholstery lives the new battery box and associated electrickery, leaving the rear triangle almost clear of visual obstruction. Up front a laser engraved dash panel provides colour coordinated good news, and bad news. Good news, you're not going to look like a prat for leaving the Z in gear when starting, the bad news light should give a heads-up to a lazy oil pump. In profile the proportions look good, with well chosen Heidenau rubber assisting the stance. Original but refreshed Konis keep the rear end taught and rebuilt forks do their best to resist dive with the non-standard extra disc and caliper in play. A decision was made to keep the funky looking trapezoidal front brake master cylinder and resevoir, nice. Despite the seemingly great condition of the donor, a cursory inspection inside the motor is never a bad idea. The 50k kms had indeed been a running-in period with everything still in serviceable order. Whilst apart the valves were re-lapped, stem seals changed, top-end gaskets replaced and the valve clearances adjusted. New clutch plates will ensure slick shifting for the new owner too. The carbs were cleaned and re-jetted to cope with the pod filters and less restrictive exhaust. The bronze-over-black paint on the tank sits well with the dark brown seat and gives a sophisticated yet authentic finishing touch. Not too ratty-brat and certainly not glittery pizzaz. Inside a similar level of care was taken to remove any flaky rust and seal any oxidised metal. The leather saddle is clearly box-fresh but will age well and blend into its thirty eight year old surroundings. Thankfully Zeljko has left enough patina here and there to make sure this bike ages well. Zeljko has his latest endeavour for sale in a shop in Zagreb, and hopes that he has put something together that someone would one day like to inherit, like a decent watch or painting. Hopefully he is onto something and can help spread the custom vibe across Croatia, an importantly do what he loves whilst paying the bills. That's the dream right? To keep an eye on Zeljko's progress and to see build photos of this bike head over to his Facebook page.