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Old 11-05-2012, 09:13 PM   #1
Sink_or_swim OP
Joined: Nov 2012
Location: Rain City, Washington
Oddometer: 1
81' Suzuki GS450L....CAFE build HelP!!!

Hey guys so I am new to this forum and also a new owner of a 1981Suzuki GS450L! This is my first bike project I have taken on and I am super stoked on it!! I have a million questions but first one of them all is any advice coming into this on things I should avoid and things that you guys out there with more experience recommend I make sure to do/look into?
Thanks and look forward to hearing from you.

Suzuki GS450L
8,600 miles on it

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Old 11-06-2012, 08:40 AM   #2
Dave E.
Joined: Feb 2006
Location: Middletown, PA
Oddometer: 637
You will find that the "L" model Suzukis (as well as all other "cruiser" Japanese bikes) are not easily adapted to a cafe look due to the frame angle, tank shape and rear wheel size. Several here have tried or are working on it but many have welded changes to their frames and adapted other more "cafeish" tanks. Lots of work that requires a fair amount of talent/experience. You might want to think of a different look that would work more easily with what you are starting with. I'd suggest looking at photos of the '60s H-D Electra Glide, some of the WWII H-D WLAs, or the Kawasaki KZ1000Ps (police bike) for alternative directions.
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Old 11-06-2012, 04:02 PM   #3
Studly Adventurer
Joined: May 2009
Location: Uniontown, MO
Oddometer: 683
Welcome to ADVrider! I too have a couple 1981 GS450's, one is a "T" and the other an "E". Both are project bikes at this point, so I have no "do this, don't do this" advice. I'll suggest you check out as a source for help and inspiration while considering your GS's direction, especially for cafe builds using the same bike. I won't offer any opinion on whether the GS450L is a good basis for a cafe build or not....that's up to you. I would suggest you just sit and look at the bike a bit and picture what you want it to look like and all the while imagine how much work and expense it will take to get it to match your mental image. Also, do some searching here on ADVrider for cafe racer builds of various bikes for ideas.

Again, welcome, and good luck with your bike. Be sure to take pictures and share them with the rest of us!

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Old 11-06-2012, 04:30 PM   #4
Gimpy, Yet Alacritous
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Joined: Jan 2008
Location: Indianapolis
Oddometer: 2,256
Yes, get over to pronto and toot sweet.

Before you cut ANYTHING or make any irreversible modifications, get it running right and working correctly. Ride it around a bit, get to know the bike in its "natural" state.

Put on some new tires, chain, and sprockets. Clean up the carbs and get them dialed in tits-on. Check over the electrics. Rebuild the brakes and forks. Bolt on some decent shocks to replace the factory shite. Throw some drag or clubman handlebars on there, see how you like the "head doon an' oss oop" lifestyle. Try some Daytona or drag bars for variety -- handlebars are cheap.

Once the bike is working, THEN you'll be able to decide what to do.

The biggest and most common mistake is getting this bass-ackwards -- waaaaaaaaaaay too many people start hacking up a neat old bike to make what they think looks like a "cafe racer", a "bobber", or "choppa" without the slightest understanding of basic engineering or how the thing was intended to work. You end up with an unridable, unsafe, unsellable pile of rusty shit in the back of your Mom's garage. And we will laugh at you. Mercilessly.

Remember, the goal of building a "cafe racer" is modifying for performance around the limitations of a period motorcycle. It's not about a certain look. The look is strictly a byproduct, and the more mechanically "honest" the bike is, the better it will be in terms of riding enjoyment.

"Real" cafe racers from "back in the day" (whenever that was) were the products of slow, relentless, bit-by-bit modification and real-world testing by people without a lot of cash to spare. Basically, Benny the Bike Nut would ride to work down at the factory every day on his ratty used Honda, thrash the snot out of it every evening, fix it by the roadside when it broke so he could get to work the next morning, and every Friday he'd put aside a few precious quid for the next incremental upgrade -- perhaps a Grimeca brake caliper, or maybe next year a set of those cool Italian rearsets. In between he had to buy tires and oil way too often, so he wrapped the tattered grips with cotton tape, and flipped an old pair of handlebars upside-down to get closer to the tank because no one can afford clip-ons. His girlfriend wouldn't ride with him any more because he goes too fast, so he improvised a "bum-stop" seat and had a buddy in an upholstery shop make a simple cover...

An old GS fo fiddy should be a fun project, just because it'll be different (how many damn Yamaha XS650 projects does the world need, really?). It's a sweet, bulletproof little engine. Of course, no one makes cafe parts specifically for this model, but all the goodies you need to make it run, handle, and stop are easy to find. From there, you can unbolt stuff, modify, and fabricate to get where you want to go.

A few cool suppliers of bits and inspiration:
1983 Suzuki GS850G, Cosmic Blue
2002 Suzuki Vstrom DL1000, Midnight Blue
2005 Kawasaki KLR685 - Turd II.2, The ReReTurdening
"Do not crinkle your food wrappers loudly. Be considerate to others, or I will bite your torso and give you a disease."

bwringer screwed with this post 11-06-2012 at 04:51 PM
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Old 11-07-2012, 07:27 PM   #5
Studly Adventurer
Joined: May 2009
Location: Uniontown, MO
Oddometer: 683
Sink_or_swim ..... for your cafe racer building inspiration take a look at this thread. As of now, there are 379 pages for your cafe buildin' consideration.

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Old 11-13-2012, 08:56 AM   #6
Fast Idle
Since the Sixties
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Joined: Nov 2012
Location: The Great Land
Oddometer: 331
Seems to be a popular project bike. I just picked up an 82 GS450T and I'm painting it in my garage right now. It's not gonna be a cafe style or bobber. It's gonna be more of a wanna be dual sport cruiser. I want it to be fun but somewhat practical and at least be able to carry something. I think these bikes look good styled similar to a late sixties Triumph. I'll post some pics later. I'll be painting the top coat today.

Riding as much as my old frame will allow!
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Old 11-13-2012, 12:02 PM   #7
Gnarly Adventurer
Joined: Jan 2011
Location: California, sometimes the coast, sometimes Tahoe
Oddometer: 496
I'll emphasize and expand a bit on two things that lake_harley and bwringer said:

- Sit and look at the bike, and figure out what it can realistically be. Remember that it would be tough and expensive to change something like the rake of the forks. Each bike has a personality waiting to be have to listen and look at the bike and figure out what that personality is. Turning a cruiser into a cafe racer is a tough thing to do, and it might end up being like getting John McCain into cold probably force it, but nobody's going to be happy with the result.

- Once you've figured out what the bike should become, then get the bike in running order in stock shape. Doing so will let you determine what you truly need to do as part of your build. You may run into the idea of "while I'm in there I might as well do (insert project here)." Valid, but just make sure that it will help the reliability, rideability, and character of the bike, AND that it's something your budget can afford.

- I'm personally leery of irreversible mods. Before you grab the cutting wheel or cutting torch, make absolutely certain that you need/want to do the mod you're about to make, and that you're willing to see it through. If you're not 100% sure, then stop. Go back to looking at the bike again.

Have fun with it!

'13 Yamaha Super Tenere - my dream bike
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