The Kawasaki F5 Bighorn was a 350cc, two-stroke, 33-horsepower enduro built from 1970-75. Klemm Vintage, a shop customizing in 2-stroke race engines, says of these bikes:
“The 350 Bighorn is easily one of the most under-rated and overlooked high-performance vintage machines around. The rotary-valve engine design gave the Bighorn a huge horsepower advantage over other two-strokes of the day, and Bighorns often ran just as fast as 4stroke machines twice their displacement. “
Enter Jeff Tarver of 52 Cycles, whose father bought the Bighorn 350 you see here new in 1972, only to leave the bike in the backyard after a few years. Fast forward more than three decades, and Jeff decided to raise the bike from the dead…quite literally, he dug up the bike from the yard and set about customizing every inch.
In the end, the bike was the dedicated to his father’s riding buddy who passed away, and a gift few fathers are lucky enough to receive. Below, we get the full story on this thrilling two-stroke street tracker.
Kawasaki 350 Bighorn Tracker: In the Builder’s Words
My name is Jeff Tarver and I’ve been building bikes for a little over 10 years now. My passion for motorcycles started when I was a kid and my uncle let me sit on his Kawasaki Ninja. Once I revved that engine, I was hooked. When I was old enough, I bought a 1999 Honda CBR 600 and from there, I owned every type of bike you can think of from sport bikes to enduros, supermotos and Harleys.
Each and every bike I’ve owned has my personal touch on it in some way or another. If it isn’t a new set of handlebars or shocks, it’s a custom seat or fender eliminator. Over the years my customizing turned into something more than just a hobby and I started working on friends’ and neighbors’ bikes, pretty much anyone in need of an upgrade. I work out of my garage which has been completely transformed into a small motorcycle shop. The name of my shop is 52 Cycles, after the year both of my parents were born. If it weren’t for my parents, I wouldn’t be where I am today and this is just a small tribute to how much I appreciate them.
The bike featured today is my dad’s 1972 Kawasaki Bighorn 350 2-Stroke which he bought brand new, rode for a couple years, then left in our backyard. After taking over my childhood home, a gift from my parents for becoming sober, I decided to literally raise the bike from the dead, dug it up from the backyard, stripped it apart and customized every inch.
Becoming sober was one of the hardest moments of my life. I had to readjust my entire lifestyle, spent many nights walking until my legs could no longer support me and days occupying myself with magazines. While scrolling through Backstreet Chopper, I saw a garage build bike with some pretty rad wheels and handlebars and thought it would be the perfect blueprint for my dad’s bike. I wasn’t going to copy it completely but definitely liked it enough to base my build around it.
I wanted to convert this bike from a dirt bike into a street legal street tracker so there was a lot of customization that had to take place. Let’s start with the easy stuff I upgraded:
● Protaper handlebars
● Racetech GS3 rear shocks
● Street tracker tail section with hooped frame
● Duane Ballard seat
● Vintage Bassani exhaust
● Number plate and headlight with custom made brackets
● 19” Excel front and rear wheels with Buchanan spokes
● Powder-coated frame and parts
The front and rear brakes were converted from drum to disc using Racetech internals and fork tubes from a KZ400. The swing arm was modified to adapt the rear wheel hub, brakes and Brembo master cylinder from a 2010 Honda CRF450. The oil tank was reformed into a battery box and a Moto-Gadget M-Unit was added for wiring. I also used the rear brake pedal from a quad; I had to flip it upside down, modify it and construct a bracket to hold it in the correct spot for optimal braking. Lastly, the engine was blueprinted by Klemm Vintage, who not only rebuild/blueprint engines for this particular bike but have won numerous world records and awards for racing it.
This 1972 Kawasaki Bighorn 350 2-Stroke is one of my first ground-up rebuilds and it means more to me than any of my other builds not only because it is a true handbuilt creation but it’s a dedication to my dad’s riding buddy who passed away. One thing that I am most proud of is giving my dad something he doesn’t already have. For the man who has everything, a recreation of his first bike is something pretty special that will last for many years to come.
If you’d like to see more of this bike and other builds I’ve completed, head over to @fiftytwocycles on Instagram. Thanks for this opportunity, I’m looking forward to more builds and many more happy customers.