We love hearing the stories of first-time builders and riders. There’s nothing like the relationship you forge with that first motorcycle you own — particularly when you wrench on the bike yourself. In an era when many people don’t even know how to change the tire on their car, the pride of riding a machine that you have fixed, tuned, wired, polished, and customized with your own hands and tools is tough to beat — especially the first time, when the learning curve is high.
Enter Esther Schuijt of the Netherlands, who found this 1981 Suzuki GS650GT for sale about a year after she got her license. The bike was sitting next to the entrance at a bike event and Esther simply knew she was the one.
“A lot of friends of mine ride bikes but never did I think I would own and ride one, let alone be building my own bike.”
The Suzuki GS650GT was a shaft-drive inline four with 65 horsepower and a quarter mile of 13.3 seconds. For Esther, the nearly 40 year-old bike was the perfect platform for her build. She did most of the work at Ironwood Custom Motorcycles in Almere, where she learned from shop owner and friend of the blog Arjan van den Boom among others.
She lowered the bike and fitted a new seat, exhaust, handlebars, lights, and gauges. Although the carbs were a challenge, she says she’s most proud of wiring the bike herself.
“The wiring to be honest. Even though it’s not shown on the outside. It was definitely the most work and I’m really proud that I did everything.”
Below, we get the full story on the build, along with some stunning photos from Marije van Panhuis.
Custom GS650GT Cafe / Brat: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
It all started in 2016 at a motorcycle event in Utrecht, The Netherlands, the year I also got my license. Never thought that I would buy my bike at an event but there she was right next to the entrance. I knew very well that I wanted to make a cafe racer/ scrambler and the base of a Suzuki GS650GT is perfect! Two months later I picked her up and started building!
To be really honest; I like bikes, a lot of friends of mine ride bikes but never did I think I would own and ride one, let alone be building my own bike. I’m quite handy and not scared to break a nail or two (or six). I’m thankful that I have friends who customize and build bikes. When I’m in the shop I learn a lot from them. At the moment I’m mostly at the Ironwood Custom Motorcycles shop in Almere and learn from the people there, including the owner Arjan van den Boom.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
I ride a Suzuki GS650GT from 1981.
• Why was this bike built?
The reasons for my build are really simple. For one, the frame needed to be lowered and I needed a new seat (I’m not that tall). Secondly, I got intoxicated by the Honda CX500 that @paul_vanml built together with @arjanvandenboom, ‘The Phoenix’ . I was totally in love with that build.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
‘The Phoenix’ was my muse and I just went with parts of that design and included my own taste.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
After the frame adjustments, I put on some new exhausts, wrapped them and stripped the entire cockpit, got a new clubman handlebar and I adjusted her front with new lights and speedometer.
For my first build, I tried to keep her original parts as much as possible, like the tank and side caps. The exhausts are handmade (by @caferacersunited). The license plate mount I created myself.
The worst part was getting all the wires soldered correctly and getting everything connected the right way. The wires were my nemesis.
• How would you classify this bike?
Scrambler/ cafe racer. If you look at my bike, some parts look more like a cafe racer and the other parts like a scrambler. ?
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The wiring to be honest. Even though it’s not shown on the outside. It was definitely the most work and I’m really proud that I did everything. Dismounting and cleaning my carbs too — hell of a job but very rewarding when the bike runs smoothly afterwards.
People to Follow
Esther Schuijt — Owner and Builder:
Arjan van den boom — Owner of Ironwoon custom Motorcycles:
Photographer Paul van ML:
Photographer Marije van Panhuis:
Custom bike parts webshop: