Finland’s Panu Laakkonen builds a Honda adventure machine…
The Honda SLR650 was a streamlined, more street-oriented version of the popular NX650 Dominator, geared more for commuters and couriers than dual-sport riders. The SLR’s seat height was slightly lower, and the 21-inch front wheel was swapped for a 19-inch unit. But the SLR and NX shared the same bones, both featuring an unkillable 44-hp air-cooled engine derived from Honda’s formidable XR series, making them an excellent platform for modern builds…
Enter Panu Laakkonen of Tampere, Finland, who’s been working with motorcycles since he was 16, and running his own shop for the last 12 years: Kalevan MP-Huolto Oy. More and more, he’s been receiving orders for custom builds. Says Panu:
“My workshop KMPH Oy (Kalevan MP-Huolto Oy) is a small business all about motorcycle service and repairs, etc. But because of my true desire to build bikes, I have been doing all kinds of modifications and builds during these years.”
Back in 2018, we featured Panu’s Husky SMR 510 scambler, built to resemble the great Husqvarna enduros of the 1970s. In fact, he sold the bike to a customer who used to race in Finland’s “Päijänteen Ympäriajo” (“Race around Lake Päijänne”) enduro on a 1976 Husqvarna…with the same tank!
Now Panu is back with this 1997 Honda SLR650 scrambler — a bike he intended to sell after completion, but fell in love with during the process. The main concept was to make the bike tough and easy to service — crucial when riding unpaved roads far from home. He swapped in the front and rear suspension from a Husqvarna SMR510 and rebuilt the engine with several upgrades: larger piston, new cam, oil cooler, custom decompression release, and a Lectron carb. The exhaust is handmade, and the electrics were redone with relays from Axel Joost Elektronik and now includes such niceties as built-in grip warmers, quick shifter, GPS tracker, USB port, two LiFePo4 batteries, and more!
The finished bike, nicknamed “Lily,” is more than an around-town scrambler: it’s been transformed into a true adventure bike, capable of eating up long miles on unpaved roads. Panu says of the riding experience:
“Just awesome! By the time I wrote this I’ve been test riding it for 800km’s and most of it on sand and gravel that we can find a lot back here in Finland.”
Honda Scrambler / Adventure Bike: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I run and own this motorcycle shop in Tampere, Finland (Kalevan MP-Huolto Oy), where we mostly service and repair motorcycles, but what’s becoming more and more important is that we’re getting customization orders, little personalized builds straight from scratch. I’ve been working with bikes from when I was 16 so later this year it sums up to 21 years and for 12 of them working for myself.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
The bike is Honda SLR650 from 1997.
• Why was this bike built?
It was meant to be project to be sold but at some point I fell in love with it and decided to keep it myself.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
I wanted to make a bike that is as drivable as possible and easy to service even on the road.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Hmm. What isn’t….
-For driveability, the main work was to fit both front and rear suspension from a Husqvarna SMR510, so that meant some frame work to get the shock to fit as it was over 10cm longer than the original.
-Engine has been rebuilt with a bigger piston, new camshaft, oil cooler, and custom-made decompressor. And to complement those changes, a Lectron carb was used to deliver fuel.
-Tubeless supermoto rims are from a Husqvarna SM710 and the tubeless 19″ front has been made from Husqvarna SMR510m hub, so I can get the best of both gravel and asphalt.
-Exhaust is handmade and Honda CRF250 silencer shells were used to make it work.
-Electrical work is made by me and I used relays from Axel Joost Elektronik (www.elektronikbox.de/shop/). Electrics also include built-in grip warmers, quick shifter, GPS tracker, USB port and 2 handmade LiFePo4 batteries. Front blinkers and hand controllers are handmade using the aid of a 3D printer (there are quite many things made by 3D printing).
-Fuel tank is an ebay find that went through some modifications like the embedded Honda logo and the visual fuel gauge along some minor changes to make it fit the frame. Idea for the visual fuel and oil gauge came from my friend and employee Adam ‘Mac’ MacPherson.
-Subframe is also handmade to accommodate some of the electrics and one of the two handmade LiFePo4 batteries.
-Bike is also equipped with HelPerformance thumb brake for easy riding at any circumstance.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Intentions were to build a scrambler / adventure bike that one could take anywhere so the project ran by the name of Scramblenture until she was finished and the name Lily popped up.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this motorcycle?
Just awesome! By the time I wrote this I’ve been test riding it for 800km’s and most of it on sand and gravel that we can find a lot back here in Finland.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Many little not so obvious details as the use of the back of the frame as a catch-can for breathers, the handmade controllers, and all and all everything that makes it easy to service.
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