Heaven is a two-wheeled machine you built yourself…
Introduced in 1997, the Suzuki XF650 Freewind was a do-it-all machine with the bulletproof 47-hp single from the DR650 and a multi-purpose mission:
“Cruise comfortably at 80mph, screw the pants off it on a winding road or peer over traffic from the high seat on your way to work: the Suzuki XF650 Freewind is a versatile motorcycle that’s great value and something a little different.” —MCN
Enter our new friend Jeff Grandjean, a welder, engine builder, and nomad from Belgium — currently living in Switzerland. Jeff’s been tinkering on cars and bikes since he was 16, starting with his dad’s Kawasaki AR50:
“I was always in the garage working on his Kawasaki, then on my own. Changing the exhausts, for example. Then it’s never ended…bigger bikes, restorations, customizing all the way up to historic Formula 1 cars, a Porsche 356, GT40…”
Today, Jeff spends most of his time on the road, or else working on various car and bike projects like his 1954 Chevy Suburban — you can see more of his projects at @jeffs.classic. The build you see here started life as a 2001 Suzuki XF650 Freewind — one of three Jeff and his ex-girlfriend owned:
“We had three Freewinds because I was so satisfied with the mechanics of the bike, 35,000 km without a problem. One was for me, one for her, and one for parts. The parts bike is now the Scrambler.”
At the time, Jeff and his ex, who’s a saddler and restores old Porsches with her family, were customizing a new bike every few months, and Jeff decided he wanted a bike for himself. He completely disassembled the donor, rewired the bike, fabricated a new subframe and seat, and rebuilt and tuned the engine to an output of around 55 hp.
“All the parts were sandblasted and painted or powder-coated. So the bike was completely disassembled and rebuilt. Every bearing, every part.”
Unfortunately, Jeff finished the bike around the same time his relationship with his girlfriend ended, which made the first ride quite painful. But a friend reminded Jeff that he’d built the bike for himself, motivating him to put the final touches on the project. Soon, he discovered the joys of the completed build:
“One day I hit my favorite road with a lot of curves and I was faster than the other big bikes. It rides like a supermoto — so easy to handle, more than enough power for small 180 degree curves. Amazing!”
Sometimes there’s no better medicine than hard work in the shop and two wheels on the road. Below, we get more details on the build from Jeff himself, as well as more striking photos from Christian Charlier of XACT Production.
Suzuki XF650 Scrambler: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Jeff, 26, years old, welder and engine rebuilder. I’m from Belgium, living currently in Switzerland and I’m always on the road. A bit like a nomad. For bikes, for the passion to travel, or for work. I was always interested in motorcycles, when I was 16 years old I had my first old bike (Kawasaki AR50) like my father had when he was young. His old Kawasaki was in our garage and I tried to start the engine again and again. I was always in the garage on his Kawasaki, then on my own. Changing the exhausts for example. Then it’s never ended…bigger bikes, restorations, customizing all the way up to historic Formula 1 cars, a Porsche 356, GT40…
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
The bike is a Suzuki XF650 Freewind, 2001.
• Why was this bike built?
Why did I build the bike? My ex-girlfriend and her family restored Porsche 356’s. She’s a saddler and we were both passionate about motorcycles. We changed bikes every six months; I had clients for customizing bikes and she made the seats or did the leatherwork. Nice setup. So I decided to build a bike for me. A scrambler, because I love old enduros and cross-bikes. We had three Freewinds because I was so satisfied with the mechanics of the bike, 35,000 km without a problem. One was for me, one for her, and one for parts. The parts-bike is now the Scrambler.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
I had never really an influence. I just began to build, bought a tank and hoped it would be good. I just wanted it to be slim: single cylinder, no exhaust or number plate on the side (I have now the smallest number plate I’ve ever seen on the side).
• What custom work was done to the bike?
I customized the rear frame and all the stuff under the seat, so the rear frame is completely new. All the cables and things I don’t need are out. Just a switch to the change the high beam and a horn. The seat I made by myself with the help of my ex-girlfriend.
The engine and the carburetors were rebuilt, painted, and tuned. +- 55hp. All by myself. The fork, swingarm, brakes, and suspension are all still the same. All the parts were sandblasted and painted or powder-coated. So the bike was completely disassembled and rebuilt. Every bearing, every part.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Yes, the bike has a name, but I never post it. My idea was “TraXFer 6.5,” like Tracker & XF. 6.5 for 65 hp, 165 kg, and 650ccm. But the 65hp was a bit too much and the weight…I don‘t know exactly 🤷♂️
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
The first time I wasn’t so happy, because the relationship with my ex was over, so I didn’t really need the bike because I’d built it to ride with her, and I already had other bikes with more horsepower. The tank has six liters, so 100 km.
But one day I hit my favorite road with a lot of curves and I was faster than the other big bikes. It rides like a supermoto — so easy to handle, more than enough power for small 180 degree curves. Amazing! Additionally, we made the video and the pictures with my blue van…I was so happy! It rides so good and the normal price for a Freewind in Europe is under 1500€. I paid nothing, that’s even more funny.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I’m proud I finished the project. For a few days, I didn’t want to see it anymore because it was no longer of any use to me. But a really good friend helped me and told me, “You built this for you, so finish it for you!” I’m also proud that I built it all by myself. The engine, the mechanics, the wiring, etc.