Retro Bikes Croatia (RBC), based in Zagreb, has a design philosophy we love. They build bikes…
“Distinctive and irreplaceable, with original retro style but always usable on the road.”
So far, their work has lived up to this aim. A couple of months ago, we featured “Innuendo,” RBC’s 1996 Kawasaki ZR550 cafe racer with a 70s-era Ducati fairing, brown saddle, and Z-style tail. Today, we’re proud to present “Heritage” by Retro Bikes Croatia, a 1977 Kawasaki Z650/KZ650 tracker.
Here at BikeBound, we’re partial to the Z650, known as the KZ650 in the United States. Our senior correspondent, Rick Brown, is in the midst of a KZ650 build. The KZ650 was the “Son of the Z1,” and these midsize 70’s four-bangers perform surprisingly well for their age and era. They rev fast, slash through corners, and sound like superbikes with even a cheap Mac exhaust.
Kawasaki Z650-B1 Tracker “Heritage”: The Build
Headman Zeljko gave us the rundown. The B1 model is a “rare beast nowadays,” he says, at least in Central Europe, offering some distinctive details versus later models:
“Front brake calipers in front of the fork tubes, spoke wheels, chrome fenders front and rear, old upper case Kawasaki logo and so on…”
This particular specimen was even rarer bird: a one-owner bike, with nearly every original part intact, still stamped with the 1976 production date, including original brake lines that still didn’t leak after 38 years…try that with your new Kawa!
Zeljko and the boys at Retro Bikes Croatia envisioned a scrambler style for the build, with knobbies and an upright riding position. They stripped the bike, shaved the frame of unnecessary tabs and do-dads, and added a new rear hoop. The electronics were in sad shape, so they rewired the bike and packed the new battery and ignition into a handmade box located under the seat. A new seat was made, upholstered in two-tone leather, and refurbished the original Koni shocks instead of going with new ones.
They powder-coated the frame, wheels, fork legs, and swing arm, alternating between matte and gloss black. The engine was strong, with just 50,000 km on the clock–nothing for a KZ–but they redid the top end, with new gaskets, seals, and valve adjustment. They also rebuilt the Mikuni carburetors, and resealed the original tank, adding new gaskets for the petcock and a new gas cap.
The exhaust is a 4-into-1 system, tailor-made for the bike, that sounds ferocious. The dash is handmade as well, equipped only with the necessities: speedo, oil pressure light, and neutral indicator. Keeping with their design philosophy of creating bikes that are “usable on the road,” they retrofitted the bike with dual front discs and steel brake lines, keeping the original, trapezoidal brake pump because it looks cool.
As for the paint, Zeljko says:
“The tank is finished in semi matte paint which looks different from different angles and light (bronze to black), not invasive but special. The tank Kawasaki logo is hand painted in black and brown. All in all, we wanted to achieve that different look, with some parts left as they were with that 38 year old patina, so it looks like it’s brand new but with that old character.”
As for the “Heritage” name, Zeljko says:
“We like to think it’s something that everyone would like to inherit!”
Indeed, sir. Indeed.
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