Lately, we’ve been featuring some incredible bikes by young builders, so we were thrilled to receive a message from Jay Ransome, son of Clive Ransome, who owns So Low Choppers of the UK. Though he’s only 22, Jay has been building bikes since he was just 16, so he already has years of experience under his belt. It definitely shows in this, his first cafe-style build–a departure from the choppers he normally works on. Jay has taken the oft-overlooked Suzuki GS500, one of the most plentiful and affordable used bikes on the market, and created a seriously impressive cafe racer, the “Spirit of Sheene.”
We’re big fans of Barry Sheene here at BikeBound (and can’t wait for the Sheene movie to come out), so we were especially stoked about this build. Jay has proven that, even at a young age, he has the skills, persistence, and willingness to make sacrifices that it takes to be a great builder. We’ll be watching for big things to come from this young man.
In the meantime, we’ll let him give you the full story on “Spirit of Sheene.”
GS500 Cafe Racer Project: In the Builder’s Words
My name’s Jay Ransome. I’m Clive’s son and I’ve been building bikes for 6 years now at So Low Choppers. I started at the age of 16 when I left school and I’m now 22.
I fancied taking my hand to the cafe racer scene after building choppers most of my working life. But it had to be something I hadn’t seen done before. I’ve always had a soft spot for a GS500 commuter. They are a good reliable workhorse that’s small, nimble, and very overlooked compared to its Honda equivalent. It’s been weird building something that handles so well and so light compared to my current bike (Shovelhead Harley Chopper).
The bike project came about mid last year. I had just finished my Harley and wanted to try something a little bit different. The search for a donor bike began. After a few weeks of roaming the internet for a suitable donor, I stumbled across this little gem on evilbay. Low mileage, horrible brush-painted yellow tinware and running like a sewing machine. Few bids later and it was mine, ready for the cutting. Me and my girlfriend went off one weeknight down to Luton which is a few hours drive from us here at So Low. Ended up driving about for ages till the satnav picked up this tiny farm drive in the middle of nowhere.
Within a few days of owning it, the god-awful parts have been stripped off and the cutter came out. Being my personal project this has been a super late nights and weekend job, but the blood sweat and tears have paid off. Endless hours have gone into fabricating this. I like the fact it has a box frame, many people said to me whilst i was building the bike about how hideous the frame was, but ignoring their opinions I think I’ve proved them wrong.
The rear subframe I crafted with the curved under braces to give the rear end a super clean but delicate look, keeping the lines flowing. All the original electronics have been neatly hidden under the seat unit. Mini super bright LED lights I flush-mounted vertically keep the rear super clean.
Underneath is just as important as the top, so I spent a while making a simple clean brushed aluminium undertray, keeping the water away from the wiring and smoothing underneath. Neat little centre plate with mini indicators just tie up the back end and keep in with that slimline racing look I was going for.
The original top yoke was repulsive, all grooved, holes etc. So I attacked it with the TIG welder, reshaping filling in, etc, the yoke to make its seamlessly smooth. Less is more. Digital speedo to keep in with the racing look sit nicely above the yoke for easy viewing.
The original bars have been replaced with neat CNC clipons as well as the switchgear being thrown away . I came across this lovely little unit as seen on the bars that does everything. It’s aluminium and the build quality is great. Adjustable levers and new master cylinders replace the stock ones.
Little details I’m quite proud of, like the stainless ignition bracket with micro horn button hidden away under the rear section. The rear master cylinder has been declutter and made a new reservoir mount.
It’s my first venture into wiring and I’m proud to say it all worked very well. The whole loom has been replaced with new wires and soldered joints.
All race bikes should have racing shoes so that’s what it has. Continental super sticky tyres it shall get. They stick to the road like glue and look fantastic.
The bike has been named “Spirit of Sheene.” It’s my take on his old racing colours with a modern twist keeping it simple.
I’ve painted the bike myself , candy red inlay panel really sets off in the sun with the gold stripes and Barry’s number 7 on the rear.
The carbs have been rejetted to accommodate the new exhaust system and air filters. The cerakoted pipes and the GP-style end can make for an amazing sound. The motor has been repainted and scotch finished.
I’ve had to scrape, save and work endless hours to get the money for the parts etc, it’s been a lot longer process than I would’ve hoped. Having to wait to get the money together for the tyres and powdercoat really held me up, and I would not change a thing. No expense spared to get it to a high standard build. The hours and dedication put strain on everything, mentally-draining long hour days, but it’s turned out great, and on to the next one.
I built the bike 99% by myself with a few bits of advice from the rest of the So Low Choppers crew.