Motorcycles bring families together like nothing else. BikeBound.com is largely a father/son project, so we are especially partial to stories like this Kawasaki KZ400 cafe racer by Offset Motorcycles of San Francisco. Founder Jason Lisica says the bike was originally built by his dad and his sister’s boyfriend, as a “get to know your daughter’s boyfriend” build 🙂 The bike largely a tribute to his sister, Cindy, whose first motorcycle ride was across the field on the tank of her father’s 1968 Kawasaki A1SS Samurai. For that reason, they decided to fit that tank to the KZ400’s frame.
Later, they shipped the bike from Houston to Jason in San Francisco for a full rebuild.
What makes this family even more special is this: Jason was able to send his sister and her boyfriend pictures of the beloved KZ400 cafe he was rebuilding for them while they were trapped in their house by Hurricane Harvey! We send our deepest thoughts and prayers and hopes for a speedy recovery to Cindy and Alan, as well as the rest of our moto-family in Texas.
KZ400 Cafe Racer: Builder Interview
(Answers by Jason Lisica. Highlights by us.)
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I have been building motorcycles since I was around 10 years old. My granddad got me my first bike. It was leaning up against a tree and the crankcase was filled with water. Not hard to imagine that it took my Dad some work to get that 1974 Honda XL100 running, and I rebuilt the engine twice over the next 6 years, once with his help, and once without. I sold it when I got my license and got an even older CL450 after that, which I rode through college.
I started flipping bikes for money after I got out of graduate school, and I’ve sold over 50 bikes since then. The bottom line is that the bikes have to be cool enough to attract the kind of new school Silicon Valley clientele that we get in SF, but not so extreme that only other custom builders would appreciate them. Our bikes end up being parked outside of dotcom startups and chemical labs. We get to know our tech-savvy white-collar customers, and they come back to us for knowledge and maintenance. San Francisco is a huge motorcycle city and most shops don’t have time for sourcing parts and working on vintage bikes. We stand behind our builds, and would never leave a client stranded.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
It’s a rather common 1979 Kawasaki KZ400, with tank and gauge nacelle from a ultra rare 1968 Kawasaki A1SS Samurai.
• Why was this bike built?
This was a “get to know my daughter’s new boyfriend” build. My dad Jim Lisica and Alan Mur built the first iteration of this bike and got it on the road in Pennsylvania where we’re from. Alan dreamt up the idea as his first motorcycle. My sister Cindy has been riding since she was old enough to run, and got Alan into motorcycles. The pedigree runs deep in our family… and to date my sister, well you had better be able to turn wrenches and twist throttles like Dad and big brother.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The idea was to have part of Cindy’s first motorcycle ride — through a field on the tank of the A1SS scrambler — be a central part of Alan’s new bike. So against my advice they immediately took the tank off my Dad’s old Samurai and tried to make it fit on the frame. That ended up being my biggest challenge, to make it look like it belonged there on the slanted KZ backbone.
The tank and gauge nacelle got some good paint from Alan’s friend Tyler Elliot at TEcustoms.com. The logo is the original Kawasaki Heavy Industries logo, which was my Dad’s idea. After they got it running, the build sort of got rushed so Alan could ride it, and the design suffered. My dad doesn’t weld, so a lot of things were strapped and bolted together. After about a year passed, I offered to rebuild the bike, and Alan shipped it to me from Houston. I made sure to get “carte blanche” from Alan, because I knew there would be a ton of redesign to do. It was never going to leave my shop until it had the same quality as our other bikes.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
When I got it, I just sort of tore everything off and kept the stuff that my Dad does well. He is good with carb tuning and sheet metal, so those things I didn’t touch. The seat pan is modified perfectly to match the odd tank, so I had Mike Franzini of Franzini Brothers redo the foam and cover.
After that I shaved everything off the top triple clamp, lowered the nacelle, added clip-ons, redid custom lines and cables, and built the wiring harness from scratch. It still didn’t sit level, so I lowered the forks 1.5″ and used 14″ reservoir shocks on the rear. Now it’s right. Under the seat I welded on a simple flat tray and to that I strapped a Antigravity Small Case XPS SC-1 lithium battery, along with all the gear to keep the charging system and electric start working. It’s so much easier to hide batteries now. I love the new high power lithiums. Some are as thin as a paperback and have enough CCA to start a diesel truck. You didn’t have that option two years ago.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I guess the thing I’m most proud of is the execution of putting two bikes together that are 11 years apart. The tank never made sense to me, so I argued with Alan for a while about putting the right tank on to make it easier to customize. Dealing with that design challenge was how I realized that my sister was the impetus that made this build happen. So, I did whatever I could to make the lines make sense. Otherwise I was ready to make it look like a common brat, and get it out the door. Now that it’s done, I realize how important this bike is to my family. Cindy and Alan really appreciated getting the pictures when they were trapped inside their house by hurricane Harvey.
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