The Kawasaki KZ650 is one of our favorite vintage bikes. Sometimes known as the “Son of the Z1,” this middleweight UJM offered a 61-hp inline four, solid handling, and loads of potential from a customization standpoint.
Enter Jon Arfsten, who’s wanted to build a custom bike ever since his days working in a Harley-Davidson parts department many moons ago. Last winter, he put his ideas into action, building the incredible 1978 Kawasaki KZ650 cafe racer you see here. He adapted many parts from a 2006 ZX-6R, giving this build a restomod flair.
Below, we get the full story on this stunning KZ!
Kawasaki KZ650 Restomod Cafe Racer: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Jon Arfsten, I am 41 yrs old. I am married with 2 children. I have ridden motorcycles since I was 12 yrs. Old. I had a 2016 H-D Streetglide but because I work so much and couldn’t enjoy it I sold it. I always wanted to build a bike. I worked at a few H-D dealerships many years ago in the Parts Dept. I always thought I could do it — I just needed to actually do it. So this last winter that’s what I did.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1978 Kawasaki KZ650
• Why was this bike built?
Always wanted to build one.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Cafe racer, I just always liked the short compact look of a cafe racer. I had a few photos of cafe racers that I used as ideas.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The rear swingarm has been custom made to accept a 180/55/17 tire, the front upper triple tree was custom made by Cognito Moto. The lower tree had a custom stem made to fit my KZ650. I modified a lot of the 2006 ZX6R parts to fit my 78 KZ650.
• How would you classify this bike?
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The fact that I made my own wiring harness and wired the bike.