A 500cc two-stroke monster built in the image of the Mean Green Baja kings…
The Kawasaki KX500 is one of the most legendary, if not notorious, off-road weapons ever created. The performance numbers are still impressive today. In factory trim, the 1992-2004 model boasted 63 horsepower and weighed just 220 pounds.
“It is a lighter bike than the new-aged 250Fs and more powerful than all of the 2017 450 four-strokes. Sounds good on paper, doesn’t it?” — Motocross Action
While many of the old-school 500cc motocross racers favored the Honda CR500 as a better all-around package of handling and power, there was one place where the KX500 was the undisputed king, achieving a legendary status: Baja.
“There was an era in desert racing when there was only one motorcycle that mattered. From around 1992 to 2002, the Kawasaki KX500 reigned supreme.” — Dirt Bike
Enter Blake Draguesku, a native Texan now living in the Columbia River Gorge, along the boundary between Oregon and Washington state. Blake’s start on two wheels came early, as his father and uncles were all involved in motorcycles.
“As a child I rode motocross and began working on my first ‘bike builds’ in the form of vintage mini bikes powered by racing kart engines.”
Now there’s an auspicious start for a builder! Back in the day, Blake’s father had actually raced a KX500, and the mythic machine became part of family lore:
“I always heard stories about the monstrous and raw power of a 500cc two stroke.”
So Blake set out to create a tribute to the Baja-winning beasts of the 1990s, particularly the KX500 that won the 1994 Baja 1000. The bike is what’s known as a KX500AF, an aluminum-framed Kawasaki KX500 featuring a 2010 KX250F frame and 2001 KX500 engine.
Blake rebuilt the entire engine and transmission on his workbench, to a very high standard, and a wide array of modifications were required to graft the two-stroke engine into the modern four-stroke frame. The result is simply staggering — one of our favorite builds from the 2020 One Moto Show — and the riding experience is everything Blake’s boyhood self could hope and fear:
“This motorcycle provides the most visceral and violent experience I have ever had on two wheels.”
Below, we get the full details on the build from Blake himself, as well as some stunning photos taken by Blake himself and our man at the show, Eddie Del Valle (@bearded_r0b0t).
Kawasaki KX500AF Baja Tribute: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I am a 25 year old builder from Houston, Texas currently living in the Columbia River Gorge. Growing up, motorcycles and race cars were a family affair. My dad and his brothers built/rode motorcycles and raced motocross for several decades. I was introduced to the world of motorcycles at a very young age and quickly developed a passion for everything moto. As a child I rode motocross and began working on my first “bike builds” in the form of vintage mini bikes powered by racing kart engines.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
This is an aluminum-framed Kawasaki KX500, aka, a KX500AF. It uses a 2010 KX250F frame and a 2001 KX500 engine.
• Why was this bike built?
It was a childhood dream of mine to own and ride a KX500 (even more so a KX500AF). My dad raced a KX500 back in the day and I always heard stories about the monstrous and raw power of a 500cc two stroke. I built this bike for my own personal use, but it has also been an exercise in creating and preserving a unique KX500.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
This build is my modern tribute to the KX500’s that dominated the Baja 1000 from 1988-1995. It is built especially in the image of the 1994 Baja 1000-winning KX500.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
In order to accommodate the KX500 engine, modifications had to be made to the KX250f frame, Acerbis fuel tank, fuel tank mounts, and air box. The bike uses one modified KX250F radiator and one upside-down KX500 radiator. The exhaust system is comprised of a custom FMF Gold Series Gnarly pipe linked to a custom Pro Circuit shorty silencer (that is actually US Forest Service approved).
I rebuilt the entire engine/transmission from the cases-up, and to a very high standard. Engine modifications include custom cylinder head porting/polishing, a Lectron carburetor, Boyesen Factory Racing dual-stage carbon fiber reeds, and a Factory Kawasaki clutch basket.
The suspension is comprised of 48mm KYB forks up front and a Penske Racing shock out back. I had the suspension built, set up and tuned by Doc at 812 Suspension Design, who is a true master in his craft (have him tune your suspension and thank me later).
When it came to creating a graphics kit and seat cover for this build, I worked with Sam at SKDA. He was able to execute exactly the vision that I had in mind for the bike and I am so stoked on how the graphics turned out.
The dual headlight mount was fabricated by Modified Machine Works; it houses two XL Pro LED’s provided by Baja Designs.
The custom wheel set was built by Dubya and features Excel Takasago A60 rims laced up to Talon Pro Billet hubs, with black spokes and gold nipples. There are many more aftermarket parts on the bike, but it would take too long to remember and list them all. Basically: the engine cases, swingarm, and throttle tube assembly are the only stock parts on the bike.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
A few, especially now with the purple graphics. “Purple Monster” is my favorite.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride?
This motorcycle provides the most visceral and violent experience I have ever had on two wheels. The engine is essentially an “On” or “Off” switch and produces an unbelievable amount of power – It makes my 2020 Husqvarna FX450 feel tame, even relatively slow, by comparison. The vibration of the 500cc two stroke engine is intense and very fatiguing. This bike is literally twice as exhausting as any other motorcycle that I have ridden, but it is an absolute blast and there is truly nothing else like it.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I’m really proud of how the bike came together as a whole, but if I were to pick one thing that I am particularly proud of, it would be the engine. I built it on my own workbench with an extreme attention to detail and it runs/performs extraordinarily well.