Back in 1986, Suzuki unveiled their first cruiser, the LS650 Savage, which would remain in production until 2004, relatively unchanged except for the addition of a 5-speed transmission. For 2005, the air-cooled 652cc single-cylinder cruiser was renamed the S40 Boulevard and continues to be sold today.
With 35 years in production, the S40 must be getting something right, and some say it’s the bike’s pure simplicity — a harking back to days before wheelie control, active suspension, even fuel injection:
“There’s something very reassuring about testing the 2016 Suzuki Boulevard S40, with its reliance on what is starting to become Stone Age technology. It reminds us that riding motorcycles is fun, and the latest technological advances greatly enhance the experience, but are not essential to the basic mission of enjoying the ride.” –Don Williams, Ultimate Motorcycling
Enter our new friend Matt Kennedy of Kennedy Motorcycles, an Australian Army veteran who began building motorcycles and riding enduro while also getting trained as a fitter machinist in the military — most notably a 1948 BSA B33 on which he’s set an Australian land speed record (look for that one in a future feature).
In 2018, after being medically discharged from the military and working at a couple of different shops, Matt went full-time with his workshop, Kennedy Motorcycles, based in Adelaide, South Australia. The 2017 Suzuki S40 bobber you see here was built for a customer and took inspiration from the old-school choppers of the 1970s:
“It was inspired by the 70s-style choppers, bright colors, narrow stance.”
The fuel tank was given a custom tunnel to fit over the square backbone of the S40 frame, and the seat pan was cut in-house on the shop’s CNC plasma-cutter and upholstered by Spencer Motor Trimmers. The paint was also done in-house, using DNA magenta on a heavy flake base and finished off by Reece Lightning’s Brush Art. The bike was rewired with cloth-covered wire and a lot of the other components are Lowbrow pieces.
The result is a gorgeous, lightweight bobber that’s sure to catch a lot of loving looks in South Australia and far beyond. Below, Matt fills us in on all of the details, and we have more shots from Daniel Purvis Photography.
Suzuki S4 Bobber: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I have been riding bikes since I was 8. My first bike was a Suzuki RV90. I upgraded to a Honda XL250, which I rode until I was 18 and enlisted in the Australian military, when I stopped riding. I took up enduro in 2009 with a KTM 250 EXC two-stroke, which made me get more into the maintenance and optimizing performance side of motorcycles. From there I went on to get my trade as a fitter machinist in the army and in my spare time I build motorcycles for friends and myself, most notably a 1948 BSA B33 which I still have today and have set an Australian land speed record on.
When I was medically discharged from the military, I went on to work at an engine shop and then a local bike shop, all the while still building custom bikes on the side. I went full time with my shop Kennedy Motorcycles in 2018, and haven’t looked back. We currently have plenty of bikes on the go. We are located in Adelaide, South Australia, and this S40 is one of the first ones that we did — still one of my favorites.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
2017 Suzuki S40 650cc.
• Why was this bike built?
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
It was inspired by the 70s-style choppers, bright colors, narrow stance.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The bike started as a stock S40. The build only took four months to acquire the parts, modify, and build.
The tank, handlebars, mirrors, sissy bar, hand grips, indicators all came from Lowbrow. The rear fender was sourced locally.
The fuel tank was modified by cutting the tunnel out and making a custom tunnel to fit over the square back bone.
The rear fender was mounted to the swingarm to get the fender as close as possible to the rear wheel. A custom seat base was cut out in shop with our CNC plasma cutter, then trimmed by Spencer Motor Trimmers.
The paint was done in-house as well, using DNA magenta on a heavy flake base, then finished off with brush work from Reece Lightning’s Brush Art. The handlebars were cut and made narrow for a more comfortable riding position. The bike was rewired using cloth-covered wire.
All the work was done at Kennedy Motorcycles in Adelaide.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
Surprisingly very comfortable and handles well.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The modification to the fuel tank to make it work. And the paint work is amazing.
Follow the Builder
Reece Lightning: @reece_lightning89
Photos: Daniel Purvis Photography | @daniel.purvis
Good looking, good job.
You gotta shout out to Anna Totani for the amazing paint work – she put a huge amount of time and effort into painting that tank.
S40’s are way cooler platforms for customization than people give them credit for. This is an excellent example!
I agree with the comment about how basic the S40 is. It’s a raw bike with no extra tech needed and it always puts a smile on my face when I dust it off and ride it. It’s no freeway weapon but around town it’s a blast.
It’s also a easy target for modifications and takes many different forms when modified tastefully.
This build is an sensible example of the term “less is more”. Nice job!