Plush Sled: Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled II

DDM returns with one stunning desert sled… 

At the end of 2020, we featured a Kawasaki W650 desert sled from Rick Hannah of London’s Dirty Dick’s Motos, a semi-pro shed builder who said he got paid more often in beer than pounds sterling. But the design and execution of his W650 was the work of a true professional, and we knew that Rick had a bright future in the world of two wheels…and we could hardly wait for his next build.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

As Rick himself says, it would be easy to build the same bike just in a different color, but that would never leave him satisfied:

“The harder path is always going to be to take what you’ve built, keep what works the best, and try improve what you’ve already done. This has always been my way of doing things – cars, bikes, houses, you name it, everything can be Better, Faster, More! The Japanese call it Kaizen, The Art of Continuous Improvement, and with this in mind I set about building the next Sled.”

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

Today, we’re thrilled to present that Sled, which embodies the Kaizen spirit in full, featuring a host of incremental, thoughtful improvements that add up into a truly stunning machine.

Below, Rick gives us the full story on the build, and we have Mihail Jershov (@mjstudio_uk) to thank for the gorgeous photos.

This bike is for sale! Contact Rick at DDM if interested.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled: In the Builder’s Words…

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

The album after the breakthrough is always the hardest, right? How do you build a better bike than the last? It’s far easier to just build something different where you have no benchmark to beat, no hill of expectation to climb. Just something new where you’ve let the creativity flow, see where it takes you and that’s where you end up. It’s even easier to just build the same bike with a different colour and call it V.2 V.3 and so on. The harder path is always going to be to take what you’ve built, keep what works the best, and try improve what you’ve already done. This has always been my way of doing things – cars, bikes, houses, you name it, everything can be Better, Faster, More! The Japanese call it Kaizen, The Art of Continuous Improvement, and with this in mind I set about building the next Sled.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

As per usual this started with a donor bike, this time a non-running W650 that I picked up for a fair price. The bike was in a generally excellent condition but didn’t run due to a botched tank lining job that had been ingested into the carbs and basically slimed every jet inside the carbs. I suspect that this tank lining had a bad reaction to E5 petrol. As usual, with any bike that’s 20 years old, it doesn’t matter how good it looks on the outside, it’s going to need all new bearings and seals as no one ever follows the routine maintenance.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

After a complete tear down, the tank and frame were blasted, cleaned up of brackets and modified. The frame was chopped and looped, this time without the integrated luggage rack. The luggage rack was quite a marmite decision, generally polarised people. This time round I wanted a cleaner and smoother look to the bike, so went more traditional. The frame was then polished to a mirror finish and then sent for nickel plating along with a bag of smaller parts.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

The tank has been seam-welded to remove the ugly stamped-in seams that all modern bikes have, the fuel cap was patched and relocated to the right of the tank and a Harley fuel neck welded in. Previously I had used a flush fitting Aero type cap, but in the spirit of tradition this time I used a nice, proud billet cap from Motone that looks the part but has a modern machined look to it. The knee pads were removed, the holes patched, and the huge tank badges removed. Once all this work is completed the tank cuts a lean and clean line, giving the bike a slinky wasp-waisted shape when looked at from above.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

To complement the warm and classic looks of the nickel plating I have used a billet machined swingarm again. Not only does it contrast nicely with the brushed aluminium, the triangular machined sections mimic shapes on the bike, which is pleasing to the eye.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

The front suspension has been perfectly sorted out with some Andreani cartridge kits which now provide exceptional handling with adjustable rebound, preload and compression. The fork lowers have been brushed to match the other parts on the bike and achieve a nice traditional look.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

The rear is complemented with some custom-length Hagon shocks with billet tops and chrome springs, these are also adjustable for compression and rebound and work perfectly with the bike. To create ground clearance to match the longer shocks, the front triples have a 25mm drop. There is also a DDM front fork brace to stiffen up the front end.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

The wheels had the hubs blasted and powder coated in silver. They were then re-spoked with fat Morad rims in 19×3.00 and 18×4.25 respectively, and wrapped in Continental TKC80s. This time though I have gone a bit fatter on the back with a 150/70/18R tyre. Although I have built this bike to look like a more traditional late ‘60s Sled, I still wanted it to be a little aggressive, so I went for a larger rear tyre which looks fantastic with the wider rear rim.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

The brakes have been upgraded with the latest DDM Big Brake Kit. This is an EBC 320mm floating disk matched with a DDM 6-piston billet caliper for one-fingered braking. I have used a Kustom-Tech brake master and clutch perch to suit the look.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

To keep the ergonomics feeling sturdy and solid, I used 1” Western Bars again, but this time they’re full width for a more classic look. All the wiring is internal with some microswitches and the typical Motogadget wizardry, although I have used a different RFID token system from Axel Joost as it uses less power than the Motogadget version.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

The internal handlebar wiring now runs through the top riser and exits under the to triple for a cleaner look. The battery is a Lithium Anti-Gravity with plenty of power to run the minimal circuit and starter motor. The bike has a completely new wiring loom with all the extra wiring malarkey like clutch switch, kickstand switch, carb heaters etc. removed.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

When it came to styling the bike, I was aiming for a late ‘60s Desert Sled mixed with some typical Dirty Dick’s Motos bling. I started with a lower mudguard hugging the front knobbly tyre with fender stays connected to the fork lowers, then chose some rather sleek stainless headlight brackets that expose the round headlight nicely. I deliberately kept the indicators lower down the forks to keep that beautiful headlight on show as much as possible.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

The stainless-steel exhausts follow a more traditional shape, but have been gratuitously curved to follow a similar shape as the front mudguard and headlight. This symmetry in shapes always makes a big difference to the overall appearance of a build.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

To make this bike a bit sleeker than the last build, there are no engine bars, no high-level pipes and no luggage rack. A simple and elegantly made stainless steel bash plate at the front emphasises the curves on the exhausts, and a slimmed down rooster tail has been slightly lifted to give the bike a hint of 1960s Trials bike.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

In the shade, the paint is a very traditional British green for motorcycles, dark and moody. I felt this colour was a bit of a risky move, as I usually prefer big, bold and bright colours, but I think it worked out incredibly well. While it’s a deep green in the shade, barely highlighting the gold accents, as soon as the light hits it, the paint explodes with multi-layered gold flakes in the green. It really is something special.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

With traditional styling fused with modern technology and incremental improvements all round, I think this Desert Sled has embodied the spirit of Kaizen nicely.

This bike is for sale! Contact Rick at DDM if interested.

DDM Desert Sled II: Builder Interview

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

• Why was this bike built? (Customer project, company promotion, personal, etc.)

It was originally built for the Auto Royale Concours d’Elegance but unfortunately the show was cancelled so I finished the bike anyway as it was 90% complete. I had been testing the waters on what kind of Sled to build next and the overwhelming public opinion was a traditional in green.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

Steve McQueen’s Desert Sled and a 1960’s BSA C15 Trials bike were the basis for the design. I wanted a leaner look to the bike like the BSA, especially at the rear and the general flow and shapes of McQueen’s 1963 Bonneville. Covered front tyre with the low-level mudguard and low-level exhausts with a moody shade of green for the paint. I wanted to pay tribute to one of the most famous motorcycles while adding a large helping of DDM Bling into the build.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

• What custom work was done to the bike?

Everything. Front to back everything is custom.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

Front End
———

19×3.0 Morad rim
110/80R19 Continental TKC80
EBC 320mm floating brake disc
DDM 6-piston Billet brake caliper
DDM Fork brace
Braided steel brake line.
Ally mud guard, ceramic coated and braced
Fastec machined billet top and bottom triple with 1 inch drop
Motogadget Chronoclassic Speedo
K-Tech Master cylinder, clutch and throttle
Motodemic 8 inch headlight.
Andreani adjustable fork cartridge kit
Fork lowers brushed
Internally wired micro switches

Body work
———
Custom Kawasaki OEM Paint
Ally rear mudguard
Short side panels
Seam filled fuel tank with relocated fuel cap
Frame chopped, de-lugged and looped
Nickel plated frame and various pieces
Custom seat in Alcantara and leather

Engine and Electrics
——————
Stainless low-level pipes
Ignitek ignition
Motogadget M-Unit
RFID ignition
K&N Air filters
Brass kick starter

Rear End
——–
18×4.25 Morad rim
150/80R18 Continental TKC80
Original hub blasted and painted
Custom CNC Billet swingarm
Custom length adjustable Hagon shocks
Motone tail light and indicators

Any I’ve probably forgotten a load of things.

• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?

Plush. Plush and fast and loud. Really defines Obnoxious Velocity.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

There was a general improvement all over the build. I think the front end was my favourite as I worked for a long time to get the new brake kit where it is. Larger disk, up from 300mm to 320mm meant a redesign of the 6-piston caliper. An addition of a fork brace to suit the build, and the custom triples were redesigned to make the wiring more discreet. Overall incremental improvements took the front end to the pinnacle of performance for this bike. It can’t get any better in terms of suspension, braking and looks. I have some ideas to improve the next Sled but only marginally. I think I will only build one more Sled and then move on to another model and style as I don’t think I can improve this style much further.

Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled

Follow the Builder

Photographer: Mihail Jershov | @mjstudio_uk | mjstudio.co.uk

5 Comments

  1. Very nice! I love those exhaust pipes. Perfect lines! If you like the scrambler look, then this must be one of the nicest around. I agree with your conclusion that there is a limit to what you can do within the scrambler category.

  2. Lawrence of Suburbia aka RD350

    I have seen several really nice W650 scramblers. This one tops them all. Very Rickman-esque. Great job …

  3. first trip down a wet dirt road, that front tire will wedge against the fender, and presto! …instant face-plant…

    • Lawrence of Suburbia aka RD350

      Would anyone in the right mind actually ride a highly finished special like this down a muddy dirt road (or indeed, any dirt road)? Dry grass lanes or improved fire roads are about the extent of this bike’s potential mission statement … and that’s fine. If it were mine, I’d put trial tires or street tires on this and never venture off road. They make disposable Japanese dirt bikes for that …

      • Is a w650 not a disposable Japanese bike? That being said, that bike is slick, very nicely done! It is a custom piece that likely will not appreciate or find its way into a museum. It’s a nice bike for someone to enjoy for years. This owner probably won’t wedge the tire- fender gap with mud. 20 years from now who knows?

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