Gas and Oil Bespoke Motorcycles builds a cowboy’s custom…
The Suzuki GS550 was one of Suzuki’s earliest four-stroke motorcycles, a middleweight four-cylinder roadster that appeared in 1977, stacking up well against the half-liter machines of the day:
“At a claimed 49hp it was no slouch, with quarter-mile times in the sub-14 second range. That put it ahead of Honda’s go-fast looking Honda CB550F Super Sport and ahead of Suzuki’s own GT550 2-stroke, which would be on showroom floors for one more year while Suzuki’s new middleweight 4-stroker established itself.” —Motorcycle Classics
The engine was bulletproof and the bike developed a reputation as an excellent all-rounder. Cycle magazine even went so far as to call it “an excellent mountain road darter.” The bike would remain in production for quite a few years, morphing into the GS550 Katana in the early 80s, utilizing virtually the same engine and frame along with Mikuni carbs, a slight bump in power (53.7 hp), and new styling.
That’s where Matej and the team at Gas and Oil Bespoke Motorcycles come in. Matej began his customizing career with a Yamaha SR500 and soon created his own brand and workshop:
“I love building unique motorcycles, because the combination of creative ideas, design, and craftsmanship doesn’t allow me to be bored.”
Today, Gas and Oil Bespoke Motorcycles stands at the very heart of the custom motorcycle scene in the Czech Republic, not only building specials but organizing trips, workshops, and promoting the new wave customs scene in their home country.
Like all their builds, this ’85 GS550 Katana is a bespoke customer project, but in this case, that customer is a cowboy by profession! So they decided to go with a tough and burly aesthetic — a bike comfortable on or off the road. They rebuilt the engine, fitted an XS400 tank, YSS rear shocks, handmade exhaust, custom subframe, aluminum side panels, and much more.
The result is an attention-getting GS550 street tracker they’ve nicknamed “Night Owl” — a bike that attracts attention wherever it goes:
“Either you are extravagant person and this bike is what you are looking for to ride, or you need to get used to the attention you are about to get. It’s really just pure fun… It just won’t get lost.”
Below, we get the full story on the build from Matej himself, as well as more shots from photographer Jakub Frey (@jakubfreyphotography).
Suzuki GS550 Street Tracker: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history withmotorcycles, and your workshop.
Workshop was established in 2014, which was preceded by building my first motorcycle, a Yamaha SR500. Working on that project taught me a lot of new skills. I love building unique motorcycles, because the combination of creative ideas, design, and craftsmanship doesn’t allow me to be bored. That was the first time I felt the need for my own brand, which became what it is today: Gas and Oil Bespoke Motorcycles. We devote ourselves to building custom bikes. Doing that, we also support motorcycle scene in the Czech Republic — we organize trips, workshops, and we are trying hard to promote the new wave of café racers.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
The base motorcycle is a 1985 Suzuki GS550 Katana.
• Why was this bike built?
It was a bespoke customer project, as is every bike that comes from Gas and Oil.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The main inspiration came from 20th century classic bikes in combination with the fact that the owner and rider is a cowboy by profession.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Reincarnation of the engine was a story in and of itself. The rest of the list could go like this:
Fitted Yamaha XS400 tank, YSS rear shocks, handmade exhaust by Czech Sharon himself, analog Daytona speedo, decent lights and indicators, Fehling handlebars with Renthal grips, and the bikes were refurbished.
Then we’ve got a list of work that we call the Gas and Oil signature:
New rear subframe with integrated light, front forks lowered 15mm, leather seat with patina, recreated headers with heat protective wrap, license plate side holder, aluminium side panels with number 19, custom battery box under swingarm, 3D-printed light switches on handlebars.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Yes, it’s called “Night Owl.”
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
Either you are extravagant person and this bike is what you are looking for to ride, or you need to get used to the attention you are about to get. It’s really just pure fun. With front street and rear off road tire, it is prepared to take you anywhere. To your job, to a date, and to your cabin somewhere in the woods. It just won’t get lost.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
There are those small joys of parts done well, but in the end we are proud of the bike as it stands, that everything works great together — and doubly so with this experimental look.
However, the greatest challenge was the carburetor tuning. The bike had sat for a long time and parts options were very limited. The fact we used the stock airbox made it only worse, taking carbs out and putting them back for test runs. And boy we test ran the bike quite a few times to get them right.