Grand Cru Customs builds a Savage 650 street tracker…
Introduced in 1986, the Suzuki Savage 650 — aka the LS650 and later the Boulevard S40 — would remain in production for 33 years. The 650cc single-cylinder cruiser was the first bike for many riders, and came to be well loved and regarded in the process:
“It was nothing spectacular, but it was a perfectly competent bike, a great choice for new riders or for small riders of any experience.” –RideApart
The Savage made 31 hp at the rear wheel, good for a quarter-mile time of 15.3 seconds at 81 mph, and the bike returned 55 mpg.
Recently, we heard from Ferris Wang, a 27-year-old tech worker who began his journey in the customs world back in 2019, building up a BMW K75 at Piston and Chain, the beloved San Francisco community garage which sadly closed in 2020 after eight years in business.
“Over the course of building and completing that bike, I figured it would be worthwhile to invest in learning some fabrication/design skills and take my custom hobby to the next level. I took on some TIG welding classes and also worked part time as an entry level wrench to learn the trade and craft better.”
At the start of the pandemic, he picked up a 1987 Suzuki Savage 650, intending it to be a challenge for his newfound skills and a way to help him develop his home shop:
“This bike was originally an unrideable cafe racer project with a few RYCA conversions/mods installed on it. I took this on as a home project during the pandemic as I saw tracker DNA in the frame of the bike.”
While many young builders look to donors like the Honda CB or Yamaha XS series with their well-worn paths to customization, it takes rare vision to see the street tracker buried in the Savage — especially a badly cafe’d one — and skill to bring it to fruition.
Ferris stripped the bike down to the frame. He fabricated the number plates, tail unit, and front number plate out of sheet metal — his first time doing so — and the LED headlight can be hidden via a sliding cover for a full race look — nice!
While the bike was stripped, the motor was blacked out with each fin re-polished after paint. A total of seven pieces were powder-coated in chrome/silver and the exhaust pipe was cleaned and ceramic-coated black.
Believe it or not, Ferris designed and printed the decals with a $300 at-home kit, and his good friend Luis (@gldysigns) handled the paint and upholstery:
“He’s got a lot of talent for only being 19.”
We’ll say! Though this Suzuki Savage street tracker doesn’t have a nickname, it’s the first custom branded under his informal shop name, “Grand Cru Customs.” Below, we talk to Ferris for the full story on the build, and we can’t wait to see what comes next from this young San Franciscan!
Savage 650 Street Tracker: Builder Interview
Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I’m 27 and I work at a large tech company in San Francisco. I’ve been exploring the world of custom bikes since 2019 but only started to get serious when I purchased a 1990 BMW K75 and started to design a few custom parts for someone else to fabricate. I constructed my first custom at Piston and Chain, which was a community garage with access to various tools and motorcycle lifts. Over the course of building and completing that bike, I figured it would be worthwhile to invest in learning some fabrication/design skills and take my custom hobby to the next level. I took on some TIG welding classes and also worked part time as an entry level wrench to learn the trade and craft better.
Eventually, I was lucky enough to move into a new place that had enough space for a small workshop; I bought some fabrication tools, a motorcycle lift, and a tool box. This was also the start of the pandemic and so I decided there was time to start a new project and use it as a means to develop my shop. I found this bike and decided it would be a great challenge for the new skills I’ve picked up thus far. I’ve always loved the idea of having a branded custom shop or entity, so I decided that this Suzuki custom would be the first bike branded under my informal name of “Grand Cru Customs.” Officially, I do not build under any specific name nor do I have a business registered under that name (since this is still just a hobby).
Tell us about your bike…
Year / Make / Model: 1987 Suzuki LS650
This bike was originally an unrideable cafe racer project with a few RYCA conversions/mods installed on it. I took this on as a home project during the pandemic as I saw tracker DNA in the frame of the bike.
The bike was completely stripped and the motor was blacked out with each engine fin re-polished post paint. A total of seven pieces were powder-coated in chrome/silver and the exhaust pipe was cleaned and ceramic-coated black.
Front number plate, rear seat, and number plates were all custom metal fabricated out of steel sheet metal. Handlebar was replaced with a tracker style bar from Biltwell along with the diamond pattern grips.
Headlight and indicators were replaced with minimalistic LED pods. Headlight can be hidden with a cover that slides over the tracker number plate for a race look.
Decals were custom printed and designed with an at-home decal printer while the paint was done by a good friend of mine who runs an auto body restoration shop [@gldysigns].
The seat was custom upholstered and designed in two pieces to ensure perfect fit and access to seat bolts during maintenance or disassembly.
Can you tell us what it’s like to ride?
The bike is nimble and light to ride. The maneuverability is primarily achieved by risers that seat the tracker handlebars in a comfortable upright riding position with plenty of turning radius. The seat was designed to be narrow to not only fit the slimmer profile of flat trackers, but also to create a lightweight feel to the bike. The aftermarket can with no baffle was a little too loud so it’s now got a baffle — it used to sound like a very angry single cylinder with a small frame.
Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Decals were printed and designed at home with a $300 kit. This was the first time I cut decals myself and I think they turned out pretty good. Aside from that, this was the first time I fabricated metal pieces at home, this is a big step for me in the custom game.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
My good friend Luis from @gldysigns who fabricated the seat and painted the bike. He’s got a lot of talent for only being 19.