Take one worn-out Suzuki hack, turn it into a work of art, and show an old dog a few new tricks...
The Suzuki GSS00 twin isn't a terribly exciting motorcycle. It's simple, straightforward and beloved of training schools and despatch riders, but that's about it. It's a hack, pure and simple, and a classic it isn't. If you look around, you can find one for less than 500 quid. At that price it'll probably belch smoke and have bits missing, but beggars can't be choosers. And some folk deliberately choose to take an alternative pathway...
I've always been impressed by anyone who can turn a motorcycling sow's ear into a silk purse. Spotting Cheyenne Keogh's creation at the Kickback show in Cheltenham, surrounded by radical Harley davidsons, Honda Cubs with 400cc motocross engines and chopped Neval Dneprs was a bit of an eye opener. For a 19 year old to build a special of this quality is quite an achievement. When I was 19, I could barely change a spark plug on my CB200 without cross threading it.
It's Cheyenne's second special. Her first was a 125cc Honda Bobber, which was a prize winner at a previous Kickback show and sometimes results in her being referred to as 'that girl off the telly' after an appearance on the Motorbike Show.
Cheyenne was given the 1999 GSS00E by her uncle, and it came in a selection of boxes late last year. She mocked up a concept design on Photoshop and got to work. Her first task was to get rid of the ugly Suzuki seat and tailpiece and substitute a slender alternative. For this she used one designed to fit a BMW R100. This was all very well but, by doing so, the space available for all the important electric thingummies was seriously curtailed. But with the help of a lightweight Ii on battery mounted sideways, and some intricate wiring work, everything fits into a tiny space under the seat.
With the original GS rear end shot away, it was replaced with a rather more exotically equipped back end with the shock absorber from a Yamaha R6 and the linkage from a Suzuki GS650F. Making all these disparate parts fit together meant that she needed to learn about wheel alignment.
She had to move the bike from its home in the living room (because it was blocking the view of the Christmas telly) so it was relocated into the family conservatory, where it was suspended on a set of stepladders to fit the rear wheel. The front forks got a refresh with progressive springs.
Now, I quite like a few gaps on a motorcycle. I feel that what's not there is as important as what is. Cheyenne's GS has just the amount of sparseness it needs.
The look of the back end was what was going to transform the bike from workaday slogger to smart special, and Cheyenne was determined to keep a clean gap under the seat. To achieve this, she roped in her dad, Mark, who she describes as her'engineer, fabricator and human bike lift'who learned how to hand form ABS thermoplastic polymer sheets to create the panels to tidy everything up.
The bodywork was decorated by Wobbz Custom Paint with a black and yellow Japanese theme. There's a Koi carp on the tank, for starters. On the dinky little nose fairing, which comes off a Harley davidson Street 750, the big slab of yellow was broken up with the Japanese word for'beauty'.
The Suzi's 487cc / 45bhp engine was compression tested and given a good check over before fitting. At this point Cheyenne learned the important lesson that it's tricky to get a repainted engine back into a frame that's already been powder coated without chipping anything. She had the help of her dad in bike lift mode to get the freshly painted Suzuki lump back in.
On the original GS in standard spec, the wheels are a fairly hideous shade of dirt
collecting white. Oh, do come on, Suzuki, white wheels? On a bike that's going to be used and abused for years and never see so much as a hosepipe? What were you thinking? Even in the 1990s it should have been obvious this was a bad idea. So they were powder coated black on this bike, as were the engine crash bars. The exhaust is a nice new shiny Delkevic, which keeps the MOT tester happy but still makes a passable noise.
As with any great special, it's the details that make the difference. A'currently all the rage' clear clutch cover; trail bike handlebars on two inch risers; fancy levers, and a Lucas tail light. One lovely touch is the hand made leather tool pouch that sits above the clocks and under the nose fairing. Not just practical all the other space available was taken up fitting the electrics under the seat so there's nowhere else for it to go but it up breaks the sharp lines of the dash.
In the end the only bits of the bike that weren't mucked about with and modified were the rear brake caliper and the engine internals. In theory, that means the six speed twin should be good for 105mph if it's ever revved to its maximum 9000rpm.
Cheyenne picked up the Best Young Builder award at Kickback, which makes it two trophies in two builds. And she finished the bike before she could actually ride it, only passing her test a week or so before the bike went on show!
Just think; she turned out a show winner in a few months, while I've had an AJS with a dodgy magneto for the same length of time and haven't even got it on a ramp yet. On the upside, this suggests that there's hope for the future of motorcycling. On the downside, it does rather make one feel woefully inadequate. Maybe I should just sell it and buy a Suzuki hack instead?