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Nick O’Kane is K&N’s Powersports Sales Manager by Day and Bike Builder by Night

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The top triple clamps were modified with mounts to support the gauges

The top triple clamps were modified with mounts to support the gauges originally housed in the factory fairing and handlebar risers to adapt the top mounted RSD handlebars

The TL’s paint scheme came to life by way of Chris Redpath at MotoGP Werks

The TL’s paint scheme came to life by way of Chris Redpath at MotoGP Werks but takes inspiration from 2-time AMA Superbike champ Wes Cooley & his factory Yoshimura Suzuki motorcycles

The American novelist Ray Bradbury, probably best known for his novel Fahrenheit 451, once said “Love what you do and do what you love.” While we can’t all be professional artists, sports figures, or racers; working for a company such as K&N Air Filters does allow the opportunity to apply a passion for performance into a real world career. Nick O’Kane, who serves as K&N’s Powersports Sales Manager, is just one of many examples of K&N employees who, in their spare time, build, customize, and even race vehicles with two wheels or four. Nick has a particular flair for building custom motorcycles that ride just as good as they look. Nick’s latest creation is a salvaged 2002 Suzuki TL1000R reincarnated as a beautiful café racer blending modern technology with styling cues from the past.

Nick was born and raised just outside the city of Liverpool in England. While Liverpool is famous for being home to The Beatles, Nick prefers to draw inspiration for his custom motorcycle builds from classic European and American motorcycle racing. The café racer look is a uniquely British style created by a subculture of young Britons which modern society would describe as hooligans. Early café racer motorcycles were stripped down Triumph, BSA, Norton, or even Vincent motorcycles intended, not for comfort, but for speed and handling. The café racer look has developed into a very unique style that continues today, usually with classic or modern British twins. Nick’s 2002 Suzuki TL1000R café racer is a bit out of the norm, but the TL’s excellent presentation is sure to please café racer purists.

The often criticized stock TL1000R shock was swapped for a fully adjustable unit from Hyper-Pro

The often criticized stock TL1000R shock was swapped for a fully adjustable unit from Hyper-Pro and a custom dual exhaust was created with mufflers sourced from Roland Sands Design

The original TL1000R gas cap and handlebar levers were swapped for anodized billet aluminum pieces from PSR USA

The original TL1000R gas cap and handlebar levers were swapped for anodized billet aluminum pieces from PSR USA which also serve to compliment the VooDoo Moto rear sets

Nick acquired the base for his café racer canvas as a salvaged motorcycle from the nearby shop of Motopia Cycles. Nick described it as a “smashed up dog” when he acquired the crashed bike for a mere $800. Removing the Superbike’s damaged fairings and bent sub-frame revealed a bike with just the right lines to serve as the starting point for this café racer build. The 2002 Suzuki TL1000R was torn down completely with many components, such as the frame, swing arm, and wheels sent off to be powder coated in flat black. To achieve the café racer look several components needed to be fabricated. The entire sub-frame is a custom one-off unit designed around the custom tail section and seat pan. The top triple clamps and gauge mounts were fabricated with risers to adapt the top mounted RSD handlebars and the gauges originally supported by the factory fairing.

Another issue encountered by removing the factory fairings was the lengthy and unsightly OE wiring harness of the Suzuki TL1000R. Nick describes the process of shortening the wiring harness as a “Nightmare which took days of cutting and soldering.” His efforts were not in vain as it allowed Nick to neatly tuck the wiring underneath the fuel tank and behind the Ducati Monster head light. The TL’s paint scheme was inspired by two-time AMA Superbike champion Wes Cooley and his factory Yoshimura Suzuki racing motorcycles from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Nick chose to apply the number 7 to the TL’s café racer tail section as a tribute to another of his favorite racers, Barry Sheene, who won the Motorcycle Grand Prix World Championship in 1976 and 1977 aboard a factory Suzuki 500.

number 7 applied to the TL’s café  tail section as a tribute to British racer Barry Sheene

Nick chose to apply the number 7 to the TL’s café racer tail section as a tribute to British racer Barry Sheene while the seat is all American from the folks over at Saddlemen Seats

When the fairings were removed the Suzuki TL1000R wiring harness was an unsightly mess

When the fairings were removed the Suzuki TL1000R wiring harness was an unsightly mess, but with a lot of time cutting and soldering it tucks neatly behind the Ducati Monster headlight

As a crashed motorcycle the stock front forks were bent, but instead of repairing the stock units Nick opted to swap them for a set of Suzuki GSX-R forks from a newer motorcycle. To complement the GSX-R forks, and cure the often criticized rear suspension, the stock TL1000R shock was swapped for a fully adjustable unit from Hyper-Pro. Yamaha R6 calipers were adapted to the front Suzuki GSX-R forks. The R6 calipers combined with EBC brake rotors and pads helped to bring the TL’s braking up to par with newer sportbikes. Rear-sets from VooDoo Moto replace the stock foot pegs for a touch of class that is equally at home on the race track.

A custom 2 into 1 into 2 exhaust system was fabricated using mufflers sourced from Roland Sands Design. The custom exhaust was designed to let the TL’s 1,000 cc race inspired v-twin engine exhale, and let others know the TL isn’t your typical inline-four. As a loyal K&N employee, Nick’s 2002 TL1000R café racer is fitted with a high-flow K&N air filter, number SU-0015 and a K&N wrench-off oil filter, number KN-138. A Dynojet Power Commander was installed to supplement the TL1000R’s stock ECU for the increased airflow into and out of the engine. Further engine tuning was performed by MotoGP Werks to ensure Nick’s TL café racer performed well across the entire RPM range.

Nick is quick to admit that this project wouldn’t have been possible without the help of his friends and key industry partners. K&N air filters, Roland Sands Design, Dynojet, MotoGP Werks, EBC Brakes, PSR USA, VooDoo Moto, Hyper-Pro, Goodridge and Continental tires are just a few of the companies Nick would like to thank. As the seventh custom bike on Nick’s resume, this 2002 TL1000R certainly won’t be the last. Something about the TL1000 must have caught Nick’s fancy as he has already picked up another crashed TL with a new design in the planning stages.


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K&N Engineering in Riverside California is the world's leading manufacturer of washable performance air filters and air intake systems. K&N invented the reusable high flow cotton air filter in 1969 and has been perfecting the technology ever since. K&N is a world class filtration company selling air filters, oil filters, and intakes in over 30 countries. K&N sells over 5,000 products designed for cars, trucks, motorcycles, engines, and industrial applications. From their Million Mile Warranty to their Consumer Protection Pledge, K&N stands behind their products and their consumers 100%. The distinctive K&N logo represents performance from one of the original performance companies. For more information, visit knfilters.com.