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Kawasaki ER-6n – Smoked Garage | BIKE TESTS | COLUMNS | GASSIT GARAGE

An off-road bike designed for the city? Bali’s Smoked Garage takes the scrambler trend outside the square. Way outside

Growing up in Sydney in the 80s, I remember my family having nicknames for certain types of vehicles. In typical Aussie style, you couldn’t just call a spade a spade, you had to have a little dig at it, too. So all panel vans were shaggin’ wagons. The Valiants were Marrickville Mercedes. And, most memorably, Range Rovers were Double Bay Bulldozers.

Of course, the joke with the Rangies was that none of them ever left the city’s Eastern Suburbs, let alone the city limits. And with the current rage for anything scrambler, you could probably say the same for most of these high-piped, knobby-tyred wonders. Why ride a bike that’s at home in the muck and the mire if all you’re showing it is Maccas and motorways?

But leave it to Bali’s Smoked Garage to take a trend and bend it. With a knack for unique builds and an abundance of eminently scrambler-able vistas in their vicinity, they’ve done a burnout on the off-road rulebook and created the ‘Urban X’. It’s their vision of a bike more at home mounting curbs and descending steps than kicking up dust.

Chief Smoker Nicko Eigert takes up the story. “After we decided on a scrambler, we researched. All we found were retro styles or wannabe scramblers. But we wanted to build something that was more future-focused and city-focused. At some point we set our hearts on the tyres you see here, and then we found Holographic Hammer’s ZX-10R concept. It was love at first sight.”

What’s it based on?

Generally considered an under-the-radar bike, Kawasaki’s ER-6n is quite the quiet achiever. Fitted with a 649cc parallel twin, it spits out a respectable 53kw and 64Nm. And while the bike is mostly thought of as a beginner or an intermediate bike here in Oz, in Bali and South East Asia it’s right up there. It’s even used as a law enforcement bike in some countries.

“If I were living outside of Asia, I probably wouldn’t recommend it,” says Nicko. “But for Asian roads, the ER-6n is a great bike. With only two pistons, it’s super easy to fix. It’s also super light and very nimble in traffic, and it doesn’t stutter when you are riding at slow speeds. And best of all, it’s very affordable. If you like a wild bike, then this is probably not the one for you. But if you like predictable and customisable, well…”


What’s it got?

With the fairing removed from most modern machines, the aesthetics of the frame often leave a lot to be desired. So the team fabricated a tank, panels and covers that integrate seamlessly all the way back to the rear guard. Despite the complex shapes involved, the bodywork gap is a perfect 2mm all the way around. As Nicko says, it’s the exact thickness of a credit card at every point.

Having given a new bike old looks, it would have been easy to bolt on a round 7-inch headlight and call it a day, but not for Smoked. So a dual headlight setup was created with the use of two unique LED lights that give it a real factory-quality finish. Their machined bezels look very trick and with the custom fairing they create a front-on scene like no other bike.

The paint scheme has been taken straight from the showroom floor, with the primary colour the famous Kwaka Lime Green. The white does an amazing job of combining plastic, aluminium and steel into what appears to be bodywork made from a single piece of metal, all the while covering the unsightly frame.

Bike was inspired by French designers Holographic Hammer

Bike was inspired by French designers Holographic Hammer

What was tricky?

Without hesitating, Nicko smiles and points to the panels. Deciding to step up their quality game, they set the 2mm panel gap as a challenge to themselves. Little did they realise that it would be one of the hardest jobs they’d ever undertaken. But as you do, they stuck to their guns, or welders, as the case may be.

“We kept welding and adjusting the parts. We spent at least three weeks on it to get it just right. We hammered, we bent and we beat it. And then we did it again… and again. By the end, we almost lost the entire tank, as we had welded it way too many times and the aluminium was turning into butter. Basically it just wasn’t fuel tight anymore, so in the end we cut of the bottom of the tank and welded an entirely new piece on it.”

Hand-made panels look like factory originals

Hand-made panels look like factory originals

What’s next?

“We are building a Ducati Streetfighter 848 that will have cafe and drag influences,” says Nicko without an ounce of irony. “It’s difficult, as I don’t really know which category it fits into. It’s going to have a handmade monocoque frame, so the fuel tank and the seat will be a single piece of aluminium. It’ll also have a hinge so we can open it like a hood to access an engine. That’s the most difficult part and we’re working on it right now. Anyway, it’s going to be amazing when it’s done.” And with a bike like this under his belt, we’re inclined to believe him.

Headlight assembly adds a touch of the high tech

Headlight assembly adds a touch of the high tech