When a customer from Florida reached out to us with a vague idea for not one, but two custom dual sport motorcycles, we were eager to jump at the challenge. After exploring options for a fun, easy to ride, and easy to maintain bike, we settled on a 2018 Suzuki VanVan. Our goal was to keep the fun-loving characteristics of the 200cc dual sport, but give it a bit of an attitude adjustment. We wanted to take the cute and quirky look of the VanVan, and transform it into something a bit more aggressive, and with cleaner and classier lines.
But there was a twist: this had to be done as an entirely bolt-on project. The plan was for us to build a completely finished custom VanVan in our shop here in St. Louis, but make duplicates of every single part, so the customer could build an identical (except for tank color) bike for his daughter, at home in Florida. That meant no cutting and welding on the frame, and minimally-invasive wiring updates. Everything that we fabricated had to be attached to the bike using existing mounting locations — subframe, headlight, turn signals, etc.
One of the first things you notice on the finished build is the front tire. To achieve the look we were after, we performed a fat front wheel conversion on the VanVan. From the factory, the VanVan comes with an extra-wide 14″ rear rim and fat tire, but a narrower 18″ rim in front. We were able to lace up another 14″ rear rim to the front hub, using custom stainless steel spokes and nipples from Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim. We powdercoated the hubs and rims in black and mounted fat Bridgestone tires on the front and back to give the bike its real over the top look.
A major decision we had to make that would really impact the overall look of the build, was what tank to use. We build a lot of custom vintage Hondas here at Slipstream, so we happened to have a couple of Honda CB360 tanks on hand. These tanks were just the right size and shape. We were able to fabricate some bolt-on front tank mounts that move the tank a couple inches forward, just slightly higher than the stock mounting location. We also integrated a rear tank mount into the custom bolt-on subframe we built.
The tanks were shaved and painted in solid colors with no graphics — one in red and one in black. The clean look of the tanks help give the custom VanVan a bit of an understated look in contrast with the oversized tires and dual headlights.
All of the lighting on the bike was updated. We built a custom headlight mount with perimeter guard that would wrap around dual headlight beams with LEDs. The bracked mounts to the stock headlight mounts on the lower triple clamp, and has integrated LED turn signals from Motogadget. In the rear, we made some custom turn signal stalks for the Motogadget turn signals, that also double as fender bolts. A low-profile LED tail light unit was adde atop the fender.
To give the rear fender a more streamlined look, we were able to get OEM black rear fenders for the VanVan, and shorten them by about 4-inches to give the bike a bit more streamlined look, but still provide at least some protection from the elements.
One of the more challenging parts of the build was figuring out how to create a nice beltline to the bike, considering the odd factory shape of the VanVan. And of course, we had to accomplish that without any welding on the frame. We managed to fabricate a custom subframe that bolts onto the stock rear tank mounts. This provides nice horizontal tubes that flow with the bottom edge of the tank, and provide a seamless line from front to back. We included tabs to mount custom steel side covers.
The seat pan was fabricated out of steel to fit the new subframe, and wrapped neatly over the hump of the rear fender. We upholstered it in a simple pleated black vinyl to give the bike a clean and simple look.
We rounded out the build with a new black handlebar, and a Trailtech Vapor digital instrument panel and indicator lights.
In the end, this build turned out just as we’d hoped. We kept the fun and approachable demeanor of the Suzuki VanVan 200, but gave it more of an aggressive look and feel. We were able to accomplish this with entirely bolt-on updates that flow seamlessly with the bike and don’t look like bolt-ons at all. All of the work to complete this dual sport project was performed in-house — from custom metal fabrication, paint, powder coat, electronics, and upholstery.
- Custom fabricated bolt-on subframe
- Custom steel side covers
- Custom seat pan and seat upholstery
- Custom headlight mount with dual LED beams and Motogadget turn signals
- Customized rear fender with low profile LED tail light
- 14″ extra-wide front rim and fat front tire
- Custom fuel tanks
- Top-end engine rebuild with ported and polished head
- Trailtech Vapor digital instrument panel with indicator lights
- All the little, big details, but twice
Creativity & Craftsmanship
We pride ourselves on creativity & craftsmanship — finding unique ways to re-purpose parts and hardware, striking just the right balance between a variety of materials. By letting function drive form, we’re able to achieve an industrial style that looks like it works hard, and hard work is a beautiful thing.