WES COUNTRY WIZARD

Cornishman Kenny Langford’s Wes Cooley rep contains only three GS1000 parts and yet it’s still unmistakably a Cooley rep. Here’s how he did it...

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by Practical Sportsbikes team |

People’s reasons for building specials are many and varied. For some, they can’t get what they want from any production machine – and they have the skills and the means to build exactly what they want. For others it’s simply the desire to make something extraordinary. In Kenny Langford’s case: “I saw a Cooley rep and knew there and then I’d have to build one.”

Build one he has – and it’s a peach. Five years in the making it has all the attitude of a Pops Yoshimura/Wes Cooley GS1000, all the key ingredients, with some clever time and money-saving options that in no way detract from the overall appeal.You could argue they even bring the whole thing properly up to date.

People’s reasons for building specials are many and varied. For some, they can’t get what they want from any production machine – and they have the skills and the means to build exactly what they want. For others it’s simply the desire to make something extraordinary. In Kenny Langford’s case: “I saw a Cooley rep and knew there and then I’d have to build one.”   Build one he has – and it’s a peach. Five years in the making it has all the attitude of a Pops Yoshimura/Wes Cooley GS1000, all the key ingredients, with some clever time and money-saving options that in no way detract from the overall appeal.You could argue they even bring the whole thing properly up to date.

Kenny’s advice

  1. Never rush. People tend to do all the big jobs fairly well and then rush the details. It’s the details that make the difference. When it looks 90 per cent finished it’s not. It’s probably only 50 per cent finished. The little jobs take just as much time to do well.
  1. Do a dry build. Just about everyone tells you to do this. There’s a good reason for that.
  1. If you can’t afford something, don’t skimp and get a cheaper alternative. Wait a couple of months, save up, wait a year if you have to. Don’t be cheap, or your bike will look cheap.
Slinky tapered headers on full JayGui system
Slinky tapered headers on full JayGui system

It all started 15 years ago. “Me and my brother started a bike business, and to make some money we ran a breakers’ yard on the side.We had an 1100ET in and I said I’ll have the motor, then a 750ET came in and I had the frame, and I just started cherry- picking all the good bits, like early EXUP forks,” says Kenny.You wonder if they made any money at the game at this rate.

“I was going to build a streetfighter ET with a big tank,” he says. Until he saw the Cooley rep. “I’d been riding a GSX-R1000 and things were getting a bit stupid... I mean 50-150mph in third gear. So I had to get rid of it. I’d had GPz1100s, even had an LC with a Kawasaki H1E engine in it, swapped it for a CB900F would you believe?” So the appeal of the Cooley rep was two-fold: something old school, but with a bit of go (not too much, but enough).

Kenny’s skills were well up to the job. “I’ve been working on bikes since I was 14,” he says. “I’d buy non-runners, get ’em going, sell ’em on. I did mates’ bikes, got into the trade when I was 18 and had 12 years working for other people. It was mainly servicing stuff like ‘can you do these XJ900 fork seals please?’, when the work I really liked was engine rebuilds. So they rented a unit and put a Dyno Pro in it – and sure enough that brought a lot of engine work in, a lot of trackday and race stuff.”

So Kenny was in heaven then? “No, the shop got sold on and the new owners didn’t really get that bit of the business.The biggest trend is bobbers now. I don’t get that, CX500 bobbers... well... On the plus side I’m doing up a CBX Pro-Link at the moment so it’s not all bad.” He spent a lot of the ’90s prepping ZXR400s for racers, and used this experience at the sharp end to make sure the big GSX11 engine at the heart of the rep was as bombproof as could be.

“When we did the ZXR engines we reckoned on just over 1mm valve-to-piston clearance, and they revved to 15,000rpm, so with the GSX, it’s set at 1mm, and with the rev-limiter set to 9500rpm there shouldn’t be any problems.The EFE cams are dialled-in for less overlap, they give about 1mm more lift, and the heads have been skimmed too. Bigger valves were an option but I wanted a strong midrange over a mad top-end so we stayed stock, but with new valves and a three-angle seat cut.The head was flowed by a local guy who builds hill climb engines – the old school stuff – and a GSX head is not that different to anything he normally works on.”

SEP balanced and welded the crankshaft, there’s also aWiseco 1170cc piston kit in there too – pretty much the whole deal needed for a fast road motor. “I spent most of the money on the engine,” says Kenny. “The smoothbores are the thick end of a grand.The whole bike cost me eight grand all-up. It’s easy to spend a lot more than that, but you can’t really get away with less than that if you’re doing the engine properly.”

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Ex-ZXR400 and very nice. Hard work though
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Ex-ZXR400 and very nice. Hard work though

Ex-ZXR400 and very nice. Hard work though

Looking at the dyno numbers, it seems the ‘local guy’ knows what he’s doing, and that Kenny has done the engine ‘properly’.

A peak of 130bhp at 8700rpm and a torque figure of just shy of 90lb.ft at 6395rpm are big, fat useable numbers. “There’s a dip at just under 5000rpm that I still have to smooth out, but you don’t feel it on the road. I’ll maybe have to lift the needles up a bit, but it lifts the front end on the power in second and the front wheel’s still floating about in third, so it can’t be too far away,” says Kenny.

Clearly, justice has been done with the engine. But it’s in the cycle parts where the real ingenuity lies. “It’s really light,” says Kenny. “I literally had a bucketful of old lugs that came off it, and with the lithium battery, and no airbox, it’s basically an engine, a pair of wheels and some cables.

“I copied a lot of frame mods from the old school Suzuki website, put a lot of strengthening around the headstock and did the engine mounts in cardboard, then Dural with a hacksaw and a file.The EXUP swingarm was way too wide to fit, so I had to take 15mm off each side and make up a new spindle. I did all the spacers on a 1940s lathe, which I couldn’t have done without.

“The rearset brackets took me ages. I had access to a lot of ZXR400 stuff, so it made sense to use as much as possible, but the originals had 10mm bolts, and I didn’t want to use them, so I drilled them out and fitted timeserts so I could go down to 8mm. I think the only GS1000 stuff on it is the tank, seat and tailpiece.” And that’s the clever bit; it looks to all intents and purposes an authentic Cooley rep, yet there’s virtually nothing GS1000 on it.

Rear shocks are GSX1400, which are one of the few mistakes Kenny’s made. “They’re too harsh, the ride height’s wrong. I need some softer springs there, no question about that,” he says.At the other end the early EXUP forks look spot-on and perform without drama. Similarly, the Yamaha blue-spots do the job too. For some Cooley aficionados, the blue spots could be seen as heresy, but unless you’re building a faithful facsimile of his GS1000, what’s the point in hunting out the ‘correct’ (expensive) parts if your start point isn’t even a GS1000? Kenny’s GSX-alike looks more Cooley than many more ‘authentic’ versions ever did.The effect is more about the machine’s attitude than any list of the ‘right bits’ could ever make it. “Not a lot of people appreciate it,” says Kenny. “I just wanted to make something that looked as if it had just rolled out of a 1980s pit garage. Little things like offsetting the tacho so the redline’s closest to the rider’s line of sight, angling the front number plate so it works like a little fairing.”

And then there are the subtler works too. “A friend of mine had a SpeedTriple streetfighter and he’d made this really nice welded alloy catch tank for it. So I said I’d have that catch tank off him at some point, which I did, because it was good enough to make a feature out of.And I wanted decent oil breather fittings all round too, not push-ons with Jubilee clips. Same with the Hel oil-cooler and the fittings.”

Kenny took advice on other matters, like the pipe; a full JayGui system with tapered headers from Suzuki Performance Spares. And then ignored lots of other suggestions from people, like the paint. “Everyone does them in red and white, so I did it in blue and white,” he says.The wiring was an area where Kenny didn’t hesitate in getting stuck in. “I knew where it all needed to go, and I just made sure the tail tray was big enough to get everything in without anything hanging out.” Job done – tidy as you like.

Some classic trackdays for GSX are earmarked in 2019, most likely Pembrey, where most of the Cornish kids head for if they’re not hill climbing or hooning around. Kenny has a three mile commute to work at Ace Motorycles in Bude, so guess what he employs for that task? Bicycle? C90? Neither.AWiseco 620-equipped XR600 with a 42mm carb. Just like this Cooley GSX – it’s what he thinks is right for the job.

The Build

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When there’s no time pressure, and money has to be saved up before it can be spent, you have an opportunity to take your time and get everything absolutely right. This is how Kenny slowed it all down to perfect his Wes build

MAY 2015 Seeing the light After being hidden away under a bench for a year while cash was accumulated for the engine parts, the GSX lump finally emerged for a coat of paint before assembly: PJ1 Satin Black for the crankcases, PJ1 Engine Case Black for the barrels and heads.

Oct 2018 cables and lines Two elements sure to distinguish a totally top quality build from something very good but not quite top notch are cable and brake line lengths and routing. Brackets too are a seemingly simple task that if executed well should be almost unnoticeable. And if done badly, make the whole bike look woefully substandard

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NOV 2016
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NOV 2016 Smoothbore score

NOV 2016 Smoothbore score There's no escaping the fact high-end stuff costs. The Keihin smoothbores took some scrimping and saving at a grand for these four.

Looks tough enough to ride straight through that block wall
Looks tough enough to ride straight through that block wall
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Heavily-modded Yamaha EXUP swingarm a much more successful transplant than GSX1400 shocks
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Heavily-modded Yamaha EXUP swingarm a much more successful transplant than GSX1400 shocks

Heavily-modded Yamaha EXUP swingarm a much more successful transplant than GSX1400 shocks

SPECIFICATION GSX1100 WES COOLEY REP

Engine

GSX1100ET engine, gas-flowed head with 3-angle valve seat cut, new valves, EFE cams with slotted sprockets, Wiseco 1170 kit, balanced and welded crank, stock gearbox ,stock clutch with heavy duty plate and spring kit, Hel oil cooler, 33mm Keihin smothbores ,four-into-two-into- one Jaygui exhaust system with conical headers from Suzuki Performance Spares.

Chassis

Delugged GSX750ET frame, FZR1000 EXUP rear end with XJR underslung caliper, front end early EXUP. GS1000 bodywork with flush fitting filler cap, underseat electrics with Dyna 2000 ignition and coils. All set up on Ace Motorcyles dyno by me. (admittedly rushed because my boss had sold the bloody thing), R1 blue spot calipers, Accossato radial master cylinder, Brembo clutch lever, ZXR400 rearsets.

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