Dream Ride 2011 Kawasaki Vaquero

It’s the hurry up offense. It’s burning the midnight oil. It’s the thrash. Anyone who’s ever built anything knows exactly what we’re talking about. What it means is having a set amount of time (usually too little) to complete a major task (usually too big). Some folks can pull it off. Others can’t. But what Robert Fisher and Roaring Toyz pulled off prior to Daytona Bike Week this year is nothing short of amazing.

Two weeks before Bike Week, Kawasaki dropped off its just-released touring bike, the Vaquero, at Robert’s Roaring Toyz shop in Sarasota, Florida. The plan was to build a custom Kawasaki bagger. But keep in mind, these bikes are so fresh, some magazines haven’t even tested them yet (see March RoadBike for a complete review). It also meant there was nothing available when it came to custom hardware for the machine. Zero. Nada. That, of course, was about to change.

Of course, Robert isn’t exactly a neophyte when it comes to custom motorcycles and custom motorcycle parts; Roaring Toyz made its name manufacturing specialty hardware for sportbikes, and the company has recently branched out into the cruiser segment. And the place is hopping: it has nine employees and a five stand-alone CNC-machining centers devoted strictly to the task of manufacturing custom motorcycle components. Yes, having a successful venture such as Roaring Toyz also means Robert has a long list of vendors, suppliers, and friends he can rely upon. But in this case, he really had to call in all his markers.

Robert first set the big Vaquero in an open area of the shop and simply allowed the thing to sink into his senses. He knew right away that the new Kawasaki needed a 21″ wheel up front. The Roaring Toyz crew mocked up the bike with a tall, skinny front hoop to see if it were even feasible. It was. Robert then got on the phone to Performance Machine. One of its new Paramount platinum-cut wheels was soon on the way, along with a set of front brake rotors and select other pieces. Meanwhile, Roaring Toyz machined Harley hubs and wheel spacers to fit the new wheel to the Vaquero. It also machined spacers in order to move the stock front fender up on the forks to fit the new wheel combination. (As a result, Roaring Toyz can now provide a wheel, rotors, tire, and fender space as a direct bolt-on kit for the Vaquero).

Robert next called Progressive Suspension and picked up a lowering kit for the Vaquero, along with an Air Dragger rear suspension setup. Once he had a low and mean bagger on his hands, the next step was to take a set of PM black-anodized Harley floorboards and machined custom mounts and bolt them to the Kawasaki factory brackets. (Another Roaring Toyz kit now available; the rear floorboards weren’t ready by the Bike Week deadline and therefore aren’t in these photos, but they’re also now on the list of available Vaquero parts from Roaring Toyz.)

Next on the hit list was a set of Burly Brand 13″ Bagger bars. To make the Burly bars work, Robert had to get creative. His team discovered a set of RSD handlebars risers that not only fit the bill, but looked cool, too. The wiring was extended and routed internally to clean up the topside, and a set of neon green stainless steel braided brake and clutch lines were fabbed in order to accommodate the taller bars. PM black anodized grips were added to the mix, followed by Roaring Toyz’ own clutch and brake levers.

Kawi’s beefy, liquid-cooled, 104″ twin was left pretty much stock, but Robert wanted to clean up the flanks a bit. PM had a Harley Davidson-specific air cleaner that matched its wheels, so Roaring Toyz CNC-machined a nifty backing plate that allowed the face plate and filter to attach to the Vaquero’s throttle bodies. It was originally intended as a looks-specific part, but the Toyz crew was shocked when they put the thing on their dyno — and picked up a whopping 8.5 hp! By anyone’s standards, that’s huge for just an air intake kit. Robert points out that the stock Vaquero ran particularly rich, but with the custom air filter setup (also newly added to RT’s growing parts inventory), its fuel graph proved perfect.

Paint and body were a major undertaking simply because of the super-short timeline. Florida painter Ryan Hathaway does virtually all of the Roaring Toyz work, and given the diminutive timeframe, bike and components were constantly ferried back and forth during the build. Given the Kawasaki heritage, Robert figured that Candy Lime was mandatory; Hathaway artfully broke it up with black, gray, and silver flourishes.

One of the things Fisher and company were looking forward to was having a bike with the room to house a killer sound system. Inside the bags they hooked up a pair of 8″ three-way speakers, along with a 400-watt JL Audio marine amplifier. The dash speakers are JL Audio 5-1/4″ jobs, and the entire unit is controlled by way of an iPod hooked to an OEM accessory switch on the left handlebar. The end result is a downright bad-to-the-bone sound system that proves almost invisible on the bike.

With only a few hours to spare, the crew hauled the Vaquero 186 miles or so across the state to Daytona Beach. But the big question was: would folks really accept it? After all, when it comes to baggers US-built Big Twins are the rule rather than exception at

Daytona, and the Vaquero was a bike many folks had never heard of, let alone laid eyes on. What Roaring Toyz ended up with, though, was an outright showstopper; even jaded, Harley-devoted naysayers couldn’t believe how stunning it was.

Now with a full line of custom Roaring Toyz components for Kawasaki’s new bagger, Robert admits the end result was definitely worth the thrash. RB

Words by Wayne Scraba, Photos By Alfonse Palaima

For video and more images visit custom Kawasaki Vaquero.

Story as published in the July issue of RoadBike magazine.


  1. Nice to see a metric bike featured. I own a 2011 Kawasaki Vaquero. Its very hard to find upgrades. Most magazines concentrate on Harley Davidson’s or American made bikes. Do you have any sites that do more for metric cruisers or even better can you guys/gals make more of a effort to put them in your Magazine.

    • Umm — have you ever READ RoadBike?? 😉
      Seriously Paul, metrics are what we do, mostly. We only feature Harleys ’cause the Boss tells us to….
      You should pick us up on the newsstand sometime, & see for yourself.

    • True My Vaquero is spectacular and yeap sick of accessories for Harley’s Give it a rest Metric’s reliable and Better looks a around.