One Woman, One Custom Suzuki Bandit, and An Incredible Journey That Defies All Odds

Custom-Suzuki-Bandit

 

Sara Jane was living the life that every motorcyclist dreams of — combining work and motorcycles. But behind the scenes, her idyllic life was shattering day by day until one devastating event would lead her down a path of near destruction. The journey to rebuild her life and enjoy her passion once again would be a story of determination and discovery. Read how the process of building her custom Suzuki Bandit helps to get her life back on track.

 

Loving two wheels from an early age leads to a career with motorcycles

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Sara Jane discovered the thrill of being on two wheels at an early age. Like most youngsters, she started by riding dirt bikes and scooters. By the age of 13, she was riding from sunrise to sunset on her first motorcycle, a Honda passport.

As Sara Jane’s two-wheeled passion grew, so did her natural creative talent for design. She went from a motorcycle enthusiast to owning a motorcycle shop in Louisville, Kentucky. Her husband did mechanical repairs while Sara lent her expertise to plastic repairs, fiberglass, and custom paint jobs. Soon, the bike of her dreams made its way into her possession, a 2001 Honda RC-51. Her life was complete and running smoothly. But looks can be deceiving.

 

From the outside looking in, an idyllic dream life turned into a tragic nightmare

 

From an outsider’s viewpoint, Sara Jane’s life seemed to be on track. But her life was not all it appeared to be. Factually, it was unraveling day by day as she suffered an increasing amount of abuse by her husband. His abuse turned extremely violent when he planted a bomb in their motorcycle shop, intending to kill her and collect the insurance money. She claims that it could have only been divine intervention that saved her from his heinous act that day. By the grace of God, she had stepped out of her studio area to visit her sister shortly before the bomb exploded. That horrific day had her leaving everything behind and finding safety at a woman’s shelter.

 

“Dependence on a man had left me vulnerable and, ultimately, cost me everything I had.”

 

She was emotionally shattered. Not only did her husband destroy her motorcycle shop, but her husband took her beloved Honda RC-51. He fled the state and asked a friend to store her motorcycle so that she could not get it back. Eventually, he was arrested and while in jail, took his own life.

 

Finding her way back and up

 

Sara Jane tried everything to reclaim her motorcycle, as she desperately wanted to get back on two wheels again and build her life back. Unfortunately, even the authorities could not be of help getting her Honda back from her husband’s friend. The best she could do was accept the meager substitute he offered: an old 1997 Suzuki Bandit with 60,000 miles on it.

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The original 1997 Suzuki Bandit 1200S, a fully faired sport tour

 

“I did not have anything to ride, and I knew I would lose my mind if I didn’t get in the wind,” she shared. “So I took the trade and vowed to make this big, heavy dinosaur of a sport tourer into something special.”

 

She admits that it wasn’t easy to put the pieces of her life back together. Over the next seven years, she built her business back up and has become the strong, independent woman she is today. She credits an integral part of her healing process to designing and creating her custom-built motorcycle.

 

The concept for her Suzuki Bandit custom, a unique union of sport bike and café racer

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Sara Jane first laid out her vision of her unique custom motorcycle design on paper. She wanted to combine the comfortable stance of a modern sport bike with the stylish look of an older café racer style motorcycle. She then bestowed the name Titus upon her Suzuki Café Racer.

 

“I just really always loved the name. It is strong and masculine and makes me think of a guy nobody would even try to challenge.”

 

custom suzuki bandit
Sara Jane’s custom Suzuki Bandit, Titus

Once the design was set, she fine-tuned her limited set of fundamental mechanical skills to bring her custom motorcycle creation to life. She began the constant search for knowledge by seeking out Suzuki Bandit groups on Facebook. She also found a few informative websites that aided in her quest. The turning point happened when she got her hands on Suzuki’s service manual at a local dealership. It contained a vast amount of information that would get her custom built motorcycle running at optimal performance.

 

A healing journey starts with rebuilding  a custom motorcycle from the frame up

 

suzuki-bandit-engine-frameWith her previous experience in working with custom-built bikes and creating custom motorcycle designs, this seemed the natural and best thing to do next for Sara. Among her many motorcycle customization ideas, Titus’ design felt closest to what she needed.

 

“Titus is so special to me because he has been such an important part of my healing process. Just proving to myself that I could do it on my own was very liberating. I needed to know that I could still make it in this industry as a woman, be respected, and taken seriously.”

 

The first thing Sara Jane did was to strip it down to the frame. Except for enlisting the help from a friend to weld the subframe, she worked on the entire bike from concept to completion.

She began by jetting the carbs to stage 3 and replacing the airbox. The day she tuned and synched up the carbs to perfection was her crowning achievement. It is what makes Titus “run like a beast.”

To create “Titus,” she made use of after-market components and custom-built parts:

  • Replaced the airbox with K&N dual pods
  • Cut down the Two Brothers carbon black exhaust from the original full size
  • Added a crankcase breather (which she admits was purely for the look since there is no real benefit for the addition)
  • Replaced stock rotors with wave-style rotors, put all steel braided brake lines and rebuilt and painted the stock calipers
  • Replaced the handlebars with clip-ons
  • Custom made micro switches, replaced all controls, new brake levers and reservoirs
  • Removed all the gauges, except for the fuel gauge

 

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Sara Jane created the unique little side skirts to go under the tank to achieve a more cafe style line.

 

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She fabricated the seat/tail unit from fiberglass and made custom leather wrapped grips to match the red leather seat

 

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Sara Jane’s favorite part – custom paint design

 

“I love painting bikes. It is my passion, and I have fought my way back into a position to be able to do what I love again. It has taken almost 7 years, but I can finally say I am back in business and loving every minute of it. All on my own.”

 

motorcycle-paint-design

She spent quite a lot of time on painting her Suzuki café racer/sport bike. Sara Jane declares that it is also her favorite part of the transformation of her custom motorcycle. The bodywork and paint were designed together so it would flow and fit just right.

 

“I love the trash polka style artwork, and I think the layout of it, from a distance, looks super aggressive, but the close-up view reveals a lot of detail.”

 

Sara Jane also lowered the bike a few inches to better accommodate her 5’ 4” height. After going through four pairs of bar-end mirrors, she finally found a set that wouldn’t fly off when she cruises on the highway.

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The union between the modern sport bike and café racer motorcycle may seem to be an unconventional couple, but the result is an extraordinary look and conveys a commanding presence.

 

“I love the look of it. I prefer modern sport bikes. The stance is so comfortable for me, and I love the way they handle. The older cafe style bikes have always really appealed to me. I think Titus is the perfect marriage between the two. Maybe an odd couple, but I think it all works out.”

 

A one of a kind, custom Suzuki Bandit gets positive vibes

 

 

“I love when people ask who did the work. The look on their faces when I tell them I did all it myself is priceless.”

 

Titus may not be “everyone’s cup of tea,” but Sara Jane has mostly positive responses when people meet Titus. They do not even realize the Titus’ underlying make unless they read the tank. Titus no longer resembles his former self.

 

“I have a friend who calls him the café racer on steroids.”

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Sara Jane and Titus in the burnout box at the 2018 Kentucky Kickdown Vintage Motorcycle Festival. Photo by Frances Garthwaite

 

Any road is a good road to ride, especially when on a custom Suzuki Bandit called Titus

 

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“I love to ride anywhere and everywhere around my hometown, and I love to see people’s reactions. It never gets old.”

 

Sara Jane has a blast on her custom built motorcycle wherever she rides. She admits that taking off the fairings have made it a little unsteady at high speeds. But the stock wheelbase and weight lend to her custom Suzuki Bandit handling nicely, with a considerable amount of power, especially in the twisties.

 

“This bike is fun as hell.”

 

Sara Jane’s favorite motorcycle accessory with a twist

 

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Sara Jane’s favorite piece of gear is her Scorpion XO helmet with a unique addition that will have you taking a second glance. The braided strands were mementos from her former, dreadlocked hair. She made two pigtails out of them and used a body panel adhesive to attach them to her helmet.

 

“My 22-year old is a little embarrassed by it, but most people seem to really like it, people sure do know it is me coming.”


 

 An incredible woman of many talents, Sara Jane creates custom motorcycle paint designs

 

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As evident in her custom Suzuki Bandit, Titus, Sara Jane has an aptitude for creating amazing designs. She is not only limited to custom motorcycle paint design, but she has also been a tattoo artist and has been taking on art commissions for the last 13 years. Besides, she continues to take on the occasional motorcycle and car repair along with adding sewing and upholstery jobs to the list of her talented and creative endeavors.

 

An innovative way to create stunning, functional works of art using leather

 

custom-leather-bag-motorcycle

Sara Jane had always wanted to add a leather leg bag to her riding ensemble. But, it wasn’t in her budget. It is no surprise that her ingenuity played a crucial role in creating this one of a kind leg bag.

She explained that she used the leather from an old couch that she had found curbside and the door plate from a junkyard. This project took about six months because she was in the learning process of this new craft.


 
The final result? She loves her new bag, and there is no shortage of compliments when she sports it while out and about, especially when riding her custom Suzuki Bandit. She embraces the idea of recycling old leather to create unique items like pants, vests, gloves, bags, and tool rolls.

custom painted motorcycle design

 

“It sparked a love for doing a leather craft, so now, I spend some of my free time making leather items.”

 

Connect with Sara Jane

 

Instagram: ink_and_air74
Facebook: sarajanedunn.again

 

 

Do you have a bling’d out bike? Are you fashionably styling while you ride? Then check out How to get featured as a Biker Girl Bling’n It.

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