The French are almost as legendary as the Italians when it comes to matters of style.
Bardot, Delon, Inspector Clousseau – they all had a certain je ne sais quoi. But it is a little known fact that the French were once pioneers in motorcycle design and manufacturing too.
Nowadays, radical new machines like the Voxan V-twin, or Midual Boxer show that the French are still passionate about making unusual bikes. Dinatel may only be a dealership with an eye on creating bikes that stand out from the crowd, but they’re just as keen to present a little French dressing for your tatse buds…
Five o’clock on a cold December night, and the shiny French streets are already teeming with snarling, beeping cars. This is the infamous Paris rush-hour, where even on good days the traffic is thick, the driving mental, the road surface dodgy and the signposting baffling.
On a dark, damp winter evening it’s hell on two wheels. Except when you’re riding a Dinatel Hot Toy. If ever a bike was designed to shine in the worst conditions the French capital can deliver, it’s this supermoto style streetbike based on Kawasaki’s KLX650.
A dazzling concoction in blue, green and vivid pink, the Hot Toy combines the trailster’s basics with neat bodywork, a free-breathing big-single engine and sportster wheels, tyres and brakes. It’s a bike built for urban terrorism, and it made for an entertaining rush-hour ride.
The Hot Toy dakk-dakked crisply away from every set of lights, flicked effortlessly round dawdling buses and treacherous roadworks, gripped the road tenaciously with its fat sticky tyres and stopped improbably hard with its massive front disc. Then it wriggled nonchalantly to the front of the next traffic-light queue and did the same thing all over again. Brilliant.
The idea of fine-tuning the dirt-oriented KLX for the street is an obvious one – especially if you’re from France – where trail bikes rule the roads and where supermoto racing was invented. And most especially if you’re from Dinatel, the big and innovative Parisian dealership, who reckon that their successful KLR-based special called the Fun, created several years ago, was the inspiration for Kawasaki’s own Tengai.
The Hot Toy’s stylish shape comes from teaming the stock fuel tank with a nose section incorporating headlamp surround and small front mudguard. A new tailpiece and belly-pan, both painted in matching fluorescent shades, combine with Dinatel’s stepped seat for a lean and subtly different look.
Alloy Renthal bars, slightly lower than the originals, a diminutive number-plate and a lack of niceties such as indicators and luggage rack emphasise this bike’s aggressive image. But it’s the front end that says most about the Hot Toy. Instead of the KLX’s original skinny 21-inch wheel, the standard upside-down fork legs hold a broad, 17-inch ally rim wearing a 120/70-section Michelin Hi-Sport radial. And in place of the Kawasaki’s modest original disc, a humungous 320mm fully-floating Beringer rotor is positioned within the jaws of a four-piston caliper from the same French firm.
Retaining the stock frame meant that some chassis work was also needed at the rear, where replacing the KLX’s 17-inch trail tyre with the low-profile, 150/60-section Hi-Sport was not enough to compensate for the considerably smaller front wheel. Dinatel modified the Kawa’s shock linkage with new rods, lowering the rear end to restore rake to somewhere near standard.
This has the welcome side-effect of reducing seat height by a couple of inches. Kawasaki’s watercooled, 651cc single-pot motor is left internally unchanged, but the Hot Toy benefits from the less-restrictive silencer from the KLX650R enduro bike. In combination with mods to the 40mm Keihin carb and airbox, this raises the Kawasaki’s peak power from the trailster’s claimed max of 45bhp at 6500rpm to the R-model’s 48bhp at the same revs.
Equally importantly, the slimmer, black-finished R can also gives the Hot Toy a suitably meaty thrap. At a standstill the bike felt pretty tall and slim, despite its lower and wider seat. And the Kawa still felt much like a normal KLX as I pulled away, immediately conscious of the motor’s big-single vibration and lively low-rev acceleration. The handful of extra horses would probably lift top speed to around a genuine ton, although in the crowded Paris suburbs there was no room to max it out.
In reality the louder pipe probably contributes more to any impression of extra speed, and you’d have to run the two bikes side-by-side to notice the difference. You certainly don’t need a stock KLX for comparison to appreciate the Hot Toy’s radically different levels of handling and roadholding, though. Just having those fat Hi-Sports wrapped around the rims was enough to inspire cornering feats I wouldn’t have dreamt of attempting on trail tyres – and that was on a cold day with odd damp patches lingering to trap the unwary.
Despite retaining trail bike steering geometry, the Hot Toy felt light, flickable and stable; an excellent tool for backroad scratching and urban ear ’oling alike. Part of that manoeuvrability was due to the fact that even a light brush of the front brake lever was enough to send the front end diving enough to steepen the KLX’s steering geometry dramatically.
That aided direction-changing considerably, but the suspension could do with being firmer all the same. Especially at the front, where for road use there’s no way you need nearly a foot of travel provided by the Kawasaki’s 43mm cartridge forks. (Substituting the KLX-R’s damping-adjustable forks and shock would doubtless help, though at considerable extra expense.)
Predictably the front end’s squishiness was highlighted by the potent front anchor. But despite the dive, the Beringer brake’s superb blend of power and feel, combined with the front Hi-Sport’s generous footprint and the bike’s relatively light weight (slightly down on the stock KLX’s 153kg), gave stopping power in a different class to any standard trail-bike set-up. For city riding that’s a serious advantage.
My only other complaint was that I arrived back at Dinatel covered in crud from the spray that the front wheel throws up on damp roads. But though the Kawasaki would undoubtedly benefit from a more efficient front mudguard, the balance between looks and practicality is a fine one. The Hot Toy sits on the side of looks – but what d’you expect from the French?
The complete bike costs FF 46,374 excluding French tax from Dinatel, which is getting on for six grand. But the parts can be bought individually, which would save money and allow a standard KLX to be converted in stages. Total price of everything on this bike except paintwork (including tyres and exchange seat) comes to FF14,000, about £1750, which seems pretty reasonable for such a blend of performance and streetwise style.
Whether or not Kawasaki did copy Dinatel’s last big-single project bike, they’d do well to take a close look at the Hot Toy.
DINATEL KIT PARTS;
All Prices, French Francs (excluding French tax)
Front wheel 1264
Rear wheel 1349
Renthal handlebars 295
Beringer disc and caliper 3204
Enduro silencer 1378
Seat (exchange for standard) 1011
Dinatel, 43 BD Emile Zola, 78800 Houilles, France.
Get your Dinatel Hot Toy covered with motorbike insurance from Carole Nash.
Engine 651cc four stroke, liquid cooled Valves
Claimed power (bhp) 48bhp @ 6,500rpm
Compression ratio –
17 inch front and rear Tyres; Michelin Hi-Sports
Front suspension 43mm cartridge type forks
Rear suspension Monoshock, multi adjustable
Front brake 320mm Beringer front disc, 4 piston caliper
Rear brake single 230mm disc, 2 piston caliper
Top speed 105 mph
Fuel capacity 15 litres
Current price cost £1750