Bringing you the world's best cafe racers, trackers, scramblers, bobbers & custom motorcycles.

Yamaha XT 500 Café Racer

Posted on February 15, 2011 by Andrew in Café Racer. 17 comments

Built in a cramped apartment. Photographed in a deserted factory. Oh, the delicious irony.

As you all now realise, Pipeburn strives to bring you the best custom bikes from all around the world. And bring we do; on an regular basis you can check in and get a piping hot serve of sweet motorbicycling goodness. Why, anybody would think these things beautiful things grow on trees! Well we’ve got some potentially shocking news for you; they don’t. They are actually bloody hard work to create. Even if you have yourself a bunch of spare time and decent garage to get down and dirty in, chances are that for every sweet bike like the one you see here there are another three rusty, half-finished wrecks that never cross the line.

With that thought in mind, I’d like you now to put yourself in the shoes of one Simon Taylor, a photographer from Kings Cross in Sydney’s inner east. After 5 years of riding Simon thought an Yamaha XT 500 café racer would be a great little project to undertake, despite his complete lack of mechanical knowledge. And a garage. Or indeed any kind of useable space at all. See, the bike you are looking at here was built entirely in Simon’s one room, third floor studio apartment in a building that was sadly never blessed with an elevator.

Here’s Simon. “I picked up the donor bike from a guy in Sydney. The engine was a mess, the piston was seized and the drive axle was sheered off. The seat had a crack running all the way down the fiberglass. The rest of the bike was OK but very messy. It already had the Suzuki GSX250 tank on it so I kept it as I kinda liked it.”

“The seat is from a place called Moto Tumbi in Tuggerah, then I had the cushioning and stitching done by a mate (I can’t even sew on a button). The rear shocks are from somewhere in the USA and the front end is from a 1994 SR400. The donor engine is an SR 400 lump that was sourced from Victoria; I gave it a good clean and service. I also custom made a brand new wiring loom.”

“I originally stripped the whole thing to the frame out in the street in front of my apartment. Then took bits of it upstairs to play with and put in big plastic storage tubs. Once the whole bike was built and I’d fitted all the bits and bobs, I took off the seat, tank, front end and both wheels. Then I got a couple of mates to walk it down the three flights of stairs where I reassembled it in the street. Gave it a few kicks and BINGO! Ran very rich to start with but she ran. The only major problem was the extremely limited space.”

I think that Simon’s experience can teach all of us two very important lessons concerning the fine art of custom bike building. Firstly, there’s no time like the present to get that dream bike in your head out of your head and under your ass. Secondly, there’s no partner in the world that would put up with a big-ass mess like you see below, so if you’re garagedly-challenged like our Simon here be sure to get that shit done before you’re shackled to someone who might have a teeny tiny problem encountering sump oil, an engine block and a fractured skull on their way to make pee pee at 3 am on a Sunday morning.

Simon’s answer to the local motorbike theft problem was as cunning as it was simple…

  • matthew harrison

    That's a really nice machine, good man. Does anybody know what that front brake's from?

  • LvonMud

    Although I would go for disc brakes and a different color (but that´s only my subjective opinion) the build is INSANE! Thumbs up, really beautiful, mainly the steering and instruments! Considering where and how this was built, it´s a masterpiece.

  • Frank Valentin

    @Matthew: Front drum brake is an original SR400/SR500 item from the last series in 1999.

  • Amazing build. An inspiration. Wifie would never allow this. Should have started building earlier in life.

  • kik

    is it just me or do the home built bikes in here all look better than the "art" bikes by the big name builders,. i guess when you pour true love in the mix, things come out a lot sweeter.


  • Ken

    Very nice. It needs a front fender but I like it. Well done!

  • Chris

    This is Rock'n'Roll…build a bike in a flat. Perfect! Working at the bike, grabbing a beer from behind, listening to a song from the right!
    I wish i could get my bike in my room…my garage is freezin' cold and no light at all, can't work there for more than a few hours 🙁

  • Chris

    Ah..before i forget. I love the two colored levers…sometimes you need something disharmonical
    to create something perfect! Well done, mate. Great job!

  • jak

    it's good to see a good ol' sweet little cafe on the pipeburn.

  • Simon Taylor

    Thanks for the comments guys.
    Was certainly a labour of love but she's all done now and she's my daily ride.

  • kik

    how do you fight the urge of not skipping work and ride all day?….great job

  • Peter

    Great job! Love the look and story to go with it.

  • awesome looking bike, looks like a lot of fun!

  • vince

    Very nice build. Dig the color scheme. I too have little mechanical knowledge but the way this turned out makes me wanna try. Thanks for the inspiration. Looks fun.

  • daan

    i love this bike and for some reason all these homebuilt/no mechanical knowledge or skills/no garage etc etc builds have just that extra something. I love em. GOOD JOB!

  • bird

    nice one Chivowsky!

  • CHETtheJET

    ….Had Simon's workshop idea this past fall as i closed up my rented workspace here in FREZZIN MICHIGAN USA ,got close to going thur withit but iam sure i'd got put out on the street,so to you my man RIGHT-ON,RIGHT-ON!!! I'LL SAVE A PIC OF YOUR FLAT,great moto!!