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Farmers Racer ’88 Yamaha SR400

Posted on November 21, 2012 by Andrew in Brat. 34 comments

Isn’t it weird how one little addition to an object can have seemingly untold benefits to it’s aesthetics. Take, for instance, your common, garden-variety Martini. Now you could argue that a Martini is simply a slug of gin (or vodka, if you’re having childish delusions about being a spy) and some vermouth. But I’d argue that what in fact makes the Martini is the garnish. Without that twist of lemon, olive, or whatever new-fangled hoopla they are currently adding to the glass, I’m betting that it would have disappeared without a trace into the ocean of nondescript cocktail wannabes a long time ago. The message you’ll need to take from this, my little pickled pipers? One single inspired touch can make a good bike great. And in the case of Farmer’s Racer, there’s no free drinks for guessing just what twist we are talking about.

Still life with bike, snow, and autumn leaves

Här är Lars. “My name is Lars Gustavsson – educated farmer with a bachelor in design. It all started in the beginning of 20th century, when motorcycles were more common than cars in the Swedish countryside. Many farmhands had a 98cc Husqvarna or Monark standing in the shade of the daytime ride, the tractor. Most of the evenings were spent racing between road crossings through the spruce forests. Part time racer, part time haymaker. This is what I still do – only now it is urban farming, using the esthetics of motorcycle racing to bring more go into potato growing.”

“My motorcycle history does not date back more than 3-4 years. At 37 years of age I started to surf the internet to find esthetics and trends to support my urban farming ideas. What I found was Pipeburn, Bubblevisor and the Japanese scene of garage built custom motorcycles. I was stunned. The idea of using second hand parts and any suitable metal at arms length really reminded me of how farmers would solve their mechanical problems. Adding, changing, repairing and taking care of, until the machine carries a story longer than an average novel. This is not picking parts in a catalog. This is – do it your self, or take the tractor to the race. I wanted to test this design philosophy.”

“Two years ago I bought an Yamaha sr400 model 1984. After a full winter of cutting away parts the first version of the bike was ready. A traditional cafe racer – looking as many sr400 do: Firestone 4.00 front and 4.5 back. A new electrical system, leaving a nice hole for the K&N air filter under the seat. Bates front light and clip on handle bars. Custom made seat and a new rear frame and lighting. It locked nice, but it did not unveil the farmer’s orgin. During the last year, until now, I have started to change the design, from cafe racer to – farmer’s racer.”

“Cutting away was the trend, so it felt odd to add cowls and covers. But all the empty places needed some additional details. The big Firestones and the aluminum rims were starting and ending the design with power and weight. In between was a small engine and a hole under the seat. The original battery covers were the first to be mounted back into the frame. With clean frame tubes and only a K&N filter inside I was free to place the panels with a little finesse. They are now riding two inches further in, under the seat, than the original covers – showing the frame, not adding to the width of the bike.”

Lars ponders which clogs he will wear tomorrow


“The panels are adding to the story of the bike.
Purely esthetics and story telling”


“The large side panels is not there to hide the engine. I like the motor of the sr, and an old design trick is to cover things that you really want to show. People will look behind. And they do. I’m spending a lot of time helping old men up from their knees in parking lots, as they are trying to figure out the idea. The panels are adding to the story of the bike. Purely esthetics and story telling. They are mounted on pins, zig zaging their way from the top, and front, engine mounts. The fixture is completed with custom nuts with wire locks, all made from washers and standard nuts welded together as an old quick mount. As the engine is 30 years old I need regular access to the spark plug. This design took most of the second winter (2011).

One freezing morning in October all was done. A new LSL handle bar and a complete rebuild of the rear frame, now holding just a tiny part of the original fender, made the story complete. This is a farmer’s racer.”

  • sisterchef


  • paddy

    Great story well told. But I would love to see more revealing pics of the side panels.

    • farmersracer

      Thanks for all the support – there is a new post in the farmer’s racer blog about the panels:)

  • Nice. The biggest dislike I have about many cafe racers is that useless, empty hole under the seat. Empty space is inefficient .Part of the essence of motorcycling is efficiency. Balance. Sorry, that’s my rant. Nice bike.

    • blackbird

      Yeah, stupid empty hole. Hate the empty hole. Fill it with stuff….and things…

    • Mister Oddjob

      I could understand that you don’t like the empty space for aesthetic reasons, but not liking it because it’s not efficient defies logic to me. Stripping away anything unecessary is going to make the bike more efficient; less weight and easier to work on.

      • To create the hole electrics are usually stuffed under the seat.

        • Mister Oddjob

          Are you saying that it’s more efficient to place the electrics in the hole rather than under the seat?

  • MotoTrooper

    Awesome seeing it here Lars -great pics too! A few other pics reside on the SR500 forum’s images section. I like the style and may steal your design still!

  • itsmefool

    Neat Yam…so how about some pics of these 98cc Huskys and Monarks battling it out in the woods?

  • Randy Moran

    Great looking bike. I really like it.

  • I really like side covers on custom bikes. I don’t want to see straight through a machine, and they’re really useful for hiding batteries and stuff. Like they were intended… 🙂

  • revdub

    I’ve been admiring this bike for a while. It encapsulates what I love about custom bikes: the freedom to make something your own. From a design perspective, this just does it for me. Frame and wheels dark, contrasting tank, minimal (but functional seat), and smaller lights. Great bike, Lars!

  • Sideroad

    Well done, good build. I love the side panels and the attention to detail. Great fresh idea.

  • neoleaver

    Mad as a snake….love it.

  • …and I wasn’t kidding about the clogs:

  • I like this bike, just as I like most bikes here. Several people seem to like the engine covers, but I just don’t “get it” I guess. Covering things that you want to show? Maybe this is the motorcycle equivalent of the fan dance.

    • But haven’t we all seen an SR engine a gazillion times before?

      • What’s an SR engine?

        • Anton

          an engine on a Yamaha SR500? one of the most comon there is?

  • arnold

    Thanks Giving Day here in the States. Among many other things I am thankful for the builders who put out product that I like and/or shake my head at wondering what they were thinking for the long length of time to put some of these projects together. I always appreciate the effort.

    This one I like, even if just for the sentiment of grass root, unsophisticated local racing.

  • Now&Zen

    The lesson to be learned from this bike ? Junk is junk no matter how good the story behind it might be . And this bike is mostly definitely ‘Hipster’ junk .

    • Now&Zen

      One more thing . What makes a Martini is the quality of the Vodka/Gin its made from . The garnishes being just that . Garnishes .

  • I agree with Arnold on this build. I like it and can appreciate the work and wonkiness of the bike. I like the small headlight and the way the little tail light sticks up. The engine panels are an interesting touch- they kind of remind me of engine cowlings on old WWII bombers. They might be a great canvas for nose art. For those who really hate this bike, have a martini with the garnish of your choice, look at the latest Ducati catalog and chill out.

  • scott

    My favorite pipeburn bike of the year bar-none. Perfect.

  • old3rty

    if my cb350 doesnt roll out of the garage looking this fucking cool nxt spring….i might die!!!!!

  • dingo

    Ok, I’ll bite. This bike confuses the shit outta me. What I seem to be looking at is an SR400 with some mild mods, ranging from performance (new air filter setup and presumably carb tuned to suit) to the complete opposite (squirrelly shithouse tyres on a bike which appears to be sitting IN SNOW) and big pieces of completely unneccessary metal totally covering two sides of an air-cooled motor for presumably no other reason than to add weight and make people look at it (strange form of wank factor?) – I’m a big believer in that things you add to a bike should actually serve a purpose. I’m afraid I’m completely lost on this one Lars, it just don’t make sense.

    • Lars Gustavsson

      Hello Dingo.
      I clearly understand your questions when it comes to the performance of the bike. All changes made make the bike less drivable with todays standards. But this bike is not about the future – it is about the past. A time when every bike builder had to come up with his or her own ideas to be quicker than the rest. All ideas were not so great – they often brought more selfesteem to the rider than speed in corners:)

  • johnnynep

    a lovely bike, a bike to make a friend, to love, cherish, All the Best for Christmas,johnnynep

  • Lars

    Beautiful.. Where can I find those indicators?

  • Lars

    Beautiful.. Where can I find those indicators?

    • Lars Gustavsson

      Thanks Lars. You can find them from Japan. Google: Daytona turn signals.

  • Kyle

    Nice bike

  • yukssel

    im in