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Philippe Lagente’s ’81 Yamaha SR500 Brat

Posted on January 2, 2013 by Andrew in Brat. 78 comments

I’ll let you in on a little secret. We’re planning some big things for 2013 here at the ol’ Maison de Tubes Flamboyants. Now I don’t want to give too much away, but I think it’s fair to say that this year will be our biggest and best ever. Resolutions? We’ve made them. Plans? We’ve got ’em. Bigger. Better. More. Faster. Louder. Seriously, Scott and I are like the proud parents of a kid that’s just been accepted into Cambridge. Except we don’t sleep in the same bed – well, not since that one time in bike camp… but I digress. So, taking all impending amazingness into consideration, we could hardly start the year on a dull note now could we? Hell no. Please raise your red plastic cups, sound your plastic bugles and pop your party, um, poppers to welcome our first bike for the new year, Philippe Lagente’s spectaculaire ’81 SR500 brat.

The bike was a big hit at Toulouse’s annual Rust Festival

“Hello Pipeburn. I’m Philippe, I’m 33 years old, and I live in Toulouse, in the South France. I ride and I am interested by motorcycles, especially cafe racers and bobber, for the past 4 years. The motorcycle you see here is customised by my own hands, and this is the first one I have attempted.”

“I bought this Yamaha SR500 model 2J4, from 1981, in 2010, totally stock. After few light modifications, I decided to finish the work last summer. Since I had no garage, I built it in my flat on the 3rd floor without an elevator (yes, i have good friends!), and for the occasion I put the bike in the room where usually I have my recording studio.”

“I knew exactly what the bike will look like: small, heavyset, low, aggressive, solo seat, and with big tires! The idea was to spend less money as possible, and build everything by myself. I started by clearing all needless pieces: the old seat, mudguards, speedometer, lights…”

“After I have cut the chassis frame to adapt the homemade seat, I didn’t want to follow the trend of having the empty space under the seat as I wanted the bike to look heavy, not light. The exhaust has been modified, same for the handlebars, which come from a motocross bike”.

“For the bike I have built a light holder (the light itself is a Bates), an instrument panel holder, the holders for the turn signals, a holder for the registration plate, and footpegs.”

No electronics? Does that include cool motorbike websites?

“I have simplified the electrics and repositioned them under the gas tank, which has been painted in satin black on the top, rusted on the side with salt and water, and varnished. A few pieces have been sanded down, like the crank cases, but I kept lots of pieces stock – I didn’t want a show bike, I wanted to keep the old school spirit.”

Philippe takes a spin on the wrong side of the tracks

“It’s a great bike, not uncomfortable as you could think, and I use it often. Finally, I asked a good friend of mine Jeremy Dartigues a.k.a. ‘Kreatica’, who is a good photographer and graphic artist, to show off the results. I hope you like it.”

  • Now&Zen

    Another ‘ Brat ‘ bike . Yawn . SSDB .

    • SSDB…Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board ?

      • Now&Zen

        Good one ! FYI its ” Same ____ Different Bike ” But I’ll bet you already knew that 😉

  • revdub

    I like the way this sits. I might steal this varnish technique at some point. The tank looks really cool. Mark my words, I will own an SR. If it looks half as cool as this, I’ll be proud. Great first build!

  • Flo


  • Firestones? Check. Pipe wrap? Check. Hipster beard? Check. Pithy comment? Check.

    • I forgot to mention I like it.

      • Yves Trabac

        Thx Tony !

    • Yves Trabac

      Hater ? Check.

    • blackbird

      good use of pithy.

      • Thanks. I got it from the Christmas bike discussion.

    • guitarslinger

      tony stark writing some shitty comment about a great motorcycle? check. do us all a favor and smash your head into your computer screen as hard as you can 7 or 8 times.

      • Now&Zen

        OK ….. seeing as how I ‘ retired ‘ ( well I was booted but it was well deserved ) the ‘ guitarslinger ‘ moniker along with the lousy attitude and snark posts ( apologies to all btw ) : who the heck is this profanity ridden imposter guitarslinger and why the heck is he using my old moniker ?

        So yeah …. attention Andrew . This ‘ guitarslinger ‘ aint moi ! but Now&Zen is

        • arnold

          We already knew this, too. Third production mixer in the finest print available on the inner jacket notes will do, please. 😉

          • I bought the vinyl and now I’m waiting for it to come out in 8-track.

        • It didn’t sound like you.

        • GS – no surprises here. We have all manner of tricky back-end IP tools at our disposal – we can always see who’s who and who isn’t…

      • You first.

    • Lewn

      BTW it’s not really ‘Firestones’ that are at fault, there are a few types, some are rounded. Also pipe wrap can be done well.

      Shame that the tires are the square type Firestones and the pipe wrap is a bit messy, because other than that the bike is really nicely balanced and looks massively fun to ride (With a rounded rear tire).

    • It was an inside joke. Anyone who doesn’t get it can carry on not getting it.

  • arnold

    I wonder if he wears the same shirt each day he rides. You know, the one with road grit and chain oil racing stripes? Old school, like De Gaulle era? Not hideous for a daily driver, but many impractical points. Why relocate the electrical goodies when the side covers are going back on? Low mirror on left, nice touch. Room for significant other on a fun bike? Sorry more questions with this build than obvious answers.ald

  • whitebanana

    Really? waaa…firestones…waaaa…pipe wrap. That’s what you have to say? That shit is more tired than the shit your bitching about. The bike doesn’t look bad. He doesn’t have a garage and probably not much cash. Also, he had fun making it and likes riding it. That’s what matters. Not everyone has the money or time to hop on a style/trend as soon as it happens. I’ve been reading this blog for almost two years and you shits are still bitching about the same stuff. Fuck off or learn how to really critique something. Even better, go fucking build and ride something. Everyone else happy new year! ha.

    • Take a pill, dude.

      • tony fark

        shut up, DUDE.

        • Lewn

          Yeah, I mean you’re so right whitebanana, the dude might not have that much money so running Avons and leaving the headers stock, that must be really outside this guy’s budget?

        • Sorry, can’t do it. But you may find yourself excused form Pipeburn if you carry on too much.

  • barney fife

    Nice bike,, and yeah I wish the anti firestone/pipewrap crowd would clam up, you’re boring everyone to death.

    • Lewn

      I mean all these people on here? Why are they such dammed haters? They see a really lovely bike ruined by a badly wrapped header that looks like it was done by a ER junior doctor after a 18 hour shift and square tires that will make the bike squirm around like it is on ice if you lean it over 20 degrees, and all they can do is bitch about it!

      • Swagger

        …or post stupid, pointless and yes still boring messages about it online. Have you riden it? Did you build it? No? Was it bought, built or imagined for you? No? Then really your opinion counts as much as you do.

  • I like the stance – Philippe got the look he wanted – a low to the ground, solid, aggressive look. Fat tires are appropriate for the style he was going for. I dig the rust look on the tank and the brackets for the headlight.

    • The stance is nice. I remember seeing a BMW not too long ago that set lower in the rear. Look darn strange. A nice flat frame like this needs to be parallel, maybe with a slight forward rake.

  • Oldnbroken

    Nice recording studio build and cool finished product. Although I like the rustic rust look I would be a bit concerned about the rust continuing to eat my tank.


  • if you bought a mostly original 81 and wanted to cover a less-than-perfect exhaust a good way to do it for $30 is to cover it with pipe wrap. It’s practical. The spirit of building a bike like this isn’t about how much or how perfect, but that the bike is yours and you feel happy with the result and that it’s way more awesome than the original. I’d love to ride this bike – it looks fun.

  • Guest

    I mean all this people on here? Why are they such dammed haters? They see a really lovely bike ruined by a badly wrapped header that looks like it was done by a ER junior doctor after a 18 hour shift and square tires that will make the bike squirm around like it is on ice if you lean it over 20 degrees, and all they can do is bitch about it!

  • Luke

    I dig it, though unless he likes a stripe of sh*t on him front and back he’s gonna need at least a rear fender, you know, one of those ‘needless’ items. Unless of course it’s one of those bikes that only get ridden on warm, sunny, dry days.

    • Maybe he doesn’t ride through “merde”. ;^}

  • dingo

    it’s his bike and he can do what he likes with it, but the dude still has no taste. (and turned a very cool and practical cycle into a slammed shitcan that probably handles like a brick).

  • There’s a distinct lack of civility here, guys. The fake names only makes things worse. Keep it friendly, please.

    • arnold

      Is ok to say that it looks like the seat pan is carving the profile of the rear tire? If not then I will not say it, or write it either.

      • arnold

        (Or even think it)

        • Don’t even think it. And don’t think that other thing either.

        • Marti Dibergi: Can I look at it?
          Nigel Tufnel: No. no. That’s it, you’ve seen enough of that one.

          Apologies to Spinal Tap

    • It’s probably just the builder’s friends getting all upset. I do like the bike, quite a bit actually. The pipe wrap/firestone thing was said “tongue in cheek.”

    • Yves Trabac

      It’s my true name Andy, feeling lonely…

  • Geneo

    Dear Pipeburn.

    Want some advice on how to be bigger and better this
    year? Make it possible for your readers to disable the comments section.

    Believe it or not, I visit your site to check out
    great bikes and find out a bit behind who built them and why. I love the
    photography and I appreciate your writing styles. I just hate scrolling to the
    bottom of the page and seeing the comments. They are plagued with the ramblings
    of insignificant nobodies, who more often than not, ruin my weekly Pipeburn

    Anyway, keep up the good work, keep supporting Aussie
    talent and all the best for the New Year.


    p.s The irony is not wasted on me that I have also
    shared my narrow-minded options in comment section J

    • Geneo

      *narrow-minded opinions (auto-correct)

    • Ken Lindsay

      I was hoping they could add a like/dislike button to better help their top ten lists!

      For some constructive criticism, I wonder if it would be a bit more authentic if one would take the tank and kick it around in some sand and gravel for a scuffed look instead of a rusty tank when the rest of the bike isnt as rusty? Usually a frame rusts out before the tank. Other than that, the bike has a nice sportster vibe to it…

  • nathas909

    I like it. It has a very nice chunky look about it, while still being minimal. I agree with a lot of the comments about bad handling and blah blah blah, but god the way I ride I would not care. I aint much of a good rider. As long as every morning when I wake up, pull my keys out of my pocket and start the bike up I want and even better, like him, the bike I built. MY DAY HAS STARTED BRILLIANTLY.

  • Fred

    I wonder how many pipewrap and firestone haters have actually ever built a bike. This bike looks good and is probably a blast to ride.

    • Lewn

      Oh, the classic ‘you haven’t built a bike so you can’t have an opinion’ argument.

      • It does seem that motorcycle forums is the only place this expectation exists.

  • Jonas

    what size are those tires?

  • PJgrakauskas

    my Resolution is to get my project onto the pipeburn blog by year end! it is a bike that noone has done yet, and my god it will grace these pages!

    • PJgrakauskas

      oh, and this bike is EXACTLY in my taste! to those saying the rust will keep eating the tank, it was varnished over. its a similar technique i have used on projects for the man cave.

      • Oldnbroken

        I did read the write up and understand that “varnish” was used. My concerns remain but it’s not a big deal though, just repair or get another tank.


    • That would be a cool article; Pipeburn reader bikes.

  • sc

    Nice license plate letters & figures.

  • simon

    Great first effort from a third floor apartment…at least you built a bike…and ride it….

  • Randolpho


    Awesome bike amigo. Love the look and that you had the creative urge to make it happen. Keep up the good work.

    What’s the big bad lock on the right? Is there something that swings across the rear tire to lock the wheel? Or just good lookin’ flair?

  • Horse

    Great first effort!

  • I’ve always liked the look of a bike that has a rear wheel matching the size of the front. In some cases, it looks good when the rear is larger than the front. Build the bike on the third floor then drive it down the stairwell. That would be a site.

    • Good point. That’s why old hard-tail Harleys looked so good – the front and rear tires and wheels were the same size and interchangeable in some cases. Old Class C flat track bikes had the same diameter wheels (19 inch) front and back which is why Mule’s street trackers look so balanced and aggressive.

  • Roads

    This is one of the best bikes I’ve seen. It’s giving me lots of ideas for my own build. Simple, heavy, and tough.

  • Currently 60 comments and 253 likes. Not bad for “a bike ruined by a badly wrapped header that looks like it was done by a ER junior doctor after a 18 hour shift”…

  • JB Chron

    Gritier and rawer than the JVB brit bob, but similar stance. It looks like it would be a right laugh to ride, love the low pipe!

  • Dig the story and am a big fan of the less is more approach but overall it just seems unfinished. I think its just that the seat looks like an afterthought. Actually the rear end in general and i don’t get why you’d bother to move the electronics but still use the side covers. Still cool and awesome that it was built in a recording studio but w srs being a favorite to chop, this one falls short for me. Imo of course

  • PhilWerf

    This looks absolutely sexy!Normally I would vote for spoke wheels, but I think these fit perfectly. Well done!

  • nice!

  • Webster

    Great motorcycle ! Ride it . And sarcasm sucks .

  • _____lino

    can you tell me where to get those two rear lamps above the shocks?
    Tx man. – .

  • Jimmy Howard

    Very cool I’m doing one in adelaide south Australia at the mo and this is very similar to what’s in my head. Mine will be a bit more minimalist tho hopefully it will be worthy of this website when done

  • Goose

    Awesome looking sr mate, well done. What tyres are they?

  • Kynewulf

    Hey nobody makes fun of Saskatchewan unless of course you are from Sasaktchewan.

    I personally like the re-mod on the bike, some real good design cues, looks like fun little bike. I myself prefer a bit bigger bike, 750’s. currently rebuilding a Suzuki GS 750 and I may steal a few design elements from this bike.

    Overall I think this bike shows some good clean, simple design. Simplicity is often overlooked. But then again that is what a cafe bike is strip as much away as possible.

  • Mrfisk

    The firestone tires , What’s size ?

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  • Veleno

    Somebody already asked you but I will try again. What size are the tires?