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‘81 Yamaha XV750 – DS Design


Posted on December 10, 2014 by Andrew in Tracker. 37 comments

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It’s difficult not to love Yamaha’s timeless XV750. It’s a bike that was intended as a cheeky Japanese tilt at America’s star-spangled Harley market, but now-a-days it can take on pretty much any custom role assigned to it with mucho aplomb. Café racer? Bobber? Tracker? The bike’s been there and done that. And add that to the fact that the bike used an engine-as-stressed-member design, a rear mono shock and adjustable pneumatic suspension and you have a bike that was light years ahead of its competition. Speaking of which, it’s time to meet the builder of this rather charming ride. Introducing New Zealand’s David Sinfield and his very clean DS Design ‘81 XV.

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“My background is not in the motor or mechanical world,” says Dave. “I am a graphic design from New Zealand who is totally inspired by the beautiful works of art that I have seen on sites such as Pipeburn. It all started with buying motorcycle fuel tanks and airbrushing them just as a hobby. In the commercial world of digital graphic design, we seem to be drawn back to the tactile way of making and producing things; it’s a kind of ying and yang from mind to hand. That has led to this, my first build – and most certainly not my last.”

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Dave found this mono-shocked ‘81 XV750 and thought it would make a good introduction to the world of customs as his very first build. “I wanted to keep this relatively simple and clean. It’s pretty much stock, with a few new twists such as the single seat, stainless steel exhaust and rear to front wheel conversion. This was a total strip down and rebuild with every nut, bolt and screw replaced as I wanted it to be like a new bike.”

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“I wanted to stay in control and to do all the work myself from welding, fabricating, electrics, painting the tank and upholstering the seat. It’s the Kiwi way. Everything you see on this bike has been designed and made by me, although the rear to front wheel conversion was bought online. In a commercial world I know this makes no sense, but for a project builder like me it challenges and pushes you to the limits, and at the end of the day you can look back and be proud of what you have produced.”

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[Photos by David Sinfield]








  • arnold

    Well, it doesn’t have pipe wrap.

    Fabrication looks top shelf.

    • ccc40821

      Nor Firestone tyres, thins seat, clipons and semi-trashed fuel tank.

    • sean coker

      Agreed. It’s missing pipe wrap.

  • Michael Kork.

    Is it my or is it that most of the (beautiful, stunning) builds are by designers / programmers etc (myself included) ? Awesome Build. I wonder if it is that easy to do a mono-shock conversion..

    • Luke Barreto

      It’s a Virago. The 79-85 were all mono-shocks. Between the monoshock and the v-twin, they’re a very slim bike when you strip all the cruiser crap off of them.

    • TJ Martin

      You are for the most part correct good sir . Take one part Art and combine it with equal parts Engineering and Mechanical skills and nine times out of ten you end up with the best results . Not to say there aren’t the occasional huge exceptions to that formula … but overall .. from the early days of the Bobber … … Chopper and right up to the modern custom era …. Art is a necessary ingredient in creating the very best of the best . Remembering that at their roots and before the current age of ignorant over- specialization … Engineering [ and all the sciences ] were and still are considered Arts as well

    • davidabl

      If you’ve ever watched a few minutes of the Teutels (Orange County Choppers)
      or some of the other contestants on Bikerbuild-off shows on TV you’d have a strong suspicion that originality is linked to intelligence somehow. And that thesedesigners/programmers and all are a LOT smarter than many custom bike builders. That said, the bike builders i’ve met personally also seem a lot smarter than the ones on TV…

      • Anton

        Why is it that engineers and programmers seem to constantly be trying to convince everyone how smart they are? As a CNC Machinist, I’ve been forced to correct your constant mistakes in the real world. You’re not half as smart as you think you are. Machinist’s don’t make mistakes. If we do, we lose an appendage, our life… or our job. Get off your imaginary high horse. Some of us know better.

        • TwoSmoke

          I feel the same way, I’m a Benz mechanic (the Germans aren’t perfect like they think) and my chick is a mechanical engineer. You can imagine the shit we argue about. Bottom line, guys like you and me make our money on engineering mistakes. We just don’t have a degree to brag about when we do.

        • Michael Kork.

          Well, someone has to think it first and someone has to build it. No one is smarter that the other. They are both needed.

        • Davidabl2

          Personally, I’m neither an engineer or programmer..any custom work that i do is done with basic power tools and hand tools, from hand drawn sketches. And if anything breaks on one of my bikes i’m the one who eats it, as i’m the one that rides them 🙂

          re your comment it’s not just CNC machinists that have to wrestle computer files to translate them into reality. i’ve known graphics production guys who work full-time to get designers’ files to actually print..

  • TJ Martin

    My initial impression was …. ehh … meh ! But upon further consideration and viewing … Damn ! This looks like it just marched out the factory door . Cause yeah … the design and craftsmanship is that bloody clean .

    So though the’ tracker/scrambler thing is getting a bit tiresome … this one sure breaths a bit of life back into the genre

    Which is to say in case there’s any doubts .. not quite my cuppa [ coffee ] … but two solid thumbs up regardless

  • al gonz

    …another xv750….and another mod I would love to have!
    Such a lovely piece is only let down by the ugly blinkers and specially that rear light, ufffff

  • B. J. Parker

    I’ll echo the pervious words of praise for the fabrication and build. The thing that catches my attention first amidst all the great details, though, is the exhaust. What an excellent job! Not only do the welds look good, but look at where David ended the pipe in the second picture. Just the symmetry and and balance with the bike is inspiring.

  • TJ Martin

    Honestly … the more I keep coming back for another look … the more I keep asking myself the question ;

    Why in the ___ didn’t Yamaha do something like this ? Or better yet …. why in the ___ isn’t Yamaha doing something like this now ?

  • Fast2Furious

    Not my favorite XV750 custom but a nice build none the less. However the description of the XV’s original purpose is absolutely superb, “…a bike that was intended as a cheeky Japanese tilt at America’s star-spangled Harley market “.

  • davidabl

    Since Yamaha rebooted the SR series… why not reboot the XV. Unlike the SR, not as
    the original stock bike:-) The platform is at least as promising as, say, the Sportster 🙂

    • Because Yamaha recently launched the MT series, and reboot the XV would be like a financial suicide. If you look at their model range right now they have all the cylinder configurations and various engine displacements, to suit every taste. But what about the guys who want something retro you may think??
      Well the revival of the XJR with the Yard Builds is targeting these guys, and if I had the money I would love to have one in my garage.

      • arnold

        I’ve never owned one, but my reading seems to point to the starter problem is what killed the Virago line.

        Probably well sorted by now.

        Agree Geo, being all things to all people usually ends up being nothing to anybody.ald

        • Your reading is right Arnold, the starter was the main issue with Virago line, and I know only one who sorted it out: Greg Hageman aka Doc’s Chops. He was (I think), the first who transformed XVs, and he is an ace!
          By the way the street scrambler MT is quite interesting for a new design; nice alu fenders and mask, a two tone saddle, and with the high-mount Akrapovic exhaust the bike looks really nice, (not to mention that it’s a three cylinder…)
          There are several articles on the net, check it out in case you haven’t 😉

          • Michael Kork.

            Cool looking bike! Thanx for the head’s up

          • Try to imagine it with some personal touches Michael like brown grips to match the saddle, handle-bar mirrors, unpainted air scoops to match the fenders, a subtle handmade plate holder closer to a new retro tail-light maybe…you get the picture, right??? 😉

      • Davidabl2

        I deliberately didn’t mention the MT,as it isn’t a reboot. And after actually seeing one in person, it doesn’t seem to me to have the same potential as the other bikes mentioned.
        Presumably reboots would cost less to bring to market than new builds(?) Which would or should make them ideal for short production runs.

        • I am not sure if an older motor in order to harmonize with the Euro emissions will cost less than a new one, and I am not sure whether we are going to like the performance numbers that we are going to see with the result. But all of these thoughts are mostly theoretical, factories always launch new models, and sometimes are worst than the older visually and mechanically.

          • Davidabl2

            I had wondered about Euro emissions, but since it hasn’t seemed to stop the SR, I’d assumed that the XV could get a pass..perhaps though the Sr’s easier since it’s a smaller displacement engine?
            As to performance numbers “retros” (like cruisers) are judged by a gentler standard than sports bikes..
            e.g. they don’t have to be fast in absolute terms, just have to be fast enough to be fun to ride.

  • Ted

    I love the bike,like to know the brand of the tires

    • David

      The tires are DURO HF904 MEDIAN 130x90x16 both front and back. The 130 wide tire just fits in the stock shocks but has to be absolutely centred. Thanks for all your comments about the bike I have really enjoyed this and I am looking forward to the next project.

  • davidabl

    “I wanted to do all the work myself from welding, fabricating, electrics, painting the tank and upholstering the seat. It’s the Kiwi way.”

    Kiwi’s must grow up welding,and fixing tractors, painting vehicles etc etc etc. As Americans did many decades ago, but don’t anymore. Surely DS didn’t have to learn the skills to build this bike without prior experience?

  • Tinus

    Nice bike!! Wondering what kind of tires are used…

    • XVKilla

      well, you could read the article and find out.

      • Tinus

        Excellent tip XVKilla, except the fact there no mentioning of what tires are used. The rear to front swap is the only thing that is talked about.

  • TwoSmoke

    I like this because its original but not a personal favorite. Seems well put together though!

  • I love XV customs mainly because of that beautiful motor/frame combo. This is a well crafted build with great attention to detail.

  • Andrew Ramming

    Beautiful!!! I’d like to see double disc brakes up front, safer is better. You cant enjoy the ride if you’re pasted by some car.

  • pat

    Disappointed with the rear drum break if your going to go all out finish it right

  • Paul Rackley

    Hello David Iv just came upon your build. messing with bikes for over 40 years. and iv just started to like the bob style. iv got my hands on a 99 750 virago and im going to alter the original shape to a bob style. thanks for ideas my main problem is to rebuild a home made seat that will not look like a piece of crap.this is a hint !. i like what you have done Paul

    • David

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comments. If you get stuck let me know as I can send you some progress photos of when I was building the seat so you can see how I went about it.