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Yamaha TR1 Scrambler – George Payn

Posted on July 6, 2016 by Andrew in Scrambler. 36 comments


Written by Martin Hodgson.

It may not have a local motorcycle industry to call its own but if one country could lay claim to be the kings of the home-built motorbike it is the land of the long white cloud, New Zealand. I tender two pieces of evidence, the World’s Fastest Indian, built at home over a 20 year period by Kiwi Burt Munro whose near 50-year-old record set on the Bonneville Salt Flats still stands to this day. Second, John Britten, the greatest motorcycle builder of all time, who not only designed and built his incredible V1000 at home but even made things like the engine cases himself, cooled from his wife’s pottery kiln with water from his swimming pool. So beloved are his creations that decades later they still feature on the covers of the world’s biggest magazines and riders like Valentino Rossi and Guy Martin consider them the greatest machines ever built. So it should come as no surprise to find out that this Kiwi custom, a stunning Scrambler themed 1981 Yamaha TR1 was built entirely at home in.

Like both Munro and Britten, Kiwi George Payn has a day job, so as seems to be the way in NZ he spends his nights and down time building bikes. A lifelong love of building and restoring motorcycles and hot rods means he knows his way around the tools and his passion is shared by his wife and son. What really gets their blood pumping is old Yamaha’s, “ there’s even a 1979 TT500 as a design feature in our lounge”, so it made perfect sense that not only would the next build be a Yammy it would be inspired by one too. As George explains “Having reached an age where the mid-life crisis kicks in, I decided ‘we’ needed a scrambler-themed TR1 based on the 1975 DT400 to add to our collection. The inspiration coming from Greg Hageman’s builds and memories of the TR1, my first road bike”. So after some careful hunting around a donor bike was finally found, an ’81 TR1 with around 40,000 miles on the clock. With some old spares in the garage, his wife and son lending a hand, George got down to business in turning the touring focused Yamaha into a go anywhere with rooster tails Scrambler.

With the bike stripped down the frame was given a good clean up before being sprayed in hard-wearing black powder coat and set to bake. To bring up many of the other parts that would remain to an equal standard, the alloy has been vapour blasted to restore its original luster and the steel components including the swingarm treated to an alloy ceramic coating. All of which serves to give the home-built bike an appearance as if it has rolled straight off a modern factory floor. Following the lead of the Hageman bikes that helped to inspire this build George fabricated a new subframe that cleaned up the lines of the TR1 and would suit the style of seat he had in mind. While he was in the fabricating mood George also knocked out a battery box to keep things neat and tidy and also designed and laser cut the amazing chain guard that even features the bikes logo for that extra custom touch.

He wasn’t finished there as he also designed a new dash and all the mounting brackets that support the custom additions and they too were laser cut for an exacting finish. With the Scrambler look he was after and the aggressive tyres that would be sure to throw mud every which way, a good set of fenders was a must and are the only totally out sourced parts of the build. The front fender that is attached with round bar as well as the rear fender and race plates all made in alloy come from Cooper Smithing in George’s particular specifications. For the tank most Yamaha V-Twin builders stick with the stock item or follow the Hageman lead and retro fit a Mojave tank. But this Yamaha family wanted to show just how deep the passion for the marque runs in their blood; so with a set of custom mounts made and a new fuel tap adapted they fitted up a ’70s R5 unit. It suits the Scrambler look to perfection and so serious were they about its look, “my wife and I designed the graphics and paint using AutoCAD to achieve the right proportions”.

Now that’s commitment to detail, but the results speak for themselves with factory racing Yamaha colours and a custom graphics one of the few extravagances on this purposeful build. Nestling up snug to the tank and sitting on the custom subframe is a proper Scrambler seat that George designed and then had his neighbour Howard upholster. “New Zealand is still quite an isolated part of the world, so the Kiwi way is to do it yourself.” Which is exactly the philosophy taken to the engine side of the build which will also explain the custom graphics for those of you not familiar with the TR1. Utilising one of the first Japanese V-Twins, the 980cc unit punches out plenty of torque throughout the rev range with no obvious flat spots, making it a great engine for a go anywhere motorcycle. To give the 75° twin some more top end and a stunning look George crafted one hell of an exhaust, it “was the most time-consuming part of the build. Fabricated from a selection of stainless bends, then the welds filed, sanded and polished by hand.”


With an exposed air filter on the induction side and a Yamaha R6 Yoshimura muffler topping off the new exhaust there is no doubt you can hear something special is coming before you finally lay eyes on the TR1. While George got to work on the custom wiring and electricals he made sure the family stayed involved, “I even flirted with danger, putting my wife to work re-lacing the wheels and called on our son to machine a few parts in his spare time.” Those wheels are a 19in XS650 wheel that utilises the TR1 brakes at the front and at the rear an 18in XR650 unit that has been fitted with a CR500 brake, with both ends wrapped in Continental TKC80 tyres. The footpegs have been relocated for a more fitting riding position with custom pegs and brackets, while the rear brake system is also of George’s design. The Renthal vintage bars with Yamaha grips further aid in transforming the riding position from highway tourer to a more trail friendly feel.

With the fabrication work now complete the custom wiring could be finished off with it all starting thanks to a Shorai Lithium ion Battery in the new box. The ever popular Motogadget m-unit controller takes centre stage with Motone bar switches keeping the look minimal and TT500 lights & mirrors for that truly authentic feel. They say “a family that prays together stays together” and when you worship at the altar of Yamaha the Payn family have surely ensured they’ll enter the tuning fork logo’d gates of heaven. Munro went fast in a straight line, Britten crafted an incredible track machine and Payn has built the perfect Scrambler to explore the amazing scenery that surrounds him; and they all did it from home, it’s quite simply the Kiwi way.


The donor bike, pre-surgery

  • John Wanninger

    I think it’s killer. I’m sure Hardley will hate the tires, but c’mon- It wears em well… and that exhaust… wow. Absolutely beautiful. A welcome kick to the nuts to at least the last three pipe-wrapped bikes I was forced to see.

    • Hardley T Whipsnade III

      The tires on this one are sort of ok , barely . Its the ludicrous exhaust and the overall pretense and snooze factor of the thing that offends my sensibilities . Which is to say : Why bother ? That aint no custom . Its a Gob Job/ Bits Bike at best .

      • Jim Stuart

        I think the exhaust is the best part of this bike. The rest leaves me scratching my head since there is no protection for an engine that begs for something on the trail to smash its exposed cases.

        • John Wanninger

          I agree… I really like the bike, But i wish that lump was in a cradle frame

          • Jim Stuart

            It’s times like these when I ask myself, “what would Burt do?”

          • John Wanninger

            Loni Anderson

      • Cole

        What does your bike look like Hardley?

        • Racing Enthusiast

          The only time I’ve seen him answer that question:

          • Jim Roberts

            i would’ve expected him to offer up “you show me yours and i’ll show you mine”…lol

        • With the amount of time Hardly spends on here, I’d imagine his bike doesn’t look like much at all…

          • Cole

            If he has a bike at all

        • revdub


          • brownroundtown

            C’mon, we all love him really! Or at least we love to hate him….which is the same thing. At least he livens up the discussions with his caustic criticisms. Without him Pipeburn might risk becoming some beige, monotone, no disparaging comments blog…like Bik….errrrr…..some of the alternatives out there

          • revdub

            In my opinion, which admittedly isn’t worth much, disparaging comments are fine, if given with even the slightest bit of respect. “Constructive” is a term that means something to me. Also, to give such comments, one should be able to back them up with some proven experience. When Mule criticizes, it is born from much experience. To Cole’s point above, HardleyAnythingTJGuitarslinger hasn’t proven that he has any experience or even owns a bike.

          • brownroundtown

            I agree with what you’re saying, but over the years I’ve kinda warmed to HTW…just for the purposes of entertainment. I can’t help having a wry chuckle when he goes fishing for a reaction to his deliberate trolling and some poor sod bites!

          • duh

            Hardley is a click generating, figment of Andrew’s imagination. Well done though Andrew!

      • Davidabl2

        You do not disappoint your fans, Sir.

  • Jim Roberts

    to start with i bet it’s about 75 lbs. lighter than stock. it seems the builder accomplished everything he set out to do, and in my opinion, in a spectacular fashion. “scrambler” is a term for anything with knobbies and lights these days, sorta’ like “enduro” in the 70’s so a full cradle frame with a bash plate isn’t an absolute requisite for the appellation to be acceptable. the craftsmanship, in design and execution is outstanding. take for instance, the exhaust. you may not like it but remember, it resides in a world not often frequented by effete habitues of wine tastings and erotic art showings and so its process of creation and its finished form probably are perceived too be but bits of gob. However, this is another fine example of what it is…another guys’ bike. very nice, i’d ride it

  • jlgace

    Wow. I’m always totally impressed when someone can build a completely custom bike that looks like it rolled out of the factory once upon a time. I would also add having that much torque available to relocate necessary sections of earth would be a fun time. Spectacular home build, this is obviously not their first rodeo.

  • If you put a bunch of driving lights and aggressive tires on a Prius, would that make it a Rally car? Apparently, to some people, that’s all it takes. This thing looks like a super long streetbike with aggressive tires. Sort of a Hageman copy at that.

    • guvnor67

      No, it’d just be a waste of a set of lights and tyres!!!!

    • jlgace

      Coincidentally, there are several instances of rally cars that are pretty much exactly what you said. There is (was?) a Ford Focus rally car. Just sayin…
      If someone wants to set out making a motocross bike out of a Vespa, I say let them have at it. It’s how well they do it that makes the difference. And in essence, one could say that every attempt to customize an XV derivative is a Hageman copy. Actually I believe the builder openly stated that was part of his inspiration.

    • Davidabl2

      Since Hageman invented the custom Tr-1 it’s not hard for others to have a debt to him. I think what you’re really saying is that the bike needs to lose weight and gain performance in order to be able to “walk the walk.”

  • stuart barker

    Quite nice, and lets face it, no-one said “don’t put them 8inch overs on your hog,it’ll ruin your corner speed”. It’s a “custom”, not a dirt-bike. Probably would’ve been cheaper (but less fun) just to have bought a Duc Scrambler though.

  • rein skugler

    A very interesting piece of work. Typical Yamaha scrambler yet some nice extra touches, such as the exhaust pipe configuration. Also making a statement with the straight seat.

  • rein skugler

    And by the way, who cares what Hardley would have to say …

  • Best stainless steel exhaust I’ve seen in along time – thanks for grinding and polishing the welds!

    • Agreed

      • guvnor67

        I like the bike, but that exhaust is damned sexy!

    • Extra points for keeping that Yoshi logo also 😉

  • Alasdair Sykes

    Looks like an absolute grin machine, and what is that if not job done? Been looking at a couple of Pipeburn’s weekend retrospectives and one thing which stands out is the overwhelmingly positive tone of the comments… we’ve become a cynical bunch over the last few years for sure. Critique away, but c’mon, respect a guy pouring his heart and soul into a build, even if it’s not your cup of tea.

    • jlgace

      I wholly agree. I (try to) vet my comments as though I’m speaking them to the builder’s face. People think the builder’s don’t come and check out what people had to say about something they built? Anonymity can bring out the worst in some. I get it, you’re having a bad day and then see that some dumbass did what to one of your favorite models of bike? That’s when it’s time to step away from the keyboard. Be the bigger person, live and let live and all that. Not saying I haven’t been guilty, but I’m tryin’.

  • I’m just happy it has more than half a litre of displacement. Sweet az bro.

  • VR

    I miss a “before-photo” on every single bike featured.
    About time! Hope this is the first of many.

  • Davidabl2

    Beefy bash plate needed,I think. Both for peace of mind and to fit the scrambler image.
    Unfortunately, it’d be necessary to fabricate some sort of subframe to hang it off of 🙁