If you’ve been paying attention to custom motorcycles for more than fifteen minutes you’ll be aware of Yamaha’s evergreen SR400. In the west its dominance of the scene is a relatively recent phenomenon, but custom builders in Japan people have been doing it for decades. One of these shops is Heiwa motorcycles, who’ve re-birthed this tidy little SR400 bobber.
With thousands of custom motorcycles built every year, be it in home garages or the world’s best workshops, you start to wonder just how many remain out on the road. Plenty will end up on eBay as unfinished projects, others are enjoyed for years, while many sit patiently waiting for their owners to find the time to give them a ride. Very few are built to a high standard, used and abused and then totally rebuilt all over again in a completely different style. But for Beautiful Machines, one of Malaysia’s premier customisers that’s exactly what they’ve done. Once a rough and ready sand racer featured on these very pages, their 1993 Yamaha SR400 has been re-purposed into a custom Cafe Racer for the streets with plenty of vintage Boardtracker flair.
Clients are the same wherever you go. They come to you because they like what you do and then they go ahead and ask for something that’s the absolute polar opposite. Known for your cafe builds? How’d you like to build them a bobber? Knock it out of the park with your last four tracker builds? Then why not try a drag bike? You get my drift. So when the lads from France’s renown Bad Winners had a client that wanted a ‘pure brat-style’ bike, you can probably imagine the reaction. You might as well ask Picasso to paint a Pollock. But instead of a hissy fit, they’ve gone all ‘carpe diem’ and done their own sweet thing that also happens to work a treat.
For as long as there have been motorised vehicles on earth there have been men the world over racing them and trying to find anyway at all to go faster to beat the competition. Harley-Davidson was competing as early as 1904 and Soichiro Honda was a man obsessed by racing in all its forms and his company has gone on to compete in just about every motorsport event. But motorcyclists seem to be the most creative ones of the motorsport fraternity, from racing on ice, to speedway with no brakes and flying through small towns at 200mph in road racing nothing is off limits. So it makes perfect sense that a group of Malaysian motorcycle enthusiasts decided that the beautiful Balok Beach would be as good a place as any to hold a race. Enter Beautiful Machines and their radical supercharged 1993 Yamaha SR400 built for the sole purpose of taking glory on the sand.
The Snipe. A well camouflaged but otherwise nondescript bird that is native to the old world. But for such a seemingly average little fellow, it has sure inspired a hell of a lot of things to be named in its honour. The dictionary defines a ‘snipe’ as the act of ‘making a sly or petty verbal attack.’ That act is named after the military tactic of ‘sniping’, or shooting at the enemy over a long distance. This in turn took its name from the difficulties involved in hunting the bird with a rifle as its flight patterns are erratic, making it almost impossible to hit ‘on the wing’. But most importantly to this story, the bird also gave its name to the Sopwith Snipe, the replacement aircraft to the now famous Camel. And while it’s service began only a few short weeks before the end of WWI, it was renown for its rate of climb and manoeuvrability. Now fast forward to South Eastern England in 2016, where two likely lads with a fascination for old British aircraft have decided to build themselves a custom motorcycle…
There was a time when only two things wore raw shields of smoothed out aluminium, UFO invaders cutting through the sky to attack earth as narrated by Orson Welles and the race bikes of the big manufacturers that were as equally alien to the visuals of a real road bike. It was a time when the imagination was the only limiting factor, rules and regulations not strangling the mind as they do today and allowed the likes of Isaac Asimov to amass a portfolio of more than 500 science fiction works. It was while reading Asimov’s famous Foundation Series that Markus Pintzinger came across the name of a micro food exporting Mycogenian known as ‘Sunmaster 14’ and decided it would make the perfect name for a future build. As the head honcho at Omega Racer in Thailand, Markus finally got a chance to use the name on a build befitting the era as he turned a ‘98 Yamaha SR400 into an aluminium shielded racer ready to descend from the skies and take over the Bangkok streets.
The custom motorcycle scene can be a competitive game, for all the comradery and sense of community that makes the industry such a wonderful thing to be part of, businesses still have to make a quid. For the workshops that build custom bikes that means selling at least enough of them to pay the rent, it’s fair to say we all take a pay cut for our art, but a man’s got to eat. To achieve this Auto Fabrica from North-East London have created a series of bikes that act as rolling advertisements for the quality of their work and what they can deliver. Based on Yamaha’s SR400 platform their Type 7 series offers customers a versatile machine that’s as comfortable ripping up a rain-soaked field as it is posing for the cameras at the local bike show. Designed with clean lines, executed with quality workmanship and utilising the best parts around it’s easy to see why customers are coming calling!
The back alleys of cities all over Japan have delivered some of the coolest custom cars and bikes from small workshops that punch well above their weight. From the Hyper Lemon tuner cars of JUN to the retro-tech bikes produced by AC Sanctuary – you don’t need millions and a huge facility to produce incredible machines in the land of the rising sun. And nobody exemplifies that spirit more than custom bike building genius Fujita Koichi and his one man operation AN-BU Custom Motors.
Words by Ian Lee.
When it comes to building a bike, an open brief is always a good brief. It’s nice to know someone puts their faith into the fact you will get it right. This is exactly what happened with the latest build to roll out of the Salty Speed Co’s workshop. Starting with a 1988 Yamaha SR400 with only 6500kms on the clock, the whole bike has been stripped back and reworked, giving a fresh new look to this bulletproof thumper.
Utilising the classic single for the build, Matt from Salty Speed Co decided the engine needed no work, and to focus on improving the aesthetics of the machine. The first aspect that needed to be touched up was the stance.
Written by Ian Lee.
With a hot sun beating down, 45 degree Celsius heat just outside my front door, last week my thoughts drifted to the beach and how nice it would be to live near the ocean. Cool breezes, the sound of waves and a sweet ride to experience it all on. Then this bike appeared in my email inbox. Must be a sign. A sweet thumper, built with the surf in mind, this 1985 SR400 has been made over to suit the beach bum lifestyle. With a build brief that appeals to both form and function, this is definitely a bike I would be happy to ride on a sunny day. Or any other day for that matter.