For a film about jet aircraft, 1986’s Top Gun sure got a lot of new riders onto bikes. Cruise’s Kawasaki Ninja 900 seemed to be the perfect match for his ‘Maverick’ character: fast, slick and more than a little bit rebellious. So when Ohio’s Jason Reihing from Charlie James Customs wanted to build a Yamaha XV750 with these very same attributes, it became clear that his own two-wheeled need for speed could only be called one thing.
Walk into any gym around the world these days and there’ll be a line up for the mirror as jacked up shirtless individuals get the perfect selfie for Instagram. But over in the distant corner, large but unassuming, is a big man who comes in everyday and gets the job done without a fuss. Imposing, all natural and capable of benching more weight than the rest of the posers could ever dream of. In the motorcycle world that individual is the Yamaha XJR1300 that still relies on classic looks and a big cube air-cooled engine to fill an important niche in the company’s line up. But Walid from Bad Winners in France decided it was time to show the juice heads what real muscle is all about and has turned this 2005 example into a brutal beast he calls The Arm Breaker.
We all know the story. Yamaha’s XV series of the late 70s and early 80s scared Harley so much, they successfully lobbied the Reagan government to impose import duties on all ‘large foreign motorcycles’. If only they’d known about those starter motors… But what if the two brands had made love and not war? It’s an idea that led Seattle’s Darrick Bartley to create this little Milwaukee via Shizuoka lovechild, which also happens to be the very first product of his new Blank Slate Cycles shop. Moto baby shower, anyone?
Having owned Viragos ourselves, we know all too well that customising them without treading on anyone’s toes can be a tricky endeavour. With some of the industry’s best builders all making their mark on Yamaha’s innovative stressed-member v-twin, it’s damn hard to do anything that people haven’t seen a million times before. But with this thought in mind, Sergei from Dutch grinders Ruthless Customz took up tools and created this rather cool and decidedly unique XV interpretation. He calls it ‘The Beast’.
TW Steel is a Dutch watch manufacturer that builds quality timepieces large enough to beat a man to death with. Recently they’ve been dabbling in the custom motorcycle scene, commissioning a series of bikes based around Yamaha’s incredible, unique-looking lineup. The latest builder to throw their sizeable hat into the ring on behalf of TW Steel is Spain’s Macco Motors, with their brand spanking new XSR900 cafe racer dubbed ‘The Desperado’.
A few years ago, it would have been easy to dismiss Yamaha’s ‘Faster Sons’ and Yard Built campaigns as mere marketing exercises. But the bikes that have been created as a direct result of the program are as plentiful as they are cool. And just when you think that it might have run its course, there always seems to be yet more moto goodness to come. Germany’s WalzWerk Racing is the latest shop to team up with the Japanese giant, and their ‘Apex Ruler’ XSR700 Tracker seems to suggest that the Yard Built campaign still has plenty of go.
For those not in the know, Yamaha’s ‘M-Slaz’ is a naked version of its popular YZF-R15 single cylinder sports bike first launched in Asia and India in 2008. And yes, we had to look that up. As reliable as it is underwhelming, it’s a bike that in normal guise most of us would instantly overlook in favour of an MT or XSR. But when they just aren’t on the menu, how do you take what’s available locally and turn it into something you’d die to ride? This is how. Here’s Thailand’s K-Speed with their Yamaha ‘Monkey Slaz’ Tracker.
Motorcycles have an amazing way of getting under your skin. It seems that no matter how hard you try to forget about them, they’ll always bubble to the surface one way or another. For California’s Fernando Cruz, college and his own business took over from his love of bikes, but sure enough fate stepped in and the result was a slow and steady re-entry in motoland that finished with a racing job, an award from the Quail Motorcycle Gathering and this amazing Yamaha XS750, built with his employer, Meen Motorsports.
Much of the criticism levelled at this new generation of custom bikes concerns usability. Whether it be fenders, suspension travel or comfort, the main undercurrent to the comments is that the bikes just aren’t functional in the real world. But if there’s anyone who really cares about how their equipment works, it’s a soldier. Hammered with rules about unwavering trust from day one, most soldier’s tools are nothing but thoroughly, brutally, unforgivingly functional. So what happens when a career warrior builds a custom bike? This happens. Meet Piotr and his newly weaponised Yamaha XJ750 Seca.
When the Japanese custom car culture really began to boom in the early ’90s those heading to the land of the rising sun to witness it all were given a simple instruction. Don’t look for big showrooms with flashing lights, head to an industrial area of any of the country’s big cities and go down the smallest of alleys. Here in cramped garages, 1000hp beast were being turned out in spaces so small you could barely spin a spanner. Now Poland’s Ugly Motors is taking it to extremes, with a 1st floor workshop that sees bikes lifted into place by a homemade crane. It’s here that Jakub Beker has crafted Ugly #08, a power cruiser come cafe racer from a 1983 Yamaha XV920 Virago.