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.
It’s no secret that loads of custom builders farm out elements of their builds. Often it’s the paintwork, sometimes it’s the wiring or even particularly swear-worthy moments of fabrication. But not Paul Miller. As head honcho of the small shop PanicRev Customs young Paul does everything himself. Everything. And he does a damn fine job of it too, as this XS650-powered, custom-framed street tracker shows.
If you’ve wondered why second-hand Yamaha Viragos are demanding ridiculous money these days I know who you can blame. Greg Hageman. As head of Hageman motorcycles in Iowa, he’s near single-handedly turned a daggy 90’s cruiser into a favourite of the custom scene with his incredible builds. This time around Hageman have knocked another one out of the park with this amazing Vincent-inspired 1981 Yamaha XV920.
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.
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.