Yamaha’s MT range is a funny old thing. With a single outing in the noughties in its ‘MT-01’ guise, the segment seemed to be pretty much done and dusted with Yamaha’s announcement in 2012 that the model was kaput. With the GFC barely over and Japan still reeling from the tsunami, few expected Yamaha to replace this ostentatious, genre-defying brute. And yet they did just that. 12 months later and hey presto, we get the MT-07 & MT-09. Well, not so much ‘we’ as ‘they’ because we’re guess there’s not too many Pipeburn readers who’d be desperate to own one. But now Yamaha has tried to redress that with their XSR700 & XSR900 bikes. With similar underpinnings to the MT models, they’ve enlisted the help of Shinya Kimura and Roland Sands to appeal to ‘us’ and the new-school custom scene as a whole. So, have they succeeded, or have they flunked out? Step into today’s class and let’s find out.
With the Isle of Man TT over for another year the wee little island in the Irish Sea returns to its quiet self once again, but for those new to the sport they may be unaware that the TT was once part of the Grand Prix World Championship. Boycotted in the ’70s by some high-profile riders because of safety concerns the GP circus moved to mainland England, but it wasn’t the only road race to disappear from the GP calendar. As a young lad in Finland, Ville Hänninen used to attend another hay bale lined “circuit”, the famous streets of Imatra and watch the 500cc two-strokes go wild. But one bike and one machine always caught his eye, the American taking it to the almost exclusively European pack, the King Kenny Roberts and his Black and Yellow Yamaha. To bring his childhood back to life Ville has pieced together a stunning Yamaha XV750 that has the wild Imatra road racer look down pat!
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!
In 100 years time when they write the history of the current custom motorcycle renaissance that we are living through you can be sure that Greg Hageman will be one of the leading names credited for spurring the revival. He can turn out a mean Harley, cafe a Honda and build just about any style of bike but it’s his incredible work with Yamaha Virago’s of the early ’80s that have really won him acclaim around the world; from magazine covers, to TV features and the trophies to match. But not only has Greg inspired a new generation of XV builders keen to tackle the old V-Twin he’s also produced a range of quality parts for his fellow customisers and without him leading the resurgence of the models popularity you have to wonder if the all new Yamaha “XV950” Bolt would ever have eventuated!
The deafening chorus of engines scream by. The crowd collectively gasp, as legendary Grand Prix World Champion, Barry Sheene dangerously cuts up his opponent’s inside but somehow manages to slips back in, just ahead of them into the corner. Sheene cheekily flips his opponent his signature two finger “up yours!” from the hip, then roars on to take the checkered flag. Crossing the finish line, he holds up the same two fingers, this time in a victory sign – men, women and children (not to mention several supermodels) fell in love with the ballsy little “Cockney Rebel”. A rebel who continues to inspire the world of motorcycling today. Petros Chatzirodelis of Jigsaw Customs in Greece is clearly one of the inspired. With the vision of creating a modern-day retro inspired tribute to the legendary rider, Petros took styling cues from Sheene’s iconic 1980 “AKAI” Yamaha YZR 500 to create ‘The Missing Piece’ – a Yamaha XJR Heritage Racer worthy of the great man himself.
As part of the Yamaha’s incredibly successful Yard Built program, JvB-moto was given the honour of being the first workshop to tackle their new XSR700. Described as a machine designed to have a timeless feel, built on historical icons, matched with tomorrow’s technology for a pure and entertaining riding experience, it has a lot to live up to. But the XSR700 is no ordinary new motorcycle; it’s neither a modern bike or retro remake, but a return to the UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) that combines a non-era specific look and classic design intellection. Having done such an incredible job with their first XSR700 build, known as the “Super 7”, JvB-moto led by Jens vom Brauck are back with a Scrambler version that delivers a new, raw and rough attitude to what is becoming the ultimate urban warrior.
It took the sacrifice of a 30-year-old comic book collection, over 7,000 comics to be precise, for Dave to appease the Motorcycle Gods as he sold one hobby to fund another. This one had a little more action and little less action heroes, however. A 1980 Yamaha SR500 would be the machine of choice to pop his speed demon cherry, but this wouldn’t satiate his appetite as he craved more from his machine. “The SR500 was so much fun to throw around, but I never felt I could trust it not to break down 50kms from home. Carbies became the bane of my existence. Since I’m not mechanically minded, fixing it on the fly wasn’t much of an option for me. I had had enough…”
When you nickname your custom build “Cafe Terror” you immediately invoke ideas of a bike capable of roaming a post apocalyptic urban environment and intimidating anyone that gets in your way. A statement not only true of this 1986 Yamaha XJ600 but the man who owns it and swung the tools, professional solider by day and bike builder by night, Piotr of Custom Operational Group in Warsaw, Poland. Before he could attempt to create a design all the hideous ’80s fairings had to be removed and destroyed in case any poor soul should stumble across their retina inflaming looks. Now with a clean canvas to start from and a few beers to lubricate his imagination Piotr knew the look he was after “It had to be aggressive, low, straight and it had to arouse respect on the road. A muscle car among motorcycles.”
In the space of less than a year in the late 1960s two Japanese heavyweights released motorcycles that would go on to be hugely popular in the modern custom bike scene. First Yamaha with its XS650 and then Honda with the CB750; while the Honda is considered the first Superbike and was designed to seek and destroy its British rivals, the Yamaha was based on classic styling and an engine as Brit as Big Ben. Whereas the evolution of the CB range has progressed to the most modern of motorcycles, the XS650 remained true to its classic styling for its entire production run. One man who truly understands classic design and builds a mean Yamaha is Christian Condo of Melbourne’s Modern Motor Cycle Company and this 1981 XS650 Heritage Special is his latest masterpiece.
Moto Adonis head honcho Daan Borsje will tell you that his goal is not just to resurrect near dead motorcycles but to re-purpose them for the exact demands of his customers. This leaves him with the creative freedom to take any old busted bike and turn it into anything he can dream of and design and that’s exactly what he’s done with this 1984 Yamaha TR1. From their digs in an abandoned factory in Roosendaal the team received a call from a customer in Amsterdam who wanted just such a bike, but a Scrambler built for his city streets and not muddy rolling hills. “It’s a hard bike to find in the Netherlands, but we have managed to find one and give this bike a bad ass scrambler style look!” But looks are only surface deep and when you scratch at this TR1 you start to find more than a few quality components and just a touch of Supermotard DNA for good measure.