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.
The Father and Son relationship may just be the biggest reason many young men find their way into the world of motorcycling. For Jared Morris and his Dad Bob that relationship extended even further and they shared this Yamaha RD400 not just as a bike to ride but as a bike they would slowly build together. The RD could be heard screaming through the neighbourhood as Jared tested out the latest changes and modifications they’d made before ripping it back apart and making it that little bit better. When Bob fell ill Jared continued the build but with the pressures of life there just wasn’t the time to give the RD the attention it deserved. When Bob, a former Flat Track Racer, sadly passed away, Jared thought of the best way he knew to honour his Dad.
It’s hard to deny that Yamaha made some exceptional motorcycles in the ‘70s. Two of those machines are arguably ‘ride before you die’ bikes; namely the insane RD two-strokes and the now legendary TZ racers of ‘King’ Kenny Roberts. So when Dallas bike builder Isiah Booth of City of Hate Cycles was commissioned to build a raffle bike for the Tenth Annual Dallas Rockers vs Mods gathering, he decided there was no better way to honour these two legends of the ’70s than to combine them into one hell of a machine. To get it done he found a 1977 RD400 and teamed up with Jason Small of Small Time Moto to build a very special race themed machine, nicknamed the ‘Giant Killer.’
The Yamaha XS500 may not have anywhere near the street credentials of its big brother, the XS650, but if you ride a parallel twin less than 30 years old you owe a debt of gratitude to the younger sibling. It’s a potential Tommy Rand, Co-Founder of Relic Motorcycles from Aarhus, Denmark, saw when he found this particular 1977 Yamaha XS500 for sale in Copenhagen. He must have a great creative imagination, because the bike he came to see had been subjected to a terrible rebuild, strange yellow paint, no seat and it half resembled a hot dog stand. It’d also been on the market for over a year. Clearly, no other prospective buyers saw the possibility of a perfectly built Nordic Cafe Racer that Tommy and the boys envisioned and then brought to life.
A little bit of old, a little bit of new and lots of out of the box thinking makes this Ténéré Tracker unlike any other, and that’s always the way it was meant to be. Starting with a “fit for the junkyard” ‘89 model Yamaha XT600, Santiago Garcia of Corb Motorcycles in Spain had a very unique vision of the sort of bike he wanted to build for himself. For more than 6 years in the city of Terrassa, 30 km from Barcelona, Santiago has been churning out customs for his clients and gaining an impressive following of fans and other local builders all determined to keep the true spirit of motorcycling alive. But when you build customs every single day and you finally find time to build something for yourself, it creates a chance to push the boundaries in every way.
Every Estate Agent has heard it, a request for a large beach front property in a high value suburb for the price of a small car but when confronted with the motorcycle equivalent, Japan’s Speedtractor Industries proved they’re one builder who can give their customer their cake and eat it too with this knock out 2001 Yamaha XJR400. The exact request was for a machine that was more “Kraftwerk than café racer” light but with the brawn of a 4 cylinder, low maintenance and air-cooled and it had to be capable of riding two up, would you like fries with that? But one of the reasons clients go to masters of their craft like the designers, mechanics and technicians at a workshop like Speedtractor is because they can deliver the type of “the client is always right” requests that not every shop can achieve.
The very nature of custom bike building is that convention gets thrown out the window; convention is what everyone else does, what the manufacturers make, what normal people like and what the average rider owns. The custom world is about going where nobody has gone before and with his latest build Dennis Karlsson of Half Caste Creations in Bangkok has done exactly that – only he jumped light years ahead in the process! I can’t give you a make or model, this is a one off custom motorcycle creation that simply drew on a little of the board trackers of the 1930’s for inspiration, but is truly a 21st century piece of functional art work with one hell of a story to tell.
When the Yamaha engineers put pencil to paper and created the XS650 with its classic looking parallel twin they could never have imagined that so many decades later it would continue to be a cult classic. But when Heath Reed owner of River Rat Cycle Fab from Davenport Iowa was commissioned to build this 1977 example he didn’t want to simply run with the pack and do the standard modifications. Instead the brilliant fabricator spent hours in deep thought working out how he could create more than just another XS650 tracker. In the end he came up with a hybrid; a tracker with a touch of café racer, street fighter styling cues and a little inspiration from the greatest guitar ever made! With the design finalised Heath set about giving the ’77 XS a second birth that when finished would be known as “The Rattler”.
Auto Fabrica of North East London are fast becoming the place to go if an ultra-clean custom is what you desire. Run by brothers Gaz and Bujar, they have been creating tasty rides for a few years now. With technical backgrounds in design, and also offering an aqua blasting service, it is no wonder their finished products are clean in every way. The end result are motorcycles that look like the sort of prototypes manufacturers might have come up with for their respective classic machines, with a level of fit and finish you don’t often see.