Last September a friend’s father contacted me about a commissioned build. He had a 1983 Yamaha XS 650 Special that a previous owner had already modified quite a bit. It needed a little mechanical work, so it hit the Retrowrench side of the shared space first. Chad Francis got the basics working properly. Then I met with the client and he informed me he only had a minimal budget. He just wanted to freshen the bike up and have it repainted with the Gulf color scheme, the number 64 (which his son races under) and the JC3 emblem, which is in memory of his daughter. So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.
Yamaha’s poor MT-01. Released in 2005, it looked like it had so much customising potential. A killer engine with more torque than the Titanic on Nitrous. A decent, sporty frame and suspension set-up. Tuning kits straight from the factory. By rights, we should all be complaining about yet another MT-01 custom bike instead of directing it at her Virago grandparents. Yet here we are, all red-faced at having never featured a single MT on these pages. Until now. Direct from (of all places) Corsica, here’s Kekedesign Artkustom with their brutal ‘Bull Gold’ cafe fighter.
Well, well. Isn’t Yamaha’s XSR range doing it well for itself? It seems like we can’t go for a ride these days with seeing one, or one of their MT brethren, riding the other way. We’re not afraid to admit that, although they are a thoroughly high tech machine in stock trim, they do look damn good. And it’s become pretty clear to us that they don’t mind a bit of customisation, either. We’ve had a slew of great lookers from all the top European builders, and here’s the latest of them. It’s Spain’s Ad Hoc Cafe Racer with an XSR700 that’s a kind of a version 2.0 build based on their ‘Otokomae’ XSR700 from 2016. They call this one ‘Hansamu’.
Taking home the top trophy for best in show or coming first at the drag strip sure feels good, but it usually doesn’t pay the bills. For most workshops, following the build of a bike that has crowds going crazy there are at least ten others that come in for minor work. It keeps the lights on, puts food in the belly and pays for the parts to make that next dream machine. But every customer still deserves the best and when a client said he wanted his wife’s new bike tailored to fit her needs, Tom Thöring of Germany’s Schlachtwerk, was ready and waiting. It’s a 2016 Yamaha XSR700 that draws on Buell’s XBS for inspiration to create a fellow twin terror to shred the streets.
Remember that scene from Jurassic Park where Jeff Goldblum says “life, uh… finds a way”? His logic is simple – if something in nature has got even the most remote chance of happening, given enough time it probably will. A group of all female dinosaurs will eventually reproduce. Nickelback will, given enough time, write a song the doesn’t suck. And two custom bike genres which may seem mutually exclusive will eventually merge to form a whole new subspecies. Take this little Yamaha XT600 beastie, for instance. Half cafe and half tracker, it’s the latest creation from Portugal’s Redonda Motors. And while science may have never intended it to be so, we’re kind of glad nature took its course.
When Yamaha released the bonkers street-naked MT-09 with its lush torquey triple, the promise from the Japanese firm was that a baby brother was soon to follow. It seemed an odd move and out of step with most model line-up launches, where the most exciting stuff is saved for last lest the “lesser” bikes be overshadowed. But as soon as the first journalist cracked the throttle of the twin cylinder MT-07, any fears were quickly allayed. This was one hell of a fun machine! Now entering its fourth year of production, Yamaha Canada decided it was time to show the world that the little street weapon had more than one trick up its sleeve. So having seen the work of Rob Chappell of Origin8or Custom Cycles in Ontario, they brought him in to create another Yard Built beauty. Eagerly ready to take on the mission, Rob promised he’d deliver a bike that anyone at Yamaha would love to own. It was no empty threat, and the result is this go anywhere fun machine known as ‘60/40’.
As with the Sports Utility Vehicle craze of the last few years, it’s easy to write off the current Tracker and Scrambler rage as a triumph of style over substance. After all, where’s the corresponding boom in off-road riding to justify all these knobby tires and high pipes? The answer is that most of the bikes are only being ridden on the road. But what if you lived in a country that wasn’t strangled by parking lots and overpasses? What if instead you lived in a tropical paradise where off-roading was not a hobby but an everyday occurrence? Welcome to Indonesia and the world of Donny Ariyanto. Time to meet his rather elegant solution to the challenge; a wanna-be sporty Yamaha R25 that now couldn’t be better suited to its surrounds.
The 80’s yielded more horrors than just Thatcher, the Iran-Iraq war and permed hair – it also introduced Yamaha’s Virago line of motorcycles. Porky, uninspiring to ride and with styling verging on the offensive, they’ve become a favourite of the custom scene over the last ten years. And now Arkansas’ One-Up Moto Garage have turned their hand to the most forgettable of the forgettable line up, the little known Virago 500.
Being on the receiving end of many custom bike submissions, you tend to get a pretty good idea of just how prolific a bike shop really is. Some we hear from once a year. Some twice. And then there’s France’s Motomax Metz. Believe it or not, this here bike hit our inboxes little more than two weeks after their previous build. At this rate, we’ll be featuring another 26 of their bikes in 2017, and by 2020 France will be nothing but an army of cool Yamaha trackers and a load of fresh mud. But before that happens, please meet the rad-to-the-bone ‘Dirty Smoke’ XSR700 that will have caused it all.
You never forget your first motorbike, no matter how good or bad it was, that machine opened up your life to a whole new world. For most a limited budget and a young age means riding something that looks terrible, breaks down often and leaves oil up your leg. So you save your pennies for something better. Or maybe you have a little more cash to play with for your first ride. Sure you could buy one of the many characterless, learner legal “sportsbikes” offered new by any of the manufacturers. But there is another option and the UK’s Auto Fabrica have got it just right; a Yamaha SR250 known as ‘Type 4A’ that’s custom cool, a perfect first motorcycle and means nobody else on learner plates will be rolling just like you.