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.
Clients are the same wherever you go. They come to you because they like what you do and then they go ahead and ask for something that’s the absolute polar opposite. Known for your cafe builds? How’d you like to build them a bobber? Knock it out of the park with your last four tracker builds? Then why not try a drag bike? You get my drift. So when the lads from France’s renown Bad Winners had a client that wanted a ‘pure brat-style’ bike, you can probably imagine the reaction. You might as well ask Picasso to paint a Pollock. But instead of a hissy fit, they’ve gone all ‘carpe diem’ and done their own sweet thing that also happens to work a treat.
Rock ‘n’ Roll had The Blues. World War I had Franz Ferdinand. And television had Philo Farnsworth. Every big event has its ground zero, and for modern custom motorcycles, it was the inimitable Yamaha SR500. More specifically, it was Japanese Custom shops in the 90s and their ready, cheap access to the bikes that kicked things off. And here we are today, enjoying the fruits of all their hard work. Keen to acknowledge where it all started, Austria’s Vagabund Moto decided to throw their hat in the ring with a classic SR build of their own. Meet the ‘V06’.
We’ve all done it. Scrolling through eBay or the classifieds and coming across a bike that was a project, 98% complete. The price seems great and hey, how hard could it be to finish that last 2%? Well Anthony Scott, photographer extraordinaire and man behind Enginethusiast found out that the maths doesn’t always add up. At the time he’d never had a 2-stroke and was looking for a new build to take on. So when a Yamaha RD400 came up for sale that had been treated to the beginnings of an “extensive restoration” in his home city of Portland, Oregon he snapped it up. Turns out extensive has a different meaning to some people, but the end result is a trophy winning tarmac and track warrior that Anthony calls a “Stroke of Luck.”
It’s the fourth month of 2017 and we’re calling it. Mash-ups. Hybrids. Cross genre. Call them what you will, but it’s pretty clear to us that less and less builders are interested in conforming to typical bike categories. Our case in point? When we interview builders, more and more are refusing to classify what they’ve built, or they’re telling us, ‘It’s whatever you want it to be.’ Well, tonight it looks like we wanted it to be an enduro Yamaharley brat with a bumblebee paint job and more fork travel than a 12 foot man on a spaghetti binge. Meet Kickstart Moto’s very random, very cool ‘Plan B’ Yamaha XT500.
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’.