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.
The ‘Custom Operational Group’ is a workshop run by ‘Piotr,’ a professional soldier from Poland. He channels the troubles of service into his garage, effectively giving a second life to many a weary classic. Mostly he recruits Japanese motos from the 70s and 80s, which end up in his garage, stocked only with very basic equipment. Most of the bike’s necessary parts are made by hand, according to the old school traditions of motorcycle construction. From the panel beating work and welding, through to the electrics and the painting, everything is handmade by Piotr.
“I should add that I do not have any technical training,” Piotr notes. “I learned everything from my own hard work. I spent months reading tutorials, articles, watching YouTube and getting valuable advice from my colleagues.” Sure, but why ‘Custom Operational Group?’ A few years ago, Piotr realised that in Poland there is no real support – online or off – for custom bike fanatics. “So in very short order, I founded a website, a Facebook fan page, and a YouTube channel to focus the scene.”
Nowadays, Piotr helps in the organization of custom moto events across Poland. “Every free moment is time spent on building and spreading custom culture across the country.”
Unusually, some wheels were sourced as a starting point for the build. “My friend put them up for sale at a fairly attractive price. To my surprise, there was no one interested in buying them. I thought they looked great. It seemed a shame not to take advantage of this situation. I treated it like a challenge; I could build a Seca driven by the Kardan shaft in conjunction with the spokes. What a original combination for a really interesting project.”
A donor Seca was then found online to pair with the wheels. “The offer was quite attractive but the bike was located in an area with a bad reputation, so we thought that it was most likely a scam. However after some careful analysis, it turned out that the XJ only suffered from a lack of rear brakes. After agreeing on the price, the motorcycle was off to Warsaw, where my workshop is located.”
As usual, construction began with the removal of the unnecessary factory components. Then to improve the stance, new rims were fitted. “The idea for the motorcycle was to have an aggressive shape, so naturally it got equally aggressive tires.
“A tank from an old Kawasaki KZ was tried out and found to be perfect for the required look. But to get there, most of the bike’s rear frame was first removed. The new, shorter back completed the look and while we were there, the required lights were mounted to the frame.”
The rear suspension has been totally modified and adapted from a Honda CBR and the front set-up comes from a Yamaha XJ600. “As you may know, the XJ750 was equipped with a form of anti-dive suspension, which was not very good. SO we replaced it. Then to add the right amount of aggression, a headlight from a combat vehicle was added. Of course, it’s been modified accordingly and it meets all the applicable rules and standards,” says Piotr. Then with all the elements removed the motorcycle was disassembled, practically to the last screw, and was sent for sand blasting and powder coating.
After the brat’s engine was cleaned, polished and lacquered it was time for electrics.“The XJ was equipped with a multitude of sensors, switches and the like. All these unnecessary components were thrown away, which drastically reduced the bike’s wiring requirements.
Then a set of new air filters were made by a friend of Piotr’s; a combination of stainless and plain steel, they were especially corroded to add visual contrast to the Yamaha. Similarly, the joints in the bespoke silencer were left untreated to imitate the raw style of military equipment. Then the pipes were torched with a gas burner to add some colour before being sprayed with colourless, high-temp varnish.
“The most difficult part of this bike was probably the spoked wheels,” says Piotr. “Luckily, I did not have to do it all myself, as a colleague was able to help me out. He is an expert, and I know he worked really hard on this project.”
Piotr’s favourite part of the finished brat is the newly-made tank, along with the Yamaha speedblock painting. “This required adding several layers of lacquer and a lot of work and patience, which sometimes I don’t have. Projects like this always teach humility, reminding us that you can’t do everything fast.”