HIGHER PURPOSE. Ironwood Motorcycles’ Yamaha XSR900 Cafe Racer
Written by Martin Hodgson
In the midst of the anguish and heartache of tragedy can come some of life’s most important lessons. For Dutchman Arjan van den Boom it was the untimely passing of his beloved Father, that came with it the realisation that living his dream to its full potential couldn’t wait another day. The owner and chief engineer of Ironwood Motorcycles has been building brilliant bikes for years, but now he’s full-time and focused on the goal. Growing the brand and building incredible unique customs like this new Yamaha XSR900 cafe racer with plenty of vintage flair.
Located in the Flevoland province of the Netherlands, Ironwood Motorcycles has gone from a side gig to a full-on workshop with employees and a second area with a bar, some classic Chesterfields and an ever-growing range of merchandise. Speaking fondly of his Dad, Arjan explains, “He was 63, we were very close and supposed to go to Vietnam together for some weeks but then he was gone. He just missed the birth of my little brother’s son, my new house, my new shop and my 5-month old baby. Life can be tough for sure but now I’m even more focused and determined!”
With that remarkable attitude despite such loss the entire team attacks each project like it’s their last and when a client rolled in on a new XSR900 it would be no different. Known predominantly for their older bikes, the modern machine and clients particular instructions would pose some challenges as Arjan generally builds to his own rules. “The customer was in the lead to get his beloved look executed. Although we were on the same page it’s a little more challenging to mix all ideas to a design.”
With the XSR900 drawings finalised they were sent off to a good friend of the shop, Marcel from The Custom Factory, who took on the task of building the bodywork. While the smaller pieces were handled in-house Marcel fabricated the tank cover and seat, both designed to give the modern machine a classic cafe racer style. The diamond frame presents plenty of challenges but Marcel handled them expertly creating a very British style with a Monza filler cap feeding the real tank below.
The tail-piece keeps the theme going with a solo seat, rear hump design, but with a little difference that was thought up at Ironwood. The lights are frenched in perfectly Hot Rod style, with four in total, the outers serving as indicators and the centre pair acting as the reds of the taillight. The bodywork sits on an all new subframe that alters the lines of the bike to suit the classic style and gives the back-end a more suitable foundation that includes a hooped rear.
The remainder of the bodywork is kept simple and to the point with a pair of hand-formed side covers that fill the larger holes in the new subframe. The modern fenders would have looked completely out-of-place and are ditched in favour of a simple front fender and hugger held on by brilliant round bar struts. The final touch to transform the bike back in time is a custom bikini fairing with under light chin. All the panels are then finished in a dark silver with candy wine red highlights broken up with a very light silver pinstripe.
The triple cylinder 847cc Yamaha engine is a naughty little thing that keeps begging for punishment and rewards you for dishing it out. It revs up quickly like a small capacity machine, but with the cubes and cross-plane crank technology has the torque of a much bigger bike. But European emissions regulations put a stranglehold on things and Ironwood has made sure to fix the mess. A beautiful custom exhaust system ends with twin Spark exhaust mufflers that save weight, add some hp and sound absolutely incredible!
With an engine this good it would have been criminal if Yamaha had fitted it in a mediocre chassis, and despite the very reasonable purchase price they haven’t let things down. The XSR is nimble and light on its feet with the narrow frame making it a breeze to throw around the tightest of bends. To customise the feel for the client Arjan removed the flat bars and fitted a Woodcraft clip-on kit. This essentially raises the bar height back towards the rider, with the new plate allowing for clip-ons to be fitted that don’t have you leaning so far forward the weights on your wrists; it’s the best of both worlds.
The front end is kept tidy with the new bars featuring indicators in the ends from the ever-present Motogadget. While the big dorky factory mirrors have been swapped out for a cleaner pair of machined items in black. There is a new headlight too, still round in style like the factory item but with a cluster of LEDs to really light up the road. But the whole exercise of creating a vintage take on the modern machine would fall short if Ironwood made the same mistake as Yamaha of keeping the alloy wheels that are also fitted to the MT/FZ siblings. Instead the cheque book was opened wide and a set of the stunning spoked wheels from Kineo brought in to do the job.
A set of Pirelli Scorpion Trail IIs are the company’s offering for the street enduro market and make for the perfect match, with no compromise made in wet weather conditions. While the Ironwood team love the challenge of completely re-engineering a motorcycle, it’s always a welcome change to work on a new machine. No matter the budget or style Arjan always has one objective, “I always try to give it our ABCD genetics: Aggressive, Bold, Clean, Dazzling!” The XSR more than fits the bill and its easy to see why Ironwood Motorcycles is developing a large following of happy clients who join them at the bar, more than pleased with their purchase.