two very different The Yamahas dominate this weekend’s edition of Speed Read. We take a closer look at the new Yamaha XSR900 DB40 prototype and profile a sleek Yamaha XS650 street tracker from Canada. We also discover a new BMW R18 kit from Poland and a tasty Honda VF1000F2 from Bavaria.
Yamaha XSR900 DB40 prototype Since breaking out in 2016, the Yamaha XSR900 has been a hit. In fact, a tweaked MT-09 in a neo-retro version, it looks, sounds and drives amazing, and it gets even better when you customize it.
This custom Yamaha XSR900 comes straight from the Japanese brand’s in-house design team. Dubbed the ‘DB40 Prototype, it burst onto the scene last weekend at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. And we absolutely love it.
The DB40 prototype follows CROIG’s custom “Yard Built for Good” XSR900 and the launch of the brand’s new cafe racer-style XSR accessory line. It’s a nod to Yamaha’s illustrious racing history and draws inspiration from the race bikes of the 80s and 90s. We can clearly see the inspiration from the Yamaha TZR250, YZR500 OW01 and other classic Yamaha race bikes.
The most obvious feature of the DB40 is its incredible front fascia. Supported by custom brackets and fairing struts mounted behind the top yoke, it does a great job of injecting some old school cool into this modern performance bike. But that’s not all Yamaha has retained from its heritage.
The “DB40” designation refers to Yamaha’s 40-year-old Deltabox frame design. First shown on the Yamaha YZR500 Grand Prix machine in 1982, it has been updated over the years and is still produced today. The highlight, the frame of this bike has been painted silver, which makes it stand out against the dark bodywork.
Öhlins suspension, moody paintwork and a very smooth rear section turn the naked XSR900 into a slippery retro race bike. The taillight and seat are particularly neat, and we like how the lower half of the engine is left exposed.
The Yamaha XSR900 DB40 prototype was ridden on Goodwood Hill on each of the four days of the festival to cheering crowds. If it weren’t for the lack of gauges and headlights, we’d think this is a production bike—it’s so well finished. And with rumors circulating that Yamaha is planning to release a new R9 based on the XSR’s cracking three-cylinder engine, we’re hopeful. [Yamaha Motorcycles]
Matt Thomas’ Yamaha XS650 The Yamaha XS650 was quite advanced when it was released in 1969 and gave the British parallel twins of the time a good run for their money. Its second wind came in the 2010s, when it quickly became a darling of the budding cafe racer scene.
Matt Thomas is a fan. Based in Canada, he bought a 1979 Yamaha XS650 for just CA$450 [about $340] last summer, then demolished it in the garage of his house. Spending every evening and weekend through the winter while his kids were in bed, Matt turned the salvaged bike into a svelte street tracker.
The big win here is how Matt made the XS650 lighter. A 1974 DT360 fuel tank is up to snuff, with its narrow lines that perfectly suit the style of the build. It was painted in an elegant Lamborghini Titanium Silver.
The engine was cleaned and polished, and the top end was rebuilt. The factory headers were probably rust tubes by the time Matt got his hands on the bike, so he replaced them with a beautiful two-into-one system, finished off with an inverted-cone muffler. A pair of Mikuni VM34 carburettors complete the engine.
The frame has been freed of all unnecessary tabs and supports, while the subframe has been cut and buckled. It was then finished with a custom seat that Matt’s wife was kind enough to reupholster for him.
The rear fender was made by welding together parts from a 1979 Yamaha fender and a 1983, then painted to match the tank. Matt made the chain guard and taillight setup himself. Low profile turn signals are hidden on the bike and the build is street legal thanks to a side number plate.
The wheels were painted black and treated with a new set of fat tires, a cut front fender and drilled brake discs. Fork gaiters and a lower-mount 5-inch headlight give the front end even more attitude.
Mounted on new risers and 1″ bars are a set of Vans x Cult grips, new throttle assembly, new master cylinder and some basic switches. A small Motogadget speedo has been pressed into the space between the frame and the tank, further reducing the bulk.
Matt tells us he’s been fixing bikes for years, but this is his first full teardown and custom build. And if this is his first, we can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. [Matt Thomas Instagram]
BMW R18 kit by Unikat Motorworks When BMW first rolled out the covers for the production version of the R18, the motorcycling world was a little… surprised. The idea of the traditionally pragmatic German brand launching a cruiser was a bit bizarre. And while the BMW R18 looks a lot better than the last cruiser BMW released, the ill-fated R1200C, it’s still long, low and heavy, with a few annoying design points.
That said, there is a distinct beauty hidden deep within the R18 that can be persuaded to come to the surface. This is where Polish Grzegorz Korczak and his workshop, Unikat Motorworks, come into the picture. They’ve created a bolt-on bobber kit for the BMW R18 that completely transforms the bike with a handful of well-judged tweaks.
The most notable design improvement is the new muffler design. Unikat made tighter, shorter mufflers that pair beautifully with the OEM headers and heat shields. They take over 100 hours to make by hand, but they’re a vast improvement over puffy fishtails from the factory.
Unikat installed dB killers, so the exhausts fire off a growl of bass rather than a harsh screech. And they can also produce them in black, if that’s your jam.
The kit also includes a single bobber-style diamond-stitched saddle and the necessary mounting hardware. It sits on small adjustable struts, providing an inch and a half of back and forth movement and the ability to adjust the angle. Further down are a set of stainless steel footpegs, designed to mount to the frame without any mods.
Custom 18-inch wheels were mounted to the stock hubs, and there are custom fenders front and rear. The headlight and gauge cluster was lowered using more custom brackets to improve the lines. Motogadget indicators and mirrors, as well as leather grips, sit on custom handlebars, which refines the area of control.
The engine was painted to match the tank sides and various covers were blacked out. Real silver flakes have been used to decorate the tank, adding an extra touch of class to the otherwise classic BMW paint scheme. Highsider LEDs sit under the seat, doing double duty as taillights and turn signals.
Unikat sells most of the above as a bolt-on kit. The set includes the seat, exhausts, fenders, foot pegs, headlight and gauge lowering kit and a license plate bracket. The rest is up to you. [Unikat Motorworks]
Honda VF1000F2 by Woidwerk Looking at a stock Honda VF1000F2, you’d never really know that a 998cc, 122bhp V-four is hiding under all those fairings. In 1985 Honda rolled the big four into a sport tourer, fitted with an extra radiator, and proved it could be quite a versatile package.
Fast forward 40 years, and Ralf Eggl of Woidwerk from Lower Bavaria has come into possession of a very special VF1000F2. This particular 1985 example was purchased, brand new, by Ralf’s grandfather, and it was the very bike that introduced a young Ralf to the world of motorcycling. His grandfather used the bike every day until 2005, after which it was parked for ten years.
The bike was in dire need of attention and Ralf was only too happy to oblige. He started with the most obvious modification – getting rid of a lot of the fairing. But that was easier said than done.
First he had to remove the lower fairing and its supports, then he lowered the entire front part of the fairing a few inches. This left nasty gaps between the fairing and the tank, but Ralf was able to fabricate aluminum air intakes to blend the two together. The smoked screen has been cut to complete the set
The tank, engine and front end were mostly left alone, but were rebuilt and given a fresh coat of paint. The rear is where Ralf got tricky, cutting a piece off the factory seat and shrinking the entire rear section. A new two-up seat with custom stitching sits up top, and while it doesn’t look like anything Honda would have done in the ’80s, it still has a factory feel.
Finishing touches include a new exhaust (offered by an Aprilia V4), red coolant hoses, Martini-Porsche style paint and new Wilbers rear suspension. This is another fantastic build from Woidwerk, and it’s a great way to honor the man who got Ralf into riding a bike in the first place. [Via]