In the 1970s, the Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM) revolutionized the industry — a general-purpose, rider-friendly machine that made motorcycling more accessible to the public. These naked/standard designs had upright ergonomics and powerful, reliable engines. Within a couple of decades, however, the UJM would fragment into a wide array of the specialized, niche designs we know today.
In the last few years, however, the universal motorcycle has been making a comeback. One of the most popular of these “neo retro” standards is the Yamaha XSR900. The liquid-cooled, 847cc triple offers 115 horsepower — good for a quarter mile time under 11.1 seconds. Says Cruiser magazine of the bike:
“The XSR900 is an absolute beast of a 900cc sport bike, just wrapped up in a stylish neo-retro package…This bike did everything that it was built to do incredibly well, and looked damn good doing it…”
Enter Tom Gilroy of Australia’s Purpose Built Moto, who supplies high-quality parts to builders around the world as well as building customs himself. The owner of this 2018 XSR900 wanted a subtle customization of his machine. Says Tom:
“He wanted a subtle style, so the whole project revolved around building out the idea of a factory styled custom.”
Below, we get the full story on this modern XSR custom.
Custom Yamaha XSR900: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
Purpose Built Moto has now grown beyond what I could have thought a year ago. Thanks to my work in the garage, and supplying high quality parts to other builders around the world, I’ve been able to move from my home garage into a full size workshop and be able to take on more work and bigger projects (and hopefully pump out better bikes).
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
2018 Yamaha XSR900
• Why was this bike built?
After upgrading from an XSR700 the rider wanted a more unique look for this modern classic. He wanted a subtle style, so the whole project revolved around building out the idea of a factory styled custom.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Angling toward the subtlety of a factory custom can be a fine line between getting it right, or just building a plainly boring motorcycle. While I didn’t go all out with wild modifications, the upgrades are functional, and look great. At the same time a lot of the factory colours and style were kept, to almost give the illusion that this bike could have rolled straight of of the factory.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The XSR900 had the bars and master cylinders swapped, all really high end stuff. Carbon fibre bars, Brembo master cylinders, Rizoma mirrors and a Frando hydraulic clutch conversion with braided lines.
The subframe was shortened and an LED brake light integrated into the frame, ontop of that we built out a custom seat, keeping the factory key latch and covering it with a vintaged black leather. The shape of the seat has been soother out to create a nice flow for the silhouette over the tank and seat.
After the seat the factory headlight brackets and side cover were removed. And a far more minimal solution was fabricated. The new side covers were patterned and shaped by hand to house the new turn signals and slim out the tail of the bike.
Up front it was given a new 5.75” headlight and some custom brackets. The front guard was also swapped out for a brushed aluminium fender and some nice minimal stays fabricated for that as well.
• How would you classify this bike?
I guess this thing is a modern custom, there’s not much retro about it at all. It’s just a clean re-imagining of what the XSR900 could be.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Due to the minimalist approach I think the most appealing thing about this bike is taking a look at the standard XSR900 next to this one. The modifications completely change the look and feel of the bike. It wasn’t a lot of work, but the work we did was carefully thought through and executed well. The tail piece being one of the more noticeable of the changes. It’s clean enough you could eat off it!