Built to rip through Istanbul traffic and escape to the woods…
The Honda XL200 is a modern incarnation of the legendary XL/XR series, a 20-hp air-cooled dual-sport with modern upgrades such as electric start and a front disc brake. The bike is quite expensive in markets like South America and Turkey, but promises years of reliable transportation on and off the road.
Enter Elet Hall of Istanbul’s Matador Motor Co, a long-time follower of BikeBound who moved to Turkey from the US about three years ago. Elet has been working on bikes ever since he bought his first ’84 Honda CB700S at the age of 17, but he’d never built custom bike. However, opportunity came knocking soon after he moved to a village on the outskirts of Istanbul with his girlfriend:
“I needed some wheels to get out and explore my new home so I was stoked when she told me she had an old XL200 sleeping on the porch of her mom’s apartment.”
As it turned out, it was a 2001 Honda XL200 in rough shape, having sat outdoors uncovered for nearly two years. However, the XL series is known as unkillable, and this machine was no exception. With a carb cleaning, new battery, and oil change, Elet had the bike running again, which meant the real work could begin: rebuilding the machine from the ground up. Says Elet:
“Starting fresh in a new country meant I first had to buy tools, so as they started arriving started working.”
The work was extensive: building a 19″/18″ wheelset, RaceTech springs/emulators, modified XR250 swingarm and linkage, rebuilt motor with Wiseco piston, new subframe, CG125 tank, motogadget electronics, and much more. In the end, he nicknamed this XL200 tracker “The Bullfighter”:
“The name for the bike comes from Istanbul’s insane traffic. I planned this bike to rip through the mind-numbing traffic and run me out to the woods on the weekends, it’s my ‘BullSh!t fighter’.”
We can’t think of a better machine for knifing through gridlock, hopping curves, and seeking the quieter roads outside of town. What’s more, Elet’s experience shows the power of the motorcycle community to help a rider/builder find his feet in a new country:
“And over the year it took to build this bike I stocked my new shop, made important connections, and got to meet some of the local legends of the custom scene.”
Elet now offers custom moto parts like handlebars, headlight grilles, and crash bars, as well as 4×4 parts like tube bumpers and safari racks. Below, we get more details on the build from the man himself.
Honda XL200 Tracker: In the Builder’s Words
I’ve followed BikeBound for several years. I loved custom bikes and always wanted to build them, but my experience was just in maintenance and mechanics. When I moved to Istanbul from the US three years ago, I ended up taking the first step towards that dream of building bikes. I had just moved in with my girlfriend to a quiet village on the outskirts of the city. I needed some wheels to get out and explore my new home so I was stoked when she told me she had an old XL200 sleeping on the porch of her mom’s apartment.
I’m self-taught, I’ve been working on all of my own and my friends’ bikes since I bought my first, an ’84 Honda CB700S, at 17. But what I found on that porch would make even the most experienced builders nervous. This bike had sat uncovered outdoors for almost two years. Everything was rust/UV damaged, the bearings felt like they had been replaced with pebbles, and the plastics were either brittle or missing. The good news? It had been put away still running, so there was hope.
We loaded it up, took it home and with a new battery, a carb cleaning, and an oil change it was running again. But that just meant the real work could start, everything needed replaced/rebuilt.
Starting fresh in a new country meant I first had to buy tools, so as they started arriving started working. First I built new Excel wheels, 19″ front and 18″ rear. Then I moved to the suspension. I upgraded the front with RaceTech springs and emulators, and the rear has a YSS shock for an XR250. To fit the rear shock I modified an XR250 swingarm and linkage to fit and fabbed a new top mount.
While I was designing the new subframe, I pulled the motor, had it bored out next door, and rebuilt it with a Wiseco piston, new timing chain, and new clutch discs with stiffer springs. Some paint and polish and the motor was ready to go back in the finished frame.
I picked up a CG125 tank and built the seat and bodywork around that.
For the cockpit I bent up new handlebars, designed some CNC aluminum switch sets, and parked a one-off headlight with integrated signals out front.
Running juice to the lights is a motogadget m unit and lithium battery. Everything was powder-coated a matte black and the bodywork I finished in a bright silver, with a livery inspired by Martini Racing.
The name for the bike comes from Istanbul’s insane traffic. I planned this bike to rip through the mind-numbing traffic and run me out to the woods on the weekends, it’s my “BullSh!t fighter”.
I’ve always wanted to build bikes. And over the year it took to build this bike I stocked my new shop, made important connections, and got to meet some of the local legends of the custom scene. I’ve got another personal build going and several customer projects in the books to look forward to.
Follow the Builder