Truck mechanic Spero Floro builds one hot thumper…
The Yamaha SR500 remains one of the world’s most beloved singles, a street version of the iconic XT500 enduro. When a street bike begins life as a Paris-Dakar Rally winner, you know you’ve got one seriously rugged set of bones on the bench. Many years ago, this particular SR was on the way to the dump when Spero Floro (@spetzo) of SANE Motion intervened:
“I disassembled the entire bike at my dad’s garage and brought the pieces to my apartment and began to restore the SR500 back to original in the living room.”
Spero, a big rig mechanic who maintains a fleet of trucks and trailers, rode the restored SR500 for several years, taking his growing children on rides around the block, each sitting in front of him because they were so small. Later, he sold the SR to a friend from work, who immediately had an accident, damaged it, and sold it back to Spero, deciding he didn’t want a bike. Says Spero:
“I tried to start the bike and it caught on fire. That’s when I decided to make it into a cafe racer.”
But Spero would not be satisfied simply bolting on an array of aftermarket parts — he got into the nitty-gritty, changing the very geometry of the bike to suit his needs. He bought a set of 1996 GSX-R600 forks, rebuilt them with RaceTech gold valves, emulators, and custom springs, then set his sights on the chassis neck:
“I made a frame jig and cut the steering tube off the frame and lathed a new steering tube to fit the Suzuki steering stem and the Suzuki OEM steering bearings. I changed the steering angle from 27.5 degrees to 25 degrees.”
He also raised the rear section of the frame six degrees, fabricated a seat cowl out of aluminum, and had the seat made by @haversack_leather. The tank is from a Benelli Mojave, highly modified, and the wheels are Warp 9.
Spero completely rebuilt the engine with a high-compression piston, aftermarket cam, resurfaced rockers, and port-and-polished the head. The engine now displaces 535cc, matched to a custom Lectron carb and stainless steel exhaust:
“The first time I rode the bike I was absolutely amazed with the power. The stock SR500 has a little bit of torque but nothing like this. The front end comes off the ground when shifting into 3rd. That huge 160mm rear tire actually spun when I was accelerating in 1st gear.”
This gorgeous SR500 cafe racer was due to be in some of our favorite shows this year — the Greasy Dozen Run, HandBuilt Show, Fuel Cleveland, The Freedom Machine Show, and Glory Daze Show — but 2020 had other plans. Fortunately, we can still ogle this work of art here online, and we can wait to see it in person once the show circuit is rolling again.
Below, we get the full story on the build straight from Spero himself, along with more gorgeous shots from photographer Dan Lim (@themotofoto).
SR500 Cafe Racer: Builder Interview
Just want to say thank you for the interest in my build. The story of this motorcycle might be a little long-winded but I want to give you everything. This SR500 was on the way to the dump when I acquired it. My brother called me up one night and told me he was taking a motorcycle to the dump that had been in his girlfriend’s backyard rotting away for years. It was her brother’s bike and he didn’t want it anymore.
I was working in my dad’s garage when he came by. The bike was a mess, rotted seat and exhaust, aluminum all corroded and pitted. I drained the fuel tank, put in some fresh fuel and a new spark plug and it fired up after a couple of kicks. I told him to leave it. I was living in a one bedroom apartment at the time, so I disassembled the entire bike at my dad’s garage and brought the pieces to my apartment and began to restore the SR500 back to original in the living room.
I went to the local Yamaha dealer and asked about the original seat and exhaust system. The parts were discontinued but the parts guy would search around for me. This was before the internet. A few months passed by and the parts guy told me he had found a seat at a Yamaha dealer in California and the exhaust in Japan. So I told him to get them. After about 6 months of cleaning and polishing and rebuilding, the bike was ready. I rode the bike for a few years and then my first son was born, then the second, and then the third, so I didn’t ride it anymore. A guy at work wanted to buy it so I sold it.
I didn’t know my kids were heartbroken because I used to take them for rides around the block sitting in front of me because they were too small. The guy who bought it took it for a ride and crashed it, did some damage to it and didn’t want it anymore, so I bought it back — luckily he didn’t even change the ownership over. I tried to start the bike and it caught on fire. That’s when I decided to make it into a cafe racer.
It was an on and off project until I went to a couple of shows and decided I wanted to build a bike for a show. I wanted to build a bike that performed well and looked good. The first thing I did was I bought a set of 1996 GSX-R600 forks. I rebuilt the forks using RaceTech gold valves and emulators and custom fork springs.
I also wanted to make the bike handle more aggressively and look more aggressive so I made a frame jig and cut the steering tube off the frame and lathed a new steer tube to fit the Suzuki steering stem and the Suzuki OEM steering bearings. I changed the steer angle from 27.5 degrees to 25 degrees. I had Cognito Moto make me new Triple clamps.
I also had Cognito Moto make me a new front hub to fit the forks and use the Suzuki brakes mounted on Warp 9 wheels. I had to machine the calipers slightly for proper clearance. I cut the rear section of the frame and custom bent the tubing and raised the angle 6 degrees for a more aggressive look and feel.
I installed an aluminum swing arm and had Race Tech build me a set of piggyback shocks. I had Cognito Moto build me a new rear hub that would take a Brembo brake caliper and Ducati Monster rotor. I fabricated the rear set brackets to mount the Robbie Moto rear sets.
I fabricated the seat cowl out of aluminum, and had the seat made by @haversack_leather in St. Marys, Ontario. I bought a Benelli Mojave tank and modified it to house an aircraft fuel filler. I cut and added 1 1/2″ to the front of the tank for a better fit and to cover more of the frame. I fabricated the rear fender and machined the fender mount on a manual mill.
I tried various headlights and mounts but didn’t like any of the mounts so I machined a set of headlight brackets and mounts. I redid the electrical system using a MotoGadget M-unit and MotoGadget Speedometer and wired the entire motorcycle using Deutch connectors. I used MessnerMoto mirrors, switches, and throttle assembly for a unique and stylish look.
I totally rebuilt the engine with a Wiseco .030 11:1 compression piston which increased the displacement to 535cc. I used a Mega Cams camshaft and sent the rockers to them to resurface and harden them. I ported and polished the head.
I am using a custom Lectron carb and MessnerMoto triple Velocity Stack. I custom-made the exhaust out of 1 3/4″ stainless steel to match the angles of the frame. The first time I rode the bike I was absolutely amazed with the power. The stock SR500 has a little bit of torque but nothing like this. The front end comes off the ground when shifting into 3rd. That huge 160mm rear tire actually spun when I was accelerating in 1st gear.
Also what really pushed me to complete the bike was I was chosen as one of the builders for the Greasy Dozen Run, which was cancelled. I was also invited to the HandBuilt Show, which was postponed until next year. I also was invited to Fuel Cleveland, The Freedom Machine Show here in Ontario, Canada and the Glory Daze Show in Pittsburgh, but all have were cancelled.
A little about myself. I live in Whitby, Ontario, Canada. I am a truck and trailer mechanic and maintain a fleet of trucks and trailers. I built this entire bike in my garage at home. One of the hardest decisions I made was picking the colour of the tank and frame.
I hope I didn’t bore you too much but i wanted to let you know everything that went into this build. My wife and kids have put up with a lot of different ideas that I bounced off them. I had a blast doing this build, it’s my first one. I have already started two others, a 1976 Suzuki GT550 and a 1974 Honda CB750 that used to belong to my brother and I actually rode it to get my motorcycle license in 1978.