A 70s-style scrambler built for the mom of a motocross racer…
In 1984, Yamaha released the XT600, the latest in the company’s XT series of four-stroke dual-purpose machines that began with the famed XT500, winner of the first two Paris-Dakar Rallies. In 1990, the XT600E came along, designed to appeal to a broader swath of riders with electric start and a lower seat height. Yamaha marketed the bike as a “get up and go” machine, capable of taking the rider wherever they wanted to go at a moment’s notice, from wide highways to deep woods.
“At the root of the appeal of the XT is definitely its simplicity. It has the basic construction of a field bike with lights, doesn’t (apart from the junior mountain bike style stickers) have any superfluous gimmicks and is a perfectly adequate on/off road compromise.” —Peter Comely
The big dry-sump single made 39-45 horsepower, depending on the year — good for a 14-second quarter-mile and top speed of just 100 mph. The XT600 would remain in production until the early 2000s, earning a reputation for supreme reliability, with engines regularly going 60,000+ miles before being cracked open for a rebuild.
Enter our friends from Lisbon’s Unik Edition Custom Motorcycles, who pride themselves on building a wide range and style of bikes that aren’t defined by the conventional trends of the day. Says co-founder Tiago Gonçalves of what they aspire to build:
“Good and tasteful bikes that inspire us and the customer and touch others — making you turn your head and look back, taking your time appreciating the bike for what it is, an extension of you.”
The bike you see here is a 1998 XT600E, built for a couple who’ve owned several XT’s over the years and currently have two of them. The bike needed to fit a female rider of smaller stature, so the team swapped in a rear shock from a 600 street bike and swapped out the stock 21-inch front wheel for a 19-incher. As for the overall style, their inspiration was clear:
“Our design influence dates back to the 1970s YZ’s and the Bultaco Pursang enduro machines.”
The bike is outfitted with lovely Preston Petty vintage-style plastics, and the paint is a period-correct red/white Yamaha motocross livery — all matched with lots of chrome and a 2-into-1 Arrow exhaust. As for the “113” side number plates, they’re a tribute to the owners’ son — the same number he uses in his motocross career.
Below, we get a few more details on this build from Tiago himself, as well as more shots from the pros at Balaklava.
Yamaha XT600E Scrambler: Builder Interview
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
The bike is a Yamaha XT 600E from 1998, both bike and donor frame.
• What made you choose an XT600 as a donor?
It wasn’t really a choice; it is a beloved bike that the owners know all too well and brought to us. It’s a personal preference of his and hers since they had owned several XT’s and now have two of them.
• What was your design vision and what influenced the build?
Our design influence dates back to the 1970s YZ’s and the Bultaco Pursang enduro machines. Mixing a Yamaha vintage motocross look with the red on white colour scheme, sleek and long gas tank, and the side number plates with the enduro headlight number plate and rear fender taillight for road use.
• Please tell us about the major custom work done to the bike.
The major work started by adapting a rather tall motorcycle to a small stature rider. Using the rear mono-shock from a lower stance 600cc road bike and changing the front rim from 21″ to 19″. Then we moved on and made the chassis usable by marrying the rear half with the front end and using a loop over the rear fender like the Yamaha CT-1 175 has.
For the details we used Preston Petty plastic products, old-style MX grips and oldie chrome controls similar to those used in the XT350 for lighting and whatnot. The finishing touch is a 70s period-correct Yamaha colour scheme, chrome handlebars, black leather shiny seat. Coming to an end is a 2-into-1 Arrow exhaust for a firm and deep single-cylinder thumper note.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Yes, the nickname is “133,” the number of the owners’ son that he uses in his MX career.
• What’s the riding experience like on the finished bike?
Riding this bike is very easy for the rider, just let go of the clutch and off she goes! It’s very nimble and agile in the city with low end and midrange grunt, pulling really good from the bottom all the way to highway speed and beyond if needed.
• What’s next for Unik Edition?
Next is whatever takes us to places. We are not defined by the norm so we look for whatever gets us going. Good and tasteful bikes that inspire us and the customer and touch others, making you turn your head and look back, taking your time appreciating the bike for what it is, an extension of you.
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