“Although the aesthetics play a large part in my design process, the essence of every custom motorcycle, no matter how stunning, is that it’s meant to be ridden after all! That’s why I start every client brief with the intended purpose of the machine.”
These are the words of Christian Boosen, owner of 86 Gear Motorcycles of Warsaw, Poland. A self-taught mechanic, Christian grew up in Germany surrounded by motorcycles. His defining moment was a long ride to Istanbul on his 1981 Yamaha XT500 — he spent half the trip fixing the bike on the side of the road, but nonetheless returned home with a newfound passion for restoring and transforming vintage bikes.
After a decade of hard work, that hobby has become his main occupation. 86 Gear Motorcycles works on all different makes and models — Japanese, German, and Italian:
“Most of them 86’ed – found in someone’s garage in a pitiful state, worn out and qualified for a total overhaul, hence the name.”
Though making a living out of the bike-building passion can be difficult and demanding, 86 Gear Motorcycles has been carving out a niche in Warsaw, and the future looks bright for the Polish custom scene:
“Passion for ‘something different’ is slowly fueling custom motorcycle demand. As vintage-style motorbikes in Warsaw are gaining visibility in the city, the ‘best days’ of our local custom scene are still ahead.”
The bike you see here began life as a 2000 Yamaha XT600 — the descendant of the legendary XT500, which won the first two Paris-Dakar Rallies and holds a special place in Christian’s own riding history. Originally, the owner wanted a TT600 to use as a parts mule for upgrades, but the TT soon became his primary adventure mount — freeing up the XT for a new destiny. Says Christian:
“The TT600 I sourced for him turned out to be in great shape, so he kept it as his main adventure bike. That switch sealed the XT600’s fate – it was commissioned to become a Supermoto.”
Christian and the team shortened the frame, adapted an XT500 tank, and matched a set of 17-inch supermoto wheels with upgraded front and rear suspension. The brakes were also upgraded, the electrics rewired with a lightweight battery, and the engine received a high-compression piston, TT600 crank, oil cooler, Mikuni TM34 flat side twin carbs, a hydraulic clutch, and more. The result is one potent SuMo that loves the rear wheel:
“The bike is a monster…without a gentle hand, you can end up on the back wheel in an instant. The fun being on this bike makes the rider either smile instantly or turns his face white and his legs shaking.”
Our kind of machine! Below, we get the full story on this Yamaha “XT630” supermotard, as well as more gorgeous shots from Bartek Zaranek Photography. Many thanks to Aleksander Ilcewicz of 86 Gear for his help as well.
Yamaha XT600 Supermoto: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I grew up in Germany close to the Dutch border, where I have spent most of my life surrounded by motorcycles. As a self-taught mechanic, my passion and occasional hobby started from tinkering with several Vespa Ciao’s and Bravos, and a Simson KR51 Schwalbe. During my first bike tour, I spent half of the time fixing my 1981 Yamaha XT500 on the side of the road. It took a long time and a lot of hurdles but I made it the final destination: Istanbul. I guess that challenge became my defining moment.
When I finally made it home I was inclined to do my first complete rebuild. Shortly afterward I started to restore and sell some of these bikes every year. After 10 years of hard work and commitment, my hobby became my main occupation. I guess the passion for vintage motorcycle design has kept me going ever since. When it comes to motorcycles, the adage “form follows function” holds for me as a custom builder. Although the aesthetics play a large part in my design process, the essence of every custom motorcycle, no matter how stunning, is that it’s meant to be ridden after all! That’s why I start every client brief with the intended purpose of the machine. It will take time, we will sit down and talk about ideas, dreams, and wishes, adding safety features and performance upgrades. Intensive talks about the details and how to build the bike are essential to make it special and one of a kind.
ABOUT THE SHOP:
86 Gear Motorcycles specializes in building custom bikes from the ’50s up to the mid 90’s – café racers, street trackers, brats, and scramblers. We offer full builds, partial builds, repair, advice on building your bike, and fabrication of the parts you need to finish your project.
Since 2006 we have worked on every model made by the Japanese Big Four: Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki, a fair share of BMW bikes, and Italian brands like Moto Guzzi, Moto Morini, Benelli, and Ducati. Most of them 86’ed – found in someone’s garage in a pitiful state, worn out and qualified for a total overhaul, hence the name. We are enthusiasts who restore them to former glory and transform them into pure, elegant racing machines. We are located in Warsaw, Poland, and Kerken, Germany. Although most of the work happens in a small, industrial railway building in the heart of the city, friends we cooperate with daily are what make our workshop thrive throughout all these years. Their creativity, eye for detail, and craftsmanship play a major part in every project we work on.
With only a few potential clients, the market has always been difficult and demanding. Nevertheless, passion for “something different” is slowly fueling custom motorcycle demand. As vintage-style motorbikes in Warsaw are gaining visibility in the city, the “best days” of our local custom scene are still ahead.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
This bike is a Yamaha XT600 model DJ02 from 2000.
• Why was this bike built?
The customer had this bike for years and rode it a lot. Finally, he decided to upgrade it with parts from a 1994 Yamaha TT600s. The TT600 I sourced for him turned out to be in great shape, so he kept it as his main adventure bike. That switch sealed the XT600’s fate – it was commissioned to become a Supermoto.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The customer wanted a radical driving machine — a Supermoto, with only the essential parts left on it.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The frame was modified and shortened. To get a smooth overall line of the bike, we decided to adapt a 1983 XT500 alloy tank. After that, a matching seat was fabricated and a Motogadget speedo attached.
The bike got a new set of Supermoto rims, a new YSS shock in the back, and Progressive fork springs in the front.
We upgraded the brake system with a high-performance brake master cylinder and a bigger front rotor. Of course, the bike got completely new electrics and a tiny battery that still has enough power to crank the engine.
The engine itself got a high compression piston and a camshaft from the first model of TT600, which gives a significant boost to engine power. An oil cooler was added. The connecting rod, in and outlet channels, and rockers were polished and the inlet channels were adapted to the diameter of the new Mikuni TM34 flat side twin carbs.
A custom air intake with K&N pod filters was fabricated to guide the air smoothly around the mono-shock system and the custom-made exhaust system takes care of it once it has passed the cylinder. We also installed a hydraulic clutch to deal with the upgraded clutch springs.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Nope. Just XT630.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
The bike is a monster. It’s also a lot of fun. There is barely anything left of the original character of the 600ccm single. Thanks to the carbs and the camshaft the bike reacts very sensitively to the throttle — without a gentle hand, you can end up on the back wheel in an instant. The fun being on this bike makes the driver either smile instantly or turns his face white and his legs shaking.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I am very happy about the looks and the performance of the engine.
Follow the Builder
Client Instagram account: @brzuszm