Top 10 in the Roland Sands Corona Virus Bike Build Off!
The Yamaha WR450F is the company’s four-stroke enduro-class machine — in essence, a YZ450F motocross bike with a headlight, kickstand, electric start, lower noise/exhaust emissions, a wide-ratio (WR) gearbox, and an engine tuned for more controllable power.
The third-gen WR, built from 2003-2006, weighed 244 pounds dry and made 42 horsepower. Though the WR450F is a high-performance off-road machine, it’s developed a reputation for reliability, in part due to its steel valves and generous oil capacity.
“If you are looking for a dependable, fun trailbike for the West, the ’04 WR450F is the way to go.” –Kris Keefer, pro rider, Dirt Bike
Enter our new friend Nick Stephenson (@stevos.chop.shop), who hails from a land 6000 miles west of our own American West: the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia. Nick is a metal fabricator and garage-builder whose lifelong passion for dirt bikes has slowly expanded to encompass custom street bikes…with a heavy dirt bike influence, of course. He’s built three ground-up bikes so far and is working on the fourth, operating as Stevo’s Chop Shop:
“I’m building them from my garage at home, with basic tools/machines. I do plan on creating a better workshop in the future, but for now my shed is where you’ll find me.”
Inspired by Hombrese Bikes and his buddy Axel, Nick wanted to build a vintage-style street tracker from an MX-style four-stroke. The bike you see here began life as a regular 2004 Yamaha WR450F, which Nick picked up just before Australia’s initial C-19 lockdown.
“I was out of work and this bike-build had only just started so I spent the next four or so months full-time in my shed building the bike.”
The fuel tank is from a ’73 Honda XL125, and Nick made the seat, tail, and subframe himself from aluminum. He built the exhaust out of 304 stainless steel and outfitted the bike with oversize aluminum radiators with custom perforated sheet grills. The WR is now rolling on 19-inch wheels with Mitas H18 street-legal flat track tires, and there are more handmade bits and pieces than we can list. The result is one fun street ripper:
“Seeing as I have limited road riding experience, it really is fun because it just reminds me of banging up the street on dirt bikes, which I’ve always done.”
And the build, even in a not-quite-finished state, managed to impress the likes of Roland Sands himself, placing in the Top 10 of the RSD Corona Virus Bike Build Off:
“To have Roland personally critique my bike on his live Instagram video with thousands of views around the world and have it make the top 10, that was pretty special.”
Below, we get the full details on the build from Nick himself!
WR450 Street Tracker: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name’s Nick Stephenson, I’m 33 and live on the Sunshine Coast, QLD, Australia. I’ve always had a passion for motorcycles, mainly dirt bikes, but I’ve found my passion has slowly shifted towards custom road bikes too, although I still have big dirt bike influence because that’s all I’ve ever known. I’m a metal fabricator by trade, with basic self-taught mechanical knowledge as well, so I guess it was pretty natural for me to combine my mixture of skills and start building custom bikes. I think I’ve technically built three ground-up bikes, with a fourth on the go now, so I’m still relatively new to the game. I’m building them from my garage at home, with basic tools/machines. I do plan on creating a better workshop in the future, but for now my shed is where you’ll find me. My Instagram is @stevos.chop.shop. Jump on there and check it out!
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
It’s a 2004 Yamaha WR450F.
• Why was this bike built?
This bike was built purely for personal use, but I guess I did also use it to try and test the waters of taking bike-building a little more seriously. The timing with Covid 19’s initial lockdown in early 2020 was perfect also. I was out of work and this bike-build had only just started so I spent the next four or so months full-time in my shed building the bike.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
If I was to categorise this bike, I would call it a Street Tracker. The influence came about in a bit of a strange way. A mate of mine named Axel had bought a Honda XR600 and he approached me to do a tracker build on it for him. I was super keen and began researching vintage trackers for inspiration. I fell in love with the style, although if I’m honest, I didn’t know anything about them. A few months passed and I still hadn’t received the XR, so I thought bugger it, I’m going to buy something for myself to build.
I set myself a budget of $3000 for a donor bike and a few key points which I wanted the bike to have. I wanted an MX style registerable four-stroke, with a single backbone steel frame to allow a 70’s style steel fuel tank to be easily mounted to it. I knew the early to mid 2000’s KTM and Yamaha enduro bikes fit this description, had strong motors with that carburettor bark. After searching for a few weeks, the WR came up and it ticked all the boxes so I pulled the trigger on it. Also I must give a shout-out to @hombrese.bikes. Axel put me onto them for inspiration and I absolutely love what they do, plus they helped me with a lot of questions I had at the start of my build. P.S. Axel, I’m still waiting for the XR600 to show up so we can build it…. Haha.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Basically the motor is stock, and the main frame is as well. The suspension is stock too but I had a local suspension guy lower the front and rear for me. Besides that, more or less everything else is custom or rebuilt.
I had the 19” wheels built by a guy on the Gold Coast. They are wrapped in Mitas H18 street-legal flat track tyres. I made the seat, tail and subframe myself from aluminium. I had a local guy do the seat foam and cover for me.
The fuel tank is off a 1973 Honda XL125, which required me to re locate the fuel tap to clear the carburetor and I made my own front and rear mounts for the tank. The tank was painted by a local panel shop to match the colour of the anodized hubs on my custom wheels — he did a really good job.
I used some oversize aluminium WR radiators, but had to mount them lower and further forward to clear the new fuel tank. I had to cut off some of the spouts and re-weld them so the hoses would still link up, and I made my own perforated sheet grills.
The exhaust header was custom made my myself from 304 stainless steel. The muffler is a right-hand-side Yoshimura muffler off a modern CRF450, which I completely gutted and made the internals a lot larger and then mated it with my custom header pipe. That was my first ever custom exhaust I’ve built, lots of hours in it but totally worth it.
I had all the parts powder-coated, everything from the frame to the engine covers, but some of the raw aluminium work was left raw. There were lots of other bits and pieces I hand-made on this bike, too much to list. Check my Instagram highlight reels for lots of photos of the whole process: @stevos.chop.shop.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
When I finished it I was calling it, “The Bronze Tracker,” but it never really stuck. Haha.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
Fun. It’s really fun to ride. Seeing as I have limited road riding experience, it really is fun because it just reminds me of banging up the street on dirt bikes, which I’ve always done. For all I know it probably rides horrible for a road bike, but it’s got awesome bottom end and it turns heads…. That’s a win in my eyes haha. I haven’t had it on a dirt track yet either, which a lot of people ask about. I will one day — I think it would be a blast.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Top 10 in the Roland Sands Designs coronavirus bike build off. Considering my bike wasn’t quite finished at the time, it still fit the criteria perfectly to enter because it really was a coronavirus lockdown build. To have Roland personally critique my bike on his live Instagram video with thousands of views around the world and have it make the top 10, that was pretty special.
Follow the Builder
Basically just @stevos.chop.shop. I’m a one-man band haha. I’ve also just started a YouTube channel. I’m currently building a 1973 Kawasaki S2A triple for my brother — I’ve started doing build episodes on my YouTube channel so head over and check them out and hit subscribe. Also thanks @bikeboundblog for the write up, I love your page and I’m honoured to have a bike worthy of a feature. Cheers.