Rivertown Custom Cycles salvages a botched XT…
Back in 2019, we featured a Buell XB12-powered Sportster drag bike from the likes of Mirko and Nena Nicic, the husband/wife duo behind Croatia’s Rivertown Custom Cycles. They built that bike, “Good Riddance,” for Nena to race in Sultans of Sprint, the European drag racing series that pits vintage-style custom bikes head-to-head on strips, closed roads, and circuit straightaways around Europe.
However, the pair’s roots spring most deeply from dirt, not tarmac. Mirko is a former FMX rider, while Nena is a former world championship MX rider. Says Mirko:
“We have, together with family, over 50 years of motocross racing behind us, so it is no wonder that our bikes tend to look like dirt bikes/scramblers/trackers.”
When a 1986 Yamaha XT600 arrived at the shop, which had already been customized and the owner was hoping to sell, Mirko couldn’t help but feel the need to save the poor machine:
“I went to check out the bike and when I saw it, it looked just horrifying. Of course, I immediately offered to buy it off and rescue it.”
They decided to build an XT600 scrambler influenced by the dirt bikes and enduros of the 1970s, including the iconic XT500. Modifications included a smaller tank, seat, and subframe work. They completely rebuilt the engine and front suspension, adding stiffer springs, and the rear YSS shock is fully adjustable. They nicknamed the bike after the Croatian island of their home:
“We call her ‘The Arbiana,’ which means a girl from Arba (Latin for the island of Rab, where we are located).”
Mirko says it’s the perfect bike for blasting down gravel roads and dirt paths, while the electric starter makes it one of the easier air-cooled thumpers to ride daily:
“I am very proud of the fact that we really put 100% of ourselves into this bike and fully rebuilt it to make it as reliable as a brand new bike would be. I use it everyday and I’m in love with it.”
Below, we talk to Mirko for the full story on “Arbiana.”
Yamaha XT600 Scrambler: Builder Interview
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
It’s a Yamaha XT600 from 1986.
• Why was this bike built?
Well, the Yamaha XT is an iconic bike, especially the old XT500. One of our customers came one day to our shop saying that he’d customized his XT600, but couldn’t get it registered and wanted to get rid of it. I went to check out the bike and when I saw it, it looked just horrifying. Of course, I immediately offered to buy it off and rescue it.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
This bike was influenced by the 70s-era dirt bikes, but the main idea was to keep its simplicity so everyone could ride it. With electric starter, it’s just a pleasure to hop on it and go for a ride – compared to kickstarter-only bikes on their bad days.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
We started with the smaller gas tank, nice little seat, and some frame modification. Also, the wider and lower vintage MX handlebars make it easier to handle the bike both on and off road. The front and rear fender with nice headlight and small LED taillight just went along with the 70s look.
We have improved the suspension for better performance riding off-road; the forks have been fully rebuilt with stiffer springs and slower rebound. The rear YSS shock can be fully adjusted, both compression, rebound, and preload.
We also did a full engine rebuild and added a very nice exhaust pipe with street-legal silencer.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
Yes it has, we call her “The Arbiana,” which means a girl from Arba (Latin for the island of Rab, where we are located).
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
This is just bike for anyone, mellow, easy to ride and also very good at higher speeds on gravel roads and dirt trails.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I am very proud of the fact that we really put 100% of ourselves into this bike and fully rebuilt it to make it as reliable as a brand new bike would be. I use it everyday and I’m in love with it.