Black Cycles Australia builds a streamlined XT for Retromotive…
If you’ve been following BikeBound for any length of time, you know we’re big fans of the Yamaha XT500. Not only did the 500cc single win the first two runnings of the Paris Dakar Rally, it was destined to become one of the great do-anything thumpers of all time. Today, it’s still one of the preferred mounts for our friends who ride in the Vintage 1000 — a thousand miles off-road in five days, on pre-1981 bikes — and prices seem to climb higher for the bikes every year.
Recently, we got in touch with Noel Muller of Black Cycles Australia, a self-taught fabricator who’s been customizing his vehicles for decades:
“I started modifying my BMX bikes in the early 80’s, moved on to modifying my dirt bikes, road bikes, and then custom cars (Dec. ’98 cover of Street Machine magazine is my ’67 XR Falcon).”
Seven years ago, he left his truck-driving job to work as a full-time fabricator for a big custom shop, then started his own workshop, Black Cycles Australia, five years ago. The bike you see here is a 1980 XT500 built for Zach Hegde of Retromotive, a gorgeous automotive magazine based out of Brisbane.
“Zach let me have complete freedom on this build, and I’ve always just wanted to “correct” the stumpy heavy look of the 80’s enduro bike into a lightweight streamlined looking beast…”
The modifications were extensive. Highlights an 80mm extended swingarm, modified rear frame angles, 75mm lowered forks, and a rear fender, side panels, tail, and headlight shroud handmade from 1mm steel. Justin from the Gold Coast’s PopBang Classics painted on a slightly modified version of the factory graphics, and rewired the bike with a 12-volt upgrade. Says Noel:
“I do everything possible to make it look like a ‘factory-built’ bike!”
Owner Zach Hedge of Retromotive, who grew up in India where the motorcycle is a way of life, says of the build and riding experience:
“Noel has done a great job in not only keeping its aesthetics way cool, but also the ride geometry better than before.”
Below, we talk to both Noel and Zach for more details on the build, and present more photos courtesy of photographer Nathan Duff.
Yamaha XT500 Scrambler: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Noel Muller. I’m a self-taught jack of all trades customiser. I started modifying my BMX bikes in the early 80’s, moved on to modifying my dirt bikes, road bikes, and then custom cars (Dec. ’98 cover of Street Machine magazine is my ’67 XR Falcon).
Around seven years ago, I left my truck-driving job to start as a full-time fabricator for a large Brisbane-based custom motorcycle shop (prefer not to say who 😉), and after a couple of years and many builds, I took the plunge into starting my own business, which I had always planned to eventually do, called Black Cycles Australia. The idea behind the name is just to sound a bit mysterious!
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
It’s a 1980 Yamaha XT500 that was in reasonably good condition for its age. It was commissioned by Zach @retromotive [interviewed below], as he already owned a highly customised BMW R100 “bobber” that I built for a friend of his, which he later purchased and still owns.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Zach let me have complete freedom on this build, and I’ve always just wanted to “correct” the stumpy heavy look of the 80’s enduro bike into a lightweight streamlined looking beast…
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Mods include: 80mm extended swing-arm, new shocks, heavily modified rear frame angles, de-tabbing, etc.
Handmade rear fender, number plate mount, side panels, seat and headlight shroud (all made from 1mm steel).
A stainless steel exhaust was used and reverse cone s/s muffler, new low-rise bars, controls and grips.
YZ-style fork gaiters were used on the 75mm lowered forks, blacked-out wheels with more aggressive Dunlop knobbies, all new micro LED lighting!
Motor was basically sound, so a 12v upgrade and a lot of cleaning and detailing was done, along with a K&N foam pod filter.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
I guess the nickname for this bike was “Hater” because I knew the “purists” would hate me chopping up a “classic” 😄 But overall the response was positive in the end to my surprise!
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I am proud of that fact that in my eyes I have created something more contemporary out of just another dirt bike, and overall fairly subtle I guess? That IS a theme with a Black Cycles custom builds; I do everything possible to make it look like a “factory-built” bike!
Most of the paint was done by me except the factory XT decals were absolutely crap once fitted, so I had Justin @popbangclassics paint the slightly modified version of the factory graphics on, and he also did the majority of the re-wire as well.
Also Adam @carmans_auto_trimmers did a perfect job covering the custom seat in a matte red vinyl.
Owner Interview: Zach Hegde
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, what you do, and your history with motorcycles?
“The reason god created the gap between your legs are to fit a motorcycle between them.” –That gospel has helped me and my bikes keep rubber to tar and dirt continuously.
I am Zach and I publish Retromotive, a unique car magazine that covers cool cars and the cool people behind or under the car. I am an entrepreneur who loves the freedom a motorcycle brings from his day to day life. Riding is the only time you can be Zen with your bike, road and yourself. And everything else is trying to kill you.
I am currently re-aligning Retromotive to be part of the community wherein it becomes a platform for passionate individuals on cars and culture — RetroThesis is a place where we encourage students to earn money whilst they do their homework by doing some essays or assignments on cars and culture, which can go towards their credits. And finally we have Retromotive Merch wherein designers can work with us to upload their car centric design to commercial themselves using our vast social media community.
Having being bought up in India, a motorcycle was part of our living — it was a “way-of-life” so to speak, and if you wanted to get from A to B, a two-wheeler was the way to go. Saying that, many of us saw it as more than a means of transportation; it was our freedom of expression. Hey, we did not have great revolutions, but heck we could create some noise still.
I remember taking my dad’s Yezdi 250 Road King for joy rides — a company called Idea Jawa (India) Ltd did those bikes under license from Jawa — and then of course there was my uncle’s Royal Enfield Bullet 350, which was a hoot to ride.
As I entered my university days, a Yamaha RX100 was very popular, but if you wanted power, you wanted the Yamaha RD350, and that was the bike I spread my legs for daily for many years — a brilliant bike in all ways — and of course it has a global cult following for the right reason.
• Can you tell us what the riding experience is like on the XT500?
A difficult one: as you get older, your brains don’t tend to keep up with your age — you still think you have the calcium deposit of an 18 year old in your bones, and when the “thumper” tells you “no” you don’t have, it does so in a very angry way…. The ride is very well balanced and an easy bike to ride — rides very cleanly once you warm her up.
Of course, these bikes still have their traditional engines, but that is the beauty of re-imagining these bikes to give them a more artistic modern feel. As you can see, Noel has done a great job in not only keeping its aesthetics way cool, but also the ride geometry better than before.
Follow the Builder @blackcycles_au
Photo Credit: Nathan Duff