The “Meteor 850” by Etto Motorcycles…
“A Ducati with Japanese reliability.” That was the idea behind the Yamaha TRX850, introduced in 1996 to rival the Ducati 900SS, as well as Japanese V-twins like the Honda Firestorm / Superhawk and Suzuki TL1000. The engine was a grunty 10-valve parallel-twin with a 270º crank — the first such design in a production bike.
The engine mimicked a V-twin’s throaty, pulsing exhaust, and it had plenty of punch: 79 bhp / 63 lb-ft of torque. While reviewers loved the bike’s character, it died an early death due to lackluster sales, and the uninspired styling hasn’t aged very well.
“The Yamaha TRX850 was a match for Ducati’s 900SS of its day but never sold well…shame. The TRX is a sporty motorcycle but road-biased with tons of character. Can be a bargain on the used market as they last well.” –MCN
Recently we heard from Ian Davis of England’s ETTO Motorcycles, a traditional sheet metal fabricator and suspension technician who uses his skills to shape “raw materials into objects of motorcycling desire.” For his own personal bike, he had a specific vision in mind:
“I love the whole 50’s café racer ‘ton-up’ scene and wanted to build a homage to the guys and girls that took a poorly handling bike and tried to improve it, to hit that magic ton. So the donor bike had to be a parallel twin that needed improving.”
A ’98 TRX850 proved the perfect candidate with a great engine, “dull as dishwater” styling, and plenty of room for improvement in the performance and handling departments. In order to “add lightness,” Ian hand-crafted a race tank out of 1.6mm 1050 aluminum that weighs 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) less than the original, and the subframe, oil catch can, and many of the brackets are also hand-built pieces.
Appropriately enough, the USD forks are courtesy of a Ducati 749, and the bike is now rolling on lightweight Marchesini wheels with Brembo brakes and a fully-braced Yamaha YZF750 swingarm. The engine breathes through a set of 40mm Mikuni flat-slides and a full custom stainless exhaust. The bike was dyno-tuned with the upgrades, and the changes in weight, power, geometry, and suspension made for a transformative riding experience.
“I reduced the weight by 30 kgs, increased the power to 87 bhp, and changed the rake and trail so it handles like a race bike, tipping into corners beautifully.”
Not only does this TRX perform like a wholly different bike, the aesthetics are beyond comparison to the original, showcasing Ian’s metal-working expertise to powerful effect. So radical are the changes the bike warranted a new name, the “Meteor 850.” Says Ian:
“When I build a bike I want to prove to people that the saying ‘form over function’ is rubbish. You can have both. Which is why I built the Meteor 850.”
Below, we get more details and the full build sheet straight from Ian himself.
Meteor 850 Café Racer: In the Builder’s Words…
I’m a traditional sheet metal fabricator running my own business, ETTO Motorcycles. This is my own bike; I’m also a suspension technician. I reduced the weight by 30 kgs, increased the power to 87 bhp, and changed the rake and trail so it handles like a race bike, tipping into corners beautifully.
I love the whole 50’s café racer ‘ton-up’ scene and wanted to build a homage to the guys and girls that took a poorly handling bike and tried to improve it, to hit that magic ton. So the donor bike had to be a parallel twin that needed improving. The bike that sprung to mind immediately was the Yamaha TRX 850.
The standard bike has a great engine, but for me the looks are as dull as dishwater and the chassis would be better suited to a Settee catalogue. The objectives were to shed weight, increase engine performance, and vastly improve the chassis handling. Whilst giving the bike a café racer style.
It’s great meeting customers with the same enthusiasm and passion for their projects. I’ve got customers with café racers, scramblers, and Sports bike. They all quite rightly want to build something unique.
When I build a bike I want to prove to people that the saying “form over function” is rubbish. You can have both. Which is why I built the Meteor 850.
- Ducati 749 upside down forks – fully rebuilt and resprung to my weight with linear springs.
- Custom CNCed aluminium top yoke
- Ducati 749 bottom yokes and clip-on handlebars
- Brembo folding lever radial master cylinder
- Brembo 4 pot calipers
- Brembo rear brake caliper
- Steel braided twin brake lines
- Marchesini wheels
- Custom aluminium speedo/headlight bracket
- ETTO Custom fully braced Yamaha YZF750 swing-arm
- Nitron NR1 rear shock
- LSL rear sets
- ETTO tank: Traditionally hand-crafted aluminium race fuel tank (replica of the original tank). Formed in 1.6mm 1050 aluminium, includes an internal breather and flush fitting race fuel cap. (3kgs lighter).
- ETTO Custom aluminium sub-frame
- Custom seat
- ETTO Bespoke tail tidy, battery box, brackets for the fuel pump, coolant reservoir, ECU
- Reg/rec and solenoid brackets
- ETTO custom oil catch tank
- Honda GP RS250 seat unit.
- Bespoke custom wiring loom and re-located ignition barrel
- Koso speedo, LED rear light and indicators
- Bates front head light
- Koso CRD64 Speedometer
- Mikuni 40mm flat slide carburettors – dynoed and re-jetted
- Domino ¼ turn quick action throttle
- Custom oversized stainless steel exhaust system – one piece per cylinder, with reverse cone silencers and soda blasted finish.
- 16/41 gear ratio (up from 17/39)