Manufacturer collaborations can be a contentious issue for those purists who feel the mainstream is pillaging the roots of the current custom scene.
Splicing brands with products seemingly synonymous to a marketing team has the propensity to result in bikes lacking depth and character. But Dutch horologists TW Steel have form when it comes to bold collabs and we’ve not only featured the fruits of labour on these pages but also exhibited the bikes at our shows. So, we’re biased and must say nice things.
Bolloks to that. What TW Steel have done is enabled a few custom builders to really flex their muscles and create bikes that regular customer or in-house budgets wouldn’t even get close to covering. Sure, Joe Average isn’t going to buy one or order an imitation kit or even ride the things but that’s not the point. These bikes serve to inspire. How much fuel something holds and levels of comfort or practicality are frankly irrelevant. Nobody ever looked through Playboy and wondered how handy the centrefold would be at pitching a tent or calculating a tax return.
Relatively new kids on the block Diamond Atelier have been raising the bar with some superb BMW based builds, adding innovative tech to decades-old airheads. The opportunity to work on a brand spanking Yamaha XSR900 could be considered a slightly poisoned chalice as the Yard Build ethos doesn’t allow for frame cutting or major structural remodelling so customising one would be an especially challenging task considering the XSR’s frame doesn’t exactly lend itself to the horizontal bone lines and simplicity craved by nostalgists.
Ordinarily we’d sift through a photoset and select the choice shots of a completed bike but these images of the bodywork coming to life at the KRT Framework facility just outside Dortmund are definitely worth sharing. Monocoque race cars and airline fuselages spring to mind, tasty.
Apart form the obviously striking bodywork and subframe a host of upgrades were made. A Wilbers Blackline shock and a lowered, black anodised fork (stock) prop-up the Æon and an SC Project exhaust barks a baritone triple note. I’ve ridden a normal XSR900 with an aftermarket exhaust and it really is a peachy sounding motor, so this one running three K&N filters unencumbered by bodywork should be next level.
Giles racing rearsets and super-low ABM bars make for an aggressive riding position, mirroring the brutal silhouette. Yamaha’s slightly more open source approach to electronics allowed for the stripping-out of 100 meters of excess wiring. There are still lights and LED indicators to keep plod happy but the ABS and it’s myriad of pumps and pipework were removed. What’s left is the basics needed to keep the thing running. The original (very well designed) round digi-speedo now lives low-down on the right side of the engine.
Obviously a collab wouldn’t work without at least a bit of product placement or branding. The colour scheme is similar to the previous TW Steel build by Numbnuts but only be the most eagle eyed would spot that. Orange County Choppers cornered the market in brazen gaudiness and thankfully the less is more approach is adopted by European builder these days – mostly. Dutch-German subtlety allowed for a special edition 48mm Maverick Chronograph to be set into the headstock, hidden beneath an aluminium modesty flap.
With all the homologated and heavy stuff cast aside the lightweight aluminium and big wedge of fresh air makes for a svelte number on the scales – just 165kgs. That’s 5kgs less than Yamaha’s X-Max 125 scooter so performance should be lively to say the least.
The Son of Time XSR900 Æon was exhibited at Bike Shed London 2017 last month and the finish lived up to the hype. Often a pretty feature and well graded photos hide a multitude of sins but that’s not Diamond Ateliers’ game, they’re out to impress and push their limits. It’s been exciting to follow them through the next 12 months and see what rolls of the bench.
And the support from TW Steel doesn’t end there either. The ferocious turbo-charged MT10 built by Anthony Partridge is still to be featured and there’s another project underway right now. Brands utilising their marketing might to enable custom workshops to push themselves can only be a good thing – if the results are this imaginative and well executed.
Article originally featured on The Bike Shed; It’s republished here with permission.