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Custom of the Week: Yamaha WR450F ’81’ by Iron Cobras

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IF YOU’RE A FAN of blasting big trail bikes down forest roads, the Yamaha WR450F is probably on your shopping list. And if you also love the brutal beauty of the early Paris-Dakar bikes, Evan Scott has built a machine just for you.

The man behind Iron Cobras has hooked up with Answer Racing to build a custom WR450F that amps up the retro rally raid vibe without sacrificing performance.

Despite his reputation, Evan hasn’t been a lifelong biker: he only got into riding about 17 years ago, and after a misguided obsession with modern sportbikes, he got into dirt riding and never looked back.

He now builds custom motorcycles and exhaust systems, with a growing sideline in metal fabrication, and caught the attention of the motocross gear maker Answer Racing.

“Answer contacted me about eight months ago,” Evan recalls. “I met with creative director Scott Sagud, and we came up with concepts for two Dakar-inspired bikes: one modern-style rally bike, and one retro bike.”

Evan and Scott worked together on concept drawings, blending the ideas each wanted to see in the builds. “Our focus was not only on making sure the bikes looked good, but also making sure they performed like the Dakar racers we were using for inspiration.”

The 2017 Yamaha WR450F is a good platform for a high-performance build. It’s a big trails bike with a punchy ‘reverse-slant’ engine—the same four-valve single used by its stablemate, the YZ racer. You also get fuel injection and electric start.

This WR450F is called ’81,’ and the name is a clue to where Evan and Scott got their ideas from. “The 1981 Yamaha XT500 Paris-Dakar bike has been on my inspiration board for a very long time,” says Evan.

“To me it’s one of the most classic racing bikes of all time. The huge desert tank, the gold rims, and the livery are just amazing.”

“I wanted to take a lot of those aspects and use them in our build. So we handmade the six-plus gallon tank out of aluminum, and incorporated the factory fuel injection.”

“The tank was one of the key aspects of the build for me: I wanted to showcase what I can do with metal shaping. It was a monster of a gas tank build, and took about a week and a half to complete.”

That beautiful tank, it’s worth noting, has no body filler on it. Evan painted it himself, right down to the classic Yamaha graphic.

The headlight on the original XT500 Dakar bike was tiny, but Evan wanted a big rally-style lamp. So he’s installed a Hella seven-inch LED and wrapped it with a vintage-look cowl.

At first glance, the big fenders look vintage too—but they’re actually new, and made from practical plastic.

“The seat is a custom unit we made in the spirit of any early 80s enduro bike: big, boxy and comfortable!” says Evan. “Then we rounded off the build with the item that Iron Cobras is best known for—a stainless steel exhaust system.”

It’s TIG-welded and sporting a custom heat shield and an internal spark arrester.

“The best part of the WR450F build was seeing everything come together,” says Evan. “And seeing the reaction from everyone at our partners Answer and WLF Enduro. That’s what kept me going.”

As is often the way, the worst part was the time pressure. “In the end, I wound up building both of the bikes in less than two months. I was literally putting the finishing touches to the WR450F six hours before I took off for The One Moto Show in Portland.”

Most show bikes get trailered to the venue, or ridden very carefully and polished thoroughly afterwards. The two Iron Cobras bikes, on the other hand, got thrashed. The journey from SoCal to Portland took a week, and here are the photos to prove it.

“It was difficult for me to see the bikes that I just finished building being ridden hard off road,” Evan admits. “It was a conflict between wanting to push them, but also see them make it to the show in one piece—which they did!”

“We wound up displaying the bikes just as they came from the trail—covered in dirt.”

We love glossy paint and gleaming chrome as much as anyone. But when bikes still look good after being used and abused, you know they’re something special. Nice work, Evan and Scott.


This article was first published on Bike Exif. It’s republished here with permission.

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Custom of the Week: Harley-Davidson ‘XG750R’ Street Rod Flat Tracker by Noise Cycles

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IF YOU LIKE WEAVING through city traffic during the week, and then blasting through the twisties on your days off, the Street Rod is probably the best Harley for you.

We found it to be surprisingly sharp and agile, with a warmed-up version of the regular Street engine delivering 69 frisky horses.

Scott Jones of Noise Cycles likes the Street Rod. And his new ‘XG750R’ tracker version has got us wondering what a factory Harley tracker would look like—if Milwaukee decided to counter the threat posed by Indian’s FTR1200.

Scott is one of the top bike builders in the USA, and despite coming from the chopper side of the tracks, he’s been bitten by the dirt bug. Last year he built himself a racebike based on the regular Street 750: “It started out as just the basic XG,” says Scott. “So this year, I built one using the Street Rod—which has a 27 degree neck instead of 31 degrees.”

That simple change alone made a huge difference. “This one feels so much better and easier to ride. Still 500 pounds, but more nimble.”

Those of you who were riding in the early 80s may feel a slight sense of déjà vu with this bike, and you’d be right. The left-side exhaust mimics the placement of the Harley-Davidson XR1000 pipes, and the paint by Matt Ross (with pin striping by Jen Hallett Art) is a nod to the slate grey used on many XR1000s too.

Scott’s not going to be dicing for the lead with pros like Jared Mees or Brad Baker in the American Flat Track Twins series. He’s in it just for the hell of it, and enjoying every moment.

But he’s also inadvertently given us a pointer on what a Harley Street Tracker might look like. And it wouldn’t be a difficult bike for the factory to replicate, Red Bull catch can aside. Any takers?

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Custom of the Week: KTM ‘950SMR’ by Max Hazan

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THERE’S A DEFINITE STYLE to a Hazan Motorworks bike: a hint of steampunk, lots of beautifully twisted and burnished metal, and impossibly elegant proportions.

It’s an expensive endeavor, and Max operates in the same rarified atmosphere as Ian Barry of Falcon and the Japanese moto-artist Chicara Nagata.

Luckily, there are collectors and museums that have the funds to commission bikes like this, so the rest of us can enjoy them vicariously. But what happens when Max builds a bike for himself, with his own money?

This KTM is the answer. It’s a far cry from his previous KTM build, the supercharged 520 that now resides in the Haas Motorcycle Gallery in Dallas. But it’s a killer track machine, and just the thing Max needs when he wants to blow off steam.

Surprisingly, ‘950SMR’ is the first bike that Max has built for himself. So it was done in the down time between the projects that pay his bills. (“I completely lost track of how much time went into it.”)

The base is a 2005-spec 950 SM. It’s a tall bike—which suits Max’s lofty physique—with around 98 horsepower in stock trim, 17-inch wheels, and a dry weight of just 191 kilos (421 pounds). Contemporary road testers raved about the performance and fun factor.

“It’s possibly the ugliest bike KTM made with that motor,” Max admits. “But the bones were there. The KTM was carbureted from the factory, which let me simplify the design by avoiding EFI parts.”

Stylistically, it’s no flight of fancy: just a well-sorted bike with terrifically simple bodywork and a sophisticated warm grey and white paint scheme. “I wanted the bike to look ‘factory’,” says Max.

“I wanted it to have fenders and bodywork, and not look like a KTM that was chopped. With almost everything being rearranged, it was a lot more work than it looks like. But I guess that was the idea.”

It might be hard to believe, but Max has pulled around 100 pounds—45 kilos—off the 950 SM. (“It was built like a tank.”)

So what’s it like to ride? “It has a huge amount of engine braking,” he says. “It’s geared for about 120mph in sixth, and was in need of a slipper clutch to smooth out downshifts in the lower gears. But I just found myself ‘backing it in’ wherever I was going, as soon as I installed it.”

Everything about this KTM screams ‘track machine,’ but it’s actually 100% street legal. “It’s wired for lights and turn signals, and has a full setup that can be taken on or off in a few minutes,” says Max. “But I just prefer looking at it like this.”

It’s certainly a looker. But unlike many customs from premier league builders, Max’s KTM offers visceral as well as visual pleasures. We can’t imagine Max releasing a kit version of these mods, but if you have one of KTM’s big supermotos in your garage, there’s a ton of inspiration to be gained right here.


This article was first published on Bike Exif; For more details, photos and generally more awesome everything, visit Bike Exif.

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