1981 Yamaha XV750 Build – The Manga Inspired Motorcycle
Yamaha’s XV750 are a very popular donor for a custom bike, cheap to get a hold of and the market of bolt-on parts you can get is pretty amazing. My client James had started to do a few bits on his freshly rebuilt Yamaha XV750 motor but soon felt help was needed.
He came into the garage with a tonne of ideas on how this bike could take shape. I simplified the ideas down to a very, very basic direction. I figured out from his description the bike needed to be sharp, lean and edgy. That’s about All I ever take to work with. The rest I leave up to the process.
The Yamaha XV750 Café Racer was to be ridden around the Gold Coast on weekend runs up the mountain, and when not in use be displayed in his mancave. As always I wanted this bike to look wild, but still be able to do what it was made for.
My initial build points were:
- Raw: I wanted a visceral ride experience, a v-twin can deliver that in spades, I just had to build the rest of the bike to match. Sharp handling, quick throttle response, and a rumble from the pipes. A sensory experience
- Slim: Working on the Japanese v-twin, I noticed the chassis is extremely thin, I wanted to keep that profile from front to back
- Manga/Japanese Cartoon style: I wanted the XV750 to look like it could be ridden by the bad guy in a Japanese cartoon. I grew up watching Japanese animations, the visuals are stylistically sharp, with a sense of violence and aggression. Bold, and cartoonish, The Yamaha XV750 had to offer something outside the norm.
The Yamaha twin had already received a new front end ripped of an R6. This created a lot of problems with how the bike would sit and ride. Being a lot shorter than the standard front end, it drops the bike dramatically and sharpens the steering angle far too much.
In the past I’d seen this mod done with band-aid fixes like oversize tyres, or even just winding the suspension up until it was so stiff it wouldn’t move… a great fix if the bikes meant just for photos, but no good if you actually want to ride the thing.
Our solution was to internally raise the USD forks by 30mm and have a custom-built rear shock made, handled by Ride Dynamics. The bike was still lowered considerably, but done evenly to maintain a good steering angle, and give enough ground clearance. The upgraded suspension, Yana shiki brake rotors coupled with the tyres used – Pirelli MT-60 Using a 17” front R6 wheel and 16” stock rear wheel make sure the Yamaha will go, stop and turn as you want it to.
Having the bike sitting how I wanted it, the tank was re-mounted after some modification to the rear section. Then mounts welded onto the frame for the soon to be subframe. Around the time of fabrication, I had started getting into a lot of solid bar work. Using my oxy torch, a vice and some muscle I’d shape some 10mm round bar into a short seat frame that carries the slim line of the tank through the tail.
The Yamaha XV750 stripped back holds a lot of visual weight over the front, I wanted to accentuate that by having a very minimalist approach everywhere else. The solid round bar seat frame and slim seat suited that idea perfectly. Finishing out the seat design a linear upholstery pattern helps tie in the tank detail with the Green canvas accent piece.
To make sure the tidy tail wasn’t crowded with lighting, I built in a rear tail light under the seat. Using some sheet metal, LED strips and stainless steel gauze the tail light was hand made to fit in the 10mm recess left between the seat pan and frame. It also creates a great effect when riding at night by casting a heavy glow over the rear tyre. The rest of the tail lighting was secured on the swing arm mounted plate holder. Using some Chrome hollow tip LED blinkers on the nickel-plated bracket.
Upfront the lighting charge is led by the 7” Flashpoint classic LED headlight, a smooth iteration on the much loved flashpoint design. Using an all in one headlight, turn signal and speedo mount, the slim profile of the headlight allows it to be mounted super tight into the forks giving it a strong presence from the front. The tiny digital gauge used is a Koso digital dash that houses speedo, tacho and warning lights.
The clip-on bars nestled under the military green triple clamp are dripping in trick bits. a quick action throttle, ISR clutch and brake levers and a set of minimal 3 button switches keeping everything tight and tidy.
The last piece of fabrication (after the hundreds of relocation brackets made to hide everything else) Was the front fender, using the PBM universal front fender and stainless steel fabrication slugs were used to shape a sharp set of fender stays that hug close to the front wheel.
The motor copped a set of upgraded Mikuni round slide carburettors and a hand-built 2 into 1 stainless exhaust with internal baffles. Removing the stock airbox and making way for a 1-of-1 DNA X Purpose Built Moto pod filter. The bulk of the electrics was built into a box under the swing arm housing the battery, fuses and starter relay. Any remaining items were hidden between the tank and back bone of the frame.
When it came to the finish on the tank, I wanted a raw finish with a unique graphic reminiscent of the late 90’s Japanese tuner car era. Bold graphics, cartoon-style characters emblazoned the street racer cars. The Yamaha XV750 was a bold custom, with a heavy street presence. The finish on the tank had to further convey that message.
Brushed nickel plating was the first item on that list, next I worked on an idea of a silhouetted samurai helmet. I had a mate take my dodgy hand sketch and design it properly, add some colours and it was ready to be painted on. Using the samurai helmet, shoehorning in the shop logo and tying it all together with a classic dash of the Yamaha Speedblock design, that tank is undeniably unique. The custom bar work was also nickel plated and painstakingly hand brush finished achieving my desired result.
Using restraint on the splash of colour a very few pieces were chosen to get a coat of the military green, including a small detail on the custom front fender. The XV series sits in a strange place for me in regards to custom motorcycles and you cant really classify this one as one thing or another. What it does have is honesty, The XV has a weird, and cartoony character that I haven’t tried to hide at all.
The work we’ve completed delivered a wierd but wonderful custom machine, but not without performance benefits. With a stock curb weight of 238kg, and our brawler weighing in at a mere 195 kg wet, you can imagine how much fun the Yamaha VX750 cafe racer is to rip around a tight corner. Extending a special Thanks to Cameron Bruntt for shooting the bike in an extra special Location Grandad Jacks Gin distillery on the Gold Coast.
Make sure you check out the Youtube clip below for all the details in HD video, plus an onboard test ride.
I have a 1981 XV750 that I bought new here in NZ.
From 1985 to 1995 I rode it around the world, 85 countries, now 415,000 km, Sahara Desert, Amazon Jungle, Arctic Ocean etc.
What is the chance of you building a stripped down custom XV750 for me?
Id be happy to discuss your build on an XV750.
I’ll send you an email.