The Yamaha Virago was Yamaha's first series of V-twin cruisers, featuring 75° air-cooled engines with shaft drive and mono-shock chassis. From 1981-1983, the Virago XV920 was the top of the line, offering a 920cc, 65-hp engine as well as adjustable handlebars and forks, front dual-disc brakes, and the company’s CYCOM (Cycle Computer) system. Surely Yamaha’s engineers had no idea that nearly 40 years after the debut of the first Virago, the machine would be reborn in the hands of custom builders across the world.
The bike originated as a 1981 Yamaha Virago XV920. Most of the other key donor parts such as the front suspension assembly and tank all came from a Yamaha parts bin with all other key components being hand crafted and sculpted for this bike.
The initial concept for the bike derived from my desire to build a café racer style motorcycle for myself. Drawing inspiration from some other great builds, I wanted to make a truly unique bike where the attention to detail was obvious and the lines and proportions of the bike looked just right. As the project progressed, opportunities to showcase a variety of skill-sets materialised and a means of promoting my workshop as a “one-stop-shop” to create custom bikes resulted.
When I searched for a suitable donor bike, I came across the Virago and loved the simplicity of the air-cooled V-twin engine, simple mono-shock chassis with shaft drive, and even the fact it used the frame as the air box. I wanted to create something truly unique and felt this setup gave a great start point to go for a radical transformation. With this build I wanted to provide inspiration to people thinking of their own builds or commissions and show the “art of the possible” by turning an unloved cruiser styled bike into something sleek and stylish with a powerful presence.
After shedding a whole lot of weight from the bike, the first step was to integrate a complete 2008 Yamaha R1 front end, setting the stance of the bike and creating a key feature of the upside down front forks. From that point, the big decision was the fuel tank. I discovered the XJ600 Diversion petrol tank and felt it nicely dressed the top of the V-twin engine, neatly setting up the lines for the rear end. I then constructed a unique bolt-on rear subframe spending many hours sculpting the shape for the seat unit and tailpiece integrating the key lines and features of the fuel tank. From this “buck” I created a fiberglass mold and a fresh one-off part.
The rear subframe provided ample space to position a motogadget mo.unit blue and facilitate a full re-wire of the bike by eliminating a mass of relays, fuses and dated wiring. The battery was relocated from the side of the bike to underneath, utilising the strong mounting points of the centre stand and rear (now front) foot peg supports. Freeing up the side of the bike by moving the battery allowed a new route for the exhaust and I designed and built a custom stainless steel exhaust system. Radically changing the seating position on the bike meant rear sets were used to move the foot controls of the bike.
Once the bike was fully built and running in its new form it underwent a full strip down. The engine was vapour-blasted, the frame, driveline and mounting brackets were powder-coated and a unique paintjob highlighted the key curves of the bike and features a brushed effect within the bronze/gold swoosh.
We named the bike “Alpha” ahead of its debut at this year’s Bike Shed Show in London’s Tobacco dock (May 2019). In English, the noun “alpha” is used as a synonym for “beginning” and used to refer to or describe the first or most significant occurrence of something. As the debut build for ASE Custom motorcycles we felt it was appropriate to set a strong brand image to move forward with.
I most commonly refer to this build as a café racer although I feel it combines a few genres and heard comments suggesting it could be more along the lines of a street fighter café racer due to its stance – I will let you make your own judgement.
I am really pleased with the overall lines of the bike. I spent a lot of time ensuring a compatible design; integrating the “standard” parts of the donor bike, replacement parts and the bespoke fabrications.
For the full article, check out the feature by Bike bound below:
ASE Custom motorcycles' build - Alpha- at the BSMC show in London Tobacco Dock 2019
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