Signed in as:
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
Any past history of the 701? Where did the donor bike come from?
The bike arrived with us in pretty much standard form cosmetically with a Dynojet power commander fitted, freeing up a few HP – which has since been re-visted. Other than a good valet to clean off some London commuting grime the basis was great to get straight to the custom work.
Was it for a customer? Was there a brief? Or just something you wanted to build?
This bike was commissioned by a client (and now friend) based in London. He had a fairly good idea of what he wanted from the build and provided a useful “one-pager” detailing these key features. These specified the reliable use as a city commuter, weekend adventurer and being capable of carrying a pillion comfortably (including grab handles). Key styling features such as a tubular rear frame, aluminium fuel tank and Alcantara seat cover were also a priority. Obviously, the concepts evolved as we went along and it was always a balance of where we were going with the style of the bike whilst still maintaining the practicality, reliability and style.
Can you tell us about all the modifications you made on the bike?
Where do we start…
The first step was to create a bespoke rear steel subframe to tie into the style of the existing front frame (replacing a composite plastic fuel tank/frame). We continued with the asymmetry of the standard bike and maintained the seating position and standard exhaust pipe and silencer. We added removable grab-rails (swappable with a back rack for those weekend adventures) and incorporated a provision to secure a frame slider on the right hand side (swappable to the billet aluminium plaque pictured when not on the track). The architecture of the 701 also had the battery, fuse/relay box situated in this subframe assembly. We knew that creating the aluminium fuel tank would not have capacity for as much fuel as standard, so to get some available volume back we removed the standard airbox (located above the engine) and replaced it with a DNA pod filter allowing us to relocate the electrical assembly into this space. The aluminium fuel tank was a real challenge as we had to design and fabricate it to fit up underneath the new frame which effectively meant modelling it in free space, section by section – more on this later! The hand-crafted aluminium features were carried over to the radiator side cowls and rear fender which were hand shaped on an English wheel to both show off the trellis frame beneath but add some curvature to the overall design. The seat base was modified from standard to suit the new design of the bike and new seat foam was sculpted to meet the brief for more comfort for rider and pillion. We covered this in Charcoal grey Alcantara with contrast yellow stitching to tie into the other highlights on the bike.
Panels towards the front of the frame to cover the battery installation and a headshield for the exhaust was made from carbon fibre to tie into the existing carbon parts on the bike.
The rear LED indicators were fitted within the frame rails with the wiring routed internally to maintain the minimalist integration to the design.
Finally the personalised livery of gloss black, brushed aluminium and day-glow yellow was derived to show off the handcrafted aluminium panels beneath whist providing some striking highlights and some personalised numbers. It also pays homage to the older Husqvarna scramblers of the 70s which had the aluminium “window” in the paintwork.
What was the hardest thing about the build?
I would say the most complicated and labour-intensive part of the build was the aluminium fuel tank. As previously mentioned, creating the separate panels in free space made it extremely complicated and it may not be clear to see from the pictures but it is made up from about 20 separate pieces of aluminium painstakingly shaped to tie into each bend of the framework above it. The majority of these welds were then linished off to make a seamless structure, with the exception of some “feature welds” where appropriate. CNC’s flanges were incorporated into the sheet material to maintain all of the existing functionality of mounting the fuel pump, sender, gauge, breather and filler neck. Why so complicated? I really wanted to make it appear to be floating. A carefully thought out the mounting strategy allowed us to achieve this whilst being able to safely mechanically isolate and dampen it from the surrounding framework. In the end we only lost about 1.5 litres of useable fuel capacity thanks to the relocation of some key components previously mentioned maintaining real-world useability.
What’s your favourite thing about the bike?
As much as this was built for a client, there is a lot of me invested in the build and the journey we went on to create it. Every new component was very labour intensive and delicately and creatively hand crafted, so as much as I may want one similar for myself one day, safe to say this is most definitely ”one of one”.
How many hours went into the build?
In the end we billed 240hours…. But safe to say there is a fair few un-accounted for, which is really the nature of what we do when thinking outside the box and creating something unique. I also have a feeling… as with any custom build, the journey may not be over yet.
Has the bike got a name?
Classy, lethal and very London it’s easy to see why the owner calls it Archy, like the gangster from Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla, you’ve been warned my son.
Looks like a blast to ride. How's she go?
Well our client has described it as a “Classy hooligan” which I think is pretty apt. Putting the DNA cone filter on and giving it a tune has unleashed approximately 25-30% from standard on a bike that was a whole lot of fun to start with! I certainly had a big grin on my face during the “shake-down” road miles and he has plans to use it in anger on the track when the chance comes back round again and has promised me a blast – honest!! When we re-trimmed the seat we incorporated a bit of a speed hump – partly to allow some more pillion and rider comfort and also to give some support when cracking it wide open, that works a treat!
For the full article, check out the feature by Pipeburn below:
Husqvarna 701 supermoto custom by ASE Custom motorcycles
Copyright © 2021 ASE Custom Motorcycles, Wootton Lane, Balsall Common, West Midlands, UK - All Rights Reserved.