Yamaha's Yard Built projects have led the way in the revival of the custom motorcycle world. Developing relationships with the rock stars of bike building, the project has delivered an incredible line up of unique and breath-taking one-off Yard Builts based on the Yamaha Sport Heritage line. Legendary builders from across the globe have brought their skills and expertise to show how easy it is to customize Yamaha's intuitive and adaptable retro-style bikes. The project has given inspiration and set new trends in the motorcycle world, making it a reality for everyone to make their Yamaha their own.
Back to the Dirt
2019 sees the Yamaha custom world explore new 70s and 80s rally-inspired creations in Back to the Dirt. Yamaha challenged the best motorcycle builders to customise the XSR700, with emphasis on changes that harness and enhance the stock bike’s off-road performance while retaining its character and demonstrating the ease of modifying it. 2019 has been the year of Yamaha XT and off-road-inspired projects which have laid the foundation for the excitingange of Back to the Dirt bikes.
XSR700 "Alan" by Lamb Engineering
Lamb Engineering began in 1988, when founder Larry Houghton originally intended to build a model steam engine in his father’s garage. Larry’s engineering talents, passion and vision went far beyond the steam engine however, and since then has gone on to build some of the world’s most celebrated and technically accomplished custom motorbikes. For Back to the Dirt Lamb Engineering undertook an intense build process with the stock Yamaha XSR700, crafting a number of exquisite custom parts to transform the bike into an eye-catching retro tribute to Yamaha dirt bikes of the 1970s.
Lamb Engineering’s efforts stunned the crowds at The Reunion in Monza, Italy, where it was displayed together with the other eight competing customisers in Back to the Dirt. Facing stiff competition from some of Europe’s best builders, the Lamb Engineering ‘Alan’ XSR700 was vying to be the winner of Yamaha’s Yard Built best build prize, judged by an internal Yamaha jury. Awed by the extent and quantity of work done by Lamb to customise the XSR700, the jury gave the bike top prize and declared it the winner among the nine Back to the Dirt entries.
While a host of visual and mechanical changes were made all around the XSR700, its flexible and highly adaptable lightweight steel ‘backbone’ frame was unchanged in the customising process by Lamb, who made use of many original mounting points to bolt on new parts while retaining the soul of the stock bike without any cuts or welds. To adapt it for aggressive off-road use however, the bike’s geometry was significantly changed. The hand-crafted swing arm is one of the most noticeable modifications, supported by top of the line twin Ohlins shock absorbers. The stock front suspension was swapped out for IT enduro forks held by custom made triple clams designed and machined by Lamb, giving the bike increased travel and usability on rough terrain.
At the heart of the XSR700 Alan is the 689cc 2-cylinder engine of the stock bike, also changed very little by Lamb. A new chain and rear sprocket manage the driveability of the engine going through the traditionally-styled spoked wheels. The wheels were given new knobbly tyres to tackle the dirt, and in a truly retro tribute to the motocross bikes of old the brakes were replaced with Yamaha IT hubs with drum brakes to replicate the feel of piloting a classic Yamaha, re-skinned inside a modern machine.
The exhaust system, designed and manufactured by Lamb, was repositioned to exit under the seat and split into loud twin pipes that amplify the rawness of the engine’s notes and remind the rider of the cutting-edge modern technology within. The hand-built subframe is another significant modification, carrying a new seat with extra padding and a white painted, hand-shaped aluminium tail unit housing the rear light. Most fittingly for a Yamaha tribute bike is the handmade tank, painted in classic Yamaha yellow with the iconic black and white speed block motif, which extends into the seat to give extra capacity.
Other additions to the XSR700 ‘Alan by Lamb Engineering include:
- Front fork adjustable wheel spindle clamps
- Handlebar-mounted twin spotlights
- Welded skid plate housing many of the electrical components
- Machined aluminium footrest hangers and swingarm supports
- Radiator side protection
- Traditional filler cap
- White painted hand-shaped aluminium front fender
- Removeable handlebar end mirrors
- Custom made retractable indicators
Lamb Engineering’s XSR700 Alan showcases both the quality and quantity of customisations that Back to the Dirt has inspired in motorbike builders. While visibly very different to the standard XSR700, the Lamb Engineering Alan makes the most of the wide range of customising opportunities that the bike presents. Their bike retains the features that make the XSR700 such an enjoyable ride, while introducing new perspectives of bike setup and a number of custom parts to create a highly retro and technically brilliant interpretation of a modern Yamaha favourite.