The first custom builder to take up Yamaha’s challenge is Danish company Wrenchmonkees. Based in Copenhagen, Wrenchmonkees was set up in 2008 by Per Nielsen and Nicholas Bech in the pursuit of creating one-off motorcycles for people who want something out of the ordinary. Seeking to create useable customised bikes, Wrenchmonkees’ use of clean mechanical aesthetics is designed to show off the raw components of a motorcycle in its best light – to allow the bike’s design to express itself. Could there be any better people to demonstrate what can be achieved when customising the retro-styled Yamaha XJR1300?
“We have watched with interest Yamaha’s other projects such as the Hyper Modified VMAX and TMAX so when we got the call to work on the XJR1300 we were very excited, it was a big pat on the back for our company,” said Per Nielsen, Crew Chief at Wrenchmonkees. “Generally we work on older bikes and have modified Yamaha SR500s and XS650s, but it has been really nice to show what we can do to a modern machine such as the XJR1300. However, working on a new bike raises its own unique set of challenges…“The number of sensors, wires and things like emission controlling devices on a modern bike makes customising it very tricky. On an older bike you’re freer to work with the design as the bike is very basic – essentially an engine, wheels and frame. On a new machine, the parts that are hidden are not meant to be looked at, so when you take off a cover panel you need to relocate things such as cables and electrical items - it is very complicated. “With the XJR we were determined to showcase what you could do with the bike, how cool it could look with a café racer style. It would have been easy to give it a makeover with a fresh paint scheme and a new seat, but we really wanted to push the boat out and make something inspirational for XJR fans.“Our first decision was how many parts to change. We wanted to keep the identity of the bike and make it easily recognisable as an XJR, so we left the tank, engine and major parts of the frame unmodified. We then looked at the bike and said ‘OK, what can we do around this base?’
“The first job was to change the front end. We fitted a set of YZF-R1 forks and wheels but they didn’t look quite right so we changed the cast wheels for custom built spoked items. The front is a 19-inch wheel while the rear is an 18-inch to give it an old school look with a modern twist using the R1’s forks and six-piston radial calipers. We then fabricated some rearsets to increase the ground clearance and replaced the flat handlebars with clip-ons to give it a café racer riding position. The exhaust is a hand-built stainless steel system that goes back to the twin muffler megaphone look of the older XJR but brought up to date in a modern MotoGP style.
“To give the XJR a café racer impression we decided to build a completely new seat unit that sits on the existing sub-frame. We removed the XJR’s battery box and moved the wiring up and into the custom-built tail unit, which left us with a problem – where to put the battery. As the XJR has twin shocks, there is a lot of room below the swingarm so we located a small lithium battery in the space behind the engine.
“Our universe does not involve bright, shiny colours so we have used a matt, dark olive green with a slight twist of metallic flake – not too much. And we have done something very special to the frame. The XJR’s swingarm and engine have a similar black finish but we wanted to make the frame stand out so we sandblasted it clean of paint and then set fire to it to create a fantastic raw steel burnt effect!
“We are very pleased with the results of our Yard Built Yamaha – the muscular engine of the XJR has kept it looking retro and retained its mechanical expression. The XJR is all about the cool air-cooled engine and our customisation shows this off in a new modern way with the addition of components such as the inverted forks and radial brakes.“Hopefully our bike will inspire XJR owners who want to modify their machines into something even more special. Now we have built our bike as a prototype we are looking to see how we can create unique aftermarket XJR1300 kits to allow owners to replicate some of our ideas in their home garages. We are looking at making it as easy as possible for people to modify their XJRs so the kits will not require any cutting of the original bike’s frame or swingarm, instead, parts that will dramatically transform the look of the machine will simply bolt on or replace the standard components. Anyone can build their very own Yard Built Yamaha to reflect their individual personality.”