Our first XV950, the “Playa de Rey" was recently finished. Even though our focus is mainly on builds based off of Harley Davidson motorcycles (especially the Sportsters) we kind of felt it would be interesting to work a little more on a “back to basic” version of the XV950. So here we are with the brand new 2015 “Racer” version of the XV950.

First things first; all projects starts with a goal, so let’s share the goal with this particular project. The goal is not really to build the most spectacular bike. We have already proven that a XV950 is as a good base for a custom bike as a Harley by building the “Playa del Rey”, as a part of Yamaha Europe’s “Yardbuilts” project. This is going to be a build that anybody should be able to replicate at home in their own shed or garage.
We will mostly use aftermarket parts that are already available out there, or parts that we will design and produce and make available through our web shop.
This will be a project we will be running over time as we plan to use it as a daily ride during the duration of the build, just as anyone would do building a bike from home.

Yamaha call the bike XV950 a ‘Racer’, so let’s start there. How much of a racer is this bike really?
We love the XV950, but to be honest, even though Yamaha has fitted it with clip-on handlebars and the footrests are slightly moved backwards in addition to some modifications to the suspensions compared with the XV950 C or R versions, it’s not a bike you take straight out of the box to a track day. Not even to try to push too hard on the mountain roads we have around here where we are based. Let’s redefine it a bit and go for making a good café-racer out of it rather than a racer…. An air-cooled V-Twin capable of giving a Ducati Monster a match on a twisty back road.

When it boils down to fundamentals, we really agree with Adolfo Calles from Rebellion cycles when he talks about the trendy definition of ‘Caferacers’: “We’re fed up with the ‘artisan’ word being used to hide badly finished bikes—and absurd stuff like knobby tires on a racer” – “ A real café racer must handle and brake better than the original and weigh less—and look like it’s doing 200 mph when standing still!”
Our intention is always to follow these principles when building our Café style racers.

We will look into how we (and you) can improve this bike without big means. We will not modify the frame (even the “Playa del Ray” was built without any modifications to the chassis) or make other extreme one-off modifications.

In the next blog we will cover our first longer ride on the bike and what our impressions were after a stretch of a bit more than 500km on twisty mountain roads in 35-40 degrees Celsius. It gave us a lot of useful information on what mods we should start with.

Follow our progression here on the blog, and ride your bike every day!

Author, Tobbe Johansson – Co-Founder Matt Black Custom Designs SL


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