It’s stating the obvious, but some bikes are easier to customize than others. If you’ve got a Ducati SportClassic or Harley Sportster sitting in your garage, you’ve got a head start. But what about the real bread-and-butter bikes, the unloved small-capacity Japanese machines with gawky aesthetics, sold by the million to inner-city commuters the world over?
Yamaha’s SR250 is one such machine, and a staple of the slick Japanese ‘Brat Style’ custom scene. But you don’t often see it customized in the west, and certainly not to the radical extent we’re looking at here. This is the ‘Winning Loser,’ the first El Solitario motorcycle to be built from scratch, and one that still has pride of place in David Borras’ Galician garage.
This is the bike that El Solitario cut their teeth on: It was created for the Metamorfosis Masiva, a Spanish garage builders’ contest. There were just two rules: the donor bike had to be an SR250, and you were only allowed to spend €1,000 on parts—around US$1,300.
There was no time limit though, so Borras and his crew got to work—and put in over 500 hours. And although this SR250 might look like a design study, it’s a motorcycle that’s ridden regularly today. With a 3-liter fuel capacity it won’t go far between stops, but the fun factor is high on the twisty roads of northern Spain.
Borras dropped the front end of the high-riding stock SR250 by 4”, and lowered the rear end by turning metric wrenches into struts. Vintage bicycle handlebars are dressed with Wilson perforated leather grips.
Custom fabricated parts include the stainless steel fuel tank—fitted with a brass petcock and cap—plus the exhaust system and a 50-tooth rear sprocket. There’s no battery, with juice coming from a 68k uF capacitor, and the kickstart is from a 1983 Yamaha XT250. The headlight and Smiths tachometer are vintage finds, and the rear light is from an old Bultaco.
Paint was provided by the Spanish artist Raulowsky—also noted for his work with Sideburn Magazine—and Londoner Nicolai Sclater, AKA Ornamental Conifer. The resulting mix of raw finishes and immaculate detailing is strangely compelling; it’s part of the contradictory nature that has garnered a lot of attention for ESMC in Europe.