Everyone loves a thumper—and few thumpers are as loved as Yamaha’s popular SR500. Manufactured for just over 20 years, from 1978 to 1999, it shared the same single-cylinder, air-cooled 499cc engine as the XT500 and TT500.
Looks-wise it was styled to resemble its big brother, the XS650. While the popularity of some motorcycles has risen and fallen, the SR has remained a regular favorite within the new-wave custom scene, thanks to its easy-going nature.
It sounds clichéd to say that it was tough to pick out just five SRs for our list, but it’s true. Just this week two more great examples landed in our inbox, both of which could easily have been included. Instead, we’ve decided to give each on its own feature, so look out for those in the next week or so.
In the meantime, take a look at our top five below—and let us know in the comments what your own favorite SR500 customs are.
Deus Ex Machina ‘Oddjob’ There are a few Deus-built SR500s that could have made this list, but this one has a certain charm that’s hard to ignore. Appropriately nicknamed ‘Oddjob,’ Deus’ creative director Carby Tuckwell describes it best as “a little café hoon sled.” Visually it’s a hodgepodge of styles—something between a street tracker and a café racer, with tasteful details like the red highlights and vintage-style Yamaha racing blocks on the tank. The motor’s been punched out to 542cc and blueprinted by Carl Batey of Cafe Racer, with a Keihin FCR39 carb handling fuelling. It looks (and sounds) like it’d be an absolute blast to ride. If you agree, you could always commission your own ‘Oddjob’—according to Deus’ website, it’s available as a custom order from their Sydney and Milan locations. [More about this bike | Deus Customs]
Lucky Cat Garage ‘Single Daily Café’ According to the Lucky Cat Garage website, ‘Sonic Séb’ built this ’90s model SR roughly ten years ago ‘to commute through the Paris traffic jams.’ Looking at it, it’s hard to believe that it’s ‘mostly made of bolt on stuff’ with ‘not that much time spent in the workshop.’ Up front are clip-ons, a billet upper triple clamp and smaller dials. Go-fast upgrades include a 540cc kit from Wiseco, a Mikuni TM36 flatslide carb, a K&N filter and a Supertrapp muffler. The seat is a VD Classic unit, with custom upholstery, and the rear-sets are one-offs. Tucked away under the Lucas-style headlight is a BMW R1200C grill covering the horn, with a dice adorning the fuel tap. The tank’s been painted in a luscious black and copper scallop scheme—a classic design that’ll never date. [More about this bike]
Photo by Thomas Caplain.
Lossa Engineering ‘Solus’ Elegant and clean, ‘Solus’ is a testament to builder Jay LaRossa’s philosophy of building bikes that are stripped down and fast. With a wide range of skills under his belt, LaRossa saw to it that this SR500 received equal doses of cosmetic and performance upgrades. The motor’s been bored out and fitted with a White Brothers oversize piston, plus a few other tasty bits. Handling is taken care of by a GSX-R front end and Works shocks, while stopping is left up to Brembo brakes at both ends. The exhaust muffler is a Lossa part that can be bought from their site. The traditional café ‘bum box’ is the perfect match for the Benelli tank, creating classic lines that are complemented by a tasteful paint scheme—white, with just a dash of red. [More about this bike | Lossa Engineering]
Chappell Customs I’m convinced that the words ‘half measures’ don’t feature in Chris Chappell’s vocabulary. He pulled out all the stops to turn this ex-AHMRA racer into his client’s dream bike—including hand-hammering knee indents into the SR’s stock tank. When he couldn’t find a seat pan that suited the bike, he built a vacuum forming machine to create his own. The machine is now used to produce a whole line of seats for Chappell Customs’ online store, Tuffside. Chappell also fitted XS650 forks and Works Performance shocks to the SR500, while the engine sports a host of race ready modifications, including a 540cc piston kit. The frame’s been cleaned up, and the bike’s been finished off in generous helpings of gunmetal and black. [More about this bike | Chappell Customs]
Wrenchmonkees ‘Monkee #10’ This might not be the Wrenchmonkees’ most well-known build, but it’s certainly a fine example of their characteristic style. The donor bike is a ’78 SR500, and it was ‘Monkee’fied’ back in 2009. The engine was rebuilt, with power boosted by a Mikuni flatslide carb and K&N filter. A Brembo disc and caliper were fitted to the front for extra stopping power, along with a braided steel brake hose. All unnecessary bodywork has been removed, and a custom rear loop and seat added. Colors are understated, as per the norm for the Wrenchmonkees—a muted green tank, and matte black fenders with a subtle pinstripe. [More about this bike]
Last week’s Top 5 covered the BMW R-Series.