When it comes to old motorcycles in need of resurrection, owners often face a dilemma: restore to original spec, or rebuild as a custom? The temptation to perform a nuts-and-bolts resto is massive when there’s a ’60s model BSA or Triumph in the garage, but less so when the bike in question is a Yamaha Virago XV750.
Yamaha’s now-dated chopper has become pretty popular as a custom base though, with more and more decent examples popping up all the time. Leading the pack are builders like Greg Hageman—who has a talent for massaging the Virago’s awkward lines into a cohesive and elegant end product.
This particular one—a ’95-model XV750—was brought in as a non-runner that had sat in its owner’s garage for several years. “His wife had purchased it for him as a surprise, but it needed a lot of work to put back on the road,” says Greg. “He’d seen my work and wanted a transformation. I told him to spend the next few months collecting pics of bikes he liked, and I would think about a plan of attack.”
Greg immediately had the idea to graft on a 2008 Yamaha R1 front-end—including the upside-down forks, brakes and 17″ front wheel. At the back he retained the Virago’s stock 15″ wheel and drum brake. Since both wheels are 5-spoke affairs, they ended up being a good visual match. They’re now shod with Dunlop K555s.
Being a 1995 model the donor bike had a dual-shock rear, rather than the mono-shock design of pre-1984 Viragos. A mono-shock conversion was considered, but once Greg had torn the bike down he decided to redesign the rear end and retain the dual shocks instead, installing a pair of Öhlins at the same time. “I liked the angles and thought I could make it perform well. All the previous first-gen Viragos I’ve built had mono-shocks, but I wanted to keep this one different and keep some original design.”
His attention then turned to selecting a tank for the build, made difficult by the Virago’s frame. “The wide and high backbone of these things pretty much rules out most custom tanks, and I honestly don’t have the skill to bang out my own tank. I wish I did, I’m so envious of the metal working skill of some of the talented builders out there.”
Wanting something iconic and “easily recognizable by any old school Yamaha fan,” he modified a 1973 Yamaha RD350 tank to fit. “I really dig ’70s bikes, and putting that retro cue in and even keeping the paint original was what I wanted, and was able to convince the owner to agree.” The lush replica paint job was done by Moe Colors, while the powder coating was handled by Profab.
Matching the svelte tank is a Tuffside café racer seat, made specifically for this build by Chris Chappell, an accomplished builder in his own right and, according to Greg, “a good guy.” Chris molds his seat pans from ABS plastic with a vacuum-forming machine, before having them upholstered in marine-grade vinyl.
The XV750’s new café racer stance was enhanced with Tarozzi rear-sets and R1 clip-ons (later swapped out for adjustable Tarozzi units) with Biltwell Thruster grips. Greg also fitted an Acewell speedo, and an eBay-sourced headlight grill. For added performance, twin Mikuni VM34 carbs were installed, along with 2-into-1 ceramic coated headers and a tuned Cone Engineering muffler.
“The bike runs and handles great, better than expected actually. The ‘gen 2’ frame is stronger and has less flex than the ‘gen 1,’ so it can handle the sportier suspension a little better. That, combined with a tuned exhaust and new Mikuni VMs, allows the engine to pull smooth and hard from idle to 8000 RPM which makes this a blast to ride.”
Greg completed the build in just two months, in the process adding another ultra-desirable Virago to his portfolio. If you like what you see, I suggest you trawl your local classifieds pronto.
I have a hunch that second-gen Viragos are going to become a lot more sought-after, and probably not for restoration projects.