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Trail Weapon: A drone-carrying Yamaha XSR700 scrambler

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone
Velomacchi make some of my favorite motorcycle gear. And the reason their gear is so good is that they spend enough time in the saddle to know what works. They also have an ideal testing ground: the Pacific Northwest.

The company is based in Hood River, Oregon—surrounded by hills and forests connected by rugged fire roads. So when Yamaha USA approached them to collaborate on a XSR700 build, it was never going to be anything other than a backcountry explorer.

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone
Though the XSR700’s styling is hotly debated, it’s often praised for its versatility and usability. Velomacchi founder Kevin Murray’s a fan: “Riding it feels playful, and it takes no work to slam it down into a corner and point it wherever you need to go,” he says.

“It feels as easily controlled as much smaller bikes. The ABS works so well you can stand on the rear brake on loose gravel and dirt, and it never gets out of shape.”

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone
With the XSR700 in hand, Kevin’s thoughts immediately turned to the Gold Rush Ride—a hooligan event hosted by Portland’s Sang Froid Riding Club.

“It’s an epic three day riding event through the back roads of Eastern Oregon to the old gold mining township of Sumpter,” says Kevin. “It’s the type of ride that you begin as friends, and end as brothers and sisters.”

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone
Kevin decided to build a machine capable of handling harsh conditions, rural roads, limited gasoline stations, tar snakes and kamikaze deer. “And self-reliant, so you can take care of others who invariably break down, wipe out or run out of gas.”

Step one was stripping the brand new XSR700 down. Then it was research time. Kevin & co. poured over countless reviews of the XSR700 to get the clearest picture of what could—and should—be upgraded. Armed with 3D renderings of the ‘Rural Racer’ by Alexey Afanasyev [above and below], the team got cracking.

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone
The plan was to tweak the XSR700 to perfection, rather than redesign it from the ground up. “At Velomacchi, we are not custom bike builders,” explains Kevin. “We are accordatori [tuners] and privateers. We tune our bikes to meet the needs of our riding style, environment and cargo.”

Suspension was high up on the priority list. “There is incredible terrain in the PNW,” says Kevin. “Only half of our navigable roads are paved. The rest are graded as lumber and fire access roads. You will encounter all sorts of hazards at a moment’s notice: tar snakes, pot holes, blind corners, washouts, deer, gravel, drunk drivers, freezing nights and blistering days.”

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone
Kevin put a call in to Race Tech, who custom built custom-tuned Gold Valve internals for the XSR’s front forks. They also sent over a G3-S rear shock with a remote reservoir, and all the adjustability they needed.

Velomacchi’s Rural Racer was designed for fire roads—not technical single track. So rather than opt for bigger hoops, they kept the XSR700’s stock 17” wheel measurements. They just swapped the actual wheels out for a set of wire spoked Kineo units, custom built to accommodate the OEM rotors and ABS bits. And they fitted Pirelli MT60RS adventure tires.

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone
The XSR’s 689 cc engine is plenty punchy out the box, so the team limited their mods to just opening up the air box a little. A new exhaust system was a non-negotiable though. “The DOT muffler weighs in at forty-plus pounds,” says Kevin, “needing all that weight to try and contain the power this thing makes.”

“We needed an exhaust that could elegantly tame this beast and direct its primal instincts, with a third the weight.”

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone
Yoshimura stepped up to the plate with a special prototype exhaust. Not only is it lighter and punchier, but it has a new catalytic convertor that makes it legal in all fifty states in the US.

“Their professionalism, craftsmanship and attention to detail was humbling and awe inspiring on this project,” Kevin tells us. “You need to be sitting down when you first start up the XSR with this muffler system. The sound is terrifying, elegant and smooth. It was like putting a cummerbund on a grizzly bear.”

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone
Next it was time to add some practical touches. Velomacchi teamed up with Champion Tool Storage, who modded and lengthened the XSR’s removable subframe.

It now carries a fuel cell, and Velomacchi’s own tool roll and duffel. It also holds the rear fender, taillight, turn signals and license plate holder—shaving a further six pounds off the bike.

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone
Up top is a three-quarter-length seat, upholstered by Ginger McCabe at New Church Moto. It’s reminiscent of the old Yamaha DT, and Ginger even hand cut the Yamaha letters to look like old privateer racing leathers.

Adequate lighting was another consideration, since locals often ride the back roads at night or in low light conditions. Cyclops Lighting modded an 8” Trail Tech desert racing light with high and low beam settings.

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone
The remaining mods are pretty simple and logical, like hand guards to fend off branches, and crash bars for the inevitable drop. There’s even a tablet mount above the headlight, for when you’re using your tablet as a nav.

But the last mod is the most curious one; look on top of the tank, and you’ll spot a DJI Mavic Pro drone. It’s mounted on a modified RAM mount for quick deployment, which is in turn bolted to the XSR’s stock tank cover mounting points.

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone
“When you are tearing up the tarmac in the Pacific Northwest,” explains Kevin, “occasionally you will find a stretch of road lasting ten to twenty miles that is rural Mecca. They usually follow a river or a mountain contour and inspire one to leave common sense behind and ride the snake, over and over again.”

“We like to set up on these road sections and run laps up and down the twisties. Now most rural peace officers have a libertarian bent and are cool with these practices as long as you are safe and respectful of your surroundings. For all the rest we brought in DJI drones to help us scout these runs ahead of time.”

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone
“Drones are also helpful in scouting the best camping spots, analyzing your riding stance and locating your riding buddies. The DJI Mavic Pro is the perfect backcountry intelligence gatherer.”

To complete the puzzle, Velomacchi took the XSR’s bolt-off tank covers, buffed them to raw aluminum and added some black. The inspiration: the XT500 that Kevin’s been riding since he was a teenager.

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone
This weekend, you can see the Rural Racer in the metal at the Handbuilt Show in Austin, Texas. But I bet Kevin can’t wait to get it back to the PNW and start kicking up some dust.

Velomacchi | Facebook | Instagram | Images by Pierre Robichaud | Velomacchi in the Bike EXIF store

Rural Racer: Velomacchi's trail-ready Yamaha XSR700 scrambler is even equipped with a drone

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