Team Blue: A custom Yamaha XSR900 with retro style

Custom Yamaha XSR900 retro superbike
Modern superbikes are complex machines, both inside and out. Not only have their engines and electronics evolved in leaps and bounds over the past couple of decades, but their bodywork has changed radically too. The the aerodynamic packages developed for MotoGP racing are trickling down to street bikes now, so OEM superbikes with wings poking out of their fairings are commonplace.

Like many of us, Josh Merrill misses the days of fast bikes with slabby fairings… so he’s built one of his own. Based on a 2022-spec Yamaha XSR900, and wrapped in 90s race replica bodywork, his latest custom build is a modern classic of the highest order.

Custom Yamaha XSR900 retro superbike
Technically the Yamaha XSR900 isn’t classified as a superbike—but it’s not far off. Its 117.4 hp / 93 Nm output is nothing to sneeze at, and its chassis feels sharp and focussed. And if you’ve ridden it, you’ll know what a peach its triple-cylinder motor is.

Josh currently works for a major OEM, but he’s also the crew chief for a MotoAmerica race team and runs his own industrial design business. With a decade in the motorcycle industry, he knows what works and what doesn’t.

Custom Yamaha XSR900 retro superbike
“I have experience with motorcycle electronics, engine work, chassis, exhaust and component fabrication, as well as years of racing experience both for myself and for professional race teams,” he tells us.

“I’ve also worked at different race shops, one of those shops focusing on vintage race bikes. This taught me that even though I like the classic look, I do not like old bikes with old parts, heavy frames and out of date components.”

Custom Yamaha XSR900 retro superbike
Using the Yamaha XSR900 as a donor was a no-brainer for Josh, especially since the 2022 model sports a number of upgrades over its predecessor. The trick was to match components to the bike that would fit the retro theme he was after, without compromising performance. Working out of Create Moto—a communal motorcycle garage in Milwaukee—he got down to business.

To nail the look, Josh turned to Yamaha’s history. Inspired by the legendary 1992 Yamaha YZF750, he ordered a YZF works racing fairing and belly pan from Airtech Streamlining. All he had to do then, was figure out how to fit it to the XSR.

Custom Yamaha XSR900 retro superbike
For the fairing, Josh fabricated a series of brackets out of steel tubing and plates, with the upper fairing mount also hosting the instrument cluster. A trimmed race windscreen from Gustafsson Plastics finishes off the front end. Lower down, the Airtech belly pan had to be modified to fit the XSR’s chassis properly.

Working to Josh’s advantage were the stock XSR900 tank cover, side covers and seat; a testament to bike’s neo-retro vibe. So with the fairing and belly pan in place, he simply added a passenger seat cover from Funny Customs in Japan. Remarkably, everything fits together like it came from the same source.

Custom Yamaha XSR900 retro superbike
With no real need to split the engine cases, Josh focused on relatively easy power gains. Those include a full titanium exhaust system from Akrapovič, a DNA air filter and an ECU flash, courtesy of 2 Wheel DynoWorks.

Next, the front brakes were treated to upgraded lines from Core Moto, with integrated brake pressure ports, since he plans to install a data monitoring system in the future. Josh added 310 mm rotors from Braketech, with longer bolts and spacers to reposition the calipers. They’re equipped with race-spec pads.

Custom Yamaha XSR900 retro superbike
Josh plans to upgrade the XSR’s forks, rear shock and rear brake at some point. Why not now? It’s simple: he’s waiting until there’s a wider range of options available on the market.

That didn’t stop him from throwing a bunch of other top-shelf components at this build though. The Yamaha benefits from a set of GB Racing engine covers, an Evotech performance radiator guard and a Motion Pro coolant recovery tank. Josh also installed adjustable rear-sets, clip-ons with a 1” rise, and Woodcraft rear stand lift plates.

Custom Yamaha XSR900 retro superbike
Moving to the smaller stuff, Josh 3D-printed a bunch of custom parts, including plugs to fill the OEM riser mount holes and brake line mounts, and support plates for the sides of the fairing. The clutch cable’s from an R6, and attaches to a custom-made end bracket that’s designed to help it clear the fairing stays. A full complement of Pro-Bolt fasteners rounds out the spec.

You’ll notice that the XSR still wears its rear lights and plate bracket, but has no front lighting. Josh is on the fence; he might leave it like this, or he might add a headlight-equipped fairing.

Custom Yamaha XSR900 retro superbike
Finishing the build off is a fetching Kenny Roberts-inspired livery. What’s really clever though, is that Josh designed all the graphics to complement the original bike’s tank cover design, which is still as it left the factory. The new parts were color-matched to the OEM look by FineLine Design, and the decals were made up by Inline4Designs.

Now dubbed the ‘XSR900R,’ Josh’s bike is the perfect blueprint for a modern sportbike with retro looks. Hopefully Yamaha is paying attention.

ByJMR Design | Facebook | Instagram | Images by Brooke Tilidetzke

Custom Yamaha XSR900 retro superbike

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
185 Shares
READ NEXT