My first Custom Build - Collecting a Yamaha YBR for £25
Welcome to my self-taught journey on customising and renovating a Yamaha YBR 125 Custom.
One of the first things I did once I got my licence back in late 2017 was sign up to join the Bike Shed Motorcycle Club. They've got several tiers available, but I decided to go for the Gold level as I figured it would get me the most for the money. You get discounts in the store and off your food and drink, but they also give you access to the events they host throughout the year. The show that caught my eye was the Bike Shed, London Show, in Tobacco Docks, which occurs around my birthday each year.
The day finally came for Julie and me to head there. I remember my body shaking with excitement as this was my first time going to a custom bike show. Sure, for as long as I can remember, I've been going to supercar events like Goodwood and show events at London ExCel, but this was different. As someone who now rode a bike, I felt part of the community.
The event did not disappoint. There were pop up stands to buy your motorbike gear, tattoo parlours, whisky and craft beer stalls. Whatever comes to mind when you think of the stereotypical biker lifestyle, it was probably there. There was even a blues band performing! I went there, of course, to see the incredible custom bikes, and they did not disappoint. One can only imagine how many hours of labour the builders pour into each creation.
I studied mechanical engineering and product design at university, so my mind was firing on all cylinders (see what I did there), figuring out how each bit worked and what steps the builder took to get the final result.
In the world of custom builds, several bikes seem to dominate the market. I'm talking about the likes of the Honda CB500, BMW /5 and /6, and the Yamaha Virago. I'm sure there are lots more, but these are the ones that I see on social media more than others.
As soon as I left the event, I looked at my Mutt Mongrel, thinking what could I change. I didn't have my full licence yet (blasted L plates), so I couldn't take a pillion, and I was never too fond of the bench seat. The thoughts started rolling in; perhaps if I chop this bit off, what if I customised this? All in all, my plan would have been to change the Mutt to a single-seater. I would have removed the airbox and relocated the battery elsewhere to create a nice triangular space under the seat. I would have changed the drag bar for another style, and so the list goes on. Unfortunately, I never got around to doing this, but the thoughts would stay with me.
I used to live in a multi-storey building by the river in Battersea. It was rather lovely and had underground parking, which was highly convenient, but thieves would still get in, and the occasional motorbike and car would go missing (that's London for you).
While living in the flat, a Yamaha YBR 125 Custom remained parked in one of the few motorbike bays and never once moved. The dust layer on it was thick enough to act as foundations for half the buildings in the surrounding area. The tyres were flat and cracked; the bars were damaged and rusty, and the dials rattling with broken components. It was an eyesore.
I, on countless occasions, would ask the building concierge if they knew who the bike belonged to or if they had any record of when it arrived on site. I even resorted to asking random people in the building, but I go nowhere. Eventually, seeing as I was getting nowhere, I phoned the DVLA and enquired about the bike. Several phone calls later, including a call to a particular police unit to check whether the bike had been stolen (among other things), and then back the DVLA, I was told I could take ownership of the bike, and it only involved a few steps. A couple of forms later, along with a cheque for £25, and the bike was mine!
The bike was now in my name. Great. The first problem I encountered was that I no longer lived in the building and had moved back home to my parents. My dad and I decided the best course of action was hiring a van, driving over, throwing the bike in the back, and returning home. Getting a van was no problem at all. However, getting the bike into the van was tricky as the car park entrance was too low to drive in. Fortunately, the motorcycle was on the first basement level, but it was a good 100m from the access point. The previous owner hadn't bothered to use the steering column lock or attach any external devices, which was a lifesaver.
The cracked and deflated tyres turned what should have been an easy job into a real struggle. Note to self, always pack a tyre pump! We got the bike to the ramp and managed to get it up the slope with a running start. It was at that point that the concierge came running out to inspect what we were doing. I hadn't given them a heads up, so it's fair enough to think we were stealing the bike. She recognised me straightaway so, after brief catchup, my dad and I got back to it. We each took an end, picked the bike up and strapped it into place in the van and made our way back home.
Coming in part 2 - stripping the bike