Supposedly adventure and custom motorcycles go hand in hand. Watch the videos, everyone is at it. Riding up hill and down dale with canvas and leather paraphernalia adorning trusty air cooled steeds, heading for the next bourbon fuelled campfire. Throw in a degree of off-roadiness and boom, you’re living the dream. But what if you live in a place where using a nostalgic, handcrafted brush to gloss over probable unreliability could result in death?
That may sound a bit dramatic but if you’ve been to Australia you’ll have noticed folk down there taking adventure more than slightly seriously. One such Ozzy is Rick, an existing customer of Brisbane based custom shop, Ellaspede. The guys trebled the power output of his ’63 Vespa during a previous rebuild and he returned with a completely different brief, Urban-Adventure. Rick wanted a city commuter capable of crossing swathes of bush at the weekend, oh, and it needed to look cool at the same time.
Another thing you’ll notice downunder is that there are only a few vehicles that people trust when water and fuel stops are hundreds of miles apart, Toyotas and Yamaha make up the majority. So Rick bought a brand spanking XT660Z. First off, the XT was lowered slightly to suit Rick’s dimensions and the 21″ front wheel swapped for a 19″, a size more which not only looks less gangly but opens up more options for road rubber. Continental TKC80 look proper and do what is says on the tin, keeping Rick on the weekends.
Inspired by one of the Ellaspede wallets Rick chose a mustard leather for the seat, Kangaroo skin of course. Letting the other wildlife know that he’s on the way is a 2-into-1 stainless exhaust, the XT might only be a single but they run twin port heads as standard.
Obviously no outback adventurer would consider leaving the safe bosom of town without a good supply of fuel for man and machine. Off-road luggage gurus Kriega apparently have the real MacGyver working in their design department, the thinking man’s adventure kit. Tucker and clean budgie smugglers are stored in the multi-tasking and completely waterproof bags whilst a gallon of both fuel and water clamp beside.
To keep the worst of the rocks and stones away from the XT’s crucial parts Ellaspede’s fabrication guys went to town with a good sized sheet of aluminium. A giant sump/rad guard combo protect the delicate areas and side panels are now stronger and better looking than stock. The swingarm was also beefed up.
With all this effort made and the custom cap doffed so firmly towards the aesthetic it would only seem right for Rick to give the bike a proper test, Ellaspede’s Steve Barry continues the story.
“Rick had organised to ride across the Nullarbor plains which stretch East to West across the southern part of Australia. Work commitments had him in Adelaide on a certain weekend, so this was the date the bike had to be ready to go on his 2700+km safari.
Our workshop is in Brisbane, Queensland, some 2000 km from Adelaide. The idea was to freight the bike down to Adelaide for Rick to collect and set off. Unfortunately due to our tight build timeframe sending the bike via truck wasn’t an option. We considered an array of transport ideas, which were limited and pretty-much came down to riding the bike to Adelaide, which was almost a crazy thing to even consider, who in their right mind would take on such a task?”
“The bike rolled out of our Brisbane workshop on a Friday afternoon about 4pm with our trusty self-appointed test pilot Bruce on-board. It had to be in Adelaide for Sunday morning… so, about 36 hours.
Ok, so 2000km in 36 hrs including sleeping, eating, fuel stops and repairs etc, on a largely untested custom bike, after having worked all week, you start to get the idea of what lay ahead for Bruce.
Long story short (and there were plenty of stories), he made it in time and handed the quickly run-in XT660 over to an eager Rick, ready for the next leg of this odyssey.
The bike Bruce handed over wasn’t quite the same bike that left here 36 hours prior and this brings me around to the theme that started this rant… The value of after-build shakedowns cannot be underestimated!”
“Well Bruce certainly tested this custom Yamaha and Rick continued the abuse on and off-road. You could tell the XT was a well sorted bike in itself because it came through with flying colours. The sustained abuse of a trip like this broke some parts along the way. The trip soon became quite a noisy affair when the exhaust baffling departed, but through all the trials Rick enjoyed his southern-state safari and it gave us a very clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our build.
Upon returning to Brisbane the bike has since had a pull-down, clean, refurbishment, paint and reassembly that brought it back to the condition you see here. I don’t think we’ll have the luxury of that sort of shake-down again (don’t think Bruce or Rick thought it was that luxurious) but it did remind us of the importance of our usual testing procedures.
After all was said and done, Rick finished up with a well tested urban adventure bike and a great story to tell. We know it wont be the last adventure involving this XT, so we look forward to hearing the next tale of travels with less parts departed.”
Cocooned in the city surrounded by tricked-out cool with fuel tanks the literally the size of peanuts the chance to let one’s mind drift off to an adventure filled place is welcomed. Thanks to Ellaspede, Rick and Bruce for supplying Friday afternoon wanderlust.