1983 Yamaha XV920
When you’re on a good thing, stick to it. So obsessed was Tom Moose with V-twin Yamaha cafe racers, when his workload as a lawyer in Gydnia, Poland, got in the way of his first attempt at building a custom XV920 as a hobbyist, he chucked in his day job to take up bike building full-time.
We liked his style so much that his first custom off the rank graced our cover (‘White Knight’) back in issue #35. It and its blackfinished twin featured inside were built in the cafe racer style, impressive enough given their cruiser Virago roots, but with a healthy dose of street fighter DNA. This time around, Tom has pursued a drag/cafe mix in his quest to further raise the bar.
“I am still in love with XV920s due to their muscular box frame with exposed V-twin engine, reliable cardan shaft, and a beautiful line with a light back and central mono-shock,” Tom says. “When 18 months ago my last ‘Good and Evil’ Virago project turned out to be a huge success, I knew that it cannot end like that. Me and my friend and master mechanic Adam Groch decided to try and build another pair of Viragos. Believe it or not, it turned out that it was harder than earlier, because we had to improve on something that we called ‘perfect’ for a long time. But yes, we did it!”
Once again, two bikes were built, similar in performance but differentiated this time by more subtle differences, including the finish of the tanks and frames. “I want to continue the previous idea of two separate, contrasting objects, but give them a new, unique character. I wanted them to be perfect, stylish and reliable, only thinking it would be my way or the highway, with no compromises.”
Also like the earlier builds, the donor bikes were US-market Virago XV920s from the early 1980s, a model we didn’t get in Australia although we did buy container-loads of XV750s, much the same bike apart from capacity. As before, the donors were imported from the US via a contact in The Netherlands.
The new bikes are certainly built in the Moose Motodesign house style, albeit with significant changes to the rear wheel, exhaust and paint complementing a host of detail improvements.
“The most charismatic changes relate to full ‘drag’ rear wheels and of course the exhausts, which was the biggest challenge,” Tom says. “Our idea was to create something we’ve never seen in any other Virago. The exhausts flow through the right side to the left side of the bikes but under the engines, coming out from under the seats. When you look at the right profiles of the motorcycles, the exhaust tips look like (they are) suspended in the air.
“Exhausts are the quintessence of manual craftsmanship,” Tom told us last time around. “Pipes were made of high quality stainless-steel and carefully polished. With their ‘free’ sound, they perfectly reflect the power of the V-twin and emphasise the character of the project.” Large exposed K&N filters are fitted, while the stock 40mm Hitachi carburettors were refurbished and equipped with Dynojets.
Moose has employed both ZX6R and ZX10R upside-down front ends in the past but has settled on the 600 Kawasaki’s fully adjustable set-up for this pair. “They are very durable,” Tom says, “and fit perfectly stylistically.” They also come complete with a lightweight 17-inch front wheel and a pair of four-piston Tokico calipers (Nissin on some models) clamping 310mm petalshaped rotors, to which Tom has added HEL braided lines. Bottom triple clamp is from the ZX6R modified with resized bearings, with a custom billet top clamp tailor-made to also locate the Motogadget dash.
Options are more limited at the dusty end, due to shaft drive to the rear wheel hub, but covering up the cast spokes for a solid wheel look is a good place to start, giving the whole bike a more serious, tougher drag-racing stance. Rear suspension has been upgraded to an MV Agusta-spec Sachs mono-shock, Retro Specs also fully adjustable, while the brake remains the stock Yamaha singleleading- shoe drum.
Fuel is contained in stock Virago tanks, albeit radically re-profiled by dramatically raising the rear, its new line then perfectly matched by the seat sub-frame. Don and Adam are especially proud of their seats, which they describe as the icing on the cake. “This time we have re-designed the ‘tail’ of the saddle and the ‘logo ring’,” Tom says. “The most important was the line, the saddle had to correspond perfectly with the raised tank, creating a dynamic, slightly aggressive body. It was then all finished with high quality suede leather and a real carbon-fibre logo.” A restyled LED taillight under the seat and the tiny chassis-mounted indicators (which also act as additional brake lights) are especially stylish.
Whereas Moose’s earlier paint schemes were relatively simple and elegant, the team pulled out all stops on the new bikes. Firstly, the tanks were plated in galvanic chrome, one with a gold finish, after which what Tom describes as a “carbon hydrographic” was applied to the front of the tanks and protected by a matt clear coat crowned with carbon pinstripes. It sounds involved and time consuming because it is, but it sure looks like it was worth it. The frame of the silver-tanked bike, or what little you can see of it, has also been finished with a ‘chrome’ paint, specially imported by Moose for the job.
We concluded our earlier feature with the following quote from Tom: “I like the aggressive and muscular silhouette of the bikes. And don’t forget, the devil is in the detail. A good custom must look perfect both up close and from afar.” Not a lot has changed.
ENGINE Air-cooled four-stroke 75-degree V-twin; SOHC, two valves per cylinder; 92 x 69.2mm for 920cc; 8.3:1 comp; 2 x 40mm Hitachi carburettors with K&N filters; electronic ignition; custom exhaust; five-speed gearbox with shaft final drive; 65hp @ 6500rpm (stock)
CHASSIS Box-section pressed-steel mainframe with engine suspended beneath; Kawasaki ZX6R USD forks, 2 x four-spot Tokico calipers and 310mm wave rotors, 17in cast wheel; triangulated cantilever-style swingarm with Sachs mono-shock, stock Virago drum brake and 16in cast wheel; Metzeler tyres
BODYWORK Repositioned fuel tank; custom seat; not much else