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Yamaha launched its successful Yard Built campaign in 2014 and over the span of seven years has used the platform to showcase the customizing potential of its motorcycles, from the XSR900 to the Bolt to the VMax. This year, the XSR700 was the featured attraction of Yamaha’s Yard Build competition.

Like just about everything else, Covid-19 threw a wrench into Yamaha’s original plans, so the 2020 contest featured a new wrinkle. Back in March, Yamaha invited the public to submit designs based on the XSR700, a Yard Built first.  Dubbed “Back to the Drawing Board” the top four entries were then sent to four different shops and builders who were tasked with bringing the designs to life.

With a compact, diamond-type high tensile steel frame and an engine that serves as a stressed member, the XSR700 is a good base to start with.  Thanks to its 689cc Inline Twin and “Crossplane Concept” 270-degree crank, Yamaha’s modern classic is torquey and fun to ride.

The four winners of this year’s Yard Built competition come from four different countries. Which is your favorite?

Following descriptions courtesy of

XSR700 Red Tail designed by Alex & Claudio Monge, built by Café Racer SSpirit

Channeling flat track aesthetics into the XSR700’s retro styling, Spanish drawers Alex & Claudio Monge designed the eye-catching Red Tail design for Back to the Drawing Board. With the bike’s stock lightweight steel ‘backbone’ frame and chassis intact, the Monge’s were passionate about the simple brief of being able to make big modifications to the iconic Sport Heritage XSR700 without cuts or welds.

Working in the picturesque resort town of San Sebastián in Spain’s Bay of Biscay, Café Racer SSpirit (CRSS) is a small team of dedicated and deeply passionate custom builders. Founded by Juan Carlos López Chinchurreta, lover of all things motorcycle, CRSS seeks to discover the unique beauty of every motorcycle they work with, respecting the uniqueness and style of every machine and its rider.

The XSR700 Red Tail features a very much stripped-down look, achieved by removing the side covers of the tank and engine to expose the components and give a simple-but-cool custom look. The bike’s bodywork was also redesigned to fit CRSS’ vision of contrasting avant-garde lines with classic details, featuring a prominent side number holder. The headlight was swapped out for a retro custom mask in white, with a small rear light installed under the tail to make the bike functional both for the street and competition.

The new leather seat unit was housed in a new custom fairing that slims down the lines of the bike and captures the look and feel of flat track and dirt bikes. CRSS also reduced the size of the front and rear fenders for a more naked appearance. A straight handlebar complements the dirt track-style double exhausts that were added to give the powerful 689cc engine a new, aggressive growl.

Café Racer SSpirit’s other modifications to the XSR700 Red Tail include:

Spoked wheels

Vintage number plate

Flat track-style filler cap

Suspension forks and clamps

Innovative front brake lever

The bike’s incredible livery utilized the iconic colors of Yamaha Racing in the 1970s, the trademark red speed blocks on a white background.

Painter Javier Peña was given free creative reign by CRSS, something he described as an artist’s dream, and adopted Yamaha’s ‘Revs Your Heart’ concept as a basis for the novel color scheme. Using only freehand painting methods and a brush, Javier replicated a heartbeat effect on the bike with vivid splashes and drops of red paint on the tank, frame and components, producing an organic effect that reflects the thrill of riding and a roaring engine. Put together the XSR700 Red Tail from Café Racer SSpirit delivers stunning retro vibes that capture perfectly what the Sport Heritage range is about, melding classic and new Yamaha elements to create future visions and celebrate what truly Revs Your Heart.

RD350 Tribute designed by Ugo Coppola, built by Garage221

With dreams of his own custom Yamaha, Italian entrant drawer and XSR700 owner Ugo Coppola projected his vision of a road-going dirt track bike onto the Sport Heritage icon with his RD350 Tribute, an homage to Yamaha’s beloved 1970s RD350. Leaving the bike’s lightweight steel ‘backbone’ frame and chassis as standard, Ugo used a range of OEM parts from various modern Yamaha models to blend cutting-edge motorcycle design with the RD350’s heritage. With the RD350 Tribute, he has created a unique fusion that celebrates Yamahas past and present.

With engineering experience in Formula 1 and other forms of motorsport, Garage221 founder Pier Francesco Marchio operates his Rome workshop along with sons Massimiliano and Alessandro. Garage221 customizes  bikes so that they emulate and represent their rider, working with perception and style in mind to achieve incredible results that have won praise from motorcycling circles all over the world.

The RD350 Tribute makes innovative use of a range of Yamaha OEM parts, fusing elements of varied models together for a unique Yard Built machine. At the aggressively designed front, the steering assembly and handlebars are taken from the MT-07 along with the fork covers. To capture the scrambler bike twist in the design, Garage22 also used fork bellows, an optional extra of the stock XSR700, and an original fender cut of their design. For the lighting they replaced the stock headlight holder with the smaller and flattened holder from the SCR950.

Moving along the bike, Garage221’s clever adaptation of various Yamaha OEM parts continues with an XJR1300 seat unit for the racer look. A double exhaust with short pipes gives the XSR700’s raw 689cc engine an even more emotive sound, with the rear of the bike finished with an SCR950 light unit. Garage221 also added a range of other modifications and Yamaha OEM parts to the RD350 Tribute:

MT-09 indicators

XJR1300 number holder

XSR700 optional radiator guard

MT-09 plate holder and arm

MT-07 end bar mirrors

This tribute to a classic Yamaha was finished in a black and orange livery on the headlight, seat unit and tank, an evocative nod to the original RD350’s striking colors, including a new interpretation on the graphics of the 1972 bike. In combining elements from so many classic Yamahas together on the RD350 Tribute, Garage221 have elevated classical elements to an exciting new retro status, and demonstrated the creativity behind Back to the Drawing Board.

XSR700 Disruptive designed by Barbara Motorcycle, built by Bad Winners

From French drawer Barbara Motorcycle comes the XSR700 “Disruptive,”,an aggressively designed black and gold bike that channels Yamaha flat track bikes from American oval racing in the 1970s. By blending the XSR700’s inherent cutting-edge technology with a variety of genuine Yamaha and custom parts, the designer has created a truly eye-catching Yard Built for Back to the Drawing Board.

Building from their Parisian workshop, Bad Winners was founded in 2011 by duo Walid and Benoit. Boasting a strong pedigree in classic-style Yamaha custom builds including the XJR1300 ‘Muscle Retro’ and XT600 Supermoto, Bad Winners have also produced prestige bikes such as a special for Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc. With a new challenge and brief in Back to the Drawing Board, the duo has produced an eye-catching modern Yamaha build with the XSR700 ‘Disruptive.’

The XSR700 Disruptive’s dominant features are its muscular new tank and slimline seat unit, both molded from carbon. At the front, the custom upper triple clamp fit forks taken from an R1 with custom sheaths for protection. A raised handlebar gives increased maneuverability, with a custom Koso LED headlight and mount completing the bike’s face. At the rear, a new LED light molded into the rear arch gives it added practicality.

Bad Winners also overhauled the cockpit, with parts from Motone Customs and Motogadget giving new life to the dash, complemented by bar-end indicators. The braking system was revamped also, with a Beringer Supersport set of master cylinder, levers and discs installed for extra stopping power on the track. The bike’s stock 689cc engine was untouched but an Akrapovic titanium line side-exit exhaust lets the engine run with brand new sounds, with K&N cones added for extra performance. Other unique customizations from Bad Winners include:

Custom speedometer

Custom headlight bracket

Renthal Fatbar

Deemag wheels

Dunlop Mutant tires

LSL footrests

Brought to life with stunning gold Yamaha lettering on matte black body panels, Bad Winners’ XSR700 Disruptive takes Yard Built in another exciting new direction. Evoking memories of 1970s flat track and almost-comic book style lines, the Disruptive is true to its name in its aggressive and purposeful appearance. It takes the already future-retro XSR700 and elevates it to a new level of Yamaha heritage. (Dear Yamaha - I’d buy one of these bad boys! - ed)

700GT designed by Tony Queiros, built by Rua Machines

Portuguese winner Rua Machines’ stripped-back scrambler style 700 GT was born from the designs of their customer Tony Manuel Oliveira Queiros, whose dreams of customizing his father’s XJ400 could finally be realized in Back to the Drawing Board. Tony opted for the reliability and versatility of the iconic Sport Heritage XSR700, the platform for so many famed Yard Built projects.

Operating out of Esmoriz, Portugal, custom bike builder Rua Machines take inspiration from childhood memories, and how they change from generation to generation. Founded by fashion designer Armando Fontes and commercial director Victor Rocha, the essence of Rua Machines is a shared deep passion for motorcycles and the drive to create something different, to infuse motorcycles with a new lifestyle in the world of customizing.

Rua Machines dove into Yamaha’s history for inspiration, finding images of the YR-2 and YR-3 scramblers from the 1960s. Keeping the vintage bikes in mind and embracing Yamaha’s ‘Dark Side of Japan’ concept, they produced the retro futuristic 700GT. To create the bike, Rua Machines stripped away a majority of the XSR700’s exterior parts, swapping them out for parts of the builders’ own creation. At the front the suspension was lowered, with shock covers inspired by the YR-2. Referencing Yamaha’s ‘dark side’, the front wheel was covered in solid black while the rear was given a new spoked wheel for a classical touch.

With the XSR700’s powerful 689cc engine left as stock, two high performance K&N filters were installed for an extra edge. Two new right-hand exhaust pipes exit aggressively under the seat, in keeping with the retro scrambler style and Rua Machines’ iconic fusion of modern art with retro aesthetics. Aiming for a simpler layout the bike’s electronic controls were stripped back, allowing for smaller handlebar buttons for a minimalistic look. The indicators were replaced by LEDs, while the taillight was integrated into the rear fender and a new headlight emphasizes the bike’s robust look.

New side covers enhance the bike’s slimline appearance, Rua Machines capturing the eye-catching redefined curves for the 700GT. Capping off the ensemble was a striking black, white and red livery on the fuel tank, showing off the retro inspiration from ‘60s Yamahas wrapped with state-of-the-art modern motorcycle technology. Rua Machines’ 700GT also carries the following modifications:

Motogadget M dashboard

Stainless steel heatsink

Rearview mirror

Bespoke registration plate and holder

Custom steel fuel tank

Leather seat unit

Striking in its predominantly black livery and aggressive scrambler looks, the 700GT is a testament to the passion for Yamaha that is felt through the decades to this day. It is built for roads, for dirt, and for sheer riding pleasure. Harnessing the spirit and aesthetic of Yamaha in the 1960, combined with the XSR700’s iconic style, Rua Machines’ 700GT is a Yard Built to be remembered.