Most custom bike shops would gnaw off an arm to build a ride for biking royalty like Billy Joel. It’s the kind of job that can really put a shop on the map. So it says a lot about a builder when they not only complete such a feat, but then set themselves the task of going one better – just because they can. Welcome to the mind of Greg Hageman; one of the world’s greatest Yamaha customisers and builder of today’s gobsmackingly classy XV920R.
“It’s an ‘81 XV920R,” mentions ‘the Hage’ as we chat to him on the other side of the world. “I picked it up over a year ago and developed a plan in my head for it. I wanted something similar to the Vinago bike I built for Billy Joel, but maybe a touch simpler, lighter, faster and a little more gritty. A bike that was kind of showing its age, but in a graceful way.”
Greg built this bike for himself, so he had an enviable amount of control over the design and engineering. “I shaved close to 150lb/70kg off of the original bike; if it wasn’t needed it was gone, including a section of frame in front of the swing arm. I had been wanting to do this mod for years and have been following a builder and racer in Germany named Sepp Koch who has mastered this weight-reducing tweak.”
“If you look at the Viragos he builds and races, you’ll see he shaves every possible ounce of weight off of these bikes; then he actually takes them to the track.” Sep assured Greg that the frame mods would still leave the bike plenty strong, as the original design used the engine as the stress member that the rest of the bike then hangs off. “It also gives the bike more of that Vincent look. You’ll note I drilled the heck out of this bike, too. I like to think that it looks like some alloy-eating termites have got to it.”
The bike’s suspension up front is includes progressive fork springs, a re-valve and a dropped stance. The rear consists of a special Hagon shock made to Greg’s specifications. The wheels are a 19 x 1.85 for the front and an 18 x 2.15 out the back, with new alloy-shouldered rims and stainless spokes. The tires getting their push on are Dunlop K75s. “I wanted retro-style tires, but not some useless old bricks. With the power to weight ratio of this thing, the rear tire will still break loose shifting into 3rd, so rubber connection is crucial.”
Unsurprisingly, Greg chose his favourite Virago carbs; a set of Minkuni VM34s with velocity stacks, nylon filters and brass screens. Next, the exhaust. ‘It’s a modified Mac with a repro pea shooter muffler. The handlebars are clip-on Tarozzis with shorty levers. The electrical set-up is pretty sparse; there’s only an LED headlight, tail light and stoplight. There’s no horn or signals, just the basics to keep things simple.” Amen to that.
The seat is a design Greg came up with to try to emulate a little touch of Black Shadow styling. By the looks of it, he’s hit the nail square on it’s little HRD head. The Fenders are stainless steel for both the front and rear. And from all reports, the bike ended up being a blast to ride. It also looks beautifully different from most of what’s being put out right now. “It’s very quick and hopefully just a little classy,” says Greg.
“Unfortunately, like all the bikes I build for myself, I come to the point where bills need to be paid and garage space runs out. So I sold the bike to a buyer in Denver, Colorado. I have to keep the business moving forward and don’t have the luxury of constant cash inflow, as I’m a one man show.”
One man or one hundred, if a shop turns out builds like this as regularly as our Mister Hageman, we’re pretty sure their future’s going to be looking bright. We look forward to his next build, which should be along any minute now…
[Photos by Erick Runyon & Gears and Glory]