The commissioning of a piece of art, a practice that rose to great prominence during the renaissance, has not only given artists a chance to earn a quid but has been the means by which some of the greatest works in history have been created. You may know the tale about a semi-wealthy Italian merchant who had a chap named Leo knock up a painting of the missus, Lisa. A few years ago, we featured a stunning supercharged Honda, commissioned by a successful restaurateur, who found his very own renaissance man to build that beautiful bike. Now they’re collaborating again, as custom motorcycle extraordinaire Justin Holmes of PopBang Classics takes a Honda XR canvas and turns it into one wicked urban assault vehicle that’s hot art and hauls ass.
“Aaron and I have been mates for quite a while. In that time I’ve built him a few bikes. One of these was the supercharged CB550 ZeBlower. Most of the bikes he’s owned have been more show than go, so the time had finally come for him to commission a bike that had some of the common necessities. Things like indicators, good brakes, good tyres, and crazy I know… suspension. He wanted something he could throw around easily and get on every day,” Justin smiles. So the hunt for a suitable donor was on and this 1995 Honda XR600R was found, a well-used farm bike in reasonable shape.
The brief, “it’s gotta be light, fast, loud and have modern electronics… oh and it’s gotta be grey!” With the high riding XR having more ground clearance than was ever going to be needed, Justin cut down the fork tubes by 120mm, re-machined the thread into them, and modified the internal springs to suit. The off-road wheel setup was no good too, so Justin got in touch with John Titman Racing to put together a custom set of wheels using Excel rims, stainless spokes, and Talon hubs, measuring 19×2.5” and 18×4.25” in the rear. The lads weren’t convinced they’d work but wrapped up in Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres they fit like a glove, and Justin even cut a new set of axle adjusters on the water jet.
Having previously cut the rear subframe off, it was time to bend up some new steel and shape another. “Next was the tank. I picked up an early XL tank at a swap meet, it had some rust and a few dings, but with some modification and massaging it looked right at home on the XR.” Paint was done later in the build, but the Aussie has a little da Vinci in him as the work, like always, is flawless! A deep layer of black base coat is sprayed across most of the bike, with both gloss and matte clears used to break it up. Different shades of Grey, 50 peut-être?, were used on the tank, “the strip on top was designed to replicate the large block tread of the Pirelli’s. This was also brilliantly replicated in the seat which was stitched up by Jamo of Timeless Auto Trim.”
The rear shock and braking components were wet blasted and then brush finished, with braided lines for good measure. But the big daddy of the mechanicals is that sweet single-cylinder engine and Justin has given it his all. Stripping it down, a few odds and ends needed to be replaced but with it blasted it was in surprisingly good condition. Inside there was another shock, a HotRod crank & rod assembly in useful nick. So, with the barrel machined to suit, a big Wiseco piston went in and a host of seals, gaskets, and bearings to complete. The exhaust consists of stainless headers and then the rear section and muffler are all hand-built from scratch by Justin.
But he was only just getting started, the engine is fuelled by a new Mikuni TM42 flat slide pumper carb, but it’s the airbox that is genius! “3 waterjet plates, layered to fit stainless mesh and filter material between. The innermost plate was welded to the airbox I fabbed out of alloy sheet and a piece I turned up to slip onto the carb.” Oh yes, that’s not just a fancy side cover! And the new clutch was about to enjoy the same treatment, “I designed a pair of matching rings on CAD, had them waterjet cut from 8mm aluminium, machined them to pinch a piece of 8mm plexiglass between them, then welded one ring to the milled down clutch cover and voilà!”
The details on the bike are no less impressive, CRF-style hand controls join CNC’d levers, and the clamps have been modified to hold two mini push buttons in each. The buttons join up to a Purpose Built Moto black box which runs the Motogadget front indicators and Motoscope mini speedo, as well as that slick PBM headlight. “The rear combination taillight was quite the job. It’s an LED strip with brake/tail and Euro-style indicators that sweep from side to side. I glued it into a recess I welded in the frame, cast it in resin, and filed it back to the shape of the loop. I then hid it under some faint black candy, so until it’s on you can’t see it at all.”
The remainder of the electrics and battery are hidden under the seat on a sleek fibreglass tray. With a number plate holder, Vortex sprocket and States MX rotors finishing out the goodies on this picture-perfect build. Super light and with gobs of torque it’ll lift the front wheel, while still being just at home at highway speeds. You could take it off-road if you really wanted to, but it’s one hell of a beautiful beast to be getting dirty.
So now the artist had done his job, the owner had to try out his commission. “The first time I saw Aaron riding it was in a video he sent me leaving his burger joint ZePickle. He jumped it off the footpath out the front and rode down the main street of Burleigh Heads on the back wheel!” Epic. We just hope this dynamic duo teams up again to produce another masterpiece.