Biting the bullet, no more procrastinating, doing it, building a motorcycle. The big first build. For most this would be a few simple cosmetic changes, taking a few things off, bolting a few things on. Maybe even cutting some stuff. But for 23 year old Oregon born California dwelling Colin Darling, this immense Yamaha Virago was the first bike he built. To say he is a Starbucks bean slinger would only tell half the story, he does that to pay his way as a mechanical engineering student.
Judging by the skills shown here, he may soon be ready to graduate. After being rejected from an engineering school in Germany (fools) Colin decided to use some of the Starbucks cash he had saved for his planned Germanic excursion on a donor bike and start some home schooling.
The initial impulse for the build came from a bizarrely mundane request, “My father was nagging me to fix his lawn mower which had sat all winter. Figured the first place to start was the carburettor. I’ve always owned fuel injected bikes so this was my first time tinkering with a carburettor of any kind and I was blown away by the intricacies of it and really enjoyed taking it apart and decided after that I wanted to own a carbureted bike.” Colin chose the maligned stock, but now beloved custom Virago as his base because he was taken with the simplicity and narrowness of the first generation twin. He tracked down an 82 Virago 920 in the wilds outside of Oregon and set to work on the build with minimal initial visualisation, preferring a block by block approach to design.
Colin talks us though the build; “After ripping the bike down, the first mod was the front end swap. The front wheel, fork, brakes and clip-ons, came from a 2010 Yamaha R6. Next up was the rear suspension which came from a 2010 MV Agusta F4 1000RR. It was a few inches shorter than the Virago shock so I built new mounting points for it in the frame. The tank came from a 1978 Kawasaki KZ650 SR and I designed the badges and had them 3D printed. The base (black part) is ceramic and the Logo is stainless steel plated in 24 karat gold. I moved the foot controls back using rearsets from Dime City Cycles and fabricated new linkage using aluminum rod. I replaced the Cycom gauge system with a single Koso digital gauge.”
“I had a lot of trouble designing the subframe as I didn’t want to obstruct the great lines coming off the tank. After racking my brain for a few months, one day I dug into the pile of old parts and found the perfect candidate. One of the totally over built top mount clip-ons from the stock Virago. Worked like a charm.” Front end swaps, MV suspension, 3D printing and gold plating? Definitely not your average first build.
Next up was wiring the bike, Colin did away with any superfluous factory electrics and moved the key to the lower frame section. Then he got creative, “I loved the part in the modern Tron where he was able to kill all the lights on his bike to evade the police officer, so I wired my bike like that. Flip the key forward one position and all the lights turn off and the motor keeps running.” Although we are certain this was not fitted to evade the local PD… Certain.
The seat is a short diamond stitched leather bobber effort that reminisces the lines of the revered Classified Moto Virago silhouette, a bike like this flatters with its similarity, yet stands alone. The exhaust is full 304 stainless steel with a baffle, the frame and wheels were sent for black powder coat along with the tank which has a clear powder coat, to expose and protect the steel.
The bike has turned out hunched, purposeful and aggressive yet classic with the understated colour scheme and simple lighting. Light years away from the kitsch gaudy cruiser it was born as. Colin is rightly supremely proud of his efforts, “You couldn’t have slapped the smile off my face the first time I got to ride it. I’d love to build another one very soon. The practical me keeps saying to keep my head in my books though.” We would not argue with the practical you Colin, but multitasking is a key skill, so build away! If this is your version of a starter build, we cannot wait to see your next effort.
Colin has put the bike up for sale to supplement his Starbucks wage for that second build. He can be reached at [email protected].
Written & Posted by [email protected]