Where does time go? I swear there’s a sinkhole somewhere or a Bermuda triangle that consumes my waking hours without receipt or acknowledgement. With our big show around the corner the calendar is marked by the first anniversary of me owning my first brand new motorcycle. So of course it’s been fully customised and I’ve rack-up 17,346 glorious miles of adventure.
Have I bollox!
Straight after the XSR 700 launch in 2015 I was hounding Yamaha for a good deal on one – see original review here. At last year’s Bike Shed London show my prize was rolled off the truck and I began to imagine how good summer was going to be, customising and riding one of the best middle weight motorcycles ever made.
Hidden radiators with ducted cooling tracts, handmade aluminium or maybe carbon fuel cell covers and a fancy subframe – I was going to go to town and show these custom builders what a really good XSR looked like. Then I woke up and reality stepped in to shut me up. It’s all well and good fudging around on old shitters but this was a brand new bike and deserved a level of finesse that my diary or short attention span wouldn’t accommodate – a lack of decent workshop facilities provides a valid excuse too.
Bureaucracy also played a pivotal role in shattering my delusions of creative grandeur. As my XSR had been pre-registered abroad as a press vehicle the government agency (VOSA is now DVSA) here in the UK simply couldn’t cope. It was if I’d asked them to give me a numberplate for a North Korean Skud missile launcher. I won’t go into the details as it’d undo progress made in therapy sessions but suffice to say it took 7 months before I could properly own the bike.
Thankfully the Super 7 kit by JVB Moto provides just the solution for time and resource strapped wannabe customisers like me. JVB’s founder Jens vom Brauck is well documented on these pages and I’ve blown plenty of smoke up his arse before (see feature links below) so, suffice to say German distributor Kedo popped a JVB Super 7 kit in the post and I was off to a flying start.
Firstly, Germans being renowned for regimented fastidiousness is wholly accurate, in my experience at least. The JVB kits look like NASA have repacked an Ikea kitchen. All parts are presented in perfectly sized boxes with barcoded part numbers, comprehensive labelling and each contain instructions a monkey could understand. Nuts and bolts are all high grade stainless and individually sealed with corresponding rubber and plastic washers. Even the saddle had perfectly formed logos in the injection moulded base. It all felt too good to open.
So what do you get? Well, I wanted the same bike I’d ridden in Sardina, Jen’s own and original Super 7, so I ticked all the boxes on the order form. But the beauty is you don’t have to. Strapped for cash… then just order a few bits at a time and pick and choose. The main parts are: Headlight, side panels, seat, mudguards, bars, indicators, speedo, fork gaitors and pegs.
The obvious first for me is reducing frontal area. Which actually means binning the gipping stock headlight. The smooth, low profile GRP unit instantly gives that synonymous JVB look and if you only fitted this part you’d have a much better looking XSR. If you pop the forks out there’s a set of black anodised, spun aluminium shrouds to visually beef-up the top of the stanchions between the triple clamps. While there the chunky gaitors slip on without fuss. The headlight itself is cunningly mounted with a pair of rubber sheathed fasteners for a really neat and minimal look.
N.B. Take your calipers off before removing the front wheel, the disc aren’t massive but unless you’re a particular dexterous octopus you’ll scratch the rims and turn the air blue.
The front mudguard is mounted on CNC laser cut brackets for a close fit to the tyre so double check clearance if you plan to fit TKC 80s or similar. The bracketry is also worth a mention as it’s again precise and perfect. You literally can’t fuck up with a JVB kit. If it doesn’t look or feel like it’s going to fit then it’s not the part’s fault, you’re doing it wrong. That said, I couldn’t help myself from fashioning a bodge. The licence plate mount bolts underneath the inset stop/tail light but I didn’t want to cover the lovely rear fender so I bent the the mount flat and use a very thin aluminium plate, curved slightly and positioned just below. The added bonus is slightly improved spray protection. See, customising satisfaction needn’t be abated just because you’ve ordered something online *smug face*.
The mudguard itself calls for the removal of the rear subframe. Gasp not, Yamaha preempted the need for an eagle grinder and fitted the XSR700’s loop with four bolts, whip those out and you’re left with some ironmongery to flog on eBay, along with the pillion pegs. It’s worth noting that a lot of these original parts are particularly heavy due to manufacturing cost controls (the XSR and MT’s are unbelievably cheap considering the quality of finish) and the regulatory need to support a well nourished rider and under exercised pillion combination. You could squeeze a super skinny passenger on the JVB seat but it’s is designed support selfish fun.
The tiny rear indicators double-up as the seat/mudguard fasteners but despite them only poking out a few millimetres my colleagues have kindly snapped one off already by with clumsy wrangling so I’ll be relocating replacements. Up front are some the most intricate indicator brackets I’ve seen, tucking the rectangular LEDs underneath the clutch and brake lever perches. Wiring is easily poked out of the way and hidden within the existing factory sheath.
Two parts that I haven’t yet fitted are the Koso mini speedo and LSL bar risers. There are a few reasons for this. I actually really like the functionality and design of the stock speedo unit and and the new Koso isn’t Brexit friendly, my dividing by 1.6 ability isn’t great at the best of times so I’ll stick with the easy-to-read stock gauge. Jens wanted a lower profile for the LSL bars hence the reduced height clamps but by back won’t put up with leaning any further forward.
Which brings me to the rubber tank pads. I of course began peeling those off when the bike arrived, what sort of custom has factory fit stick-on bits? My sort of custom is what. When you’ve got a right wrist plagued with RSI and crash damage, and the core strength of a pregnant elephant seal, gippy knee pads are invaluable at maintaining comfort in stop-start London traffic. And the Yamaha guys have done such a sweet job with the silver anodised aluminium tank panels I couldn’t bring myself to paint them. I think the pads actually look rather good against the satin silver, complimented by the satin black side panels, headlight surround and mudguards. I did get a bit of help with side panel painting from deBolex Engineering but having just rattle-canned the rad shrouds… you could probably get away with doing a full DIY job if needed. The latter was done after the photos you see here – why anyone let these bikes leave the factory wth a silver rad is beyond me.
Seeing as I’m an advocate for tweaking the go as well as the show, my Super 7 has a few performance upgrades. An easy place to save budget for a manufacturer is suspension, most owners won’t event adjust the adjustable so it’s better to scrimp for the masses. A stock XSR is no slouch though and handles really, really well. Despite that I lent the bike to Hagon so they could develop a new rear shock, not for me – I’m not that arrogant, for their catalogue. They did however leave the unit on for me to test – it’s pre-load adjustable, compression damping is factory set (but easily tweaked if you need) but the rebound is really easy to fiddle with and hard to mess up. The ride is instantly improved with much, much plusher damping. I’ve yet to trouble the chicken strips with my one mile commute but plan a more thorough test this summer.
I’ve actually swapped this shock onto an MT07. Yes, I’ve got one of of those too thanks to a bang on the head and idle time in front of the eBay.
Öhlins do an FSK fork upgrade kit consisting of stiffer, progressive springs and top cap preload adjusters. These are simple to fit and can be done with the forks in place. I managed to balance my bike on the side stand to take the weight off the front end sufficiently to fit the kit, it’s a 10 minute job – including talking and a snack break. Swapping the shock isn’t much more complicated or time consuming so I popped-in the matching Öhlins STX 46, which again, I’ve not had time to test more than the speed bump and roundabout capabilities within the city limits. If you’d prefer more fiddling options there’s a NIX 22 cartridge fork kit available with compression damping capability and more shock choices than you can shake a sag measuring stick at.
The XSR’s 270 degree firing order makes such a beautiful noise and stifling that with a huge catalytic converter and ugly backbox is a crime. There are loads of options and some really inexpensive but for me there was only one contender, SC Project. Fastidious weldist and fabricator Calum from deBolex joined me for a walk around the huge EICMA show last year and agreed that the zorsts from this Italian manufacturer were the best looking. The blend between robot and hand weld is nearly unnoticeable and the fit is sublime. If you’re into precision engineering go for SC – plenty of MotoGP and WSBK teams do. And that’s not a shameless plug, I took ages to fit the thing not because it was difficult but because it was so satisfying slipping the joints in and out, and appreciating their perfect tolerances. The stainless is high grade and after a full heat cycle has taken-on an awesome dark nickel like tinge. OK, I’m sad. The sound and soul of that motor is pleasantly uncorked without upsetting anyone or being too booming, and the pop between gear changes satisfies my childish need for noise. I’ve heard a few different pipes on 700 Yams that pull into the Bike Shed and to me the SC Project sounds the best so far.
While testing Winston Yeh’s Rough Crafts XSR I was blown away by the Sprint Filter pods he had fitted in place of the stock airbox. I rode that thing through knee deep water and mud all day, the exposed mesh with clever hydrophobic tech was the only clean part left on the bike. So whilst tinkering I binned the stock paper jobbie and fitted a direct replacement upgrade. I’m sure there’s a graph somewhere that shows how much more power is available thanks to the free flow but I’m satisfied in knowing I never need buy another, just clean this one out and go again.
Even though the JVB kit is fitted and therefore the bike is essentially finished I’m still enjoying the odd fiddle when time permits, don’t we all! So, the other day I had the stock Pirelli Phantom Sport Comp tyres swapped for a racier pair of Diablo Corsa III. Visually the Phantom’s faux-classic tread pattern is slightly juxtaposed to the JVB Super 7’s modern styling. Jens had the even more beautiful Super Corsas on the bike I rode two years ago but that was along a smooth sinew of asphalt in Sardinia and not the left right flick of the new Elephant & Castle roundabout system.
At some point I’ll head to Brands and give the new boots and bouncy bits a workout with some grown ups who know what they’re doing. Yes, of course this is an urban runabout but it’s not just for whizzing between flat white vendors, the Super 7 is a fantastic allrounder that I’m looking forward to actually riding, and making up for lost time.
3 minutes before opening Bike Shed London 2017 to the press and VIPs we had a gap on an invitational plinth thanks to a van breakdown and an exhibitor being left stranded abroad. I slipped my XSR into the space for the evening and planned to move it the next day. The exhibitor couldn’t make it and the Super 7 was on display all weekend, alongside the cream of Europe’s custom bike building. Not only did it look part of the exhibition, it instigated so many conversations with current and wannabe XSR/MT owners that I wish I’d arranged a sales commission deal with JVB and Kedo!
Images by MJ Studio
If the diatribe above hasn’t bored you to tears there’s plenty more where that came from. Click through for more lyrical waxing about Yamaha’s tasty twin.