Shanghai Customs have high ambition. Matthew, a Kiwi living in China, who discovered a love for motorcycles whilst holidaying in the Philippines has assembled a crew and is fast building a motorcycle empire. Alongside customising small capacity bikes to tackle the bustling city streets of the worlds most populated city, the team are looking to expand their horizons by utilising Chinese industry to build bespoke machines and custom parts for export. This SR400 named 水 – Shui (water) is their vision of that export offering.
Between touring Chinese factories attempting to establish proper relationships and product quality for the Shanghai Customs ground up project, Matthew and his team found the time to get stuck into this grotty 1982 Yamaha SR import.
“This is moving on from our builds last year, myself and the guys are starting to get more confident with the builds and really pushing for that next level, each time trying new things on every build.
First I took the engine apart and was amazed at the condition, clutch, cylinder, valves were actually fantastic. But the previous owner mentioned there was a loud obnoxious banging sound when it had been previously ridden, and it was easy to see why, the cam and rockers were worn like nothing I have ever seen!”
Sourcing new parts in China is not as simple as ordering from an overseas SR parts distributor, most shipments get tied up at border control, so Matthew engaged in some minor smuggling operations from Hong Kong to get the parts into the bike. He also replaced the piston rings and the shot carb with a new Keihin unit. To sort the decrepit wheels Matthew was able to stay closer to home and turn to a factory that had already passed his stringent recruitment criteria. The rear hub was refreshed and laced onto a new 18″ rim, while a newly designed 18″ front was fabricated and paired with a disc hub.
“The frame was stripped back, nothing drastic but modifications to the rear, including a rear LED loop and an electrics tray were added, as well as other little jobs such as foot pegs. I saw a few people doing these LED loops online and decided to build one myself… not that easy, mm precision on the cut needed and instead of leaving the cut out open I decided to get a mold done for that little piece of plastic covering the led which I feel gives the frame the complete look, the issue was where do you go to do that? At a plastics factory, but then they are only interested in numbers, money, investment in moulds etc.”
Speaking all the time in his second language, Mandarin, Matthew managed to find a company willing to carry out the work but not before the whole saga had delayed the build by nearly a month.
The gold forks and yokes are quality Chinese made items sourced by Matthew, Shanghai Customs are now using these on the majority of their builds and getting them made up and available to order for specific bike models. The rear suspension was ripped of a Yamaha XJR to match the gold items up front. The exhaust came from Taobao, the Chinese version of eBay.
“Tyres range and quality is a huge problem in China, mostly due to the import tax and restrictions. The cost of one, yes one, Firestone 4.50×18 China is 2500 RMB that’s £257 or $402USD. So like many other things the Chinese have conveniently copied them, branded as ‘FuckStone’ tires, they look and feel like the real thing but time will tell. The customer is planning a road trip to South East Asia this winter so aims to pick up some different tyres in Thailand.”
The tank is a modified version of the original item. The sides were shaved and flattened to lend a lithe frontal aspect to the bike. A cap from a Harley tank was welded in at the same time. After a thorough check for leaks the modified tank was then cast into a vat of vinegar for a week or so to remove any rust before being sealed with POR15.
Matthew’s relentless tours of Chinese factories had left him with a plethora of supplier options when it came to fitting out the rest of the SR.
“I had the rear and front aluminum fenders fabricated in a factory in Guangdong, levers and disc brakes kindly provided from a factory also in Guangdong, the beautiful rear sprocket comes from Chongqing, as does the font disc, the front light is made in a Zhejiang factory, the strong 528 chain comes from Shandong and endless other bits and pieces from around the place. In fact other than the fuel petcock, which we got from Thailand, everything was sourced here..”
Finishing work included a coat of high temperature engine paint and the bovine leather wrapped seat. Around the corner from their workshop Matthew discovered a hidden gem, a little upholstery shop in which a lovely lady from the north of China works away with her sewing machine. She was recruited to fashion the seat with the leather that had been bartered for at the Shanghai fabric market.
“The ‘水’ shui water character on the tank is actually part of the owners name but is also there to remind him ‘to be like water, ride smooth and fluid’ though the Shanghai streets.”
This cracking SR is a tribute to the work Matthew and his team have done in trawling China to find the best suppliers and fabricators for their products. These guys have assembled the ultimate set of resources for their Shanghai based builds and now have some serious plans for expansion. Watch this space.