Custom Motorcycle: Custom Yamaha XT250 Rat-Bike

Custom Motorcycle: Custom Yamaha XT250 Rat-Bike

Chairs, street signs, skateboards, fabbing anything from everything

Replacing stock parts is a major part of the customizing process, one that sometimes involves swapping out hideous components installed by a previous owner who obviously suffers from a lack of aesthetic bravado—or possibly blindness. Regardless, what makes this step so daunting is something that ironically doesn’t happen in the actual garage: purchasing replacements with exorbitant price tags.

Though the cost of new aftermarket parts can range from reasonable to obscene, even eBay purchases, while normally relatively cheap, have the tendency of racking up the total cost of one’s build—fast.

That’s why many builders avoid dipping into their wallets as much as possible. Some do so by trading parts at swap meets. Others fab parts out of stuff they have lying around. This “stuff” can be anything: chairs, various street signs, trampolines, lifejackets, leather jackets, and skateboard parts. And, no, we didn’t just conjure up that list out of thin air for the sake of getting our point across. Jason “Spud” Anderson, who lives in New South Wales, Australia, literally fabbed parts for his 1980 Yamaha XT250 out of these very objects.

So, Spud obviously isn’t joking when he says, “I built the bike on no budget. I just find metal myself and use it.” In fact, Spud has a history of using nonconventional items, having constructed a frame for his first build from an old steel clothesline.

For this project, even the acquisition of the XT itself didn’t cost Spud anything. “It was given to me by a mate who was throwing it out,” he reveals. “It had been left in a barn for four years.” There, the bike had fallen into disrepair and needed some engine work. Luckily a mechanic named Jamie lives right across the road from him. Luckier still, that mechanic is a friend. “Jamie is a great mate and a great mechanic,” says Spud. “I thank him heaps for what he did.”

After getting fixed up, the Yamaha was soon in Spud’s 8m x 3m (26-1/4′ x 9.8′) garage, a place described as “a small, tight area with not much room.” Spud already knew that he wanted “a hardtail with the raked front” using only his welder, grinder, drill, and files. And while obtaining the desired rake could have easily been solved by getting some triple trees, he chopped the back half of the bike instead. “This lowered it to 4″ off the ground,” Spud explains, “which gave me the 35-degree rake at the front.” This drop also put the fuel tank and frame in one straight line to the rear axle point.

Rather than purchase a hardtail kit, Spud leveled and centered the bike by stabilizing the front end, drew a center line on the concrete, and then went to the kitchen—but not for a sandwich break. “I was never going to buy a hardtail,” he says. “I knew we had some metal chairs inside, so I just used one, and it worked perfectly.”

By “used,” Spud means he repurposed the four legs and two upright rods from the backrest into the top and bottom parts of the hardtail. Two self-made 3mm-plate brackets under the tank and four others near the rear axle hold the “chair” tail in place.

While a boilermaker by trade, Spud also makes scrap metal sculptures. That’s why he has old street signs lying around his house. But since he’s also an amateur bike builder, everything he owns is fair game. That’s why there’s now fewer signs for sculpting and why there’s currently a seat pan, front plate, and rear guard made from three signs on his XT. “I thought they would look cool,” remarks Spud. Making them cool, however, involved putting the signs in a vice to fold their edges while ensuring the wording remained visible. “I wanted it so people would be able to see that they were made from old signs,” says Spud. This was especially the case when fabbing the front plate. “I wanted to keep Caution across the top. It looks cool, I think,” he adds.

Some signs required more folding than others, like the seat pan, for example. “I folded it in increments until it was comfortable to sit on,” Spud explains. “It took a bit of work, but I wanted it to be comfy.”

Spud later tacked the seat pan to his rear guard, also made from a sign. “They work as one,” Spud says. “They strengthen each other.” Around these combined pieces are 10 brackets that Spud fabricated from 3mm plates.

At this point, the back guard was complete, but not the seat pan. “It didn’t have any padding,” Spud reveals. “This was a huge problem and very painful.” But rather than pay for upholstering, he found a life jacket and leather jacket, glued the former’s foam to the seat pan with liquid nails, and cut it to the right shape with a grinder. Spud then ripped off a sleeve from a leather jacket and stretched it over the foam. “I put heaps and heaps of pop rivets around it,” he adds.

Now, let’s jump over to the exhaust. Spud made it out of old, rusty legs from a trampoline frame that he had lying around his garage. “It turned out awesome,” he says. To make it awesome, though, Spud first had to cut through the center of the leg at the bend, upon which he then put the spark arrester. “The little holes look cool,” he comments. “Then I just cut old pipe off and welded a new one where I wanted.” This was all welded onto the old pipe.

Meanwhile, a skateboard wheel on a 90-degree bracket with welded bolts has replaced the chain adjuster. “I welded it on the bottom of the frame to pick up the slack in the chain,” says Spud. “It looks real cool.”

And, yes, Spud did the paint himself using spray cans and, no, he didn’t literally put the cans on his bike. He just applied the paint—and that wasn’t the hard part. It was clearcoating the bike while the paint was still wet. “That made the paint crack underneath, which gave it that old-school rustic look,” Spud explains. “I really wanted that cracking look in the white blocks, and it turned out really well.”

Satisfied with the finished product, aside for wanting wider footpegs, Spud has moved onto another project that he calls “my reaper build.” With all of the creativity that went into this Yamaha, we can only imagine what he’s fabbing to make that bike match this rather intriguing name. RC