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For Flax’ sake – what the hell is this?

Ropey(!) custom Yamaha XSR900 on show at Biarritz Wheels and Waves festival 2018

OKAY, IT'S a Saturday morning and we’re working, so we’re maybe a bit grumpy. But is it just us? Or is this custom Yamaha more 'Emperor’s New Clothes' in two-wheeled form?

It’s called 'Alter', it's been built by a firm in Biarritz and is on show at the Wheels and Waves event this weekend, which is fair enough. But we’re scratching our head a bit at what the point is. The builder, Dab Motors, has gone to town with the high-tech buzzwords – it's straight from the next century apparently (which is disappointing) – and there are 3D-printed parts all over. The top yoke, bar risers, and the only bit we sort of like, the rear subframe are all additively manufactured. The asymmetric bodywork is, frankly, foul, and is made of flax fibres, for some ungodly reason. It's supposed to be something to do with sustainability, but we bet the resin used to make the panels is far from biodegradable or recyclable. Whatever it’s made of, it makes the Bimota Mantra look like a Ducati 916.

There are LED headlights, controlled by an Arduino micro-controller processor board, because of course they are, and a bespoke silencer setup. Both of which are also pretty hateful to be honest.

There is some good stuff. And like many of these bikes, that good stuff is the stuff made by other (good) people and (expensively) bolted on. The Ohlins shock and fork cartridge kit, the Rotobox carbon wheels and the Brembo brakes are all ace, but need no skill other than ordering them and fitting them. Of course, these firms have built their reputation by making stuff that works, wins world championship races and is incredibly well engineered. And not by having a great Instagram account, with lots of attractive young folk with beards and bikinis (not at the same time usually) riding their bikes.

The base XSR900 is a top bike too of course, with a smashing engine. And even though this thing looks nasty as hell, we imagine the French builders won’t have been able to fuck that up too much – it probably rides okay.

If I was a Yamaha big boss, I’d be asking why the hell we’re promoting these people and their dodgy egotistical custom builds (this bike is all over the firm's corporate websites). See also here. But then, it is Saturday morning, and I am very grumpy indeed.

If you want more info, you can go find it yourself. We're not facilitating this stuff for you.

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