When great minds come together, great things happen.
Often in the world of custom motorcycle building workshops keep to themselves. But when collaborations do happen, the result can be truly inspirational. This was definitely the case when Portuguese builders Nuno Capêlo (Capêlo’s Garage) and Ricardo Santos (Elemental Rides) join forces. Back in 2019, they joined forces to complete a commissioned by Yamaha for the companies ‘Back to the Dirt’ Yardbuilt series. The resulting ‘Twin Shock’ Yamaha XSR700 Scrambler is still one of our favourite custom XSR700 builds to date. So when Nuno and Ricardo had teamed up again we knew we were in for a treat.
Before landing in the hands of Nuno and Ricardo the Yamaha XJ600 51J had been lugged between storage facilities and a long list of mechanics over a 5 year period. It was purchased by Nuno’s good friend André Gonçalves with the intention of transforming it into a cafe racer. Back then Nuno was only designing motorcycles so he helped André by sketching out his vision for the XJ600. Unfortunately, despite his best intentions and efforts, André’s project dragged out and Nuno feared the bike would never see the light of day. So at the start of 2020, Nuno offered to help complete the project.
“We just had finished building the XSR700 for the Yard Built project and took on the task of finishing the bike at the beginning of 2020,” says Nuno. “Ricardo was a big help since he was the one that finished the bike due to the fact that I was involved in another project at the time.”
But before the bike could be completed, Nuno first had to revise his original concept for André’s XJ600. The revisions retained the cafe racer theme but made adjustments based on Nuno’s learnings over the past 5 years. “The finished motorcycle changed quite a bit from the initial design,” he says. “For example, the exhaust system was originally supposed to be a 4-4 system and in the end, I completely redesigned it to be a 4-2 custom stainless setup.” During the redesign, Nuno also tapped into his build portfolio to repurpose items he’d developed on other projects. This included a svelte, single saddle tail section from his striking Cagiva Pantah kit minus the rear shock shrouds/wings.
“The colour scheme and a lot of other details were changed during this last phase too,” says Nuno. “The idea was to build a classic looking cafe racer with some modern touches.” As a result, all that remains of the 1990 Yamaha XJ600 51J are the engine, carbs and frame. The new bodywork consists of the modified Pantah tail, a CB750f Supersport fuel tank and a pair of custom made, vented side panels.
For suspension, a new setup was developed using parts salvaged from a Honda CBR900RR. Ricardo opted for the Honda forks since they were the fattest conventional telescopic forks available, giving the bike a more brutish appearance while retaining a classic look. At the rear end, Ricardo took a much more modern approach. In order to bring the bike up to modern spec, he built a mono-shock setup using retrofitted components from a Yamaha YZF. Along with the suspension improvements, this visually lightened up the rear which has further contributed to the bikes muscular stance.
Better suspension and less weight would inevitably result in more spirited riding so the XJ’s brakes have been upgraded too. The bike now runs a CB750 brake and wheel configuration which steps performance up several notches. As for the exhaust, Nuno designed the 4-into-2 system which Ricardo built from scratch. The whole system is made from stainless including the upswept, slash-cut mufflers which Nuno confesses, “sound fabulous”.
Cleaning up the XJ600 cockpit was another key aspect of the bike’s transformation. The new setup consists of style appropriate clip-on handlebars and a single, asymmetrically mounted Daytona gauge. LED dummy lights have been installed into the top clamp and there’s a rather unique headlight out front. Don’t even bother trying to source yourself a matching unit since this one is was pinched from an old army assault vehicle. All additional lighting duties on the Yamaha are also taken care of by LED units and rear set footpegs complete the cafe racer riding position.
“After waiting for so long to have his bike finished André is very proud of the end result,” Nuno reports. “The bike looks very clean and sober and it has an amazing riding position. It feels compact and nimble and the engine pulls strongly from down low with a beautiful soundtrack.”
With yet another stunning build resulting from this collaboration, we have only one question for the pair…what’s next? Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait too long for the answer.