Virago Cafe Racer by RPG
Tim Roberts, owner, and operator of Roberts Performance Group is a design engineer by day, fabricator and self-confessed tinkerer by night. Located in the Denver area he specialize in one-off design and fabrication of automotive and motorcycle components. “RPG was started in my garage after I began getting requests to do custom machining, welding, and metal fab projects for friends”. Three years later he’s still a garage-based workshop, but his business is starting to grow. As a personal challenge Tim spent the last 18 months building this ’82 Yamaha Virago XV920 Cafe Racer. It’s well proportioned, immaculately finished and will be paving the way for the next chapter of RPG’s story.
“I have been riding motorcycles on and off road for more than a decade and I wanted to combine my two wheeled passion with my design and fabrication background.” says Tim. “Like any project I undertake, I began with a solid plan and vision for the end result. First of all I wanted to uses entirely Yamaha parts on the bike. Every non-Virago part, sans the headlight, has been transplanted from another Yamaha motorcycle. Second, I wanted to pay homage to the bustling Café Racer custom scene without creating a blatant copy of someone else’s vision. Lastly I chose to keep the bike’s mechanicals mostly stock, partly to preserve the harmony of the factory componentry, but mostly to reduce cost. After all this was a budget build.”
Tim’s design concept centered around the fuel tank, which he rescued from a scrapped ’78 Yamaha RD400. “It only required a small amount of reworking to fit onto the spine of the frame. Once I had the tank in place I sketched and laid out the bike’s rake, ride height, seat location, control placement, and tail piece shape. I also looked at increasing the size of the rear wheel to improve the bikes final stance.”
With a design laid out on paper he started exploring ways to minimise clutter by relocating parts out of sight. Then it was on to the bigger jobs dictated by his design sketches. From front to back here’s the comprehensive list of work he completed on the bike. You may want to take a deep breath before you read on…
“I fit an XS400 18” front wheel, which I converted to dual disk brakes using FZR400 rotors and
R6 calipers. The stock forks are shaved and shortened and I fabricated the custom tubular fork brace.
The clip-on handlebars are also custom and they wear R6 controls, bar end indicators, and bar end mirrors. I shaved the triple trees and integrated the ignition switch and KOSO gauge, and I added an 8” aftermarket headlight, mounted to the fork tubes using custom brackets. The frame’s been shaved clean and I added an internal battery compartment. The tubular front engine mount is custom made and the RD400 tank wears a fuel cap I also made myself. The siamesed factory carburetors are mounted using a custom made 2-1-2 intake manifold and the exhaust is stainless from the headers right back to the tip of the muffler. There’s custom rearset brackets, levers, linkages and footpegs, a relocated shock adjuster and a custom subframe. I reshaped and recovered a V-Star pillion seat pan and pad and added my own tail end with an integrated LED tail light assembly. Finally, I used an XS750 18” rear wheel with custom hub, R6 rear rotor, caliper, and master cylinder and relocated the stock rear fender to the swingarm.”
For a guy who’s just getting started with complete custom builds, Tim certainly seems to be more than capable. He fabricated, modified, and finished each part in his shop and even went to the extreme of teaching himself to sew so he could stitch up the seat cover himself! “After all of the fabrication work was complete I tore the entire bike apart for finishing and paint” Which, we’d like to note, was also done in his RPG home garage workshop. “Final assembly took place over a few weeks, including building a completely new wiring harness. When I was done the bike fired up on the first try and I’ve ridden several hundred trouble-free miles since.”
So, if you’re in or around Denver and looking for someone to help build your custom bike, I think you may have just found your man.
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