Two friends and their ultimate homage to the iconic Yamaha single
This Yamaha SR400 cafe racer finds its roots in a conversation between Nuno Capêlo and Ricardo Santos when they were travelling together to exhibit their latest builds at London’s BikeShed in 2016 event. That very year, Yamaha of Portugal had launched a challenge to customise the Yamaha SR400 as a farewell homage to the iconic model that had been launched in 1978. Nuno Capêlo is a motorcycle designer and owner of Capêlo’s Garage, while Ricardo Santos is the founder of Elemental Rides, a custom motorcycle workshop he started after quitting his job as a chef. The two realised that they had been friends for years, but never had the chance to work together, and thus decided to take on the challenge of building a unique custom Yamaha SR400. They soon zeroed in on a common ground that was to build a neo-retro cafe racer that would be a mix of both of their personal styles – an engineering approach from Ricardo’s side that would also address the technical bits while Nuno would focus on the clean minimalistic form of their custom machine. That said, both of them out agree on a common cause which was to make the motorcycle as fast and as usable on the road without tampering the stock capabilities of the iconic single cylinder Yamaha.
Nuno and Ricardo presented their project but unfortunately, the challenge didn’t go forward and was cancelled. Despite this setback, the guys at Yamaha Portugal loved the design so much they decided to back them up on the build and delivered them a brand new, fuel-injected, kick-started, classic Yamaha SR400 by the end of 2016. The duo ended up designing and building together in Ricardo’s garage with very little resources, trying to do all the work themselves and outsourcing as little as possible.
The Yamaha SR400 was completed with upgraded upside down front forks that came from a Yamaha YZF R1 with K-Tech internals, while the rear swingarm was braced and complemented with a customized pair of Showa Piggyback units. Both wheels went from 18 to 17-inches with much wider Michelin rubber. The original single disc brake unit was replaced by a 260mm drum from a Yamaha TR3. Together with the original rear brake and the clutch, all the cables were replaced by a customized fully hydraulic system. This helped to boost up the power and feel also reducing the need for maintenance.
Since there were no restrictions on the project besides keeping it within the lines defined by the Yard Build program and the Sport Heritage lineup, Ricardo and Nuno decided to create a fibreglass rear section moulded from hand-carved foam that could fit into the standard SR tank. This piece integrates the rear light assembly which consists of several acrylic fins that function as tail, brake and turn lights. The concept behind it was to make a modern statement while keeping the tail section as light as possible. The way the design was completed, the LED light would reflect off the brushed finish of the acrylic. The tailpiece also accommodated a couple of secondary gauges and warning lights, as well as a unique split seat unit that is made from cork fabric. Since Portugal is the world’s biggest producer of natural cork, the duo thought it would be the best to use the material here. The original tank was kept but significantly modified, narrowing the rear section and receiving a central mounted Monza cap.
The fairing on the custom Yamaha SR400 is a slightly modified version of the one Nuno used in his earlier Pantah project and has been selling the same for quite some time now. It also integrates a daytime running light alongside the headlights, where everything is completely based on LED. There’s a custom tachometer that also houses a speedometer that works by GPS. The duo’s custom Yamaha SR400 has to be started in proper SR tradition, that is with a kick and is meant to be ridden like a proper SR400 too… with the throttle pinned wide open.