Eventually, every trend is forced to break from its underground roots as commercialisation takes over. The anti-capitalist hippy generation soon saw their tie-dye T-shirts in mainstream shops owned by multinationals and it wasn’t long before the anti-establishment attitude of punk leaked into high street fashion. And now we are seeing the same thing happening within the motorcycle customisation scene.
Based on the ethos of small independent backstreet workshops or simply a bloke in his shed, the custom culture is now far from the underground movement it once was as every major manufacturer tries to tap into this fashion. This desperation to satisfy fashion has seen manufacturers not only unveiling a rush of new retro bikes, but alongside them the kits required to transform them into something unique such as a café racer or scrambler. Well, as unique as a mass-produced item altered with other mass-produced items can ever be!
Two manufacturers leading the way when it comes to these custom retro bikes are Triumph and Yamaha. Like an old rocker rolling up his sleeves to once again display his tattoos, Triumph aren’t exactly fresh to the café racer scene while Yamaha are the relative new boys, arguably lacking that crucial dollop of authenticity. And that means they are tackling the task in two very different ways.
When designing the Thruxton R, Triumph went as modern as possible while ensuring the bike looked visually period. Touches such as the exposed engine fins and spark plug, tank strap and Monza filler cap belie the fact water-cooling, ABS, traction control and ride-by-wire hide behind the retro façade. This is a bike designed and built ground-up as a package directly targeting the picky modern classic market.
The XSR900 on the other hand is basically an MT-09 with different styling to create a modern retro.
We put the two head-to-head in the low winter sun to see which school of thought is best. The full test is available to read in the December 28 issue of MCN.
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