Velomacchi + Yamaha XSR700-based Rural Racer Project

Fish on our Yamaha XSR700. Photo: Max Klein.
Fish on our XSR700. Photo: Max Klein.

I caught a glimpse of Velomacchi’s XSR700-based Rural Racer at the One Moto Show in Portland this past February. It was still a work in progress at the time, but the finished bike is being unveiled at the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show in Austin, where Max and Fish are about to enjoy a pretty goddamn excellent motorcycle weekend, between the Handbuilt and MotoGP at COTA. We’re currently riding Yamaha’s XSR700, so the news about the unveiling of the finished bike caught my eye.

The Rural Racer is a collaboration between high-stylin’ gear and accessories company Velomacchi and Yamaha, along with Race Tech, Yoshimura, Champion and DJI Drones, intended to “showcase state-of-the-art technology and performance with a flavor of vintage American garage-grown heritage.”

From the press release:

Kevin Murray, Founder of Velomacchi, designed the bike for aggressive backcountry riding in variable weather and demanding terrain. Set in the small town of Hood River, OR, Velomacchi is surrounded by rugged fire roads and imposing hills that make up the Pacific Northwest. Of the overall design purpose, Murray says, “The XSR700 is an excellent platform for Northwest roads. The ease in which we could upgrade suspension, bolt on performance accessories, and modify the subframe to carry specific loads, made it incredibly versatile so we can “tune” the bike to meet the specific riding style, environment, and cargo of the rider.”

Early renderings of the bike had a different look, with a carbon fiber tail section and tank cover. That tail went away, to be replaced by the more utilitarian rack / subframe setup, and then the tank cover was replaced by what looks like the OEM parts painted in a very elegant black and silver, reminiscent of BMW’s R Nine T.

The RR includes suspension by the geniuses at Race Tech, Gold Valves in the front and a custom G3-S shock in the rear. The XSR700’s killer, grunty motor is not well-served by the stock suspenders, so this alone likely transforms the bike. The addition of Kineo tubeless wheels—you know, like the ones found on MV Agusta’s gorgeous and capable Dragster—adds a level of “fuck yeah” not often achieved by these “factory custom” collaboration build, even though they’re “just bolt-on” parts.

The Yoshimura R&D exhaust is very interesting beyond this project bike, given California’s emissions regulations and the resulting lack of aftermarket pipes.

The Rural Racer XSR700 features a specialized Yoshimura R&D exhaust with a newly designed catalytic converter that’s more powerful, lighter weight, and environmentally compliant in all 50-states.

Cool, right? If you look closely, you can see a nifty little loop under the swingarm pivot, after the expanded section that I’m assuming is the cat. Those dual cans look downright ballsy, and presumably sound kickass too.

The abbreviated seat on the still-reasonably long subframe and removable rack keep the Rural Racer from looking like every other ass-up chop job, which got boring ten years ago. The Rotopax fuel pack does feel a little contrived given the XSR’s hypothetical high-fifties mileage and 3.7 gallon tank, but I’m the last guy to turn down more fuel capacity. And I gotta admit, it is kinda cool.

The resulting look addresses what I’ve always thought was a slight aesthetic awkwardness with Yamaha’s sorta-retro-but-not-really XSRs, giving the Rural Racer a more classical, simultaneously brawny presence. Maybe it’s just the wheels and color scheme, but to my eyes there’s even a tiny hint of the Zaeta flat tracker.

There’s a tech showcase going on here that I have mixed feelings about:

Integrating modern technology in unique ways is a hallmark of the Rural Racer Program. The bike features drone technology from DJI that includes a drone mount on the fuel tank for rapid overhead deployment. The purpose of the drone is to help in scouting camping spots, analyzing riding stance, and locating riding buddies. The DJI Mavic Pro has a compact airframe, carries a 4K HD video camera, weighs in at 1.62 pounds, has an 8mile range, and a max speed of 40 MPH.

That’s kinda rad, it’s true. But my “come on guys, can’t we just ride” personality thinks the tank-mounted drone may be a bot too far, tech for the sake of tech. That’s part of the stated mission of the bike, of course: “Integrating modern technology in unique ways.” But unless that little bastard is capable of autonomously flying ahead of me on the Bay Bridge, clearing the way, I’m dubious.

Actually, an autonomous scout drone waking up bleary-eyed “drivers” a few car lengths ahead sounds pretty cool. Can someone get on that, please?

Look, I love the character of Yamaha’s 700 parallel twin, and I’d be happy with a Rural Racer of my own (or even just an XSR700 with the Race Tech suspension and Kineo wheels). There’s no denying the bike’s gracefully muscular presence, and Yamaha’s XSR700 / MT-07 is a hell of a platform to start with. So here are a bunch of photos of the Rural Racer to drool over, shot by Pierre Robichaud.

And of course, stay tuned for our review of the XSR700.