Kevin Murray’s Yamaha XSR700 Is No Show Queen

Yamaha’s XSR platform has birthed plenty of cool customs. This one’s made for ripping around in the backwoods

Although it retains some retro influences, the Rural Racer is definitely not your typical urbanified, café-style XSR custom.Pierre Robichaud

I'll bet most sun-drenched Californians think that riding in the Pacific Northwest is a nightmare. Sludge-gray skies squeeze out precipitation eight months out of the year, and the snotty, muck-covered roads require focus to navigate, especially come December when short days and a heavy tree canopy blot out what little light there is, making "poor visibility" the operative phrase for riders. Since I live in Portland, I can understand that perception. Velomacchi's Kevin Murray, however, has embraced those challenges with his XSR700-based Rural Racer, a custom bike collaboration put together with Yamaha. Murray's stomping grounds are in Hood River, Oregon, and the Rural Racer is made to take on the muck as well as the dusk, and look good doing it.

The custom-made dual exhaust from Yoshimura is not only a rich visual feature on this XSR, it’s also environmentally compliant in 50 states.Pierre Robichaud

The completed RR project made its official debut at the Handbuilt Show in Austin, Texas, so we’ve taken a closer look at the factory custom purported to fuse “American moto heritage with modern innovation.” At the heart of the retro-ish canvas supplied by Yamaha Motor is the silky-smooth 689cc crossplane parallel-twin engine, renowned for its grunty nature and ample power delivery, but the “modern innovation” comes from the fully customized features of the RR build.

Unexpected but probably not unwelcome when you’re out in the back roads is a DJI Mavic Pro drone ready to deploy from a custom mount on the fuel tank.Pierre Robichaud

Most of the mods were coordinated by Murray with the help of the Yamaha Yard Built program, and Murray says he wanted to be able to tackle aggressive backcountry riding in variable weather and demanding terrain, adding, “The XSR700 is an excellent platform for Northwest roads. The ease in which we could upgrade suspension, bolt on performance accessories, and [make] modifications to carry specific loads made it incredibly versatile so we can “tune” the bike to meet the specific riding style.” Achieving that design brief is a modified rear subframe that combines the fender, taillight, turn signals, and license plate holder into one detachable unit in case additional cargo space is needed for, say, an extra fuel cell, tool roll, or bag. To offer more adjustability on the Rural Racer, Race Tech hand-built a G3-S rear shock unit, which allows the suspension to be fine-tuned by weight and environment. The Rural Racer XSR700 also sports a Yoshimura R&D exhaust with a new, specially designed catalytic converter that’s more powerful, lighter, and environmentally compliant in all 50 states. And check out the wicked Cyclops front headlamp, which is sure to blast a brightly illuminated path through shadowy forests. There’s also a drone mount on the fuel tank, with a DJI Mavic Pro ready to aid in scouting various riding locations, as well as help locate personnel in remote environments.

It gets dark up in the Pacific Northwest—like, really dark. The modified Cyclops Desert Racing headlamp aims to slice through the gloom with its 7,000-lumen LED bulb.Pierre Robichaud

Remote or not, we believe this functional custom would be right at home in our neck of the woods too—rain or shine.

A shortened seat and a modified rear subframe allows plenty of room for additional on-road accessories like extra fuel cells or tools.Pierre Robichaud


Engine: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 689cc parallel twin
Lighting: Cyclops Desert Racing headlamp, modified Detachable rear subframe to carry extra fuel cell, tools, duffel
Wheels: Kineo custom wheels with patented tubeless construction
Suspension: Race Tech Gold Valve suspension upgrade for fork, Race Tech G3-S custom rear shocks
Saddle: New Church Moto Custom leather 3/4 seat
Exhaust: “Works” custom dual exhaust by Yoshimura R&D
Video: DJI Mavic Pro Drone, fuel tank-mounted
Performance, thy name is a 689cc crossplane parallel twin with a 270-degree crank.Pierre Robichaud
The versatility of the Rural Racer allows it to be equally at home on backwoods camping expeditions or blasting down sweeping country roads.Pierre Robichaud
For all its functionality, this XSR700 ain’t half-bad to look at either.Pierre Robichaud