A Yamaha Road Star Flexes Its Custom Muscles

Where the rubber meets the Road Star

This article was originally published in the December 2000 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

Scott Britt custom
Scott Britt's custom seems like a musclebike that actually does what it looks like it should.Dean Groover

Custom cruisers run the gamut of design, from lavishly dressed, insufferably cream-puff showbikes to jetted, bored, supercharged performance sleds. And then you have your happy mediums—bikes that are a little bit of both. There's nothing medium about this custom Road Star, though. Like a can of cola rolling around on the floor of a Yugo, Scott Britt's turbulent Roadster looks like it's about to explode, ripping up asphalt into shredded flakes of tar with brute power. An aggressive vision like this needed no cute pet name, says Britt—and the moniker Roadster just seemed to fit the bike, rolling off the tongue much like the names Boxster and Speedster fit memorable Porsche autos in their day.

The name, in fact, might be the only way you could tell that the bulging bike seen here started life as a Yamaha Road Star. For no matter how muscular stock Road Stars may appear, they can't compete with Britt's fat-tired creature for sheer, primal ga-ga appeal. Testosterone cocktail, anyone? The man behind such a rippling custom would have to be a bit of a visionary as well as a crafty sort; comfortable with the Yamaha milieu and equipped to do it justice. Scott Britt is both. As a Yamaha dealer and customizer for more than 20 years, Britt understands the public relations value of an exciting custom motorcycle, and knows almost every part of the tuning fork company's deep inventory to boot. More than that, Britt also has a core group of painters, fabricators and metalworkers ensconced at his dealership that he can rely upon to bring his visions to fruition.

roadster headlights
Although most of the focus is on the massive rear wheel, the Roadster looks like a beast from end to end.Dean Groover

Showtime

Florida's Daytona Bike Week 2000 was the Roadster's debut; a stock 1999 Road Star frame and engine were the bike's foundation. Actually, says Britt, the bike was built more around its Texas-sized Metzeler rear tire and a custom-fabricated swing­arm than anything else. Remarkably, those two items came from sources outside the dealership.

One such source was the fertile mind of longtime customizer Jeff Pahlegyi, who was given the un­enviable task of stretching a working swingarm around the rim of the massive tire and marrying it to the frame. Those familiar with Pahlegyi’s work (see our October 1998 issue) know his propensity for crafting custom Yamaha Stars; his creative touches on the Roadster’s focal points do not disappoint. Along with a polished disc covering a powerful pulley and belt system, the swing­arm is a graceful counterpoint to the monolithic rear tire; Pahlegyi’s eye for spacing ensured the entire rear end accommodated Performance Machine (PM) brakes and calipers into the unusual dimensions. At the dealership, fabricator Mark Roberts’ seamless welds joined the entire pulley drive system to the swingarm for a flowing, molded rear assembly.

engine
These Bub pipes are prototypes, but they should be available for the public soon. The engine wears Patrick Racing power-enhancing components.Dean Groover

And that rear tire—well, there's no getting around the corpulent, 230 Metzeler rubber, literally—it's on a PM rim that's 8.0 inches wide, for goodnessake. Trucks should have tires like this, not bikes. The wheel holding the rubber is a one-off, modified sculpture, made especially for Britt at the 11th hour.

As the rest of the bike fell into place around the tire, custom fenders were obtained from Milwaukee Iron. Made of heavy steel, the fenders were sent in with the welding loose, so that Britt and his crew could fit them as they wished to the frame. That’s right—the rear fender was welded onto the frame, and the front was married to the fork legs. The resulting rig is so strong you can easily sit on the fenders and they’ll support you.

tank
The paint job by Scott Britt and the pinstriping by in-house fabricator Mike Baumgartner captures the gestalt of Roadster.Dean Groover

But lest you think the whole thing’s a rolling, rigid backache machine, understand that the Roadster sits—or rather, squats—on stock suspension components. The bike was lowered a few inches, but Britt tells us there is 2.5 inches of travel in the rear shock to absorb at least a few bumps. The front wheel rolls on 21.0-inch Avon rubber, surrounding a polished PM front wheel. The entire trick front brake assembly is also from PM.

I Need It Yesterday

Britt only had a month to determine where he was going to go with the design, but, he explains, “We’ve been dealing with Yamahas for so long, we knew what looked good, what we wanted and what to ask for on this bike.” Good thing, because Britt had just 10 days from the time he received the swingarm and the wheel to the day he had to fire up the machine for its big debut.

The bike was assembled so quickly because most of the work was done in-house—at Britt Motorsports. Britt says he has full-blown paint capabilities at the shop, and he created the simple, stylized flame paint job on the Roadster's Fat Katz aluminum tank, which was stretched and shaped to fit the bike's muscular lines. Elegant pinstriping and lettering was added by longtime colleague Mike Baumgartner on all of the bodywork, including the tucked-in side covers. The covers were stuffed practically under the frame, minimally covering up the electrics, for a spare look that enhanced the rawness of the Roadster.

swingarm
Most of the rear end was designed by Jeff Pahlegyi. Notice the beautiful pulley system combination. The belt guard was welded onto the swingarm at Britt Motorsports for a seamless flow.Dean Groover

Britt’s whole team was in on this project. The hint of a seat, for instance—a subtle strip of leather barely visible amidst the sweeping bodywork—was designed and formed by fabricator/metal worker Mark Roberts. His unusual design called for the seat to be countersunk an inch deep into the fender, thereby creating the hidden illusion. Roberts’ welding further blended any ragged edges into a seamless whole.

What Planet Are You From?

There’s no missing the polished motor lurking within the bike’s stock frame, but the engine itself isn’t exactly stock. The 1602cc V-twin has been blessed with a Patrick Racing top end, for performance more befitting the Roadster’s stocky character. From the cases up, modifications include flowed and ported heads with high-compression pistons and a polished Patrick Racing Air Cleaner, complete with a 42mm Mikuni flatslide carb residing beneath it. Funneling the spent gasses out the back are prototype, chopped Bub exhaust pipes—one of the first sets in this country. We’re told the pipes should be available to the public soon. Below the cases? Britt felt the Road Star stock bottom end was stout enough as it was, so he left well enough alone.

rear wheel
We haven't seen this much rubber since Shaquille O'Neal's gym shoes—eight inches of torque-splitting rear rubber, courtesy of Metzeler. The PM wheel is a one-off design done especially for Britt.Dean Groover

But “well enough alone” didn’t mean “dark and dull,” so chrome cosmetics were pressed into service to spice things up. Planet Cruiser’s otherworldly bolt-ons endowed the front end with plenty of attitude—the bike’s forward lighting sports exotic dual European headlights from Planet Cruiser’s thick catalog. Front turn signals are set flush into the lower triple clamp for a stark, sci-fi look, and spare, sculpted billet forward controls further reinforce the clean lines of the frame. A polished fork and triple tree shine up the steering assembly, and custom mirrors and grips complete the bike’s menacing snarl. Perched atop all that chrome is, paradoxically, a homemade item—a simple piece of 1.0-inch raw pipe, courtesy of Jeff Pahlegyi. Britt and his mob bent the bar into a dragbar shape, made supports and then mounted and welded it on—no risers necessary.

The fine tuning continued on and off from there—a side license plate bracket here, a kickstand from White Brothers there, steel brake and oil lines from Baron Custom Accessories—until the showbike you see here reached its present form. Showbike or not, the machine is also a runner that Scott Britt loves to tool around on, the rumbling sound and low ride matching the snarling visage of the Roadster. Somehow it's reassuring to us that a bike this good-looking is not just a pile of chromed parts stuffed into an engine bay and a fancy showbike frame. Roadster seems like a musclebike that actually does what it looks like it should. Truth in advertising—what a concept.