Chris Zahner's DT250
By Gareth Charlton - 13 Dec 14
"I try to create a big splash with few means." Splash definitively achieved, like a running bomb from the top board in a dive competition. Chris Zahner from NYC is the man making the waves with this stunning 1975 Yamaha DT 250, a riotous wasp of a thing with a two stoke power band, ape hangers and that glorious original tank. The pavements of the Big Apple are going to be full of craned necks, smoke filled nostrils and big smiles. Before the why and the how we have the who, Renaissance-man Chris describes himself thus, "Who am I? Part traveler, builder, entrepreneur, bartender, and most recently, video-maker." The why is a little more straightforward, Chris had caught the irrepressible 2-stroke fever, "There’s nothing like hitting the powerband on a light and nimble little bike." He began searching for his dream steed. He does most of his riding on the city streets, ferrying himself between a hectic work-life schedule. With a little luck he found his perfect two wheeled partner - a 1975 Yamaha DT250 – "One of the few bikes that came with a title declaring it street legal while still belching blue smoke in pedestrians faces." Chris set to work in a mates dilapidated but empty 3-car garage, (don't we all crave such friends?). His vision for the build was clear, he would create a great looking, short range, fun-in-traffic bike. Achieving the maximum amount of change in the minimum amount of time with as little negative impact on his wallet as possible were his given parameters. Chris tore the bike back, dispatching any un-wanted parts, including the majority of the subframe, in the general direction of a skip. First on the to do list were the wheels, he cut out the hubs, coated them and dispatched them to Woody’s Wheel Works in Colorado to be laced to Excel Takasago rims. He acknowledges that this part of the build did not exactly fulfil the budget element of his self imposed brief but Chris is a sucker for nice clean wheels. Rekindling his budget ideals he sourced some stiffer Ohlins look-alike springs from Ebay for 120 bucks, he then fabricated new mounts on his trimmed frame to incline the shocks to mirror the angle of the seat triangle. The front forks were completely refreshed and repurposed for the street. Chris fabricated his own rear loop/tail-light mount on the sharply abridged frame before fitting a $20 smoked rear light with integrated turn signals that was initially intended for a Honda CBR1000. It is almost completely hidden until it lights up, leaving the back end super tidy. Next he turned his attention to the abrupt single seat. "I created a “mold” with masking tape and joint compound, laid some fiberglass overtop, filled in most of it with AB foam and then padded it with a few layers of “sourced” pink yoga mat. A local upholstery shop took care of skinning the thing and it came out flawless." Tucked in between the seat rails Chris hid an Anti-Gravity 4-cell battery. Other parts on the minimal list include a single KC headlight and Wingus bars from Zombie Performance. The exhaust presented some fabrication challenges and it's fully wrapped state may well split opinion, almost as if the bike is smuggling an ancient mummified leg from a museum. "Since I changed the geometry of the sub-frame area I had to section a small slice out of the stock expansion chamber for it to fit and then fabricated a scalloped exhaust tip leaving no room for a silencer – not really a fan of those things. At this point, the bike was taking shape, still on budget and had most people thinking “what the fuck kind of bike is this?” Chris chooses words like "brat","chopper" and "cafe" in reference to his build but like us prefers to avoid categorisation and definition, we would guess Japanese builders Brat Style and M&M must feature in his image inspiration library. The seriously sexy standard tank refinished in classic colours, also conveys the DT's endurance heritage but the machine as a whole is simply satisfying Chris's stylistic and dynamic preferences. Thinner than a greyhound this DT must slice through the NYC traffic, although we should point out Chris does obey the traffic rules, most of the time... "In the end, this bike is just a conglomeration of some of my favorite themes, riding styles and parts which, ironically, is a good representation of who I am." Amen to that. Chris's next project is a film called "Chasing the Bullet" that charts India's long romance with the Royal Enfield Motorcycle, his website has all the details and information on how to get involved through Kickstarter. We look forward to seeing the film, along with any other work a man as passionate and proactive as Chris may choose to create, in the meantime we will continue pouring over the images of his fabulous motorcycle.