The custom scene isn't so much of a new wave anymore, a tsunami of bike building over the last 3 years has completely altered not only the landscape but also the exceptions and standards of builders, buyers and viewers. For every big budget, exotic project or manufacturer mega build there are scores of Freds-in-sheds doing as they've always done; tinkering with and individualising their motorcycles.
One man who has and aggressive form of the tinkering disease is Bike Shed regular Pip Davidson. He's the chap who strapped a nitrous bottle to a Honda Cub and grafts 250 motocross engines into classic Honda 50s, he just can't help himself. Pip told us "Back in 2015 when I clocked the Yamaha Yard Build bikes, my jaw dropped and spent the next 30mins unable to speak, just taking in all the awesomeness of the bikes. I just knew I had to copy, somehow?"
The criteria was simple, it had to be a Yamaha and it had to be cheap, real cheap. Pip searched for undesirable models and stumbled upon a shitter of an XS250. The frame had been painted with a brush and gaffer tape had been used liberally to 'position' certain components. Pip handed over seven £50 notes and loaded this sorry old lady into his van. He named her there and then, Ethel, the lady who had nothing.
With a minuscule budget Pip set to work and stripped the old girl down, completely. The all familiar things took place; de-tabbing of the frame, looping the rear, cleaning up the motor, blasting engine cases and making a long inventory for the powder coater. While this lot was way being freshened-up Pip thoroughly cleaned the engine and gave it a coat of high-temp silver. The innards were in good nick so a thorough service was all that was required. But yet again Pip couldn't help himself. He pulled the head off, flowed and polished the ports before bolting it back together with new gaskets and seals.
A brace of VM32 Mikunis on Ramair pods makes the most of his hard work and a titanium endcan from a Honda CBR lets everyone around know Ethel has arrived. A quick action Dominio throttle feels racy and at least tricks the mind into perceiving performance is well up on standard.
Pip likes to do his own paint so once a sizeable dent was popped from the stock tank it was given a few lustrous coats of cream, his signature colour. The decals are a classic speed block style but custom made and he's even included a BSMC sticker, nice one Pip! At Bike Shed London 2015 he picked up a Yard Build sticker, but kicks himself for not grabbing a second. The lefthand 375mm shock now wears the nod to Ethel's inspiration but the right side goes commando. Symmetry doesn't always make for perfection though.
With the tank still tacky Pip fitted a set of oversized Heidenau K60 Scouts to the gloss black wheels and headed for Tobacco Dock. He'd emailed us last minute and threatened to be finished on time so we saved him a spot on 'Shed Row' at Bike Shed London 2016. If it had been our first or second show Ethel would have been the pride and joy adorning a Pro-Builders stand, the finish is that good. The game might have moved on leaps and bounds but the budgets don't always need to follow.
Pip had a paltry £1600 available to him and having seen the bike up close this is a fantastic achievement. Especially considering that's including the £350 on the donor bike!
Ethel sold at the show with proceeds going towards a bike for Pip to keep. Yeah right, we've heard that one before, he'll be back.
More from Pip and his tiny wallet on the Bike Shed Archive
Photos by Stephen Millyard