The mandate from Yamaha went something like this: Build a radical custom machine for the show circuit. But don't slam it; leave the suspenders alone and keep the frame stock. The bike must remain rideable and street-legal. Assemble this bolt-together barnstormer with ingredients from only one parts catalog (ours), pump up the ponies and shake well.
Such was the narrowly defined recipe for Jeff Pahlegyi's latest project. Most customizers would wince, but since the highly-regarded builder consults regularly with Yamaha's renegade New Product Planning Division, you could say he knew what he was in for. For Pahlegyi, it was more like cracking the Rubik's Cube; the job's narrow parameters proved more of a challenge than a conundrum.
PICK UP THE PIECES
Custom bikes with mostly bolt-on enhancements certainly aren't a rarity at the beginning of a new model year. Manufacturers regularly tart up their latest machines with cutting-edge accoutrements so they can hit the show circuit with hot new eye candy. This way, OEMs get to show off their newest wares and consumers are allowed a glimpse of creative possibilities.
So what makes Pahlegyi's Midnight Warrior special? For starters, this isn't just a bolt-on rack — it's a legitimately designed custom, even if it draws the bulk of its finery from a seemingly narrow pool of parts. And although Pahlegyi's no stranger to the custom circuit, he doesn't often operate in such a hyperstructured way. But he also had the benefit of developing several new pieces on this project that will eventually end up on the production line — allowing him the luxury of playing product planner and customizer simultaneously.
And there is no shortage of trick accessories available for the production Warrior; when coupled with the Road Star's remarkably deep inventory (remember, the two share many internal parts) you actually have a multitude of enhancement options. But Pahlegyi needed to be careful to choose more streamlined rather than traditional parts for this bike; he was chasing after a subtler, sleeker look. Because he had a hand in developing most of the available aftermarket parts for production, Pahlegyi had an insider's advantage.
TAKING IT FROM THE TOP
Pahlegyi's offhand comment that 90 percent of Midnight Warrior's parts were available to the consumer didn't hit home until we perused the finished product.
This custom is straight out of the book. Pahlegyi calls it his "no compromises bike" —because he was told he could not compromise the stock cruiser's safety or performance in the final version. This meant leaving usual customizing targets like shocks and the frame stock, and primping the bodywork instead. The Warrior's stock fenders were the likeliest candidates for an updated profile. With his trademark smoothness, Pahlegyi fabricated a cleaner fiberglass version that hovers over the rear tire, seemingly without bracketry (though a fender strut kit lurks beneath). The front fender was similarly cleaned up for effect. Both pieces will be available as a kit from Yamaha shortly.
Wheels were also an easy fix, and the stockers were replaced with polished Performance Machine Monaco discs and rotors, retrofitted to match the stock sizes. But the focal point of the bike is the Vance & Hines Pro Pipe, mostly because of what it isn't — which is massive. Because the classy two-into-one exhaust is so much slimmer than the beefy stock can and exposes more of the rear wheel, it sucks in your eye instantly.
Although the pipe isn't from the catalog, the rest of Midnight Warrior's engine upgrade is (with the exception of the head). The mill received a performance intake manifold with a high flow air cleaner and filter assembly, a competition ignition box, beefy 45mm Mikuni carb and high compression piston kit with competition cams and lifters. Adjustable push rods and competition valve springs keep the valves humming, and a stout competition clutch transfers power to the wheels.
A performance oil pump gear will keep things cool should this bike ever make it off the show circuit. Yamaha is still finalizing the release of this stage 4 kit to the public (even though we haven't been able to obtain one for months), but they've told us it should be available by the time you read this.
BILLET, AND THEY WILL COME
The business end of this bike isn't all dash and no flash — Pahlegyi prettied up the stock rear end and swingarm with a drilled chrome upper belt guard, billet drive pulley cover and a Performance Machine billet rear pulley. Beefier brake components and lines from Yamaha's sporty R1 racebike slow this locomotive in a hurry.
Down low, mini rider floorboards with rubber inserts offer a better purchase for your feet than the spindly stock pegs, and a billet single arm shift lever snaking up over them improves the area's look considerably. A lower chin spoiler jutting off the front downtube lengthens the bike's profile. And since any self-respecting custom hides what's aesthetically unappealing, there are lots of covers mounted on this bike—billet clutch covers, spark plug covers, rectifier covers, and head bolt covers all conspire to shield our eyes from unsavory fasteners.
Thankfully, Pahlegyi went easy on the chrome, limiting its application to the triple clamp, tach bezel, clutch assembly and lower fork guards for a restrained shine more in tune with the bike's dark appeal.
A billet flat track-style handlebar and risers were designed exclusively for this bike, but they will become production parts also (the bar will be offered in two lengths). An ABS mini tach fairing stresses the sportier intent of this machine and integrates the instrument panel. Custom grips and futuristic billet mirrors that punctuate the clean design come straight out of the catalog, and a rear license mount kit peeks out from under the brief rear fender. Lastly, a Corbin custom seat provides a plush perch for the pilot, and a muted, mysterious Benny Flores paint job seals the deaL.
BREAKING THE BANK
The one restriction Pahlegyi didn't have was price — in fact, the Yamaha boys gave him free reign to "...put everything that exists for this bike on it." Money was not a consideration. So while you may be able to duplicate this look on your own Warrior, it'll cost you a pretty penny—we estimate over 10k, before paint and labor.
And the Midnight Warrior isn't running yet—it's still on the show circuit, but we've been assured by Yamaha that the beefed up engine will not go to waste. Plans are in the works to have it running soon, and we'll let you know when we hear the telltale rumble.
All in all, the project was a rare and perfect opportunity for Jeff Pahlegyi to create custom pieces that will actually see a production line; we're almost inclined to call this a factory custom, but that'd be overstating the case. Even though he had some measure of creative freedom, Pahlegyi also had to hew to designs that were more practical, cost efficient and would appeal to a larger audience. In both senses, we think he succeeded in building a unique bike that's within the reach of the real world.
One last footnote: We lied. For all that talk about a strictly bolt-on bike, Pahlegyi really couldn't help adding a personal touch — even if it was only a stretched tank. And that part you won't find in the catalog.
This piece originally appeared at MotorcycleCruiser.com.