Custom bike builders often find inspiration from unlikely places. And furniture designers seem to have a particular affinity for motorcycles—Stefano Venier being the most high profile.
But this elegant Yamaha is the first build we’ve seen that’s directly inspired by an iconic furniture design. It’s from Pista Design of California, and takes its cues from the 1956 Eames Lounge Chair.
Pista is the brand of three friends, united by a love of music and motorycles: transportation designer Lindsay Ross, race team fabricator Alex Kors and classic car aficionado Robbie Pyle.
“We originally set out to build a tracker with a retro-modern vibe,” says Lindsay. “One that could live on the street as well as the dirt. Instead of going too modern, we decided on the simplicity and honesty of an old carb’d machine.”
Not too old though: the ‘Case Study Tracker’ is a WR400F that left the Yamaha factory in 2000, and then spent its life as an adventure bike exploring the deserts of the Southwest.
Most importantly, the WR400F is street-legal in California. It’s more or less a ‘Wide Ratio’ version of the YZ400F, so it’s a lot lighter and more nimble than a typical street enduro/SM, such as a DRZ.
To crank up the performance even more, the Pista crew have installed Stage 2 YZ racing cams from Hot Cams, re-jetting and tuning the Keihin FCR carb to match.
They’ve also slotted in newer generation Yamaha YZ450F forks, and a longer swingarm from the same bike. Braking is stepped up with a Brembo RCS16 master cylinder.
Those are pretty logical mods, but then Pista decided to get experimental: they threw convention out the window and looked towards MotoGP architecture.
The suspension has been totally overhauled by the race specialist Traxxion Dynamics. There’s a titanium Arrow exhaust muffler, hooked up to a pipe zapped together with laser pie-cut pieces from Ticon Industries. And the fuel tank is now a bespoke aluminum unit hiding closer to the center of gravity, under the seat and tail.
“With no more fuel up top, we could push the seat all the way forward,” says Lindsay. “The old backbone-style steel frame allows for a very skinny bike. The traditional rider envelope becomes more modern, with the rider’s weight much more forward.”
The steel frame might be heavier than a more contemporary aluminum alloy twin spar setup, but that’s fine for Lindsay. “The feel is more progressive and well suited for road racers trying to hone their craft in the dirt.”
“It functions really well as a tracker, because the fuel is over the rear tire—providing great drive out of corners.”
As the bike evolved, the Eameses’ influence crept in. “I wanted to mix interior design with a functional race bike and somehow still keep it street-able, even if just barely,” says Lindsay. “So the Yamaha has become our ‘case study’ of sorts: a useable, evolving experiment.”
“Nostalgia is a very present human condition, one that is constantly tapped for marketing and consumerism, and one that we wanted to flirt with—in a playful yet cynical way.”
“I did away with ‘traditional moto’ finishes like paint and carbon fiber. Essentially, the materials creating a motorcycle are the same as used in furniture—they just serve a different purpose.”
Instead of anodizing the aluminum, they’ve simply brushed it. Instead of using carbon fiber for trim panels, they’ve used plywood and veneer. And rather than paint the fiberglass, Pista have tinted the resin.
“That’s obviously my biggest nod to the Eameses,” says Lindsay. “The panels are ¾-inch pressed ply with American Walnut veneer. Just like the iconic Lounge Chair.”
It’s worth noting that if you want to buy an Eames Chair—the real deal, rather than the multitude of knockoffs—it’ll cost you $5,000 or more. For the same money, you can get a secondhand Yamaha WR450FF in good nick and just a couple of years old.
Although we’re big Mid-Century Modern fans, we’d rather be sitting on the Pista tracker than an Eames chair. It probably isn’t quite as comfortable, but we bet it’s a helluva lot more fun.