Custom Builder Yuri Shif Remembers Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin

The oldest among you may remember, even if you were just a little kid. On April 12, 1961 the Russian spacecraft Vostok 1 was launched with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin aboard. He became the first human to travel into space and the first to orbit the earth. The Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States, the two Cold War superpowers, began. National pride and identity were at stake in this race. In the end, the Russians sent the first man, the first dog, and the first woman into space. Gagarin’s orbital spaceflight consisted of a single orbit around earth. The flight took 108 minutes from launch to landing. Gagarin parachuted to the ground separately from his capsule after ejecting at 4.5 mile altitude.

He became a Russian hero, an international celebrity. This accomplishment undoubtedly remains one of the major milestones not only in the history of space exploration, but also in the history of the human race itself. Yuri Gagarin was honored by the American space program during Apollo 11 in 1969 when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left a memorial satchel containing medals commemorating Gagarin.

With this new creation, Belarusian builder Yuri Shif – the man who put the small country of Belarus on the map for many Americans belonging to the custom motorcycle industry – decided to honor his childhood hero. To him, he doesn’t matter that Belarus is since 1990 a sovereign republic and since 1991 an independent country from the former Soviet Union. Like Gagarin he was born a Russian, and a hero is a hero. This bike is not really a pure theme bike because Shif limited himself to an overall 60’s East Country motorcycle style and didn’t try to build a capsule shaped Vostok on 2 wheels. Fortunately, with a few exceptions, he didn’t even try to create “space program” visual gimmicks with each and every custom accessory.

As a matter of fact, the bike is modern, featuring a 2016 Harley Twin Cam motor & a Harley tranny/clutch with Baker parts. All cradled in the original, although altered, Softail frame. As in many of his builds, Yuri Shif brings some wild ideas regarding bodywork, a domain where he and his team have always excelled. Maybe he was also motivated knowing that Yuri Gagarin studied mold making, foundry work and was a very good fabricator.

That you like or dislike “full body” bikes, you must respect the metal job accomplished and the series of custom details born from his imagination. Just spend some time looking at the pictures… Gas tank, fenders, fairing, oil tank, primary drive are all hand-made components. Front and rear suspension, forks and swingarm are also one off fabrications. The space age bike rolls on special Yuri Shif machined 21” front and 18” rear wheels, both in Avon Speed Master 3”-21 front and 160/70-18 rear. Even the chrome plating and paint job were done in-house. In Eastern Europe, because of communism history, there is a long tradition of being fully self dependent. If you want to do it, learn how to do it yourself. Shif with his crew is one of the best European bike builders. The AMD World Championship Of Bike Building (judged by peer builders) has acknowledged several times his metal fabrication skills. Yuri Shif Custom.

23 Responses to “Custom Builder Yuri Shif Remembers Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin”

  1. 1 D Franklin Jan 23rd, 2017 at 8:51 am

    very creative…looks to be some superb craftsmanship! A real show stopper! Thanks for posting, Cyril.

  2. 2 Sharkey Jan 23rd, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Refreshing to see a different sense of “style” that Cyril presents us with from his travels…

  3. 3 Zundap Jan 23rd, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Some real talent here. Awesome.

  4. 4 Boots Jan 23rd, 2017 at 11:07 am

    This bike is sharp. Not a big fan of the Russians but the bike is outstanding!!

  5. 5 Chief Waldo Jan 23rd, 2017 at 11:15 am

    I don’t know… shouldn’t he have built it out of a Ural? I mean, CCCP on an American icon?

  6. 6 Hank Sterling Jan 23rd, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Something different. Like it!

  7. 7 P. Hamilton Jan 23rd, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Beautiful job.

  8. 8 Hotrod Jan 23rd, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Are the Tuttles back in biz?

  9. 9 Iron Horse Jan 23rd, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    I was in grade school and remember what a kick in the nuts it was when Russia beat us into space.

    This doesn’t take away from the fact that Yuri Gagarin was a hero in his country and ultimately helped kick start the space race between our countries.

    I agree with Chief Waldo that something more befitting his Russian heritage would have been much more appropriate, but the builder appears to have done a really nice job of it with what he used.

  10. 10 Andrew C. Walters Jan 23rd, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Yuri Shif has an enviable talent for bike building. The styling and craftsmanship on this commemorative machine are truly superb.

  11. 11 JohnnySpeed Jan 23rd, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    I have to agree with Chief Waldo and Iron Horse. A Ural would seem a better fit for this particular theme. Also Urals rule so why not?

  12. 12 Hank Sherrer Jan 23rd, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Not a fan of theme bikes but enjoyed Cyril’s story explaining the builder’s intention. Looking good.

  13. 13 Tommy Jan 23rd, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Front fender is a piece of art.

  14. 14 Roberto Jan 23rd, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Air cleaner is very cool.

  15. 15 Zenaldo Jan 23rd, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    This guy can definitely bend/weld some metal…it looks heavy..but really well done just the same..

  16. 16 rcupp Jan 23rd, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Yep, nice metal work!

  17. 17 calif phil Jan 24th, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Amazing craftsmanship. Looks fast standing still.

  18. 18 Gym Jan 24th, 2017 at 9:48 am

    Bike’s exhaust note sounds like….trump, trump, trump, trump

  19. 19 Horst Roesler Jan 24th, 2017 at 10:06 am

    For those who complain that Jury does not stick to his home brands, he’s done that already. Check:

    Name is “the Machine”, but it never made it (yet…) where it was supposed to run: Bonneville Salt Flats

  20. 20 Sam Jan 24th, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Fine craftsmanship. Before I read the story the first image that came to mind was this powerful art deco locomotive.

  21. 21 JohnnySpeed Jan 24th, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    Horst Roesler – To be fair, I don’t think anyone was suggesting this builder should “stick to his home brands”. Just that the subject matter of this particular theme would seem to be more authentic with a Russian built bike as the basis. Celebrating Russian ingenuity with an American motorcycle just seems odd to me and vice versa.

  22. 22 1550tc Jan 24th, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    The guys at Pininfarina – Italian Design and Engineering should clean this up .

  23. 23 Bigalyts Jan 28th, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Love the Russian Women. Love their Vodka. Love their Caviar, love their Watches now I love the way Yuri Shif builds Custom Bikes!

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Cyril Huze