An xs650 build is inevitable for almost any "backyard builder". Yamaha produced so many of these motorcycles from 1969 to 1985 and their 'unit' style engine and gearbox lend itself well to so many styles of bike. Chances are if you're reading this you've seen many xs650 cafe racers, street trackers, bobber and choppers already. Unfortunately, these old yammy's have become so popular to chop that it has driven up their price. What should be a dirt-cheap old metric that you can pick up for a 6 pack of beer, chop for next to nothing, and hop around town on, can now be a bit pricey. The good news is that if you do manage to get one for the right price, the chances are good that it won't take much to get it going and there will be lots of parts available both OEM replacement and custom.
That's partly what brings me to this point. I had been wanting to do an xs project a while now. I have had this idea stuck in my head since before Lindz and I opened Perth County Moto. I can see the lines of the bike as clear as day in my head. I can see the colour pallet for the paint and the route the twisting exhaust will take as it comes from the two cylinders, then bending around the down tube of the frame before making their way to the back of the bike. As it happened a buddy of mine posted a 1979 xs650 Special for sale for a good price. When I called him up he explained he had too many bikes to take to the swap meet this year so he needed to make room on the trailer. It came with the papers and he mentioned that he may have a few extra parts for it as well. Apparently the engine was fine but the floats were stuck. I thought about it for a few minutes knowing that with the store I don't exactly have a lot of spare time on my hands for more projects. What the hell... The price is right and he offered to deliver it to my home shop. Hard to say no to that!
"Parts in, parts out. That's usually the way it goes."
On the day the bike showed up at the house I was running late. By the time I got home my buddy had already unloaded the bike along with some additional parts he decided to throw in. He hung out for a little bit and we chewed the fat about some projects I had going on and about the other bikes he had on the go. As it turned out I had a few parts laying around the shop that he needed to finish putting a vlx back together. Parts in, parts out. That's usually the way it goes. He delivered the xs650 by going 35 minutes out of his way at no charge to me and then didn't have time to stay for a drink. The way I saw it, some old take-offs were the least I could do. I was surprised how appreciative he was for that old seat and fender. I guess we are all just looking for those last few things to finish our own projects.
"that's why God gave Canadians winter so that we have..time to work on our machines.."
Once I wheeled the xs into the shop it sat there for a while untouched. I didn't even look at it very much too be honest. We had some other stuff we needed to get finished up first, but I started putting together my wish list of parts and some other things I would need/want for this project. My goal was to wait until winter set in and then slowly chip away at this bike. After all, that's why God gave Canadians winter so that we have some downtime to work on our machines.. right? That plan went to hell once I got to this year's Freedom Machine Show. There is nothing better to light a fire under your ass then spending the day in a ghost town surrounded by quality custom motorcycles. If you haven't been to Freedom Machine yet be sure to put it on your list of things to do!
"Until a wrench hits the bike for the first time it's nothing more than a dream.."
Skip forward a few weeks and the first one or two parts for this build are now on order and I'm patiently waiting to get started. I'm still not sure if or how I will get this bike done in time for the new deadline I've set. I guess it doesn't matter. This bike is not set to be a part of any shows as of yet. I figure having a deadline will either drive me to get it finished. Or it will piss me off once I realize I truly don't have the time to make it happen. So far its at least got me in gear to order these first few pieces from TC Bros. and to push the bike up onto the lift. Until a wrench hits the bike for the first time it's nothing more than a dream that keeps me awake at night..
Author: Perth County Moto - Jeff O'Neill @perthmotojeff