1977 XS650 Cafe Racer Project part 1

2y ago


I got on the cafe racer bandwagon about 10 years too late, however, I'm still infatuated with that feeling of nostalgia and design. About 2 years ago I did some work for a friend who traded me this somewhat well kept Yamaha XS650 as payment. The bike did not run, was a wiring nightmare, and had a geriatric style 2 bump seat straight from the 70's on it.

cruiser bars, disfigured seat, and fuses from a diy household wiring kit.

It actually took me a while to figure out what kind of build I wanted to do. The Yamaha XS650 is one of those ubiquitous vintage bikes - along with the CB750 that were produced for so many years and in such great quantities that donor bikes and support for working on them still remains today. Variations of these bikes exist in many forms across the internet. Do a search for XS650 custom and you have days of images to peruse through. Trust me I've put in a few (many) hours doing just that.

I watched the Cafe Racer movement regain popularity in the recent past with Cafe Racer TV, Cafe Racer Magazine, and my own father remembering seeing that scene happen back when he was just getting into motorcycles. Since I have been into motorcycles, I have been interested in that 70's scene. It is synonymous with my interest in motorcycles. So, while a reasonable restoration or mild brat-build would have been a much easier route, I knew my first custom had to check 'cafe racer' off the motorcycle bucket list or I would forever long to build one anyways. I began by mocking up a tank design with cardboard and duck tape courtesy of a recent Amazon.com delivery.

I present to you The Amazon Carboard Cafe.

One of the must-attend events in the great lakes area is the Mama Tried Show. Held up in Milwaukee in the middle of February, it has quickly become a benchmark show. Usually it is icy-cold at that time of year and Mama Tried does ice-racing as a little treat for those in the know (more on that another time.) The show pulls in people from across the nation including local Craig Pressnell of Rodsmith Motorcycles.

One of the benefits of being a photographer is that it is a skill that is easily traded. A lot of people need photographs of things and that suits my bartering mentality. Craig and I struck up a tentative deal to offset the price of a fully custom metal tank and seat with photographs of his own creations. (Craig's builds from the Mama Tried Show can be seen in another post on 'Second Moto')

Craig of Rodsmith Motorcycles working on the cafe style tank and seat.

I cannot grasp how quickly Craig made my tank and seat once he got started on it. The ability to fabricate some complicated shapes from raw sheet aluminum is hard to comprehend.

Clip-ons, rear sets, and at last a true custom cafe tank and seat combo. One of the biggest steps towards completing this build is done. It just snowed in Chicago last night so disassembly has begun and the build-season begins...