I am an irrational kind of guy. I surf on my hunches and see where they take me. Sometimes that’s something cool, sometimes it’s disastrous, but it’s always an adventure. So, late last summer, when the voices in my head announced their latest plan I naturally agreed: “You’re right! I do need a motorcycle!”
I have seen some pretty cool builds based on the XS 650 so I started trolling Craig’s List to find a project bike. I figured I could scrounge up about $500 to start the project. These bikes have become pretty popular again, so $500 wasn’t much of a budget, especially for something that wasn’t a total pile of junk. Long story short (and corner me in a bar if you’d like to hear the long story) I came home with The Basket Case. The bike was in pieces, but the guy had freshened up the motor. After one look at it in all its shiny silver glory I handed over my cash.
Jennifer was, in a word, “antimotorcycle.” Did not like it. Not one little bit. And, in her defense, I have dragged home some junk-heaps over the last few years. Anyone remember the van? And, not to mention that I can hardly get on a skateboard without some sort of injury. I hadn’t owned a motorcycle since I was 18, and hadn’t even ridden a motorcycle in years, but for some reason I had to have one. Of course, I couldn’t just put it back together though. I had to cut it up a bit first!
By 1979, the year Yamaha built this bike, the design had strayed from the racy, Triumph-inspired style of the early 70s to a more clunky, funky retardo-bike with a king and queen seat and giant mirrors and turn signals. They were the first to go. Then the front fender, reflectors, goofy taillight, and on and on. I didn’t snap any pics of it completely torn down, but I had it stripped pretty much to the bone and I gave it a good cleaning and a fresh coat of paint.
I got it together by working on it an hour here, an hour there. We had just had a baby so free time was non-existent. I began to appreciate the simplicity and scale of bikes as opposed to building a Kustom. I rode it for the last couple months of Fall and put it up only when the temperatures finally dipped into the 30s.
As soon as they dipped back out, I got it out of the garage and fired it up for a ride. Over the winter I collected a couple parts and made a few changes. I replaced the stock coil with a new more powerful coil and updated the ignition system to a single set of points. New plugs, wires, blah blah blah, and some cool K&N style air filters. I wanted to ditch the side covers that hid the air filters and go for a more “bobber” style bike.
I started taking off anything non-essential. Rev limiter? That thing almost killed me the first time it shut down the bike while I was riding in traffic. Safety device? Chyeahrite! I studied the wiring diagram and took off some extra black-box electrical gobblety gook, basically any doodads and extra spaghetti wiring were stripped off. I removed all of the gauges except for the speedo and made a custom bracket for it with a small neutral light. The result is a much leaner, cleaner, lower looking bike.
I ditched the plastic lower rear fender, battery box, and more. Now I needed a real rear fender. What I came up with was to section 3 rear fenders together to make one full rear fender. This is madness. I shaved off all the non-essential mounting tabs from all the stuff that was no longer on the bike, and worked out a way to mount the rear fender. Now I have to make some kind of battery box, and mount the regulator, rectifier and solenoid someplace unobtrusive. Wish me luck!