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1981 Yamaha XS650 Bobber

Posted on October 20, 2010 by Scott in Bobber. 46 comments

This is a story about a young man named Cassio Silva who fell in love with a bobber sitting outside a tattoo shop in Texas. “That same day I went home and spent hours researching how to build one for myself” recalls Cassio. You see, this 20 year old had never even ridden a motorcycle, let alone tried to build one. “I’ve been building and modifying cars for years and knew i had the skills to take on the project” he says. After finding a suitable XS650, Cassio took the bike home and within days it was cut in half in his garage.

The entire bike was built on a tight budget, not because Cassio wanted it to be cheap but to show that this can be done by anyone, with any budget, and almost any experience. The hardtail is a pre made unit made by TC Bros. “It stretched the bike 3 inches, making it very comfortable for my 6’3″ body” he says.

“The bike originally came with a 16in wheel that i swapped for a 18in from an older japanese bike. Wheels were wrapped in 450 rear and 400 front Firestone replicas. The velocity stacks were a NOS part off ebay and really one of my favorite things on the bike. The seat is a West Eagle and uncovered, keeping with the raw theme. The lights were ebay items that I then took apart for some paint. The rear fender is the stock front one that i cut up to save some coin. The entire bike was painted with rattle cans.”

After working hard on the build for a month, the bike was almost ready to hit the road. There was one small problem though, Cassio didn’t know how to ride it. So in the same week he finished the bike, he took a motorcycle class and got his license – talk about a ‘crash course’ in motorcycles.

[The beautiful photos were taken by a photographer named Banzai Steve. You can check out more of his work on his Flickr page and blog.]

  • Steve

    Nice! While a lot of people think the bobber thing is played out, I think there's still plenty of room for home-built, very well-done examples like this one. For my eye this one has all the right proportions / minimalism. I admit to jealousy that a) this is his first motorcycle build and b) he did it in a month – obviously Mr. Silva's "practice" on cars 🙂 has paid off. Well done. And thumbs up to Banzai Steve for the great shots.

  • I thought bobber bikes has a stock frame, is it correct? It's a nice build.

    BTW, no exhaust/muffler is another big no-no in Spain. (as other many mods you can think)

  • Jay Allen

    GREAT JOB by a total beginner, and just as easy to look at as many bikes out there for $12k-20k

  • Great shots by Banzai Steve! I remember reading about this guy on and being equally jealous that he did this one so quick. Love the stance and look of this one. Great feature.

  • Lindsay

    Aesthetically pleasing bike as well as pictures… Cassio, you are extremely talented and you did a great job for your first project!! Cant wait to see the next one!!! Congrats to steve and Cassio for this awesome article!

  • Wow, very nice bike. An unbelievable accomplishment, especially from an inexperienced bike builder!

  • Andrew

    Note to self: metallic tank with matching helmet looks fucking cool…

  • Jefferson

    STOP calling anything that is not either a pre-unit Triumph or Panhead & earlier H-D a 'bobber'. It just isn't. It's a lovely hardtailed Japanese chopper and let us all rejoice in it as such. Love the site, love the bike.

  • KIK

    sweet little bobber, fun and fast as hell, just dont hit a pothole with it,

    • Dylan weaver

      i know this reply is a bit late but like the style of this bike and was wondering what size drop you went with on the hardtail.

  • Andrew

    @Jefferson. From Wikipedia:

    "A bobber is a motorcycle that usually has had the front fender removed, the rear fender "bobbed" or made smaller and all superfluous items removed to make it lighter."

    And also from Wiki:

    "The main features of a chopper that make it stand out are its longer/custom frame design accompanied by a stretch front end (or rake)."

    I know where I'd be placing my bets…

  • tpr

    It's clearly a bopper. And a nice one, at that.

  • dan

    "The entire bike was built on a tight budget, not because Cassio wanted it to be cheap but to show that this can be done by anyone, with any budget, and almost any experience"

    yeah right, someone with all the skills and tools aquired by years of custom car building he means…. Nice bike though..

  • KIK

    dan is right, not everyone can (or should) build a motorcycle. EVER SEEN A WELD FAIL AT 50 DOWN A HIGHWAY? ive seen home based mechanics whip out masterpieces and "master builders" whip out monstrosities, (OCC anyone?) its is very important to have the experience in the field. needless to say leave the building to the builders or at least have someone with the experience supervise your progress, 2 cents

  • Cassio

    Thanks for the compliments folks!

    To add to the conversation, I have never been a fan of labels. No sense in something being limited to one category and follow certain guidelines. I personally considered this bike to be bobber inspired, as it was early triumphs that partially inspired this build. However you can call it a custom, a chopper, salt flat racer, rat bike, the list goes on. At the end of the day the labels seem to fade away as all that's on my mind is the sound of open pipes, and wind in my face.

    Regarding the experience need to this kind of work. I agree with kik and dan, I've seen things on the road both cars and bikes that i don't even feel comfortable driving near, let alone drive it myself. I hope I'm not encouraging anyone to do something that will put themselves or others in harms way. However there's plenty of good resources available to complete this kind of work for a less experience individual. Most welding shops could easily to the welding work need for this kind of build. Having to source out some of the work might raise the budget on a build but still cost thousands less than buying a complete bike from a builder.

    There was a time when all custom bikes were being built by those riding it, where kids were dropping flat head motors into old ford coupes. Where racers worked on their own vehicles, where the thrill of speed was more than just a twist of the throttle but hours spent turning wrenches. I'm just trying to relive those days.

    Thanks again for the compliments.

  • Andrew

    @ Cassio Bravo!

  • Scott

    Well said Cassio. Looking forward to seeing your Triumph.

  • Jefferson

    Sorry folks, but it's not just me. Even the first comment recognizes that "a lot of people think the bobber thing is played out" and the problem is largely one of perception.

    Believe it or not, there are bikes that aren't either stock, 'bobbers' or 'cafe racers' and you do not need to shoehorn everything into one of these three categories. Just like a pair of clubman's does not a cafe racer make, a hardtail does not necessarily equal a bobber.

    Or just take Wikipedia's word for it.

  • Mmm… @Andrew @Jefferson, As it's a jap bike… could be a brat style bike?

  • "Brat Style" is a custom shop not a style.
    check the site.
    brat style does all kind of styles

  • Ironhead

    Nice build. Doing mine as I write this, really. I'm going with the 16"rear with a 500 Coker, I like the meaty look it provides. But damn people have such back handed compliments sometimes, and everybody's an expert!!! Pretty damn funny how on all the blogs and forums there are, EVERYBODY has the right answer,but at the same time nobody is wrong. Bobbers and Choppers started the same, just because it doesn't have a long fork it is still a chopper. It came from 'chopping' parts off of stock bikes, and cutting the frame to add rake. Regardless, you have done a great job, and have made the bike yours, that is all that matters. NICE WORK…

  • paul

    Cool bike by a cool bloke. To everyone that wrote a negative comment, put a pic of the bike YOU built next to your comment!
    Those that can, DO. Those that can't, sit at their computer and write crap about the stuff that someone who can, did.

  • juan_solo

    This is one cool ass bike, great job dude. Te rallaste, cabron!

  • @lenny bubble visor Yep, but check it. Now it's also a trend/style in Japan (and outside).

  • sven

    @paul you've hit the nail on the head. Anyone who thinks so much of their own negative opinion that they feel compelled to criticise excellent stories, builders and bikes like this should trade in their pocket pen protector for a real life

  • sven

    while i'm here, i highly recommend checking out banzai steve's blog and flickr page. Stunning photography – he is a very talented snapper

  • Dan

    A very cool bike, I keep coming back to that last picture. I want to the bike, the lighting, everything. I want to be in that photo.

  • i freakin love this casio!! i did one (bobber cb450) this past year that made it to this fantastic site. Without your skillset I spent more than I wanted. So I have photos, drawings, a tank, and friends always telling me where I can find a "great deal" on an xs650, to start my next planned build, but I try to block it all out so I don't have to refinance my house. now that i've seen this, i may call the bank! @#$% very nice work, good story and even better comment. Hope to hear about the next project of yours.

  • Rhys

    I love this bike it is honestly a dream of mine to own something like this if you ever sell it plz let me know haha

  • Proud Uncle

    Hello Cassandra. As always I am very pleased and proud to know my nephew dear q made such a marvel. I love bikes and the 15 years since I walk in them. Now with a desire to build one, you make me want to grow.

    congratulations again

    • Phil

      Cassio, did you use the stock tank? I just wanted to ask because I’m currently building my own XS650 bobber.

  • Cdub

    Just bought this bike and am shipping back to Texas (from CA).

    I prefer to think of bikes like these as "customs in the style of…" rather than try to pigeonhole a substantially modified bike one way or the other.

  • congrats! doesn't matter what its "called" it's a very nice, clean build. and based on what he was asking on Ebay, I think it's a steal!

  • scott

    hey cassio what paint did u use? i was thinking about copper plating the bike i'm working on but am a little leery about how it will hold up to gas spills and such.

  • Michael R.

    I think it's the proportion of the thing as much as the minimalist self cooked aspect. I had something like this on the cerebral back burner for a couple of years now and this one finally pushed me over the edge. I've owned most every kind of bike from cruisers to racers, Allstate 106 to a Ducati monster, but something here has lit an ember among some long laid up fuel. I do admit I will farm out the frame but to every dreamer comes a time……………….and it's now time. Thanks for the inspiration, it's past time for a just for fun project instead of the usual seriousness. And you have done that in spades!

  • Thanks again folks. It really is an amazing compliment to hear that my project has inspired others to take on builds of their own.

    I'll be keeping up a blog of my current projects, stop in from time to time and keep up with the progress!


  • TotallyTwisted

    I just surfed in and found this website. That is really a good looking but simple bike. I really like it a lot.

    I was just going to add my thoughts in here:

    I don't think the bobber thing is dead by any means. At least it's not in my area, Tennessee. Around here, 99% of all the bikes on the road are store bought. Even the customs are made by chopper companies like Big Dog, etc. It's true, we see a lot of bobs in the magazines and on the web but I, for one, sure don't see them out on the roads. Also, I see very very very few XS650s on the roads. Once in a blue moon, I might see a metric chop. Sometimes I see an old pan or shovel but even those are rare around here. So, I'm building my bike in the same vein as this bike by you, Cassio. It may be boring on the internet, but I know for a fact that it won't be boring out on the open road in this area. If it's up even with yours, it will draw a crowd wheverever I go with it.

    The next thing I wanted to mention was about your being 6ft 3 inches tall. The frame on my xs650 really looks small to me. I stand 6ft and an inch but I'm also up around 275lbs. I've been worried about ending up with a bike that's big enough to carry my fat ass. But if your description is true, a little stretch here and there and I shouldn't have any probs at all. I just don't want the proverbial monkey humping a football look. And I actually look a little too big to be riding on a Sportster. I was kinda thinking that my Yamaha frame was actually even a little smaller than a Sportster.

    Also, I wanted to respond to this comment made by KIK:

    "its is very important to have the experience in the field. needless to say leave the building to the builders or at least have someone with the experience supervise your progress"

    Ok, this is all fine and good for most people, but what of those guys, like me, who do NOT and probably never will have the money to pay a builder. My current bike is an old Harley E-Glide. I've had it for years and I work on it myself. I bought it back before Harleys where so high priced. I don't change it because it's a bagger and I need it for those really LONG distance rides. But it's certainly not up to date with any of what the other Harley riders have. I don't ride with them anyway. But I don't sell it because I would never be able to replace it. So that leaves me in kind of a pickle. If I want a chop or a bobber, I'm pretty much going to have to build it myself because there just aren't the funds to make it worth anyone else putting in his efforts. I don't have any friends that are in the business. So when I walk into a chopper business, any chopper business, they don't know me from Adam and they see me as someone that they want to spend a lot of money. When they find out that I don't have any money, they would prefer I went away and left them alone.

    I have to say this about most of the builders that I've met. They never listen to my ideas anyway. They usually interupt me after about 23 seconds,some don't even wait that long, and start telling me how I should have my bike built. Then basically, I realize that they aren't telling me that they'll build MY bike, but rather, they're telling me that they'd me more than happy for me to pay them to build the bike that THEY would want. In other words, they'd be thrilled to sell me their ideas. Has anyone else had this happen? To me, the REAL professional is one that would shut his mouth and let me describe my thoughts. He would open his mouth when I throw something out there that he knows from experience is unworkable but NOT when I throw something out there that he simply doesn't like. For example, I want my bike to have a rigid frame. But these builders will all tell me the same thing: "ARE YOU CRAZY?" or "You wanna be pissing blood at the end of every ride?" Ok, so what if I have never ridden a rigid frame. How am I going to know for myself until I get one of my own? Another example. Say I want to chop a Shovelhead and the guy doesn't particularly like Shovels. He'll go on and on about what junk those Shovels are. If I want a metric chop, he might go on and on about how I should build something Harley based and if I like Harleys, he's likely to be a metric fan and go off on me because he won't have anything closely related to any Harley in his shop. Or he may tell me how stupid is to put a Sportster tank on a Yamaha and he'll basically make me feel like I'm an idiot. He'll want to paint skulls on my bike and I personally HATE HATE HATE skulls. Really I do. I don't like them. The thing is that the entire reason for someone building a bike is so that that person gets his OWN bike and no one else's.

    But also, how would I ever learn to build my own bike if I don't try it? I'm not a trained weldor but I've been welding for years. I'm totally self taught. I can learn. If my weld fails going down the road at 50mph, and I live, I'll definately make better welds from then on. …GUARANTEED! Trust me, if I think my welding isn't up to par, I won't ride the bike. I'm wondering how all these other guys got started. It would be a little like learning to swim before getting into the water to have a professional weldor make sure that everything holds. Since it would be my own fat ass on the seat, I'd be very motivated with my own welding LOL.

    Ok, that's that for now. Again, cool, cool bike. I see where you've sold it? Do you mind anyone asking what was the selling price?

  • Mike

    awesome bike, well done sir, definitely my inspiration to finish up mine that i just picked up. quick question though, where'd you get the wheels?! i have an '81 xs650 and i'm looking for 18'' spoked wheels that will mount right up no problem. i currently have the ugly 19''f/16''r mag wheels and would much rather run the 18'' spoked, or even 19''f/18''r spoked. my bike has the rear drum brake. i haven't been able to find the wheels i need. the bike's already stripped and i'll be taking it in to get welded up very soon.

  • Jelloelstone

    Good job Cassio! this is the insipration pic to my zuki bobber im about to build. 

  • xsfreak

    How do I contact cassio ?

  • garretta

    what hardtail was used?

  • John

    How much did this cost to build?

  • Logan

    Hey I know this is an old post but I was wondering if you had any tips on how to build a bike similar to yours? I am in the same boat you were. Just trying to build something like this on a budget but I have no idea where to start. Thank you for any help!

  • Johnny Vmass

    is that a sporty tank it looks nicer ?