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Yamaha XS 650 – Scott Halbleib

Posted on June 1, 2011 by Scott in Bobber, Brat. 18 comments

I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since we featured Scott Halbleib’s CB450 bobber. Lucky for us, Scott has been wrenching again, but this time choosing a trusty XS 650 as the donor. “The bike ‘began’ over a year ago when I saw the ’69 Aermacchi scooter tank on Ebay for $65,” says Scott. “I had seen a custom 650 with a similar tank and kind of dug it.” The tank then sat in the corner of his garage while he took a long break from the CB450 which he finished in May of last year. And then winter came, so Scott started looking for a XS 650 to hibernate with. After a few weeks, he found the right specimen at the right price. “It ran, but was a little rough around the edges.”

The first thing he did was tore everything apart, grinded, sanded, pressure washed, and rattle-canned the frame and motor. “We had 3 bikes going at the same time so luckily Chad Francis, also of the Louisville Vintage Motorworks group, cleared out some space to spray and spray and spray,” he says.

“I had to make some minor modifications on the tank and I began the long search for petcock and gas cap. Pingel had a petcock that would do the trick, but it was pricey. Then I found out after 2 months of searching a late 60’s Honda gas cap fit perfectly. The wheel/tire combo was measured, then re-measured and finally decided upon. I didn’t want to use a disc front though, and I wanted to drop it down a bit so we sourced an old Honda front end. That and a $5 spacer from Magnum Cycles and we had a what we needed to test then send it off. Woody’s Wheel Works assembled another nice set of wheels – flanged Excel rims, Buchanan spokes – with everything powdercoated semi-gloss to match the motor.”

“The original plan was to bob it but once I stripped it down and saw the hoop in the rear plus a bit of the exposed neck between the tank and seat, I decided it would be more of a café. I used florist foam to sculpt and shape the cowl to match the tank, then went about building a seatpan and carving the foam to shape the seat the way I wanted. I handed the cowl off to Brad White, a local metal sculptor and he shaped and welded it up for me.”

“After that, it was all the little tedious sh*t. Controls, cables, plate brackets, lights, electronics, fuel lines, etc. Mike XS sold me a LOT of parts, ignition was from PamcoPete, as well as parts from Lick’s, TC Bros and the good guys down at Dime City. I don’t recall where I got the grips but they were a must-have and determined the color for the bike. I was debating between rootbeer and copper. I found the rootbeer colored grips and decided the seat would match the grips and I’d paint it copper. Well the first time it was painted, it was the color of a Miller High Life can thanks to the idiots at one of the local paint shops. New supplier, back to the painter, and we have copper. A friend turned me on to a local upholstery guy who knocked out a great seat. The pattern was chosen to match the last minute decision to go with the Coker diamond pattern tires.”

Then the most important part – getting it running. “We spent the typical 3-4 long days in the garage drinking, smoking, testing and tweaking until we got the electrical and fuel sorted out right. It sounds good, runs good, and is a blast to ride. I have to mention that it just wouldn’t be possible to get through these things without my right-hand man Doug Devine. He takes over when my patience runs out – which is pretty much immediately.”

Isn’t it great that a bike like this can all start from the random purchase of a humble Aermacchi scooter tank? Makes me wonder what else is out there on ebay. You know, that perfect part that’s worth building a whole bike around.

  • David

    How about a shot of the front end? 🙂

  • Joker

    Wow, one of the nicest bikes I've seen in a long time… Nice work

  • revdub

    I knew it wouldn't be too long until this showed up here. This bike looks (and sounds) seriously hot in person. And that tank is a perfect fit. Let's just say I am going to be saving up my dimes to try and persuade Scott to build me something special in the future. He is definitely a builder to watch.

  • That is a very tidy piece of work, it has the cafe look but retains a 'bit of the brat' with all that semi gloss black. The exposed hoop around the tail looks great.

    I have been thinking about how to finish the wire wheels I picked up for my CB750 'High Tea Racer' custom build, this bike has now sold me on semi gloss black.

  • P.F. Flyer

    I am a huge fan of the XS650 engine. I like the weight that the wheel & tire combination bring to the bike, but the tank is all wrong to my eye. It is right on a horizontal single but not a verticle twin. The exhaust stands out like a sore thumb against the black and copper. The bike just lacks flow, nothing really ties it all together.

  • I dig the cowl sitting under the frame rail. Cool bike!

  • Jamie

    Can we see the front please? (interested as a fellow XS owner)

  • Fiddy See See

    Agreed 🙂 Some full frontal would be much appreciated!

  • Joe Phillips

    Beautiful! But no confusing, Lou Vin is just a social group, not an actual garage.

  • MC_Kloppedie


  • K. Trout

    Thanks for clearing that up, Joe. I had spoken to a guy from Louisville Vintage Motorworks a few years ago, and he said that he was starting a shop for custom builds, mainly British bikes, using that name. After a while of chatting with him, I realized he didn't know much about motorcycles or how to build them at all. I knew it was also a social group, also, and not tied up in that. I'd want to make that clear, too, after all that. Nice bike, Scott! Helluva build you have there.

  • stevo

    i dont get why so many builders use "old style" tyres when they build such nice stuff. surely you would want to ride with the best rubber available after all the effort? unless of course they just get wheeled on and off trucks and into shows.

  • Jamie


    The exhausts are too low to worry about tyre choice… they will scrape long before he hits the grip point of the rubber, I know mine sure do! Those tyres with a modern compound look like they would handle somewhere in between the old Firestone pattern thats so popular, and modern tyres… I good compromise I think…

  • VonYinzer

    Beautiful bike. Definitly one of a kind!

  • scott halbleib

    thanks for the comments. i have some more photos on my FB page:

    the exhausts sweep up pretty high so they're not dragging unless its going down. the tires – like i said on the cb450 last year – i have modern bikes w/ modern performance – I don't use these bikes for knee dragging or sport riding in general. for zipping around town the old style Cokers work really well, and IMO you can't beat the look. i realize everyone has their own preferences and opinions. i like the feedback regardless, so thanks again.

  • daos

    sweet ride. nice form and lines.

  • The XS650 is a mid-size motorcycle made by Yamaha Motor Company. The standard model was introduced in 1968 and produced through 1979. The “Special” cruiser model was introduced in 1978 and produced through 1985. The XS650 began with the 1955 Hosk SOHC 500 twin. After about 10 years of producing 500 twin, Hosk engineers designed a 650 cc twin.

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