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Matt Machine’s 1978 XS650 Street Tracker

Posted on September 20, 2011 by Andrew in Scrambler, Tracker. 24 comments

Ever caught one of those documentaries on TV where some unsuspecting Joe Average pays $1.95 for an “old painting” at a junk sale and ends up being told by some expert or another that he is the proud new owner of a multi-million-dollar Van Gogh? Or the spotty kid who gets given a dusty old guitar and amp from a dead relative and later realises he has one hundred large in mint 1952 1954 Fender Strat and Tweed Deluxe clutched in his sweaty little fingers. Never happen to us, right? Well looky over here and please do meet one very lucky Sydney-sider who goes by the name of Rob. Now when the rest of us combine beer, eBay and a “little bid to start things off”, we usually end up with something that looks a little like this. But not Rob. See, he had a tipsy mash of the “bid now” button and ended up buying a bike from Australia’s king of customs, Matt Machine. Pipers, say a big hello to Mr Ayres and the newest member of his personal rolling stock; the Matt Machine 1975 XS650 Street Tracker.

“I had been looking at all sorts of classic and custom bikes for quite some time, I started falling for the vertical twin engines – especially the way they sat in hardtail frames. I started looking at XS650s as these seemed to have a reputation for being indestructible and a lot of people were turning them into all sorts of styles; bobbers, cafes, trackers etc. All so completely different, but still with that beautiful old-school twin engine. Somewhere along the line I decided that the XS was the bike I needed. It was going to be an original later model with hopefully not too many miles that I could then start pulling bits off and turning it into something I liked. Something comfortable with a bit of a classic dirt bike style, which I’m quite partial to.”

“So after a while of searching on Bike Sales (Australia’s main online bike classifieds) and Ebay, and a few near purchases, I came across a really nice example. I started doing a little research on it, and began to realise that it was probably something a bit special; Matt’s name was one I had kinda heard before. I knew it would be a good bike; but it was also just the kind of bike I didn’t want it. I wanted something standard that I could fuck around with and see what worked and what didn’t. Anyway, as the final day of the auction came around the price was really low so I put in a bid that got bumped immediately. I came home that night, my fiancé was at a work function and I’d had a few beers by the time the auction was going to end, and I thought I’d just put in cheeky bid right at the end. And what do you know… I bought the bike! I wouldn’t exactly call it an accident, but it definetly wasn’t planned.”

“Matt was fucking awesome. He offered to bring the bike up to Sydney for me, and even managed to hook up a roadworthy ticket for it just before I met up with him to get the bike. He seriously couldn’t have made it any easier for me. He’s a first class legend. So, I loaded it up on the trailer and off I went.”

“The bike is loud. Really loud. And it vibrates like crazy. When it sits idling the chain shakes and even the forks bounce – I love it! The XS engine is no weapon but it’s nice and torquey, it pulls really well from low revs where as my dirt bike thrives on ringing the tits off it. But like my WR250, you can pin the throttle without being launched into the stratosphere. It gives me such a thrill kickstarting it, hearing the engine burst into life. It is kick-start only, as Matt removed the electric starter and I’m really glad he did.”

It’s hip to be square

“I love the scrambler style stainless pipes Matt made for it. I love the dirt-bike style box headlight. I especially love the gold and black paint. The seat has about 5mm of padding yet is surprisingly comfortable. The whole tracker style seat assembly seems to suit the bike perfectly – it is just the right proportion compared to the tank and the end of it finishes at the perfect position over the rear tyre. Oh, and I love those freakin tyres! The bike looks like it was built like this in the 70’s – not like the trackers you see today which look kinda modern and plastic. I love the bike, but I hate the fact that I don’t think I could ever bring myself to changing anything on it… except maybe those tiny indicators. Even then I’d probably just take them off.”

If lost, please return this bike to Mathew…

We also asked Matt himself for a few words. Here’s what he said: “The XS came to me by default. A mate owed me money and so I took a couple of bikes from him that he had sitting around. He used to ride this one lots but had taken bits off it and neglected it badly for years. It took me a year or so of researching before I was ready to give her a shot. I had not done a Jap bike before so this was a first. I stripped it completely, thought about rephasing the motor but didn’t, so I just freshened her up and gave the box and clutch a once over.”

“I wanted it to have a flat tracker shape so I remade the rear frame section, and altered a fibreglass seat section so that my mate Paul B could re-fibreglass a tailsection for me. Many new parts were sourced from Mike’s XS in the states and also from the XS Club in New South Wales. I repainted it in a style I hoped was a combination of 1970’s track racing and Yamaha original graphics. I did it twice but was really happy with the final scheme. I had the bike wired by a close mate Matt in sydney and then I set about running it in. It surprised me how smooth it was in the motor and the gear change too. I hope Rob is enjoying it!”

No smart-alec summary from us. Just a quick observation on the bike. Of all the beautiful bikes that we’ve had through the Pipeburn photo studio, this one takes the cake for patina. Hopefully you can see it in the shots, but the thing is so beautifully aged it made us stare in amazement. From the sun faded tank, to the burns on the exhausts and the sweet matt finish on the rims – this bike had “real” in spades. Matt, we’re not exactly what black magic you have eminating from those greasy hands of yours but we’re glad you do what you do. Can’t wait to see the next one.

  • Assholewelder

    No bullshit just bike. I like it!!!!

  • habib

    so how much did he pay for it?

  • Karl Zuber

    "Australia's king of customs"
    that sounds like a brown nose comment with no back-up. Who crowned him that?
    Nice bikes by machine but they don't come close to Von Daz's blown Triumphant to start with and there are probably half a dozen other custom builders that would argue that claim.

  • Paddy

    I agree with Zuber. What makes this guy the King? I checked his website out and it's about as chaotic as can be. I can only find a few bikes the guys done, and while they were all nice they were not great by any stretch. And that Xs650 is not quite prime-time for Pipeburn. I wouldn't pay more than 4 grand US for that bike if that much!

  • Gloo

    Looks like loads of fun. I used to race at Ascot in the mid/late 70's and I remember being on the line sitting next to many of these snorting Yamahas. Roberts' (Kenny) success on them really inspired a lot of riders to ride these. I rode XR750s, and these Yamahas really had their own thing going. You had to ride them differently than the XR. Generally lighter, they were great on the TT tracks as well. Some of these bikes were rephased, and the sound of those things was incredible! Had a sortof Indy car snarl about them.

    This one here is a nice homage to the breed. I don't find it to be too awfully unique, but it is a nice rendition. The Champion style rear seat looks good. Like the 80's style streetbike headlight too. So it's a nice addition to the masses of XS650 trackers out there.

    Clean, nice job. Owner seems to really love his new bike, too. Hard to beat happy!


  • id probably agree with zuber too…funny he mentioned daz though….the "made at machine" and "78 numbers" were painted by daz and the wiring was done by matt joyce both mates in sydney who i dont get to hang out with as much as id like having moved to the country. both blokes knock out amazing customs.

    im glad rob loves the bike…when i spoke with him on the phone after he bought it a realised it had gone to a cool bloke who would take care of it.

    im not too much into hating these days just bikes.

    cheers blokes for the feature…means a lot to me…


  • Thanks Matt. Gracious to a tee as always. Unlike some of our commenters…

  • joe blo

    hey Paddy, its not a website its a blog…… i can see your a real details man.

  • Love your work Matt. Very nice XS.

    I think Andrews statement is fine. Compliments are from the individual. Andrew was paying respect with the words he felt did the job best. While some may feel the need to argue the statement I think Matt appreciated the compliment.

  • Andrew

    Actually, I think Karl and Zuber might have inadvertently given us a really sweet idea…


  • Are we related Rob? I've got 4 x CB750's from the states sitting in the garage due to an ebay slip up, Doh!

    I made a Matt a low-ball offer on this bike after seeing it on the Deus showroom floor. Very nice bike, would be a blast to ride.

  • Rob A

    Yeah Rex, I was possessed by some uncontrollable urge to bid again on the bike… it was a wonderful surprise, and a welcome addition to our family of bikes 🙂

    Matt, you did a fantastic job with this bike! It's not trying to look pretty and shiny. It doesn't want to just sit in the corner and only be looked at – it's meant to be ridden. It's a joy to ride and a great balance of function & aesthetics!

    Awesome photos and story too, Andrew…

  • Paddy

    Hey Joe Blo, a blog IS a website FYI. Thanks for your expertise.
    I was under the impression that fair comment (not "hating") was welcome here. So just crowning Matt Machine "King" in such a talented field requires some justification or at least an explanation.
    On the other hand, this is your house Andrew so you have that prerogative.

  • Explanation? Try this.

  • TM

    Matt Machine's video for this XS sounds awesome (like all his other vids)….and by coincidence i was travelling behind this bike (and Rob?) a couple of days ago…and it sounds mean, true to the vid. Super jealous Rob.

    In my opinion Matt crafts original, quality bikes and I'm sure there's also a bunch of other builders here in Australia doing similar things. Full credit to Matt, going by his blog posts the guy is living the dream and is fully deserved of having one of his creations selected for the calendar of…um…another high-end bike blog.

  • Matt

    No such thing as a 1952 strat, if anyone cares. Probably not.

  • @Matt – Arse. It was a late night…

  • Paddy

    Well that IS a good explanation Andrew. I still wonder why anyone would use a hardtail other than it's easier to get the look you want. At the other end, I love the fairing. It's about the best looking cafe unit I've ever seen!

  • @Paddy Don't think you have an option with the '50 Panhead Harleys – that's the way they made 'em…

  • Ash in Bali

    No offense intended but can someone please explain to me what it is about street-trackers that appeals to fans of this type of Ethel Knievel / Fonzie thing? I was born in '69 and dig cafe racers, vintage motocross even, but street trackers look something in between, neither here nor there. Respect to Matt and all Street Tracker aficionados, but can someone explain the aesthetic appeal and functionality of this type of bike or is it just different strokes for different folks?

  • hey ash in bali….im the same age as you. cafe racers, motocross, veteran, vintage, chops, modern bikes whatever….the more bikes the better…the more people riding the better for us riders and the world. asking a question about flat track is like asking about the drags….if you grew up going to the speedway or the drags, being taken there by your dad and mum, and your cousins were there and you all loved the smell of castrol r then it all makes sense now in this time when we cant even ride down the road if our number plates are too low….

    mert lawwill, king kenny roberts, jay springsteen….total heros…

    watch this…. still after all these years the sound of that harley sends shivers up my spine.

    go to 4 mins and 40 secs.

    and that is what it is about street trackers. not evel. and not the fonz….its difficult to explain….just more "i wanna be like him"

  • Ash in Bali

    Thanks Matt I'll check out the youtube URL.

  • Notgonnaansweru

    is that bike for sale? whe  u check on images from google it say for sale, very confusing