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1982 Yamaha Maxim XJ650 Bobber

Posted on November 4, 2011 by Andrew in Bobber, Tracker. 48 comments

Some of you will have seen Roland Sand’s recent custom job on a Ducati Desmosedici RR where he took that undoubtedly very cool and expensive super sports bike and made it into a very different type of very cool and super expensive bike. Sort of like taking a lump of gold and making it into a different sort of, erm, gold. Well that’s all well and good, but what really impresses us is the rags-to-riches type of custom alchemy that you find from time to time. The kind of transformation where you see a bike you previously thought of as a bit lame and embarrassing being transformed into something that is cooler than cool. The build that stands out in our minds is John Ryland’s Reciprocity Virago. Until now, that is. The bike you see here is the result of some serious talent being applied to one very uncool Yamaha Maxim by a guy called Chris Tschiffley and his dad. Nothing like setting the bar really high and then sailing over it like you’re not even trying. Nice work Chris – and hello Roland if you’re reading this…

Come in Mr. Tschiffley… “For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an obsession with just about anything automotive. I’d have to give thanks to my dad for that, who has been building bikes, flat bottom boats, and hot rods since the sixities, and has always had some sort of project going on in the garage. Dad always took my brother, sister and I to the drag strip, stock car track, and a couple Indy Car races, and we would never miss a Formula 1 or Moto GP race to this day.”

“As a kid, this got me into building model cars, collecting Hot Wheels and die cast cars, and spawned my addiction to car magazines. In lieu of sports in school, I raced karts with my brother, which we actually started in the early 90’s, running OHV 4-stroke Briggs & Stratton motors, Yamaha KT100 2-strokes, then, into purpose built Italian 125cc Shifter karts.”

Subliminal ads on Pipeburn? Never!

“The rush that karts gave me on the track made me want the same on the street, but with the cost of fast cars being far beyond my personal means, I knew motorcycles were the only answer. At the time, my mom had an old Honda CM400 in her garage that never moved, so I started tinkering with it. Rebuilt the carbs, bought a battery, and started buzzing around the side streets.”

“…something that would rev to the moon, and scream like the Millennium Falcon.”

“Fast forward a couple of years, and I decided it was time to get a bike of my own. I had always been into Moto GP, and loved the sound of v-twin Ducs and high revving 4’s, but I hated the idea of riding another cookie cutter crotch rocket. I began to imagine something that would rev to the moon, and scream like the Millennium Falcon, so a dual overhead cam four cylinder seemed like the most obvious answer. At first, I just wanted a ride that looked unique and was respectably quick, but as an engineering student in college, I planned to ride it to and from school every day. Considering my limited budget, it had to be cheap, so I hopped onto that popular, free classifieds website and the first bike I found was a 1982 Yamaha Maxim 650, listed at $600. We went and checked it out, and it seemed to be in decent shape, although it had not been started in over 3 years. After some negotiating, we left with the bike for a mere $300.”

“The moment the bike rolled off the truck, I started removing all of the 80’s funk, and chopped the rear hoop just behind the shock mounts. My initial plan was to give it a quick chop, build some new handlebars, disassemble and repaint everything, and get it on the road. But as soon as the fugly tank and seat came off, I start playing with ideas. We had a few cool gas tanks laying around the garage, and one completely fit the style I had in mind, but required the reconstruction of the main backbone of the frame. After imagining the finished bike, I just couldn’t settle on the quick chop idea, so we just rolled with it. Styling cues were mixed and matched from various bike styles, as I wanted something that was totally unique, and couldn’t really be placed into a particular style category. I chose some cues from flat trackers, which inspired the low, duck-tail rear “fender”, which is hand formed sheet metal and integrated into the frame tubes. Cafe racers touches are represented in the tank and hand built “clubman” style bars. Ducati’s have always been one of my favorite bikes, and the 888 inspired the super bike-style number plate on the tail piece. Then I looked to the hot rod culture for paint scheme ideas, and loved the concept of a multi-tone design.”

That’s a sweet petrol cap. Love the split pin

“I am happy to say it’ll eat Harleys from light to light”

“My dad and I worked eight slow months over evenings and weekends, and finally finished fabrication. My brother Josh contributed with an awesome, custom machined gas cap, TIG’d up a one-off license plate mount, and did great on the suede upholstery for the seat. Dad did a stellar job on the paint, and I finished up the bike with the wiring. It started up on the first try, and a little carb tuning is all it took for the bike to run like a champ.”

A strange button. It’s definitely transforms the bike into a giant robot. Either that or it fires the rail guns

“Once on the road, it never gave me any problems, and is a joy to ride. The new rear shocks are a bit stiff, which is magnified by the removal of about 60 pounds worth of nonsense overall, and I would say that it’s the only issue related to rideability. We didn’t build this bike to be a canyon carver, but it does handle pretty well despite the soft air-forks and stiff rear end, and I am happy to say it’ll eat Harleys from light to light. If I were to do anything different, I would consider upgrading the forks and front brake, but considering its more of a cruiser, I haven’t seen a need.”

“We now have a few more projects currently in the shop, both personal and customer bikes, and have since sold this one, but only to move onto new projects and buy more shop equipment!”

We see a lot of bikes here. And I mean A LOT. But maybe the ultimate accolade to Chris and his dad’s work is that instead of writing this piece in good time, I’ve actually been surfing the web classifieds for cheap XJs. And there’s heaps out there. Good ones for not much money. Hmmm. I’ll be right back…

  • GuitarSlinger

    You really seem to have a knack of digging up the wonderful , albeit obscure builders and their bikes Andrew 

    I’ve no clue where and how you find this stuff , but I’m sure glad you do . This’ns another winner .

    Keep em coming . You’ve got my attention 

  • Kno

    Ese asiento tiene que ser durete.
    Bonito pintado, me encanta el color de las llantas.

  • revdub

    Amazing transformation. What is that tank from?

    • Den

      Looks like a moped tank, I think it is used by derringer and some others

      • revdub

        That’s awesome. I thought it was. I have the same tank. They were originally found on General 5-Star, Peugeot TSA, and Lazer mopeds.

        • I’d love to find another one, is yours on a moped?

          I know there is a company that makes reproduction units, but I cannot seem to track them down.. 

          • revdub

            I can definitely help find you another! I know of a couple of places to find one. Email me at I’ll send some pictures of my current project too. Thanks, Chris.

    • Big H

      It is a motor guzzi tank

  • Thanks guys!

    Yup, moped tank! I’ve seen it on Peugot mopeds, AMS, amongst others.. We found it at the local breaker yard, so not sure exactly

    • revdub

      Hey Chris. I’d pay good money for one of those gas caps! Looks great.

      • Give me the specs & a picture of your tank, or mail me your tank and my brother will make you one!

  • I’m usually not a huge fan of this style, but this is nice…  Maybe it’s the red frame.  Proportions are… (((kisses fingers)))…

  • Charlie

    I have to know what that button does. I won’t sleep for days if I don’t know what that button does.

    Also, I understand in the US you often don’t need indicators to be registeres, but no number plate on a daily? Or is it simply hidden from these angles?

    • Rocket Boosters 😉 HAHA
      And yes, the License plate is there, but none of these pictures show it. It’s on the left side, mounted on a custom bracket down near the rear diff./passenger peg.

      Seriously though, that button is the starter button.

  • @b8d9762132abebfff6ab84dc40256693:disqus  Rocket Boosters 😉 HAHA
    And yes, the License plate is there, but none of these pictures show it. It’s on the left side, mounted on a custom bracket down near the rear diff./passenger peg.

    Seriously though, that button is the starter button. 

  • What a mix match of styles. Love it!

    I put my left nut up for sale to fund the Garage Company CB750 racer. Looks like I’m going to be a eunuch. Anyone want to buy a right nut?

    • Very cool! You’re one of the “Father/Son” duo that had CB750’s built by Garage Co. Customs? I saw one on B.E., Cool bike!

  • $3618564

    I like those tyres. Does anyone know brand and model?

    • They are Cheng Shin Barracuda’s. The tires just say Barracuda on the side wall, not Cheng Shin.

      • $3618564

        Thanks for a quick answer, Chris. Now, let us see if they are available in Sweden…

        • Haha no problem! Good luck finding them in your locale!

          • $3618564

            And, of course, you did a great job on that bike. I like it and I am picky about bikes 😉

          • Why thank you 😉

  • lefty

    Is the left side not complete? Why no pics?

    • Nope, struck a line down the middle and only finished the right side..

      Haha, Couldn’t tell ya really, but here’s a photo for ya!

    • Nope, struck a line down the middle and only finished the right side..

      Haha, Couldn’t tell ya really, but here’s a photo for ya!

      • It’s because I have an morbid fear of all things left. I plan my rides out meticulously so that I only have to turn right the whole day. Only ride with my right hand, too…

  • JasonB

    Very well done…I actually like this build better than the “artistic name designer creation$” from Roland Sands. Your work here, in contrast, is honest, clean, and non-pretentious.

  • barney

    really nice custom….

  • Mach-X

    Nice Build!  I have pics of this bike that are about a year old.  Seems to me I saw it for sale several months ago .. for like $5k or something?  How did that go?

    Beauty.  Duplicolor on the wheels?  My wife has an 82 XJ650, she did the wheels about the same color, these little XJs haul the bones!

    Again, sweet bike.  🙂

    • Thanks!  Yeah it was a while back, we actually posted it for $6k… Sold the very next morning, cash in hand.  If you count the 300+ hours of labor though, that was a bargain.. There’s a lot more work there than the un-trained eye would notice..

      Yeah, wake them up with a pipe, filters, and jetting, and they REALLY move!!

      Thanks again! =)

      • Mach-X

        Tell me about it!  When we “did up” her wheels, the Duplicolor coatings we used had a bloody recoat window.  We did them in the summer here when it was over 90f by 7am.  So all of the painting had to be done just prior to first light every day (4am).  Otherwise the damned paint would dry mid-air as we tried to apply it.  So to do just her two wheels took nearly two weeks time.  People just do not get how much effort is put into something of this caliber.  The details alone can use up months.

        So then …. you don’t own it any longer then?  The cat that bought it needs to go to jail … he stole it!

        You were able to get a decent state of tune using the pods?  So many of hte XJ freaks out there insist that the stock airbox is a “must” on the 650J because pods on the XJ are so (and I quote) “difficult to tune”.  (There’s always some dude with a friggin slide rule that comes along and pisses in everyone’s cereal bowl!).

        I aspire to do as good a job on my next bike as you have done here.  Good job, Ace!

        • Yeah, it was a screamin’ deal for him!

          The pods actually didn’t fight me much.. Granted, my dad, brother and I have been tuning the carbs on our racing karts by feel/plug readings for 17 years, but honestly I didn’t have any real “problems”. 

          I simply synced them, and proceeded by reading the plugs by doing full throttle “chops” (ignition cuts)..  Basically came down to using standard XJ750 Pilots/Mains in my 650 carbs, and shimmed the needles with (One) brass washer under the  retaining clip on the needle.. I think I was around 1.5-1.75 turns out on the air screw..
          We’re up near Denver, CO, (5,280ft elevation), so the jetting felt pretty dang close, and the plugs were really close considering the limited jetting options/tuning ability..

  • Mach-X

    Btw … it looks earsplittingly loud!  Roll through the shopping mall parking lot revving the engine and set off a bunch of car alarms!

    • Yes sir it was! There’s actually a baffle in there that’s wrapped with with muffler packing, which toned it down quite a bit.. Still, quite loud, but absolutely DELICIOUS to hear as a rider or bystander.. Recently picked up another Maxim, this time a 750.. ;D

      • Designsincoldsteel

        This is Chris’s dad. Once he finished recalibrating the carbs I had a blast playing with the wannabe’s on their Harleys. You let them think they have blasted you at a couple of lights by using half throttle and at the next you let them have a couple of bike lead, then wack the twisty thing and w
        ha-la! They won’t even pull up next to you at the next light. It’s not that I hate Harley’s, just the high percentage of obnoxious owners. We have 2 more XJ750,s and 1 XS850 to modify in the coming months. Should be as much fun as the Millennium Falcon.

      • Guardian

        Hey, I just bought an xj650 for $300, Im going to be restoring it over the next few months to get it in running condition, I really want that gas cap and would also love some tips for the build, shoot me an email if you get the time

  • Mytablette

    Just bought an ’82 xj650. Man I wish I could make mine look like this!  Two quick questions:
    What kind of shocks are on the rear? Did you have to do anything to the post (not really sure what it’s called) up front to get the handle bars where they are at? Sorry I have another one.. haha, what’s going on under the seat?

    • Designsincoldsteel

      Shocks were found on the internet. I believe they were Chinese. The front forks are stock along with the neck and stem. We made the handlebars, if you look for clubman harsh you can get the same type. Under the seat is a 5″dia. fake oilbag that houses the battery and remaining electrics.

  • can customize a rs 100 yamaha

    • Designsincoldsteel

      You can customize any bike, just look through these posts to see some very unique bikes

  • Mzaccaro89

    can i get some info on the seat? email is all help appreciated.

  • gabbster

    what th shift pattern on that yam ? my 1983 650 shaft maxim is 1-down then down again for 2-3-4-5 i think somethings wrong , all my other vintage bikes are 1 down and 4 up

  • F-onehundred Purple

    I just made a deal on a xj 650 my other one broke the internal starter gear so have lots of spares i loved that bike. It was the sport model seca ,the p o had the thing set on full tilt boogie and power shifts into third would momentarily slip the clutch 35 to 39 was the best mpg. I plan on cafe style as light as i can make it . Your bike is inspiration for a few ideas hope to finish by spring 2014 GREAT BUILD will be looking for more.P.S saying it eats Harley is being humble this bike can whip lots of bikes faster than Harleys !!!!!!

  • Mike Brink

    Old post I know but I love what they did to this bike, they did a great job considering they were stuck working with 19inch front and 16 inch rear tires. Not much u can do with that combination as far as building a flat tracker or cafe racer. You’re pretty much stuck making a bobber but they somehow made a cross between flat tracker-cafe racer- slight bobber style motorcycle..I’d love to build something similar out of an 85 xj700 maxim

  • Donnie Aucourt

    Hey guys whats up hey Chris i have a 81 xj 650 im in the process of re doing a bunch of stuff that someone elce started this is my first a tempt at customizing a bike and the wiring was a mes well i re wired everything to a diagram i got online “I know try not to laugh to hard lol” but i am not getting any spark still if you could email me back at i live over in lakewood not to far from yall would like to get a few pointers saw the picks of yours at the old lakeside race way nice bike good job