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1973 Honda XL 285

Posted on January 15, 2012 by Andrew in Brat, Classic. 43 comments

Short of cash after the build, Jake was forced to send the XL out to work in a bakery

Finding and showing the world great custom bikes. It’s what Pipeburn does. But being at the pointy end of the whole process with it’s constant search for the latest and greatest can easily make you forget about the other amazing part of the process – the part where all you guys arrive and check out the cool bikes. Now here’s the really cool part of the whole process; like some crazy custom bike feedback loop the bikes we find and feature then go on to inspire the new builds to a greater or lesser extent. Like the simple, clean, elegant Honda you see here. Except in the case of Jake Lyons and his XL it was a little more, shall we say, direct than usual. See Jake went from nothing to knee deep in grease and Shoichiro design after his first ever session of Pipeburning. So if you’ll allow us a brief moment of pride, please enjoy the bike that Pipeburn built.

“I’m Jake Lyons – a Washington contactor and bike fan. While on a job site a couple years ago I began to speak with an electrician about motorcycles. Prior to this conversation I had zero awareness of any sort of vintage scene, I had only owned enduros and newer sport bikes. He insisted that I take a look at your site; arriving home that day I pulled up Pipeburn and after about 6 hours and 60+ pages later the decision was clear – I would be building a bike. I already had a sentimental old XL sitting in my shop and I began work immediately.”


“I pulled up Pipeburn and after about 6 hours
and 60 pages later the decision was clear –
I would be building a bike”


This XL 250 was in fact the first motorcycle I had ever ridden and learned to ride on back in 4th grade. My dad picked it up in the late 70’s and dragged it around the states, beating it up along the way. In late 2008, it had nearly 40 years of abuse when I pried it from under some old lawn chairs below his deck. He made me complete various tasks, including climbing and pruning cedar trees before I could have the title but I was rewarded with this 4-valve, rusty matriarch of a machine.

After getting it home I put new tires on it and drove it once before the kick starter snapped off inside the case while up in the mountains. After nervously compression starting it and getting it home, it sat for over 2 years until my eyes were opened to Pipeburn. I started the project in mid July 2010.”

Won’t somebody spare a thought for the poor tuna cans…

I started with a complete tear down. I stripped most of the excess tabs off the frame, welded in a hoop and sent that and the swing arm off to powder coating. I do all of my own work and put the majority of other components into primer, wet sanded, and then base/clear black. The tank was beat by my father and took some effort to straighten out; the blue paint being a 40’s Ford truck code. The motor was rebuilt with the JE 285 kit in trade for a parts bike I had bought for it. The seat I built using a piece of steel I yanked out of the bin at a recycling place and then plasma cut it out after making a cardboard template. I then used some neoprene foam and a steak knife to get the shape I wanted. I had all of the paint and body work supplies from my car projects. The bike fit perfectly in my shop and just came together really smoothly.

Being my first bike, each decision took at least 10 times as long to make as the actual building took. I got the bike into a roller within a month and then took an additional year to really finish it, working in the evenings. The 13 year-old across the street, Harrison, usually helps me with projects and this was no different. He was a huge help and came over to work pretty much any time my garage door was open.”

“After a battle fitting the front CB 18″ wheel I got for free, using a CB 360t front end and some pro bono millwork by my friend Mike, I finally fitted the 4:00×18 Avons I had been drooling over. I had it dyno tuned a couple of times before the bugs were worked out for the 285 kit but now it first kicks and runs super strong. It even picks up the front end into second, which was not quite an option before the build.

I’m completely addicted to these classics now and have several other projects in varying degrees of completion. A 1968 Yamaha YCS1, a 1974 Honda CB550SS, and a 1981 Honda CB750k. I love the energy of these bikes, they have a distinct soul in comparison to their modern day successors.”

So there you have it. And do we feel like proud new fathers of a beautiful, bouncing baby bike. Scott’s just lit the stogie and I’m on my third glass of single malt. Jake, the mother in this case, is doing well though he’s obviously a bit tired and definitely needs his rest. Quiet now – you don’t want to wake her…

Photography by Matt Larson

  • The paint is phenomenal. Great build regardless whether it is your first. Can’t wait to see your second and subsequent builds.

  • Chris

    Superb machine. Bravo!

  • AlwaysOnTwo

    Congrats, a fine first build.  In fact, this is the first bike with pipe wrap that I wouldn’t barf on and set on fire.  For some reason, the treatment seems “real” on this bike.

    Goes to show that there is a reason to search out those old machines even if they are sitting in your own shed.  I just found a vintage and 100 percent original H2R sitting under a cover in the back of a garage and picked up the bike for 100 bucks because the disenfranchised owner was afraid of the machine from virtually his first encounter and believed it was impossible to street register a two-stroke.

    Back to this bike.   Nice work and a clean build without trying to go over the top with gas shocks, disc conversion, etc..  Also shows that a little money spent wisely is just as effective as spending a ton for show and no go.  Which brings around to what I should have mentioned first….a priority to modding any machine should start with attention to the powerplant, and with these older rides it is still fairly easy to find stroke and poke kits, cams, titanium valve parts, etc..  Great move on pumping some more hmmpf into that little mill.

    Wish I could take her for a spin.

  • mue

    so pure!

  • charlie2744

    Great looking build. I am building a ‘ 74 CB360 (1st bike/build also) and planning on the same colors.

  • revdub

    I love this bike. Looking at it, it’s hard to believe it was a first build. Awesome.

  • Chrisw

    Magnificent looking thing, that! Great work.

    I have to say, my last purchase (CB750) was at least partly influenced by looking through Pipeburn.

  • Car2nst

    Outstanding! A first build? This guy gets it-I hope he completes the bikes he mentions ’cause I dig his style-tires especially rock

  • Mattlebichon

    just perfect !! like your website !! keep goin’, congrats from France !!

  • dave

    this is a very nice lookng honda and a great job.
    “each decision took at least 10 times as long to make as the actual building took” this is the why the bike turned out nice because thought went into it

    the coment “allow us a brief moment of pride, please enjoy the bike that Pipeburn built.” sounds a bit weird. maybe pipeburn inspired not that pipburn built would be better way of puting it. unless ofcourse pipeburn actualy did build or help build it. maybe the 13 year old boy harrison deservs that credit

  • Like it

  • Gebeme

    Nice bike but the best part of the story is the kid across the street coming over and learning how to turn a wrench.

    • Agreed.

      • Twistedchildturnsmadmonk

        Wonder what that KID will build when he gets the cash?

  • Paddy

    This is a great looking bike! Very nicely done.
    As well, Pipeburn is becoming a collossus on the web and good on ya!
    It’s great you’re able to find these builders and give them the credit they are due.

  • Cobrar00

    What’s interesting is this bike is somehow better than many of the bikes of this ‘style’. It’s like the guy took everything in at one glance and got inspired; he got a feel for the fact THAT this style is popular, but then he did it his own way. He has a natural eye, I would say!

  • Rennie61

    I would say this bike typifies all that’s good about the site and in general the ‘punk’ ethos that’s come into the bike scene over the last few years. Congratulations all round

  • Rafe03

    Great Bike!  And keep the garage door open to encourage Harrison to keep on keeping on!

  • Tim

    Here’s Jake’s build thread over at DO THE TON –

  • Surplus 6

    just finished reading the build thread on DTT site. very sweet ride
    surplus 6

  • luSca custom design

    I like it very much!!!

  • Otis Mitchell

    AWESOME build!

  • flamesnm

    I’ve got photos of the Deus Ex W650 for Randy de Puniet up in my workshop for inspiration for my XS650 build. This one is going up alongside it. It’s exactly the look I’m going for.

  • Jonboy

    This is an awesome build. Def an inspiration for me. My question is, and this goes with alot of these bikes I see pictures of, where is the friggin battery??

    • Note the kickstart, “We don’t need no stinkin’ batteries!”

    • Forgot to mention, this is a fantastic looking bike, I think it is SUPER clean, and that’s what I like about it. Simple and very pretty. Good work!

  • Mpress

    the wheel has bee completely re-invented and is good for 50 mph.

  • Bones

    We once had a guinea fowl called Harrison who was scared of my bike but this is a great build. ‘Love the clean lines and simplicity of the whole thing and I bet she goes like the clappers. I would love to hear that exhaust note!

    • Chrislacytattoo

      Where did you hide the battery?

      • Jacob Lyons

        Wow, thanks for all of the positive feedback everyone! And.. there is no battery; it’s just very dim at night haha Some one buy this thing, I want to build another. 😉

  • Billmears

    excellent build friend!  i too am working on some nice xl/xr builds….   i found pipeburn through your ad on craigslist…….  good luck and i hope it goes to someone who appreciates fine art!   what’s your next project?

  • cotter

    Great bike! I have the same bike turing it into a cafe as well, but finding the downpipe for these bikes is definitely a challenge. where did you get your pipe?

  • CameraMan

    You should probably mention the photographer who took all these photos for you in your next post man….

    • CameraMan

       As well as not edit their images to crop out their watermark….

  • Most guys are fond of big bikes because they think they look so cool riding it. Some guys are more on the machine while other are more on driving this.

  • Oldnbrocken

    This bike is particularly inspiring to me, I love these early Honda enduro’s. Tidy but not too flash. Great work.

  • adi

    Where do you put the battery?

  • Jeremy

    Absolutely awesome. I have a 76 Honda xl250 I'd love to restore. It has been sitting in a barn for 16 years in pieces but all in great shape.
    Can you tell me more about what parts you used to do this build? What parts are compatible for this frame?


  • Gary

    hi i have an 76 xl 250 and was wanting to do something like this to it can you send like a spec sheet of the build and what all you done to the motor

  • Gary
  • Ben
    Gary I’m just starting my first build on a xl 350. Did you have any luck with a spec sheet?

  • Thomas Magnum