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Yamaha XS650 – Kott Motorcycles


Posted on August 15th, by Scott in Café Racer, Classic. 24 comments

Written by the builder, Dustin Kott from Kott Motorcycles.

Years ago I rode a 1972 XS650, also known as the XS2 from Los Angeles, California to Sturgis, South Dakota. I was wearing a cheap rain suit from Walmart in the pouring rain going at least 100 MPH to dodge the inclement weather. When I stopped at a gas station some locals took one look at me and said “you were going so fast that your damn clothes are tearing off! You passed us like we were standing still!” These are my memories of the infamous XS650 made famous by the legendary Kenny Roberts.

I decided to take on this project when it rolled into the shop because at the time when I owned my XS I simply did not possess the skills and knowledge to re-purpose it into a more sleek and refined machine. As a shop we have come to be known for our renditions of the Honda CB series so taking on a Yamaha was a testament to actively breaking paradigms of what is expected.

The XS650 has the reputation of being the ‘best Triumph that Triumph never made’. This being said, the Japanese mimicked the overall stance, footpeg position, tank design, and general engine shape. Without a closer look, the two are easily mistaken for one another. In paying homage to the parallel twin look that is so synonymous with English motorcycles, the great Norton Commando was the main influence in the design of this machine.

In order to create a more aggressive stance and fluidity of frame lines a Yamaha XS750 triple tank was fitted to the frame with some necessary tank mount alterations. With the factory indentations and the positioning of the hand crafted rearset plates, rider position was improved.

The steel constructed seat pan and cowl copied and repeated the indentations of the tank for the sake of continuity, and created an ideal “pocket” so as to not have the rider slide off the seat under the torque of the 650 twin. In maintaining the inspiration of the English twin, extensions were added to the single header pipes for each cylinder and kicked up at a more aggressive angle per retro race machines of the era. Handling was considered with the fitment of shouldered and re-laced aluminum wheels, Hagon rear shocks, new fork springs and replaced swingarm bushings.

An extra drilled rotor and caliper was added to the front end in order to optimize braking power and to assist the older technology of the rear drum brake. Under close scrutiny, those who are familiar with the XS 650 frame will see numerous modifications made to accommodate rearset positioning and beautification.

As mentioned beforehand, the Norton Commando was emulated in many ways in order to  create a more well balanced and repurposed machine. The most noteworthy influence was in the jet black paint scheme that incorporated a hand-striped gold line to accentuate the shapes and shadows present on the bike.

To see the bike in action, check out the vid below…

[Photography by Alex Martino]





  • Tony Pereira

    That is very nicely done! What are those pipes? It’s got exactly the sound I want on mine, but I’m not getting it with the Emgos.

    • JBB2

      Same, here. That sound was just about perfect, wasn’t it?

      • Tony Pereira

        So sweet! To clarify: I meant mufflers, not pipes.

  • Dave Hargreaves

    It has been SOO nice to see Dustin painting his bikes lately. The 3 bikes @ Born Free were amazing. Personally, I’ve always *kinda* liked his style- but the unpainted look just doesn’t befit his talents..

  • Shift+Craft

    another beautiful bike Dustin. Great job!

  • E Brown

    That’s a beauty, both on the move and in the still shots.

  • jlgace

    I absolutely love this bike. They nailed everything: stance, lines, the tail, paint treatment – all is great stuff. Almost forgiveable that velocity stacks were installed, and I may have conceded if they didn’t seem to go the extra step and infer they have a grudge against the engine internals by also removing (or excluding) just the right portion of the rear fender to allow the tire to throw debris directly into the throats of the carbs. I realize they’ve no intentions of keeping the bike, but cruel joke on the eventual owner if they actually intend to ride it.

    • Davidabl2

      Sometimes the velocity stacks come off after the photo session…
      let’s hope that’s the case here.

  • Joe

    Am I the only one who noticed the top triple steering stem bolt missing? Safety first…just sayin’.

  • 3s and 7s

    Looks like you could fool someone into thinking this was a British bike with a Yamaha engine. Design and modifications look great as they flow nicely and carry the idea right through the bike. Tank Paintwork reminded me of velo paint. Just a really nice bike all round.

  • http://ridedualsport.com/ Manxman

    This is one sweet classy looking Yamaha. Simplicity and functionality in a beautiful package. Like the paint and alloy polishing – I know from personal experience how much work polishing takes – but well worth it.

  • menormeh

    Nicely done. Very clean and uncluttered. The exhaust note on the video is perfect.

  • DanaG70

    Totally sick build. I love every aspect of this bike.

  • Brandon Kirkwood

    so where are the batteries on these bikes? every one i check out here seems to not have one

    • Steve Guttenberg

      He uses a starter in the video, so most likely in the back of the seat. But maybe this dude builds such hot bikes he’s electric? Most likely the case and he just has an anode and diode on his ass.

      • Brandon Kirkwood

        functionality comes first, its not really a real build to me if it doesnt work in the real world. All the bikes I look at have no place for a battery. Its still a cool build dont get me wrong

        • Steve Guttenberg

          Okay, not a big fan of humor, reading, or watching videos apparently. The battery is hidden. Batteries are ugly and most builders want you to think they aren’t there. Kick starts do work in the real world too, I’ve seen it and even done it. Stripping the stock starter on an XS saves 7lbs so add in the battery weight and you can lose 15lbs. I guess it’s just where your priorities are. I personally think kick only bikes are awesome, but some may feel that’s not functional.

          • http://www.mulemotorcycles.net/ Mule

            An XS650 with a built motor and some compression (lots) can become almost non-kickstartable. You jump on the lever and it doesn’t even move. The kick start system (leverage ratios/starter gears) on these was designed for a soft 650. Not a built 750/800 or 1000cc motor. The new small lithium batteries will spin them right up though. Even if the battery is hidden.

        • Davidabl2

          The new Lithium-Iron batteries are seriously small and can be installed upside down or sideways or at any angle needed to cram them into a tiny space somewhere. You might be able to get some of them inside the headlight shell for all I know ;-)

  • The Badger

    Best XS 650 caf I’ve seen.

  • revdub

    Beautiful XS cafe. Nice to see a yama get the Kott treatment.

  • Hawk

    This is the best XS650 that I’ve seen, I love it. The lines flow so smoothly, it has none of the clumsy awkwardness that I feel most XS builds can’t escape. I wouldn’t change a thing. One question, do the rear sets interfere with the kick start?

    • Tony Pereira

      Those look far enough back that the kicker will clear them.

  • http://www.mulemotorcycles.net/ Mule

    This build has gobs of class. Really nice. Not many of the bikes featured on the net have the proper stance and balance like this one. Top notch! Looks great standing still.