There’s something very cool about hearing from a shop that you’d almost forgotten about. Better yet, when they come knocking with a custom bike that takes your breath away, you know something big is afoot. So, like an artist emerging from their studio with their once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece…
The retro revival is still in full swing with motorcycle trade shows overflowing with homages to bikes from days gone by. But never before has a chip off the old block ever been so accurately described as major manufacturer and master build up team up for the best of XS…
It’s no secret that loads of custom builders farm out elements of their builds. Often it’s the paintwork, sometimes it’s the wiring or even particularly swear-worthy moments of fabrication. But not Paul Miller. As head honcho of the small shop PanicRev Customs young Paul does everything himself. Everything. And he does a damn fine job of it too, as this XS650-powered, custom-framed street tracker shows.
Last September a friend’s father contacted me about a commissioned build. He had a 1983 Yamaha XS 650 Special that a previous owner had already modified quite a bit. It needed a little mechanical work, so it hit the Retrowrench side of the shared space first. Chad Francis got the basics working properly. Then I met with the client and he informed me he only had a minimal budget. He just wanted to freshen the bike up and have it repainted with the Gulf color scheme, the number 64 (which his son races under) and the JC3 emblem, which is in memory of his daughter. So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.
Karma, the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence viewed as deciding their fate in future existences, is an idea that is shared to varying degrees across many of the world’s religions, philosophies and the basics we teach our children. Do good in the world and eventually the seeds you sow will bear fruit for all to enjoy, you included. The owner of this custom creation is a man who lives by that very philosophy and sold his motorcycle so that he could pay for disadvantaged children to go to school and have a brighter future. But it appears his Karma was nearly as instant as John Lennon describes, for his friend is none other than Bandung, Indonesia’s Ram Ram Januar from White Collar Bikes. Who decided his friend’s good deeds deserved a tasty reward and the Indonesian bike building wizard has created this delicious piece of fruit, a Yamaha XS650 powered custom known as “Mishka”.
If you happen to be lucky enough to own multi motorcycles and ride everyday then the chances are you have a more “sensible” bike, maybe even a stock modern machine, to get you around on weekdays. But when you run a custom bike shop even your everyday ride is going to be something different, you might use it for the commute to work or the lunch time dash to the bakery, but it’s still going to be something a little special. For Tommy Rand, Co-Founder of Relic Motorcycles from Aarhus, Denmark, he wanted his own daily machine to be something timeless, a bike that would survive every fad and trend and still be able to ride it in his old age. With a love for the bikes and everything that was motorcycling in the 1970’s and Relic describing themselves as “experienced bike-builders who favour and restore Japanese bikes from the 70’s & 80’s,” a classic cafe racer based on a 1980 Yamaha XS650 made perfect sense.
In the space of less than a year in the late 1960s two Japanese heavyweights released motorcycles that would go on to be hugely popular in the modern custom bike scene. First Yamaha with its XS650 and then Honda with the CB750; while the Honda is considered the first Superbike and was designed to seek and destroy its British rivals, the Yamaha was based on classic styling and an engine as Brit as Big Ben. Whereas the evolution of the CB range has progressed to the most modern of motorcycles, the XS650 remained true to its classic styling for its entire production run. One man who truly understands classic design and builds a mean Yamaha is Christian Condo of Melbourne’s Modern Motor Cycle Company and this 1981 XS650 Heritage Special is his latest masterpiece.
When the Yamaha engineers put pencil to paper and created the XS650 with its classic looking parallel twin they could never have imagined that so many decades later it would continue to be a cult classic. But when Heath Reed owner of River Rat Cycle Fab from Davenport Iowa was commissioned to build this 1977 example he didn’t want to simply run with the pack and do the standard modifications. Instead the brilliant fabricator spent hours in deep thought working out how he could create more than just another XS650 tracker. In the end he came up with a hybrid; a tracker with a touch of café racer, street fighter styling cues and a little inspiration from the greatest guitar ever made! With the design finalised Heath set about giving the ’77 XS a second birth that when finished would be known as “The Rattler”.
There are a lot of memes floating around the internet about Mum’s basements and not a single one of them kind. Often the domain of keyboard warriors and 40-year-old virgins, finally we’ve made a basement discovery from those dark depths that’s worth paying attention to. The fine lads from KickMoto in Halifax, Nova Scotia had a customer who was after a clean Yamaha XS650. As fate would have it, a friend of the workshop just so happened to have a stash of XS650’s stored in his mother’s downstairs you-know-what.
Dust off the drafting table, refill the clutch pencil and grab the dividers. Retired Dutch Architect Henk Woltjer has teamed up with local shop Motogadgets to create the perfect motorcycle to relive his youth; it’s a millimetre-exact Yamaha XS650 tracker inspired by the first bike he built some thirty years earlier.