Building Your Own Motorcycle – The Yamaha XS650 Cult

It’s just about time, at least here in the wilds of the Midwest, to put the bike away for the winter, and that means a bottle of Sta-Bil , stocking in a few quarts of cheap whiskey and selecting the right winter build project.

If you happen to be a man like me with a Spectacular Spouse Who Does Not Understand or you’re just plain poor (and I qualify here as well), you’ll need to find a suitable bike you can pick up for next to no money.

The candidates are fairly limited as most serviceable bikes go for something like $3,000 to $5,000, and that kind of money at my household goes elsewhere to satisfy the bottomless needs of bankers, insurers and home improvement stores.

So what do you buy and how do you get it rock-bottom cheap? You could go for a sport bike, but that’s not really my style, so that’s out. You could buy something with a little cachet, like say a 60-70’s Triumph or a Harley, but you’re facing a serious outlay for increasingly pricey – and difficult to find – parts and accessories. The market is glutted, and like any competitive market, the money required for entry is dear.

What’s left?

It comes down to a few useful and inexpensive makes and models which are both rideable and which were produced in the proper abundance. Namely, the venerable Yamaha XS 65o or the pre-1999 Kawasaki Vulcan line. You could easily add the Yamaha V-Star line, but even those are still holding their value nicely and many of them are still on the road in stock condition. All of these model lines were made and sold in huge numbers, offer a variety of after-market parts suppliers and earned a reputation for being hardy and anvil-solid.

Nick Stringer's XS650 Board Tracker

At this point, it looks like what I can afford will be an XS 650, and my plan is to make something never before seen in the market. There are lots of superbly engineered  and built barhoppers, bobbers and choppers out there, but what I have in mind is something a little more practical and suitable as a daily rider. I want the project to harken back to a time when motorcycles were made to be ridden and needed to have the requisite fuel capacity, rider comfort and were easily repaired with a fairly small and common tool kit which will be provided and carried on board.

So there you have it, I’ve set the bar, now off to the shopping…and a chat with the Spectacular Spouse Who Does Not Understand.

Wish me luck and good hunting.

If you have a project underway or just want to send me some pics and tech details of your XS 650 project, do it.

I love home-built stuff and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

List of XS 650 Parts and Tech Tips

Non-US Suppliers

Tips and Parts Resources



The Ultimate XS650 Parts and Tech Resource List

Engine and TransmissionRephasing an XS650 engine: “Rephasing, What is it?”Cylinder head torque pattern and specs: “Bad Head Torquing?”XS650 piston ringsOverdrive 5th gearFlushing out an XS650 engine: “calling all engine guys…”

Splitting the crankcase

Starter and big bore

Power from 750cc big bore

Upper engine mount

XS650 kick start

Advance rod bushing/bearing replacement: “removing camshaft bushings??”

Powder coating vs heat retention

XS650 electric start system (starter)

XS650 – oil coming out of exhaust pipe

Different types of XS650 oil filter modifications: “oil filter”

XS650 oil coolers

Oil leaks

Oil sight glass?


All about the XS650 clutch: “XS650 clutch”

XS650 clutch plates: “clutch service limits”

Removing the clutch center nut

8-plate billet XS650 clutch project

XS650 clutch spring screw modification


How-To: Rebuild XS650 Forks / Install Lowering Kit

Suspension references

XS650 front end shake

Fork oil

fork oil change?

Fork interchangeability: “Fork Swapping”

Springer front end

Harley Davidson XL Sportster narrow glide conversion : How To

Wheels and Drive

Wheel interchangeability: “xs650 wheels”

XS650 drive chain

XS650 conversion to belt drive: “what about belt drive?”

What is the hub width on an XS650 Front wheel?

19″ Rear wheel, wheel sizes and tires: “street tracker guys”

What size wheels were originally on a 1971 xs650?

Motorcycle wheel truing stand and static balancer

How to read a motorcycle tire sidewall, tire information: “motorcycle tyres (tires)”

Wheel bearing removal


Stainless braided brake and clutch lines

Upgrading XS650 front brakes: “Fazer Blue Spot Caliper”

Brake rotors (discs) that will fit the XS650 front wheel: “My mistress “the dirty screamer” build log”

XS650 front brakes: “adding second brake caliper-?”

Cable operated remote master cylinder


XS650 forward controls

Making throttle cables?

Maintenance and General Troubleshooting

General XS650 troubleshooting – Symptoms and their potential causes

How to properly store your motorcycle

Bike won’t start? Running rough?

Buying guide – Getting to know your bike

How do I check and change oil on an XS650? Oil recommendations?

Identifying your XS650, VIN Numbers

XS650 VIN number lookup: “ID your Model”

Early XS650 production numbers

Carburetors, Fuel, Intake, and Air Filters

XS650 carburetor manuals, guides: “Carbs”

Cleaning carburetors: “cleaning carbs”

Removing the XS650 airbox and using pod filters: “Airbox to cones…”

Methods to clean rusty gas tank: “Rust removal from inside gas tank”

Fiberglass tank problems

2 into 1 intake manifold

Fuel injection on an XS650?

Ethanol gas bad for intake manifolds?: “inlet manifolds with ethanol”

Using Dell’orto carburetors on an XS650

Carb holders splitting: “Split carb mounts after 3 months”

Carb jetting

Rust in the tank

Carburetor fuel “T”: “Carb T-connector”

Mikuni Round Slide (VM) ID and 34mm vs 36mm vs 38mm *


Aftermarket exhaust

How to open up the stock exhaust

Cutting off the stock mufflers

Attaching new mufflers to the stock headpipes


XS650 wiring diagrams: “some wiring diagrams”

XS650 permanent magnet alternator

How-To: Permanent Magnet Alternator Swap (Also known as the Banshee Swap)

XS650 ignitions “what ignitions are out there?”

PAMCO ignition systems

TCI box – a successful repair, electronic ignition, ignitor

Using an inductive timing light for rpm

Cleaning alternator stator

Ignition box TCI: “xs650 need to have the comp to run?”

XS650 electric start system (starter)

Technical information on on LED lights “LED”

Headlights: “Best Headlight Anyone?”

Voltage regulator?

Charging System: Nylon Screws *


XS650 frame dimensions, drawings

XS650 swingarm brace dimensions

XS650 hardtails

How to install tapered roller bearings in the neck

Sidecar 101


Shop safety – Fire extinguishers, safety glasses, hearing protection, etc.

XS650 shop manuals

Reducing weight on an XS650: “weight reduction ?”

A collection of XSJohn’s mods

Polishing Made Easy


Insurance for tools?

Shop tools: “Homemade and Unique Tools”

Motorcycle Lift

Tool Kit


Tube bender plans

Frame jig plans

XS650 sidecar

How-To: DIY Bungs for Tanks, Oil Bags, Fenders, etc…

Whether you ride a sport bike, an American cruiser or one you built with your own two hands, your insurance needs can get complicated.
We’re here to help you find the right motorcycle insurance, whatever you ride…

Tips for buying your motorcycle insurance, coverage you need:

  • Collision to pay for damage caused to your vehicle in an accident with another vehicle or any stationary object.
  • Comprehensive to cover such things as fire, hail, wind, vandalism, hitting an animal, etc.
  • Towing / Pickup
  • Medical payment or personal injury protection to cover the medical bills resulting from an accident.
  • Uninsured or underinsured motorist to protect us when the other driver is at-fault and does not have coverage or assets out of which your bills can be paid.

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3 Responses

  1. For anyone who doesn’t already know, Trent is the majordomo at and one prime piece of personhood…

  2. nice photo. wonder where you got that?

    thanks for the follow, mister.


  3. Spectacular Spouse That Doesn't Understand says:

    The problem isn’t that your Spectacular Spouse Doesn’t Understand…
    you just aren’t speaking my language…try this “gran diamante”