Mid Thirties Mid Life Crisis!


Infatuated with the lean, minimalists approach

I’m thirty-five years old and have never ridden a motorcycle except for the ones at the boardwalk fixed on the carousel.  Didn’t know my swing-arm from my elbow, no metal fabrication, nor welding skills, very limited mechanical ability although I have turned a wrench here and there but never built anything from the ground up.  I have been fascinated with motorcycles since I was kid and finally said to myself it’s either now or never.  


Started looking intensively over the last 12 months online and became infatuated with the lean, minimalists approach to bobber/choppers/brats etc., almost bought a 69 triumph but then started seeing more and more great xs650’s who’s reputation and following was compelling.  Found an 81 xs650  Special in Bingahamton NY, w/less than 3400 miles, complete running bike minus carbs, clutch, kicker, and seat for $475.  Took the four hour ride w/my bro and brought her home.  Wanted to feel like I was doing something so stripped it all down in about an hour and here it stands.


I’m on a 10-12 wk waiting list at Ardcore Choppers for a hardtail frame, in the meantime I need to figure out which direction stylistically I want to go.  Want to keep the whole thing under $2500.  Leaning towards the sensibilities as defined by Nate’s bike the-wizard-sleeze-xs-650ardcore-choppers and the Fong Bros yamaha-xs650-bobber-the-fong-bros.

I want to get spoke wheels but I may clean up and use the mags, I’m going to use the original front fender as the back, have the forks lowered (great how-to-do in here) hacksaw the original pipes to drag pipes or shorter, and I found this great early 70’s metal gas tank.  It’s green, not a color I would have chosen but I like it.  I may strip it down to just bare metal though and do the frame in a dirty orangeish, type color – not sure as everyday I see another sick xs on here!

Anyone wants to volunteer an email address and serve as a mentor it would be truly appreciated, and if you live near southern/central nj and want to volunteer in person guidance then I’ll reward with cold beverages!  I’ll post pics as it begins to take shape.  Keep up the great work everyone and I’m looking forward to becoming part of the xs community!

Paul Tanimae


  1. Ted says:

    Looks like a good start on the parts pile. You know, the rear mag wheel with a drum break is kind of a hard part to find. I watched eBay for a few months before I was able to scoop up mine.

  2. tadd442 says:

    I admire your enthusiasm!! Keep in mind, Nobody is going to just hand you a kick ass ride! GO GET IT!

  3. toe. says:

    right there with you buddy. if you’re by albany ways, im around by in pretty much the same boat.

  4. Kevin says:

    Good luck! You can bolt on a set of spoke wheels since you have a rear drum, although you’re hardtailing it so it doesn’t really matter- you can make anything fit. I’m up in NY’s Hudson Valley- not too far. I’ve found a decent ammount of guys around here doing the same.

  5. Cretinxs81 says:

    Hey good luck with the build. If you looking to fund your build with selling off parts, I am interested in the fuel tank, side covers, and rear fender. Email me at cycleryder02@aol.com if you might want to sell. I’ll be watching your post for updates…

  6. Mike says:

    Right On! Read and Wrench, that’s how I learned.
    Your story is like mine.
    As a kid, my mom was a nurse, so NO Motorcycles in her household.
    Then as a young adult, my bride repeated my mother, No Motorcycles.
    In my mid thirties, I found myself divorced and looking for a new hobby. I bought a 1980 xs650 Special off of a co-worker for $400, not knowing anything about motorcycles. All I knew was it needed to be a budget fixer-upper and more than 500 cc’s so it could carry by butt on the freeways. It was in the process of fixing it up when I realized what a following the bike had, it didn’t take me long to get hooked on the xs650. A few years later I’m on my 3rd xs650 build/restore, with one in waiting, and dreams of a garage filled with classics.

  7. Paul says:

    I didn’t know about the rarity of my wheel situation regarding the drum brake nor the fact that it sounds I can pretty much find a spoke wheels from any make/model bike and swap them in?
    Kevin since you don’t seem too far away perhaps you’d share your email address if you wouldn’t mind my dropping a question on you here and there?
    Also good to know I won’t be the first to jump in w/virtually zero experience, I have a service manual arriving in a couple of days and my wrenches are ready to get to turning!
    Thanks for the feedback everyone-

  8. kevin says:

    No problem, it’s madpotter_1@hotmail.com or contact me through my flickr page (click on my green name).

    And not to take anything away from the Ardcore guy’s but 10 to 12 weeks sounds like a long time to wait. I’d look at some of the other shops, like TC Bros, that make hardtails since you pretty much can’t do anything at this point till you get that tail on.

    Oh, and I like that you found a different style tank than anyone (everyone)else uses. And I don’t know how valuable your rear wheel is- I wonder if you might be able to find someone willing to trade you a set of spokes for yours. Actually wikipedia has some good info about what parts swap between years.

  9. mark A says:

    if your going with a spoke rear keep this in mind , the xs650 came with 5 different styles of rear spoke wheels , 18″ steel, 18″ shouldered aluminum , 16″ steel 36 spoke , 16″ steel 60 spoke , 16″ aluminum (no shoulder ) , no need to use any other spoke wheel with so many xs wheels to choose from , good luck , these are great bikes , I have been riding them for many years . have fun with it , there are no rules !!!!!!!!!

  10. Rusty Nutz says:

    I would strongly suggest chnaging the cam chain guide first thing. Age and heat degrade the plastic and bits get in the oil and clog passages, tragedy ensues. Looks like you have an engine stand, so you prolly know abou tit already. I think I heard that some parts cleaners attack rubber so pick the right one before cleaning the crabs. The guys on the Eskimo list know the bike inside and out, but DO NOT let them know you’re customizing or they will flame you like the dicks they secretly are. They approve of stock only. Much more goodwill over in this neck of the woods. Like the man said, there’s no rules. geraldinesnewemail@yahoo.com

  11. Paul says:

    All things I didn’t know and will benefit from learning. Thanks fellas for the info.

  12. Bruce reed says:

    If you have questions send me an email @ hermosasurf@hotmail.com Building them is fun but ask a million questions. Pick a look and go for it.

  13. Jesus says:

    you can download a free manual from the knucklebusterinc website

  14. Bodhi says:

    ok… I’m not laughing at you, just with you…..that pile of parts looks vaguely familiar.

    time, patience, and dedication will eventually pay off.

    and like the man said, read everything you can.

  15. tony buckley says:

    paul, i live in so. central jersey also, last spring i picked up a $4oo rusted up non running 82, over the summer i striped it down to the motor, frame and forks, everything else was rusted beyond repair, with alot of help from web sites like this, mmm from 650 central, parts from e bay and a few other places, i built up a nice little custom bobber thats a blast to ride and doesnt look like anything else on the road, i’d be glad to help, if i could. yetibeats@aol.com good luck with your build, tony

  16. Todd says:

    I have been in the same boat as you I am about 85% complete with mine right now but I am working out of town and can’t seem to finish mine. I have the wiring and the fuel and brake lines left. Will send in Pics soon Good luck.

  17. Denis (fong bros) says:

    I can help you if you need it. The FB’s are in Baltimore which is kind of close to you. send me an email. generallee0101@yahoo.com

  18. kenb says:

    Get down with the sickness and get busy,,,, Hell yea looks like yous gotcha lots of willing folks sounds like goooood times yea good ones,ENJOY!!!!

  19. Paul Tanimae says:

    Stuck in the house with two feet of snow and more coming down – wish my shed was heated because I’ve received a ton of great tips and support that I’m itching to get wrenching. Thanks to everyone again for all the positive feedback and I hope to have some pics up with some progress in a few weeks.

  20. perry says:

    hey paul, lol your pile of parts looks familiar!. i just received a hard tail from tc bros and i got it in seven days. it has the same diameter pipe as the frame and looks real good too. check out there web site http://www.tcbros.com, they have some really cool stuff. i am also building my bike in the SHED in 6 feet of snow. oh jeez come on spring!!!. remember have fun thats what its all about.

  21. Bruce reed says:

    Have a look at my frame. I can send finished pics too. Chop off your neck mail it to me and I can make you one for 500 bucks.

  22. eggie says:


  23. ritzkraker says:

    im awaiting my first xs650 .. hopefully will be done soon , im cheating though – dude is building one for me in trade for my ’46 chevy pick-up-but i am looking for a stocker so i can build one myself -hoping itll be a little easier having one to look at while im building the other .. im in south jersey— way south (cape may county) .. we should all get 2gether and go riding when the weather breaks

  24. norm younger says:

    any finished pics

  25. Dennis says:

    damn, aNOTHER interesting story the ends inna thud……….

  26. El Gaucho says:

    Predictable end, given the beginning of the story. Hopefully he had the sense to sell it to someone who had the skills to do something good with it.