Flying without wings


I’m broke.  Flat dead, rob Peter to pay Paul broke.

I have had this old ’82 XS 650 for five years that my father-in-law gave to me because he couldn’t get it running.  After having it home for less than an hour, I was going up and down the street on it.  I rode it for two years completely stock.  My father-in-law kept talking about what a great bike this makes for a base to build a chopper.  I just didn’t see it; it was one of the homeliest bikes I had ever seen, what with its wrist turning pull back handlebars and all.

I finally pulled it into the garage to put a set of cafe bars and maybe cut the seat pan down from the king/queen seat to a solid bench.  And while doing that, replace the clutch that has always been bad, put a new chain/spur and sprocket and replace the front dry rotted rubber.  At this same time I was just starting to scratch built an airplane.  My passion is flight.  After getting tired of working around the 650, I boxed up the tank and seat and wheeled the chassis to the white trash storage at the side of the house where it sat while I built the airplane.  


I ended up getting laid off of my really good paying job as a dumb roughneck and started working for the state after six months of house remodeling/running out of airplane materials/unemployment.

I had been bicycling to work because I could not afford to register my truck, and my wife suggested that I get the motorcycle running. My opinion is she was trying to get me to clean the white trash storage area up- her term for it.

It was at this time I discovered this great site.


I sat at work looking at every one of these great creations (I do work for the state now, you know?) getting inspiration.  I took it all in, from my favorites like “Norma Jean” to the simple- I put a flat seat pan on it. Then I planned it in my head.  This bike was going to be built as cheap as possible and I would recycle everything I could to bring the phoenix from the ashes.  No corporate suitgoing around begging from respectable bike companies/suppliers and calling that being built on the cheap for me.


In the course three weekends I took the sawsall to the frame, heated and bent things, found left over 4130 heavy wall (by aircraft standards) tubing and oxy/acetylene welded it all back together as planned in my head.  I would have loved a hard tail from tc… well from anywhere to tell the truth, but those cost money.  My father-in-law sent an in progress picture to a HD friend of his.

This friend came over to look at it, bring two seat pans from his 1200 sportster; A really nice leather one for sale and a simple metal plate for trade.  He took a cheap set of torx bits.  And I found a large seat cushion on the road side while bike back to work one lunch and I covered it all with some left over seat covering I used on a Honda Nighthawk about ten years ago. The handlebars are more 4130 tubing.  I de-loomed the wiring harness and cut out all the stupid relays.  Look, it you are too dumb to know the clutch has to be in or be in neutral to start a bike, then you have no place being there in the first place.  I rewired it to keep it as simple as possible, keeping the starter.  I don’t use it, but my wife wants to learn to ride and now her short legs will reach the ground.  I spent as much time waiting for the money to re-register it as the build.  The total cost to build…$50; $25 for a new battery and $25 for the taillight.  I tried to re-use the license plate light as the taillight, but I was not happy with it- maybe if I put LEDs in it?

I am proud of my junk and I am going to ride the wheels off of it. Funny, the front is about to come off from dry rotting and damned it the clutch doesn’t slip still.  As a follow-up, I still have no money for wing skins and I cleaned the white trash storage area up some more.  I traded a ’94 jet ski for another ’81 XS 650. I gave this running bike to my father-in-law.  Maybe a TC Bros. hard tail would look good on it?


  1. Bodhi says:

    and so it begins…………

    never drink beer with a sawzall within reach.

  2. ksdtoday says:

    Sweet. no need to run seat springs, you have shocks on the back.

  3. tadd442 says:

    Cool story bro, kinda fun huh?

    I disagree @Bodhi….

    ALWAYS drink beer with a sawzall within reach!

  4. Sean from boston. says:

    i like the bike! kind of style i want to do to one of my2 !!

  5. Mark MacPherson says:

    Great story! I love the way the shocks look on it!.Glad U gave it to your father in law.I bet he’s very happy. I hope when my girls get old they get a guy like U,lol.

  6. Scott says:

    Thanks guys. I really enjoy this site, not kidding about looking at it at work. I knew I was going to take a hit on the double springs. I like it!!! It rides like a Cadillac. Seriously, I have the frame springs as firm as they go to limit the movement of the swing arm that the fender in now mounted on. There was a 6 pack involved in the sawzall incident, but after that I had no more money for more beer. Clear thinking involved in the re-weld.

  7. Larry says:

    Col! How is the Sonerai II coming? I’ve flown one before, loved it, am building a Micro Mong biplane myself.

  8. Ted says:

    Great story Scott. I laughed @ “working for the government deal”.. Are you building that plane yourself or is it part of the kit? Either way it’s a cool looks and interesting contraption. I would like to someday get into flying.

  9. Scott says:

    The Sonerai is coming slow but sure. I am hoping to scrounge up the money for the wing skins by autunm. Right now I am making the plug to make my cowling. I am going EFI and my intake is about 1.5″ too high, plus I will use kevlar to save weight. I hope you have fun building your Mong- two wings, that seems like double the work.
    She is a Sonerai IIL. A plans built vw powered 2 seat that came out in the early 70’s and is very fast. If you really tried to stick to a budget, it could be built for about $12000. It is easy and straight forward to build. You can learn more at
    Back to motorcycles- I learned a ton from this bike that I will use on the electric system.

  10. speedbump says:

    I am the father in law Scott was refering to! Scott is a die hard vintage English bike freak! When he first mentioned that he wanted to take his 650 in that direction I began to panic! For the love of Pete man what are you thinking!! My HD pal and I kept dropping subtle hints of what an awesome bobber it would make. What Scott didn’t know was I was sneaking into his bedroom at night and playing audio tapes that simply repeated the words 650 bobber over and over and over again. Every time the opportunity presented itself, I would introduce him to someone named Bob. The rest, my 650 fanatics, is history! I watched this rather sad example of a bike morph into the sweet bobber it was first designed to be. And yes the plans are rolling thru my head of the future of my 81! Thanks Scott for the scoot.

  11. HD Pal says:

    The HD friend here’ I slid over to Scotts one evening a few weeks ago after he had the ole’ 650 in running trim. I had rode to his house on my Sporty his seat pan was made for. We jumped on each others bikes and went for a short jaunt. Man, I loved the “LBB” Lil’ Black Bobber! I had a pristine 650 back in the late 80s that I had bought from my Dad. Now more than ever I regret letting that bike go. Scotty, your scooter design and fab’ work is inspiring to say the least. Enjoy the ride Brother, and it’s nice to know my tax money is hard at work!! =)

  12. adam says:

    sweet bike and the comments are great!!

  13. Trey says:

    I like the simple look of it, nice work. Did you cut the exhaust? also, is that stretched?

  14. Larry says:

    Hi Scott, the best prices I’ve ever forund for 4130 steel and aluminum sheet are to be found at Dillsburg Aeroplane Works 114 Saw Mill Road Dillsburg PA 17019. Might help you get that wing skin material a bit faster.

  15. o2koold says:

    Trey, the exhaust is cut. I have no idea how much. The son of the first owner did it. There is no stretch. I did lower it a fair amount, making it look longer. It is very stable now because of how low it is.
    Larry, Thanks for that tip. I did get all my 4130 from them 3 years ago. Grumpy old man, isn’t he? I will have to see if they have 2024 on a roll. I need 4 102″ sheets plus 7′ for the turtle deck. Airparts in Kansas City is the only one I know that sells rolls. I am thinking about a full custom frame of 4130. I know where I can get a few 650 engines cheap. If I had a jig table I would go for it.

  16. pauly says:

    You’de think building airplanes would lead you to having some sort of design other than just plain nasty….stick to planes…but I hope you’re not flying them…see ya in the after life!

  17. o2koold says:

    I respect the fact that you dislike my bike, that is your choice. When I built the bike I had certain design goals in mind. First and foremost was to build it as cheap as possible, recycling everything I could. At no point did the design goals include pleasing Pauly. I feel I met my goals, especially for a first build. I have had a great summer and a long fall riding this bike everyday. It has been a blast. I’ve put over 2500 mile on it, and that is just around town due to the lack of a charging system. Now with winter coming, I will most likely bring the bike in and work on the finish and the other problems it has. As far as the planes go…Yes, I am flying a homebuilt currently. I did not build the plane, but it is my 2180 VW motor. It’s owner is so happy with the engine, he takes me flying, teaching me how to take off and land a taildragger all the while paying for the gas. I have about 10 hrs of the 100 SMOH in his Cygnet. And I will most likely build my own design later in life. Don’t be so hafeful Pauly, you might enjoy life alittle more. Isn’t that what bikes and planes are about?

  18. Dennis says:

    @Scott – “At no point did the design goals include pleasing Pauly” – that is TOO fu@k^ng funny!! LOL….. ol’ Pauly needs a refresher in “polite”…..