I’m a minimalist?


The parts on this build are temporarily being held in place by clamps, pieces of wood, a towel, bubble gum and just the right balancing point. Needed to get an overall visual before finalizing with welds. I’m a big fan of minimalistic details in bikes, art … well, most things in life. Can’t say this bike is turning out that way. A fenderless, brakeless front end is almost a religious requirement on a bobber build.


Love the sparse look but, I couldn’t help but think, it might not be so great planting my face on some car’s rear bumper cause the only brake I have is a scrawny rear drum. The unobstructed view of front tire meat is neat but picking road debris, from my face after every ride, seemed much less appealing. Hence the fender.   Anyway here are some of the details so far:


Frame: By Dave “Tigman” Huntress. How he was able to make a frame from my miserable drawings is a miracle.

Wheels: HD 16 X 3 with stainless steel spokes laced and trued by Buchanans.
Tires: Metzler Marathon 130/90 16
Gas Tank: Triumph knock off from Lowbrow
Engine: 750cc rebuild by Thomas Racing Service
Carbs: Mikuni VM 34mm
Springer: 2″ under by DNA
Front caliper: 4 piston by DNA
Rear caliper: HD Girling single piston
Pipes: Mike’s XS with inserts. Tips: By Biltwell.
Bars: 1.25″ stepped down to 1.0″ for hand controls, sitting on 3″ risers.
License plate bracket: from Lowbrow.

A lot more work to be done…


  1. marcus abel says:

    Oh yeah. The tank emblem is going to be a billet aluminum modified chevron/arrow with a heat stained titanium insert bisecting it…

  2. My friend Mike is finishing a 81 XS650. The intent is to run a front fender that floats with the springer front end. My background is art and I have been building motorcycles for twenty years. We are minimalist as well. Mike has just completed a new set of handlebars that are 1 5/8” diameter. The grips are the same size with internal throttle and clutch. Brakes are dual master cylinders on the forward controls he made. If you can weld, check our wsite, under the featured builds I fabricated a single side fender mount for the orange bike. Mike’s 650 is under RIGIDS but the old bars are shown. The front tire is actually a 180-18 but states 200-18. We have since changed it to the 200.

  3. I drew a concept of a 650 that is very similar to how Mike’s will end up looking like under ARTWORK on our wsite.

  4. Sean from boston says:

    Not bad at all! Looking good I like the springer and was also thinking of no front break but decided it would be worth not killing myself to have a bit of ugly I live in the city lots of stop and go, but great job so far keep it up!

  5. marcus abel says:

    Ya might break something if a brake is lacking. Which is the practical side of the discussion, but I’m also buying into the function is beauty argument.

    Anyway the spirit of this website and, more importantly, the character of the posted builds is a rarity these days. A pleasurable kind of voyeuristic look at people putting up something personal and unique in a society, while glorifying individuality, actually subtly corrals the truly free spirited. I like every bike posted. Even though, many of them, I wouldn’t want in my garage. Must be the same with the people. We’ll wave to each other, passing on a winding road, but that doesn’t mean we’d spend time together knocking back beers at the local pub. We all learn from seeing the choices people make. This site gives that up in spades. Kudos to XS Choppers and my fellow travelers, whether or not we’d share a drink…

  6. Barney says:

    I think the minimalist idea is great with losing the front fender, then again, i’ve never ridden a bike without a front fender before. My current build will be the first. I guess I’ll see how it goes. You are using the same front end that I am. I like your tank and can’t wait to see how it turns out.

  7. marcus abel says:

    @ Johnny: Love that fat tired, dark beauty, 650 springer on your website! Have you posted that here? Now I’m hunting down the orange bike you mentioned…

  8. Bill says:

    minimalist is nice to look at but when you get caught in a rainstorm you wish you had that front fender, but always make sure you have a bandana around so you can tie it to the front end and push it onto the tire that way it will sweep most of the water away.

  9. fanoboss says:

    keep us updated please..

  10. The background story; Four years ago a aquaintance of my bussiness partner (Paul) rode in to our shop a few times asking tech questions about building a bike. He asked Paul to “Please come over to the house and look at my project. All the shops, Harley or Metric do not want to help me.” Several times Paul past by his house without stopping. Several weeks later I here of this and comment, ”I’ll be there after work.” Saw the parts he had and the pictures up on the little tin shed he was working in. Within three hours we formulated the goals. I drew out a teardrop box for under the seat, and like my bike, (first under RIGIDS) a hidden spring for a floating seat. We both agreed a fat tire for the front, fabricate the forward controls and big gas tank. Mike had the typical flat trailer fender, which is good because now he has a spare for his trailer. The project came to the shop a short time later. I have instilled a standard of quality that has evolved over the time he has worked on the 650. The floating fender for a springer has to be off the axle. this can be achieved by welding the fender mount to the axle spacer. The mount requires a secondary (anti rotational) double heim join to the rear leg of the springer set up 6 to 8 inches above the axle. The single side floating fender is on our website chopperworks.ca (Burlington Ontario) under FEATURED BUILDS. Client wanted a cheesy stock style fender but it was light and small so single side mount was possible off the caliper mount (in line with the axle). Mike’s bike should be finished within a couple of months.

  11. Uncle Bear says:

    It looks to me like you need more rake, at least 10 degrees in that neck. Your mock-up looks cool otherwise. Have fun building. Later

  12. Mike has his bike pictured on” XS650 Bobbers-650 Photo Galleries” The site has a yellow background and his bike is on page 1 and 2 of Bobber pages.

  13. marcus abel says:

    @ Uncle Bear: On that increased rake is that a stylistic preference, a practical concern regarding handling or both?

    @ Johnny: Thanks for the info. and background story, looking forward to the completed build! All the best…

  14. Rake. Between 26 to 34 degrees is common on most production bikes. Harley Softail frames are the same for a Fat Boy or Custom (30 degrees), they put 4 degrees of rake in the Custom fork clamps to give it a more chopper look. Anything over 4 degrees in the clamps and instability can occour at speed. If the neck has 38 degrees or more, 5 degrees + can be put in the fork clamps without trouble. To keep the ground clearance with the exsisting front end the neck has to be lowered when more rake is applied. Frame needs to be in a jig and TIG welded. I would add more structure as well. Springers are the best for big rakes for how they work. I prefer 40 to no more than 45 degrees. With 40, I can do a 180 turn on a side road with out putting my foot down. Once again check the first bike under the RIGID list on my wsite, chopperworks.ca, it has 40 degrees of neck rake 0 on the fork clamps with 8” over fork tubes (20-7/8” being stock length) We have built bikes with as much as 49 degrees. Straight line riding if set up right is very stable. If it is a heavy bike lots of rake will make the front end flop to one side or the other hard off center when at rest, not a big deal. On a Bobber consider 34 degrees to 40. I must now get back to my bikes. Good luck.

  15. I’ve got to add. A 16” wheel with a 130mm tire usually looks ugly with to much rake. Look at the SPORTSTER list on my site, the first one has as much rake as I would do using a 16” wheel with that neck hight. Bike builders like ‘Zero Engineering’ put the neck low and pull off a good look with a 16 and rake. O. K. I’m done now.

  16. Uncle Bear says:

    “@ Uncle Bear: On that increased rake is that a stylistic preference, a practical concern regarding handling or both?”

    If you increased the rake as well as the frontend length, it would look proportionally better and improve handling at speed with the increased trail. It isn’t actually a stylistic preference, it’s just that I can’t recall ever seeing a goose-necked frame with the rake you have.

  17. marcus abel says:

    The neck rake on this frame is @ 32. I goose necked it because I needed more backbone length to fit the faux triumph tin but didn’t want to go higher to achieve the needed number. Visually, I prefer a compact and connected design. However, to illustrate the bi polar gymnastics going on in my head I’ve seen SOME Ness digger bikes that I quite like. Even on these builds Ness stayed low which keeps it stylistically appealing to me. Put a design skyward and you’re probably going to lose me. Some Norwegian or Swedish guy built a Harley lowrider bobber with an extreme rake but found a way to keep it all compact. Liked that also! BUT I’m NOT a builder and have little experience so I’ve taken conservative steps with the thought that I want to be happy riding this thing even though style accounts for a lot. Maybe with additional experience I will test numbers and angles that this build doesn’t approach. Anyway too many small details can slow things down so I’m going to leave the bigger issue of rake as it is. Thanks Uncle Bear and Johnny for your input!

  18. marcus abel says:

    BTW The wheel base on this is @ 68″ with an overall length of 94″. Any info on how that compares to what mostly gets built?