John – This XS650 started out as a 1981 Special, it took me over two years to complete and I finished it last summer. I had in mind a post war, British style, vintage custom bike, and (although it didn’t necessarily transfer into the finished bike!) took inspiration from Falcon motorcyles, Atom Bomb Customs, Shinya Kimura, Earl Kane, and Jeff Decker plus a lot of bikes on here.
The hardtail conversion was initially done by Fenland Choppers. The tank is from a BSA Bantam and the whole front end, including the headlight, master cylinder and bars, is from a Norton 750 Commando. The rear 18″ wheel is XS650, the front hub is Norton and the front wheel rim is a 21″ Akront to mirror the style of the rear rim. The small highback solo seat pan was covered in leather by a local saddler who also made the tank strap. I cut the foam padding the give the seat some shape.
The 7Ah lithium battery, fuse box and ignition unit are hidden in what is actually a stainless steel biscuit tin! I used copper pipes to route the wiring and make it look like an oil tank.
I rebuilt the engine with new rings, seals and cam chain etc and rebuilt the gearbox with an overdrive 5th gear from Heiden Tuning, where I got most of my parts from. The velocity stacks are from Steel Dragon performance. The stainless exhaust headers were built by Aldens Exhausts in Lincolnshire and I’ve used short burgess style silencers, but I’ll get Aldens to make some upswept silencers over the winter to give a bit more clearance on corners.
This is my first motorcycle project and there were a few challenges along the way. I made a narrow top engine mount so the tank would sit low and flush over the engine. The Norton fork stem had to be extended to fit the length of the XS steering head. We had to fabricate a fork brace as there was some flex without the mudguard. I had the alternator stator rewound and needed a replacement rectifier and ignition unit, so everything is either new or rebuilt.
I’m really pleased with the end result and it’s really fun to ride. No doubt I’ll keep making improvements as time goes on. I’d like to clean up the bars and use a remote master cylinder and try and get rid of some of the vibrations through the grips. The seat is really comfortable but a bit firm on potholed roads – Anyone know of a source for softer 3″ seat springs?!
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