Having spent years of drooling over the pages of BSH [including the bikes!] the lockdown happened. Time to have a stab at building something mad on a budget. I have big respect for XS650 motors; handsome, great sounding units with spades of character. They are a peach to work on and an easy choice for a first project.

My head had been infused with a cocktail of Youtube chop vids and bike build-offs and so fired up with a shed-load of enthusiasm I was gonna do this. An old XS chop frame [with V5] was on offer in far-flung Yorkshire, so me and the dog made the trip north and a deal was done. The frame had seen some mileage in a previous life.

It looked pretty straight and sound and it was clearly a one-off with a bit of stretch and some decent looking welds. A salvaged engine was acquired and re-bore ensued, pistons, gaskets, valve seals and loads of other stuff swiftly followed under the radar of her-who-must-be-obeyed. I had toyed with buying a cheap runner as a donor, however, XS650s have become popular and bargains are now rare. A brace of BS38 Mikuni flat-slides were cleaned, rebuilt and married up to a tasty set of velocity stacks.


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A PMA electronic ignition system was installed. A set of upswept high-level pipes from Ebay looked the biz, these were a bit too shiny so I scrubbed them with WD40 and wire wool to give a toned-down stainless steel look. Then I fashioned some slip-on machine-gun exhaust ends by drilling exhaust repair tube. The ignition coil was sunk into a Newky Brown beer can.

The rustic battery-box was made from scrap wood with rusted gothic corner braces found in the man-cave. The bike’s concept was thus growing rather organically in the direction of bobber-old-skool with a smidge of steam-punk rat. Rusted raw steel and brass became the theme. Rough mock-ups took shape in the back garden using a broomstick to check rake angles.

Blocks of wood were used to prop up the frame and seat then photos were taken and manipulated in a basic compooter programme to convey rough proportions of the build as my collection of parts progressed. The Heritage wheels I found were a tad rusty but paraffin and wire wool helped tidy them up and the white-wall tyres looked the dogs-doo-dahs on the rims.

As new, they looked a bit too white so I wiped round them with a rag soaked in white-spirit and wood stain to soften the look. The rear fender was ordered new in raw steel and nicely fitted the tyre profile like a glove. The standard front fender was cut down with an angle grinder. The skull on the leading edge is cut from a stainless gothic ring and epoxied in place. Z-shaped bars and the fork tubes with a triple tree were salvaged items.

Chromed headlamp and tail light assemblies were bought new then abraded, painted and distressed to fit in with rest of bikes rusted theme. You fast getting the idea that I am allergic to shiny stuff and polishing! The steel seat is a hill-billy farm salvage and had been festering under my shed bench for yonks. I honed a 50mm chunk of ash for a seat base hiding the recessed hinge, sprung cross-member and retaining bolts.

A pair of heavy duty six-inch springs were added to lift my arris clear of the exhausts and created room for a tool roll above the fender. The weird monster thing on the tank was an image found on the net. It just appealed to me and suited the quirky nature of build. Someone commented that it looked like a demented potato so hence my nickname for the bike ‘SPUD’.

I painted the images free-hand and the black/white chequer stripe was achieved with the help of masking tape and a scalpel. The overall rusted raw-steel finish was a total experiment, achieved by leaving steel parts outside in the rain then brushing rusted areas with rust-converter. After rinsing off, the surface was rubbed down.

The mottled patina was dried then sealed with boiled linseed. Finally, I had collected all the parts to make Spud. I am crap at welding so I handed a truck full of parts to the ever-so talented crew at SO LOW CHOPPERS. I left them with a cardboard dummy of the leccy box to fabricate plus a few notes and left them to work their magic and do a dry build.

I have to say they did a cracking job in getting it all up and running. It just left me a few small finishing jobs to complete the final look. That old tractor seat is soooo comfortable! The style is a bit like Marmite, love it or hate and no apologies for the pun. . . I dig the ‘Spud’ and it’s a crisp little performer!!!!

  • SPECS
  • Design and concept and the collector of parts – Owner
  • Frame – pre-owned unbranded one-off [origin unknown]
  • Tank – twin cap peanut style – pre-owned and donated
  • Engine – XS650 1981 Special edition – salvage from DK motorcycles – [UK]
  • Front Forks XS650 – salvage from DK motorcycles
  • Electronic ignition – PMA system from Mikes XS [USA]
  • Carbs – Mikuni BS 38 with 3 inch velocity stacks from Ebay
  • Exhaust pipes – twin high level from Indonesia – machine-gun ends by owner
  • Bars – Z-Pattern pullback drag – pre-owned from Ebay
  • Kick-Start pedal – Harley after-market part welded to the XS lever
  • Electric box – Fabricated by SO LOW Choppers
  • Top and rear Engine mounts and other welding etc – SO LOW Choppers
  • Seat – pressed steel from American farm salvage on 6 inch springs
  • Wheels from XS650 Heritage Special model 19 inch front 16 inch rear
  • Tyres – White-wall classic MAXXIS
  • Coil Cover – Newcastle Brown can and basket made by owner
  • Paint – raw steel, rust patina sealed with boiled linseed.
  • Frame coating – 3 coats of Waxoil
  • Tank and fender images painted by owner with Humbrol enamel
  • Pistons, rings, oil temp gauge, oil cooler from Heiden Tuning [Holland]
  • Forward controls and all linkages supplied by TC Bros [USA]
  • Headlight and clocks bought from stall at Copdock 2018
  • Other consumables from Yambits [UK]
  • Dry build/tuning/road test – SO LOW Choppers [Stanton – UK]
  • Total cost of build £4650

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