Xs650 the grave-8 2015

Ross Jackson – So the bike is a 1977 xs650 that was brought over from the USA in packed shipping container, it was a total basket case none runner but solid. I stumbled across your site when looking for bobber ideas, it was then that I totally fell for the little Jap twin and decided it would be the base for my first build. I was probably doing research for over 2 years before I had the funds to buy a donor bike, I was working out in Egypt on a salvage job when I won the ebay auction, 8 weeks later I arrived home and the little red xs650 special was waiting for me in the garage. I didn’t really have much working space but quickly stripped it down, I ditched all the wiring and electrics as it was all going to be replaced with new stuff. I needed a workspace so the bike was put to one side whilst I built a workshop out the back of my house, I like to do things properly so a new concrete floor was laid and i built a hydraulic bike stand so i could work on the bike with some comfort.

-1 2015

-2 2015 -4 2015

As soon as it was finished I pulled the engine out with the help from my mate JC, its a heavy lump on its own and I had dislocated collar bone at the time, BMX at 32 is a bad idea. I decided to do a full top end rebuild to check for any damage and decided that I would do all the wok myself. I got it all vapour blasted, painted the fins with high temp paint and then filled and polished the fin edges down with a dremel, this took hours to get right but I like the look.

-6 2015 -15 2015

The internals looked good so I put it all back together with new gaskets and seals, this was my first mistake and part of the massive learning curve. The engine has been out twice since. Im running Amal MK1 concentric carbs with stunning manifolds made by Melv at the ‘GreenSand Foundry’ over here in England, he’s a one man band in his shed at home. I lapped the valves and fitted new seal and the cylinder was honed out, everything went back together fine, such a good engine to work on.

-5 2015 -12 2015

The frame was next and decided I wanted to go for a full hardatil. The TC bros was appearing on most of the builds on here, I wasn’t so keen of the stance so opted for the Ardcore choppers Hardtail. When it arrived from The USA the thing was amazing, its oozed quality and it was so easy to fix up to the front of the bike. I went for a ribbed ducktail rear fender which I mounted using round bar bent in the bench vice and the mounting tabs and lugs from LowBrow Customs, these guys have some great ‘how to’s’ on their site. A peanut gas tank also from LowBrow was fitted up front using their ‘how to’ once again, they really make things simple and always a quality fix.

-10 2015 -16 2015

I made the foot peg mounts, rear brake stop mounts and all other little mounting tabs myself, you get pretty handy with a grinder if you take your time. The only thing I didn’t cut out was my rear plate mount and light bracket, I made the template out of card and took it to a local machine shop where it was cut out for a Tenner ($15)!! A Biltwell Seat and hinge was also welded on, all simple stuff. I shaved and lowered the front forks by 2.5”, this was from the HHB ‘how to’ pages, the guy is the wizard on the XS650. Im also running a HHB PMA and speedo delete.

-9 2015

The fake oil tank, which is from an old BSA I think, houses all the electrics including the Boyer Brandsen Ignition box and the capacitor as I’m running it without a battery. I had to de tab the box and then cut it in half so i could fit all the stuff inside, it was a bit tricky to do but I’m very happy with it and by pure fluke the ignition key fits perfectly in the top. The bars are from my little XS250, i brought a set of clip on mounts and beat them up on the bench wire wheel, cut my bars in half and mounted them up. I’ve got a new brake lever and reservoir from and I’m using a pressure banjo switch for my brake light which I’ve plumbed into the split manifold.

-11 2015

The front light is a bates style and the switch is hidden on the neck of the frame, the only button on the bars is a mini push button for the horn. Wheels were rebuilt with stainless steel spokes, powder coated rims and polished hubs, I opted for the popular firestones for the tyres. Shotgun exhaust were painted white, not to everyones taste but i like them, I soon had to wrap them black because the British winter was playing havoc with the white.

-14 2015

I think thats pretty much it for the build, it was all then stripped back for the paint. The frame and other parts were powder coated satin black. I went for vintage gold flake on the tank and fender which was done at ‘Revolution Paint’ then the super talented ‘Ornamental Conifer’ did his thing on the tank and electric box. I just let him do as he pleased and was totally blown away with what he did, makes the bike so personal to me.

So now its all back together hows it riding running etc!! Well from the start it was as a pig, I had a massive oil leak into the chambers and realised it was valve stem oil seals. I had no option than to remove the engine and strip the top end and fit a £5 set of oil seals, killer. It soon fired up after and the oil leak seemed to be fixed but it was still slightly smoky. After about 60 miles of riding I started to get a misfire, took me a while to figure it was fouling plugs. It was all down to oil again and  had no option other than to strip it AGAIN and this time I went for a full performance valve kit from Heiden tuning and new pistons and rings.

-7 2015

Lesson learnt, if its stripped down put new everything in, its worth spending the cash and doing it right the first time. Remember I’m a home builder and everything is self taught, its good fun learning and researching and trouble shooting and finally getting things fixed. All back together for hopefully the final time the bike fired up perfect and now there is no smoke at all, no black engine oil and no splutters of oil up my workshop wall!! The bike is running good and I’ve been giving it the shake down rides over the last month. Still having fouling plugs issues but this time its carbon and not oil, so its running rich or my timing is out.

Amals are not supposed to be on this bike but i know people who run them and I’m not giving up, they look too good. I have advanced my timing slightly because after using a strobe I noticed it was running way too retarded and probably not burning all the fuel in the cylinder. Im booked in at a Dyno next week with a ton of main jets, needle jets and idle jets so its getting sorted once and for all.

Ok so since the photos I have slightly raised the bars up the forks and its looks better also rides better. I have finally ditched the small battery for the Capacitor, because it was running crap the bike wasn’t starting well on just the HHB PMA so the battery gave it a little extra kick to fire up. I have also fitted some different exhaust, down pipes with cocktail shaker mufflers, still not decided which i like best, when is a custom bike ever finished??

How does it ride??? pretty good actually, the firestones are seriously bad, but I knew that before I fitted them. They have square edges which when you get near a lean they quickly throw the bike over, I don’t care, I’m not riding track days or Motox on it. Even though I’m having fouling issues the bike pulls so well and is pretty quick. I find it weird not having anything between my legs to help steer the bike but I’m used to it now, its comfy and puts a massive smile on my face and thats what its all about right!

-13 2015

Its been a massive learning curve and a pleasure to build. I would like to thank this website first for the inspiration to build a xs650 bobber, it wouldn’t of happened without

Then massive thanks to LowBrow customs, HHB, Melv at GreenSand Foundry, Revolution paint and Nico (Ornamental Conifer) for his little mark on the bike. You can see loads of build pics on my instagram account ROOTBEERBOBBER

Cheers Ross