The Drifter XS
Jay – I’m very proud of this build. I’ve been building XS650’s for a few years now out of my small shop; Vintage Customs, in central Florida. My first bike was a XS650, “Norma Jean” (posted on xs650chopper a while back) and I’ve been building them primarily ever since (Norma Jean, The Bandit, Copper Devil and many others that never made it out here). Over the past year I’ve really been into the bikes coming out of Japan, the usual guys, Gravel Crew and the like.. Ive been looking through blogs and studying pictures from past Yokohama shows looking to build something a little different than the usual bobbers we’re all used to.
The Drifter was my response and homage to those “brat” bikes I’d been studying so much of. I started with the typical neglected bone-yard XS650 and a scrap XS500 which donated the titled neck and steering assembly. The XS500 trees are a bit more narrow and happened to fit the mid ’70’s Honda 21″ front wheel I had been wanting to use. The 500 neck was grafted to the 650 frame a de-raked in order to keep the front wheel very close to the frame, the front forks were lowered 3″ as well, giving it that stubby brat look.
The rear frame section was bent up by me and the shock mounts were moved up and forward, combined with the 11.5″ Monza style springs to lower the bike down a good 3″+. The tank is from an old Kawasaki 100, the headlight is an old Honda trails unit and the rear fender was cut down from an unknown stock rear fender given to me by a friend.
The tins were then painted by me with a PPG silver base with silver flake, HOK Pegan Gold candy with gold flake & HOK Root Beer candy with Root Beer Red flake. The frame and custom fork covers, built by me, were also base coated in black, then flaked with a gold micro flake over top.
The motor is a mid ’70’s motor, fully rebuilt and upgraded with a factory electronic ignition, XS Performance high output coil & XS Performance PWK carbs. The pipes were custom built by me for the bike. The coil, battery and electronics are hidden away as much as possible. The rear wheel is a stock 650 16″ aluminum mag wheel, modified to fit the Mooneyes Starburst wheel covers, another nod to the Japanese custom builders. I love that solid disk look. The tire is a Shinko 240 on the back & an Avon Speedmaster up front. The handlebars were custom built for the narrow built-in risers on the top tree. Some vintage gold metal flake Schwinn bicycle grips finished it off with some fun.
Overall, the bike has been great! A lot of people ask how easy it is to ride with the narrow front end and really, it’s a lot like a bmx bike, really nimble. The bike was posted only a short while on my website, vintagecustoms.tumblr.com before it sold. I’m now completing another very retro/vintage style xs650 for a customer and already have plans for a couple more this coming year.
A walk-around of the Drifter XS650 built by Vintage Customs. VintageCustoms.tumblr.com
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