Pick of the Bunch: Indonesia's Starken 96 Garage Yamaha XS650

Words: Geoff Baldwin Photography: Luke Ray

One of the best things about being an invited guest at Kustomfest in Indonesia earlier this year was the opportunity to award someone’s bike as my pick of the show. It wasn’t so much the fact that I was being seen as someone important enough to give the award (which was a pretty humbling experience), but more about the fact that I had the chance to make someone feel pretty special at an event with attendance numbers of well over 20,000. I know how much hard work and heart and soul goes into building a bike and I couldn’t think of anything better than having that work recognized in front of my peers and fellow enthusiasts.

When we first arrived at the exhibition complex in Jogjakarta (pronounced Yogyakarta) the custom bikes and cars were still rolling into the massive space. As we walked into the huge, half empty expanse of the main hall, before the show had even begun, there stood my winner. I knew plenty more bikes would be arriving soon, but my mind was made up.

As we started setting up our booth I turned to Luke and said “I’ve found my winner”, he looked a bit surprised, but knew exactly which bike I was talking about when I described it to him. I have to admit I’m a bit biased toward Yamaha’s XS650 as I have one myself, but this build was truly something special.

On the final day of the show it came time to award the winner. I’d already let the staff know who I’d chosen and was ready on stage to hand over the trophy. My winner was invited to join us on the stage and up walked Bayu Wedananta of Starken 96 Garage. After a quick Q and A on stage and the trophy handover, I exited the stage with Bayu.

I let Bayu know how much I liked his bike and said we’d love a chance to shoot it following day after the show, to my dismay he said they were packing up that night and making the six hour drive back to Bandung. I was devastated. I had high hopes of capturing as much content for the magazine as I could while we were in Indonesia and this certainly wasn’t a good start.

The following day the show was over and the hall was already empty. We’d managed to line up a few feature shoots, but as far as I knew the XS650 was already 400km away from our camera. We started the day with a car shoot for an upcoming feature in our sister publication, Fuel Magazine. The owner of the blown, tubbed Holden Ute that Luke had chosen as the Fuel pick of the show had lost his keys during the bump out of the show so I was helping him ‘gain access’ using some old tricks I had up my sleeve.

As I stood there sweating in the 34 degree heat struggling to get the car’s door open, Luke came rushing up with a grin on his face, “You’ll never guess what just drove up!” Minutes later we had the door of the car open and I headed over to where Luke stood beside Bayu and his custom XS650. Our hosts had taken it upon themselves to persuade Bayu and his team to remain in Jogja another day especially for a feature shoot and I was once again humbled by the incredible generosity of the Indonesian people.

The bike was put together as a showpiece for the newly formed Starken 96 Garage which will have its workshop based in Bandung and a shop front in the holiday resort region of Bali, more than sixteen hours away by car. The bike’s owner Opak had seen Bayu’s previous builds and recognized an opportunity to make his builds available to westerners who frequent Bali. After meeting to discuss the build and handing over the bike Bayu started work preparing it for its unveiling at Kustomfest while Opak returned to Bali to fit out the new Starken 96 Garage retail space.

The Yamaha XS650 was introduced to Indonesia for use by the police force in the late seventies so there are a limited number available making them a dream machine of sorts in the bike scene. Bayu built his ‘Get Lucky’ custom ‘79 Yamaha XS650 in just two months with the help of his good friends Nova Riyadi, Donie Fajar and Mang Jana. A relatively quick turnaround for any custom build, but as he went on to explain exactly what he did on the bike, the incredible task of pulling it together in that timeframe became apparent.

Bayu learnt his skills in custom building from his father who made a career from customising Harleys and Japanese bikes. In ‘96 he began building his own bikes and now, according to the Starken 96 team, he’s the Indonesia ‘steel man’. Working off a design that existed purely in his head, Bayu stripped the XS650 down to nothing more than its engine. After a clean up and detail Bayu began building the bike around its parallel twin heart.

The first of all the impressive things I discovered about Bayu’s XS650 was its frame. Constructed in just two days, the double cradle hard tail was built using a jig he’d constructed in his workshop. The wide rear end houses a solid dish, sixteen inch Fatboy rim wrapped in chunky five inch Avon Mark 2 rubber. Mounting tabs and brackets were kept to a minimum to keep the visible parts of the frame as clutter free and smooth as possible, and the frames neck was designed specifically to fit a set of springer forks sourced from the States.

The front hub from a Triumph T100 looked the part in the springer so Mang Jana machined custom brass spacers to mount it up before Bayu laced it to a fresh chrome rim before being wrapped in Avon Speedmaster rubber. With the frame rolling and the engine mounted it was time to put together the bodywork. The bike’s fuel tank, rear cowl, faux oil tank and entire front fairing are all hand formed from steel by Bayu. Working at an incredible pace he finished the front fairing in a mere two weeks.

Wiring was simplified and hidden in the faux oil tank and does away with the need for a battery as a kick start only system. The two trumpet style exhausts do very little to baffle the bark of the engine setting off car alarms during our shoot and earning us a special visit from the exhibition centre security guards. Bayu also informed me that the lack of indicators and the twin yellow lens headlights aren’t exactly legal in Indonesia, but the odd backhander makes almost anything possible with the local authorities.

With Kustomfest drawing near, Bayu started work on the bike’s finishing touches. Mang Jana was given the task of machining the brass and alloy caps and spacers while Nova and Donie polished them and prepared everything for paint. It was then back to Bayu for the  stunning paintwork. Inspired by Harley-Davidson’s AMF days he mixed up a sunburst colour palette using satin metallic finishes that he laid on a gunmetal grey base. Then to finish off the build (and his lengthy list of skills) he laid the custom pinstriping, lettering and stitched up the black leather seat.

When I nominated Bayu’s bike for my pick of the show I knew it was something special, but it wasn’t until after meeting the man that I realized just how worthy of the award it was.

This article first appeared in Tank Moto issue 06.