Raw Steel: Dallas Augustine's Yamaha XS650 Bobber
Words: Dallas Augustine Photography: Luke Ray.
The decision was made; I wanted a new project to get stuck in to. I posted a wanted ad for an early Yamaha XS650. The rattier the better as I knew I was going to chop it up. I run my own fence building service. I found a bike in Ballarat that was registered and ready to go. It was a little far from my home in Box Hill, but this guy needed a new fence and I needed a new bike. It was the ideal situation. We agreed that a straight swap would work, so I packed the truck the night before for an early start. I arrived in Ballarat by 7am, tore down his old fence and smashed up a new one, loaded the bike up and drove her home.
I already had a vision in mind as to what I wanted. It would be a mix of board tracker style with a hint of motocross. Coming from a BMX background, I've always liked my bikes ‘raw’, so this moto was to have no paint, just naked steel and brass.
I had never used a lathe before but knew that I would need to make a lot of custom parts myself to get all this to work, and within a pretty small budget. The hunt was on for some equipment, and I found an old '50s style Hercus lathe on eBay and after winning the bid, we drove out to Geelong to pick it up. We arrived at this huge property, it must have been at least 100 acres.
The first first thing I said to the owner was "So where are the Kombis”? “Yep, we've got a couple down the back” he replied. My never ending search for a farm find split screen VW bus may have just ended, but that’s a whole other story!
The front half of the bike is the original XS650 frame. For the rear, I ordered a weld on section from the U.S. While waiting for that to come through, I got myself started on the front wheel. Shes a large hoop.. 23 inches sourced from a Honda XL250. I Took the forks apart and lowered the front 3 inches, shaved all the brake and mudguards lugs off using a grinder and a hand file. I got the ‘new’ lathe fired up and spun all the spacers to get it all dead centre after teaching myself some turning basics. The rear wheel is off a Yamy SR500, which perfectly took an 18 inch rear drum.
At various points throughout the build, I sourced many of the parts needed online and they came in from all around the globe. The tank is an original Wassel from the UK. The rear guard, seat and fog lamp were ordered from the States. Generally, most of the bolt on parts available are pretty cheap and nasty, and look it too. I wanted to stay away from the tacky stuff so most of the parts I hand made myself in the garage. The wing nuts holding the tank are old bicycle rear wheel nuts that I soldered into a bolt. I didn't have a torch at the time, so the old camp gas cooker and some solder did the trick.
I couldn't find any handle bar grips that I liked, but a friend of mine, Undies, gave me an idea from a courier bike and we used some old bike tubes wrapped around the bars. It almost looks like old leather, but the bars now feel like they have much more grip. I'm not really happy with the seat that’s on the bike now, so I've drawn up a pinstripe design that I'm getting hand made from leather at a later date.
For a few bits and pieces such as the number plate and rear guard brackets, I drew up what I wanted and sent the drawings off a laser cutting workshop. It was all then tacked together at home in the garage with the mig, and passed over to Luke and Kane from McQuarrie Fabrication in Wiilliamstown to finish off all the welds.
The rear section of the frame finally arrived from the States, and it looked pretty special. It had been built with zero stretch and a 4 inch ride height. I wanted to keep some nice straight lines from the back bone and not have that hollow looking section between the rear wheel and the motor that can look hollow.
I had G. Works Custom Cycles in Geelong cut and weld the rear section for me. I can do welding at home myself, but when it comes to the frame, that’s one area I want to be strong and dead square.
To keep with the ‘raw’ look, I sourced and fitted an old brass Wormald fire extinguisher to hide the previously exposed electrics. It was little small but Christian from Modern Motorcycle Company (see page )worked his magic, and he even managed to squeeze a tiny battery in there. Christian also did a PMA swap [permanent magnet alternator] and fitted an electronic ignition. All in all, he has the bike set up and running very reliable.
So, this Yamaha bobber is my first attempt at a garage built hard tail. There is another project planned for later in the year. That is, once I decide which bike to attack with the grinder.
This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 09.
Follow Dallas: @sallad_engineering.