For twin brothers Tyson and Eli Carver, riding and building motorcycles began as a form of therapy, community, and passion in the wake of loss. We were fortunate to enough to see their custom builds at this year’s Handbuilt Show. First we featured brother Eli’s CB550 brat cafe. Today, we’re thrilled to feature brother Tyson’s custom Yamaha XS650 tracker.
If you have been following the blog for any length of time, you know that we are big fans of the XS650, and this is one of the very best we have seen. Tyson built the bike around the faceplate, which he knew would be a polarizing element. We love it — it gives the bike a signature “face.” What’s more, the bike is rocking a NOS Yamaha 750 big bore kit.
Below, we get the full story on this incredible build.
XS650 Street Tracker / Scrambler: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
About 6.5 years ago, my twin brother Eli and lost both of our parents about two months apart. I had always wanted a bike and after the loss of my mom, I decided that was the time. I bought a Buell xb12r two weeks before I even took the riding class and then proceeded to put about 14k miles on it within a year. To say it was my therapy is a bit of an understatement.
The Buell led to a Yamaha Warrior 1700 and then I started seeing these vintage, cafe styled bikes popping up. Christmas of 2013 I bought a 1973 CB750 with the intention of doing a full custom build. Seeing as how I didn’t have a garage, a friend was kind enough to let me invade his for about four months while I tore the bike down and built it back up into a basic café bike.
That CB750 then came home to a bedroom of my house for another tear-down that led to the paint, powdercoating, new seat, wiring harness and everything else that the bike turned into. It was about a two year process but that bike, my first build, was invited to the Handbuilt Show in Austin and I was hooked. My brother ended up building a CB550 [brother Eli’s CB550 brat cafe]. I helped my friend Tanner build a CB550 for his wife, Karly. It became something that our “family” did. It was community and healing and passion and all these things I needed wrapped up in one two wheeled machine. These days, I am building in a back room of a different house but very, very soon, I will be building a 28×30 shop at my house where I can really dive in. As if I haven’t done that already…
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
Technically this is a 1975 Yamaha XS650. But the frame is the only thing that fits that description. The engine is from 1980. Forks are from 2008.
• Why was this bike built?
This bike was built as the next step. I always have to have some sort of project going on and the CB750 was done. I had been seeing these Scrambler/Tracker builds popping up and decided that was the direction I wanted to go for my next personal build.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The bike was built around the idea of the faceplate. Everyone seemed to love the CB750 I did but I wanted something that would stand out this time. I wanted to do a bike that some people might not like but one that some people would love. I had the idea floating around in my head for a while but when Chris up at Limey bikes told me he had a NOS Yamaha factory 750 big bore kit sitting on his shelf, I couldn’t pass up on the idea of putting basically a vintage factory race engine in the bike I had been dreaming up.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
This bike started as a titled frame. You can learn a lot by tearing down a bike but that process didn’t happen with this one. Every nut and bolt and part had to be figured out for this one. With some Cognito Moto parts, I laced up some 18” rims and put them on a GSX-R front end. The frame was de-tabbed and the tail was cut off. My friend Tanner helped to weld up the Cognito hoop and the pan under the seat. The swingarm was stretched 2” and underbraced.
The ride height in the rear was raised almost 6” so I had to make both a slider for the swingarm and a roller for underneath so the chain didn’t rub on everything. I made the faceplate with foam board and then a friend with TADA (Total Art Design & Architecture) in New Braunfels, drew up the pieces in CAD and we had them cut from 5 gauge aluminum to make the final faceplate.
A fiberglass seat pan was made and Ballin Customz did the upholstery work on it. Krystal Hess of Ricochet Customs did the powdercoat on all the parts for me. I wired the bike with Motogadget electronics and since I have played music my whole life, I made up a custom ¼” guitar jack for the key. So, pretty much everything on the bike was custom but I have some very talented friends that have helped along the way.
• How would you classify this bike?
I would say this bike is a Street Tracker or Scrambler. I dunno what it is and that’s one thing I like so much about it.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I know it’s the polarizing element of the bike, but I am proud of the faceplate. A lot of design and thought went into the gauge and idiot light placement, mounting the headlights, mounting lights in the buffalo cutout, mounting the whole thing to the bike, wiring it cleanly and getting that guitar plug key to work like I wanted.
Photographer for Studio Shots: Jason Squyres with Red 5 Photo (@jason.squyres)
Follow Builder Tyson Carver: @txrenegade