At its introduction in 1978, the 95-hp Yamaha XS1100 — aka the XS Eleven — was the world’s fastest production motorcycle, clocking off the quarter mile in 11.78 seconds — a time unmatched by any prior machine. Magazines and testers were staggered. Says Motorcycle Classics:
“The massive XS laid down speeds never before seen by a Superbike of the period.”
What’s more, the 1101cc brute was simply unprecedented from Yamaha, whose largest machine to date had been the XS750 triple. Says AdamJames Licari of Licari Co.:
“This is the genesis for the Yamaha R1 — it was the first liter bike and first four cylinder produced by the tuning fork legends.”
AdamJames, who’s been riding and modifying these Yamaha powerhouses for the past decade, cut his teeth rebuilding old dirt bikes and vintage cars in the garage of his father, a mechanic, machinist, and engineer. His great grandfather Licari, a craftsman and carpenter, emigrated to the US from southern Italy before WWI. Today, AdamJames aims to carry on the tradition of his forefathers through his workshop:
“Whatever I do, I do with the thought of, ‘What would grandpa say if he were here?’ In the mindset of the good old days when every task was done right, and done once.”
With this 1980 Yamaha XS1100, Licari sought to build a one-of-a-kind motorcycle that captured the spirit of a cafe racer, achieving a balance of form, function, performance, and reliability. He went through every inch of the bike, repurposing OEM components when possible and leveraging his deep knowledge of these big air-cooled fours:
“This one is lightened, fully tuned, and considerably faster.”
Aptly named “Il Corvino” — Italian for “The Raven” — the bike was recently showcased at the 2020 One Moto Show, and will be a the Handbuilt Show in Austin next month! Below, we get more details on the build, and some stunning shots from AdamJames himself — an incredible moto photographer in his own right.
Yamaha XS Eleven: In the Builder’s Words
This is my recently finished, fully restored Yamaha XS1100 custom cafe racer named “il Corvino”, Italian for the Raven. Licari Co. is my last name, my great grandfather emigrated to the US from Italy before the First World War. He was a craftsman, a carpenter, and a man who built and designed many things with his hands. I push to carry on this tradition in all the works that I do.
When the XS11 was released in ’78, it was the fastest production motorcycle, capable of running the quarter mile in less than 12 seconds, producing 95bHP. This one is lightened, fully tuned, and considerably faster. Maintenance-free shaft drive keeps things clean. Quad Mikuni BS34mm carburetors deliver the fuel needed to make all that power. This is the genesis for the Yamaha R1 — it was the first liter bike and first four cylinder produced by the tuning fork legends.
I have gone through every single inch of this bike, hand-refurbished every component, a one-off minimalist wire harness, updated to a lithium-iron battery & charging system, etc. Every aspect of this bike operates and functions flawlessly. It is dialed in perfectly and is a total blast to ride. The entire idea behind this build was to put together a one of a kind moto that captures the spirit of a classic cafe racer, and to stay true to the ethos of the movement.
I spent countless hours modifying existing components and fabricating new ones from scratch to achieve my vision without spending tens of thousands of dollars on off-the-shelf parts. I reused and re-purposed a high number of OEM fasteners and brackets to accomplish this, such as the hangers for the power tray — they were factory relay mounts in the triangle that I cut off and re-used.
I’ve been riding and modifying these legendary Yamaha powerhouses for about ten years now. I know them very well, and found a nice balance point between form, function, performance, and reliability. This is hands down my favorite bike I have ever ridden, and I think others will appreciate all the little touches that went into it. Here’s an outline of everything on the machine…
All work was done in house by myself in my two car 600 sqft workshop…
- Handmade open 4-2 exhaust system.
- Carbs hot tanked and re-jetted for high flow intake and exhaust.
- Barnett Racing kevlar 7 puck high performance clutch.
- All new cables.
- 2000 GSXR 600 controls and NISSIN front brake master cylinder.
- Hand cut, shaped, and brushed levers.
- Custom built to length stainless steel brake lines from Venhill.
- DOT 5 Silicone based brake fluid (won’t eat paint or absorb moisture).
- Forks lowered 3 inches, properly. Springs reduced with machined spacers designed to maintain consistent valving throughout full range of operation.
- Avon Speedmaster front tire, and classic sawtooth pattern rear tire.
- Hand shaved upper and lower triple tree clamps with brushed finish.
- Brushed rear brake and shift levers.
- One off hand turned billet aluminum foot pegs I did on my buddies lathe.
- Shaved fuel tank badging.
- Shortened and hooped frame with fully cleared triangle and shaved in many areas.
- Frame sandblasted and resprayed gunmetal grey.
- Custom seat pan with multi-density motorcycle foam, and hand stitched cover. (Seat cover fab was the only thing I farmed out, as I’m still learning to sew.)
- Battery tray made from scratch to house all electronic components under seat efficiently.
- Automotive style ignition switch on bottom of tray, key starts bike, no start buttons.
- Full lighting kill on left side of power tray with LED backlit ring.
- LED headlight, very bright white light.
- Low pro LED tail light mounted under seat, only light can be seen.
- Every single electrical connection was crimped, soldered, covered with heat shrink, then wrapped with high end automotive cloth electrical tape.
- New Ricks Electric regulator/rectifier designed for lithium batteries.
- Battery is new Lithium Iron Phosphate power cell from Earth X.
- Lots of new stainless steel hardware. All remaining OEM hardware refinished on brass wire wheel.
- Many, many brackets, hangers, and OEM components hand fabricated, refurbished and finished.
Yamaha XS11 Videos
Start up, walkaround, and riding video can be viewed below.