“This thing just wants to have fun…”
The Yamaha XS650 is one of our favorite motorcycles, a British-style parallel twin whose engine was highly advanced for the time, featuring unit construction, horizontally split crankcases, and SOHC valve operation. King Kenny Roberts rode his XS650-powered flat trackers to fame, beating the more powerful Harley-Davidson XR750 on a regular basis, and the XS650 makes a perfect street bike, picking up revs faster than many of its parallel-twin contemporaries and lending itself to customization.
Enter Paul Hartman, a flat track-obsessed Minnesotan who moved to Oceanside, California, half a decade ago. Earlier this year, Pipeburn featured Paul’s Triumph Bonneville Super Hooligan, built to compete against the plethora of Sportsters in the Hooligan class. Now Paul is back with this 1983 Yamaha XS650, which he picked up for a good price some three years ago and just got around to building.
The bike is a mashup of styles, outfitted with an array of parts he had in the shop:
“Some flat track influence worked its way into the build since that’s what I primarily ride. I had a bunch of good parts around that were able to be used. Let’s call it a scrambler / tracker / street machine 🙂 “
Little on the bike remains stock besides the frame, engine, and swingarm. We especially love the high pipes, which Paul hand-made himself, and the overall spirit of the bike:
“I didn’t really give it a name, but I called it ripper a few times. Ya know, just go for a rip around town. Or rip down some fire road. It was just a nice little Ripper.”
Below, we get more details on this little red Ripper.
Yamaha XS650 Scrambler / Tracker: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I’ve been obsessed with motorcycles since before I can remember. I asked for a dirt bike for my 4th birthday and every year after that until I finally got one when I turned 7. No looking back. Full motorcycle psycho. My shop is now located in Oceanside, California. I moved here from Minnesota about five years ago.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1983 Yamaha XS650.
• Why was this bike built? (Customer project, company promotion, personal, etc.)
I built the bike for myself. It was just an extra bike I had sitting in the shop. I buy bikes that are good deals when they come up and get to them at some point. This one was sitting in the warehouse for about three years before I touched it.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The style on this one is a bit all over the place. Originally I was going to do up a desert racer style bike, like the old Triumphs that Steve McQueen used to ride. Then some flat track influence worked its way into the build since that’s what I primarily ride. I had a bunch of good parts around that were able to be used. Let’s call it a scrambler / tracker / street machine 🙂
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The tank and tail section are probably the first things that stand out as not stock. The high pipes I handmade myself. The suspension is not stock. Really the only thing stock on the bike is the frame, engine and swingarm. Everything else came from somewhere else. It’s pretty amazing how intake, exhaust and some jetting can make a bike rip. This thing is fast as hell.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
I didn’t really give it a name, but I called it ripper a few times. Ya know, just go for a rip around town. Or rip down some fire road. It was just a nice little Ripper.
• How would you classify this bike?
If I had to give it a term, I would call it a Scrambler.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I would probably say I’m most proud of just giving a bike new life. It was rough, and just sitting… I’ts fresh now and ready for a 2nd chance at life. This thing just wants to have fun.
the clean sculpting lines on the tank and seat panel work seamlessly to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. nice to look at.
Man how much would you sell this for??
Love to get one of these at some point. It’s been almost 50 years since my Bultaco Astro and I went flat tracking but I still think about it often. Where can I get one?
This bike looks just right and I am sure it goes as well as it looks. Funny thing is that back in the day they were a notoriously ill handling machine. Our Kiwi cops had them and they were always falling off.
Man that is sweet. One of my riding buddies from 40 years ago had a very similar setup though it was black with shorty flat tracker pipes. Needs a kick stand and for God’s sake a front brake. Other than that it’s perfect.
I agree with the builder its a Scrambler. My definition of a scrambler is a street bike built to be ridden in the dirt ( like the bikes of old). The tide has turned and maybe dirt bikes turned into street bikes might be scramblers if they look the part of the bikes of yesteryear. Jury is probably still out on that one. Any way nice bike, XS 650 are the bomb!