"We all know the XS850 as a more or less staid touring motorcycle. Indeed its' shaft drive, its' weight and overall concept doesn´t predestinate the XS to be a racer. But let´s see how some modifications can change it´s character.
“Some modifications” of course understates the case. There´s not much left from the stock XS 850 (built in 1983). To tell the truth, the engine is the only component which was not deeply modified.
Let´s start with the wheels. The front wheel (19” ) was replaced by a 18” rim from an XS400, with even larger tyres (110/80/18 on 2,5x18" rim instead of 3,25/19 on 1,85x19" rim). The rear wheel now is a 140/70/18 tyre on 3,5x18" rim instead of the stock 4,00/18 tyre on a 2,15x18" rim).
Both rims have been enlarged by width (cutting the rim into three pieces and welding in additional elements)! The front fork is a shortened (4centimeter) XS1300 fork with 43 mm diameter (stock fork: 36mm).
Front brakes are from the Yamaha FZ 750 with 300mm disks (stock: 265mm). The main caliper is a Brembo PS 16, sourced from the Ducati 916. Steering bars are custom parts from the German manufacturer LSL . The instruments remained original, but had to be overhauled. The housing for the signal lamps again are from the XS400.
The frame has been cleaned of everything unnecessary and was then braced and reinforced with welded inlays. It also got chopped and shortened at the rear. The rear wing was reinforced too, by welding on a complete additional beam.
The rear shocks are from the XS1300. The rear brake is a combination of Yamaha R6 parts and a modified stock disk. The main caliper remains original. Footrests and pedals are custom parts from the Swedish manufacturer Raask.
The engine got completely overhauled, with new pistons and a tuned up cylinder head. Instead of the stock Hitachi carbs, now three Mikuni BST 36's from a Triumph T400 Tiger with a Dynokit Stage 1 are now providing the fuel-air mix. Three custom made inlet-funnels with 80 mm diameter replace the airbox.
The exhaust downpipes are from the British company Wemoto (the pipes are out of stock, meanwhile) and the muffler is a product from the German dealer “Speed Products”. Sorry, it's not really a Yoshimura! But the sound is amazing…loud and forceful. But because of the bikes age it's even legal in Germany! Every modern bike, producing such noise levels, would be caught by the police at once, here in Germany.
Last but not least, it´s the bodywork which gives the bike it´s outstanding appearance. Tank, seat and front fender are made of fiberglass. These parts are custom made by the German company “Ride In”, a Yamaha dealer who has specialized in nice custom works.
When I bought the bike, it had another paint job (Gulf-design). You can see pictures of it on my homepage. It too had a fairing, which, although not looking bad, didn´t satisfy me. I wanted to have a pure and straight bike, modified to the limit.
So I decided to remove the fairing and ordered new bodyparts with a different paint job from Ride In. They did a great job customizing the bike – which was some years ago. But it had seen better days. The whole bike was in average condition when it became mine.
It took me endless days last winter to get every screw shining and every component working perfectly. No single part remained untouched. I hope the pictures give you an accurate impression of the result. I own two more three-cylinders. Triumph Speed Triples from 2001 and 2013. Not too bad, but they can´t compare with the XS. This bike rocks. It's miles away from modern stuff that are overloaded with electronics and the all too common plastic design of modern motorcycles.
Simple technique, reduced to the max, for the pure and untamed riding experience. Isn´t this really what we all are looking for?"
The colours and quality shine through this Peter Jansen built Yamaha XS650 cafe racer. From the shorty front fender and fly-screen, back through the silky smooth paint job, comfy yet classic solo saddle and Dunstall pipes, this is a picture perfect cafe ride!
My Yamaha XS650 cafe conversion started from a homely 1979 Special Edition sporting a stepped seat, high "monkey bars", even a chrome luggage rack on back. Frankly it was ugly!
Firstly, I stripped it of the centre stand, passenger pegs, highway footforward pegs (yuck) and anything else not needed.
OMARS DIRT TRACK RACING supplied the seat/seat-pan combo and I could ditch the stock seat finally. The fun begins!
Using spray-paint and my feeble imagination, I tried about four or five different paint schemes, finally settling on the style you see here. After convincing myself this particular version was going to work, I employed a local artist to sandblast and spray away!
Here you can see I've gone shopping. I slapped on a set of rather loud but very satisfying Dunstall cans, a lightweight, freefloating brake disc, steel-braided brake line, excellent Monza style piggyback shocks, filter pods you can't see, modified shorty turnsignals, Norman Hyde cafe bars and other stuff.
650Central and OMARS supplied more of the little stuff and I insured the cafe beast, and off this Yamaha XS650 goes!
Ran like shit! Damn. Six hundred bucks later, carb sinc, timing job and some electrical work, and NOW she runs like a Swiss watch!
The Yamaha XS650 has to be the favourite for cafe conversions among all of the Japanese bikes I've seen. They're cheap to buy from wreckers and owners alike, bullet-proof as far as the motor goes, and there were hundreds of thousands sold all over the planet for more than a decade.
As well, they are pretty easy to modify with just a minimum of tools. If you've got a basic welder and some cutting tools (especially cutting tools!)your laughing.
Dedicated web-sites such as Omars Dirt Track Racing and 650 Central, as well as dozens more enthusiast sites keep the XS650 going strong with a plentiful supply of cafe racer parts and advice. Just Google Yamaha xs650 cafe racer and you'll see over 68,000 results!
This Yamaha XS650 is a beatiful and effective blend of old and new tech. From the painted-shell headlight right back to the tailpiece and light, it shouts FIFTIES! Look down and you'll see wher she gets fast. High-end hardware eveywhere, from the wheel/tire combos to the brakes, shocks, fork-brace and on...
Check the headlight/speedo combo. That looks like some old Ducati 125 unit. Who knows? Well no doubt some of you do! The fork brace is such an odd bit of old-school high tech I just have to laugh. But that was the go-to stuff in the seventies or thereabouts.
Last thought;where's that battery hiding? Your guess is as good as mine.
First, what a great photo! Then, what a nice XS650 cafe racer. Not much stock stuff left here. But it's so seamless it looks like something that might have come from the Yamaha factory.
Some high tech stuff where it's needed but not too much modern style. I love this bike but I always feel sorry for Europeans who have to wreck the back-end look of their specials with that enormous number plate!
On the plus side that front fender doesn't have to suffer the humiliation of sporting a big fat plate welded to the top. Good thing too. The added weight would ground the fender onto the tire. Now that's a tight fit.
Also love the pencil-like exhaust pipe!
This YAMAHA SR400 cafe racer ad from Japan looks like it's from the 70's. But that Supertrapp muffler, piggy-back shocks and modern steering damper give the game away.
The addition of the Ducati 900SS type fairing to the bikes frame make this a lovely cafe, along with the many other details apparent, such as shorty front fender, cafe seat, rear-sets etc...
Obviously, there are thousands of after-market parts available on-line and at bike shops everywhere that could be mixed and matched to fit just about any older Japanese bike. Whether it be pipes, lights, fairings, wheel and tire combos, you name it!
And whether you want to creat a streetfighter, cafe racer or chopper/bobber, your imagination is the only limit. Oh, and your budget!
Just remember, if you put new pipes and/or air filter pods on your special, you'll need to re-jet those carbs for a sweet running ride. Maybe that's why the smaller displacement one and two cylinder machines are most prevalent. One carb is easier to tune than four!
This YAMAHA SRX600 thumper shows how a tailpiece, fly-screen and good paint scheme can turn an already classic Japanese single into a tasty cafe ride.
Love to experience a brisk torquey blast through the twisties on this classic Yamaha cafe thumper!
1983 Yamaha Seca 900 Custom
Fans of synchronicity will appreciate this: Three years ago close to this very day, I sat in front of this very computer and pounded away at this very keyboard. My assignment was a piece about Greg Hageman, aka Doc’s Chops, and a 1982 Yamaha Virago 920 he’d transformed into a stunning café racer for Mike Martens of Kansas City, Missouri. The Ugly Duckling ran in the 2012 May/June issue of Motorcycle Classics.
Ever since his 2011 appearance in the second season of Café Racer TV, Greg and his Florida-based shop Doc’s Chops have become well known for building road-ready custom Viragos, along with parts and pieces to help others customize their own bikes. It was Greg’s TV debut that brought him to Mike’s attention.
Mike was blown away by Greg’s eye for detail, and he wondered if Greg would be interested in building a shaft drive Yamaha café racer based on the transverse 4-cylinder Seca platform. Their conversation went in circles, and instead of the Seca that Mike wanted, Greg ended up building the 920 Virago that was featured in the story.
The Seca’s draw
“My first bike was a 750 Seca that I bought when I was 16,” Mike says of his interest in the model. “I bought it in 1982 in Dubuque, Iowa, from a guy who’d lost his job. When I first went to look at it he wanted $2,500 and I only had $1,500. I didn’t even make him an offer.
“Later, I saw the ad again, and I went back. I was the only one who’d expressed interest, and I now had $1,600. He took the cash, and I rode it home. I kept it for quite a few years, rode it daily, and took many trips on it. The Seca made me a Yamaha man, and it made me appreciate shaft-drive motorcycles.”
“The Seca I found was a low-mileage motorcycle, but it had been somewhat neglected,” Mike says. “I bought it, and just put it in storage. And I kept talking to Greg. He said he would eventually build the Seca when he was in between some of his other builds.”
While he was waiting, Mike shopped eBay for parts that he thought might work in a custom application. He bought numerous tanks and tail sections, all from other Yamaha models of the 1970s and 1980s. For a few months, the UPS delivery man was a fixture at Mike’s door. Tanks originally found on RD400s, XS500s and XS750s, as well as one from a XJ550 Seca all went on Mike’s shelf, together with numerous Yamaha fork components.
In anticipation of delivering the bike to Greg for his deft custom touches, Mike took the Seca to Eric Bess at Flying Tiger Motorcycles in Maplewood, Missouri. It was Eric’s job to check, detail and tune the engine. “It was a healthy motor with perfect compression,” Mike says. “Eric took it out of the frame and tore it down to the point where it could be painted and polished to stock Yamaha specifications. Anything originally painted black was painted black, and anything polished was polished. Eric put a ton of labor into detailing the engine and the polishing, [it’s] just incredible. I knew when Greg saw it he’d feel the bar had just been raised.”
Although he left the engine mostly stock, Eric installed a set of Mikuni RS36 flat slide carburetors originally intended for a Yamaha FJ1100, along with SuperTrapp Megaphone mufflers on stock Seca 900 header pipes.
Then, in early June 2014, Greg finally called. “I loaded up the trailer with the bike and all of my accumulated parts and drove to Greg’s in Florida, and spent two days in his garage,” Mike says. The first day, Mike helped strip away the fairing, body panels and other extraneous parts from the Seca 900. Greg was busy tuning a Harley-Davidson Road King for a friend, so while Greg was otherwise occupied, Mike would drop a different tank from his horde of parts onto the bike’s backbone to see how it looked.
“Greg would quickly look up and say ‘No’ to most of the tanks; until I put on one from a 1982 Seca 550, and propped up the tail section, too. He looked up and said, ‘That’s the one,’” Mike says. That same day, Greg installed the forks, sourced from a Yamaha FZR1000. Mike was pleased with their progress. “I thought we’d hit a home run, but Greg reassured me there was plenty of work ahead to make it all happen.”
His two days up, Mike drove home and left Greg to finesse the build. In order to make the Seca 550 tail section fit the 900, Greg cut away a portion of the Seca 900’s rear frame. Next, he bent and welded together a new subframe, attaching it so that the top rails were in line and level with the bottom of the Seca 550 tank. The Seca 550 tail section was left completely stock, but Greg fabricated a steel seat frame to take a pad and cover. The gas tank mounting points had to be moved on the frame, and there was some reshaping required on the bottom of the tank itself. “I used a hammer,” Greg says. “It wasn’t a bolt-on modification, but it wasn’t too bad, either...”