My 1978 XS-650E
This is the bike I bought new in 1978 - after some time and some changes. Hmmm, nearly done to the extend I wanted it to be
Well, you can see it had some things done to it. I decided that I would finally get this page done as there seems to still be so many fanatics
er, fans of this bike all over the world. I think Yamaha would be well served to bring it out again - but hey, that's just me.
I thought some of you out there might like to see what I've done with my beloved 650, so I've finally gathered up some of my photos and made this little web page for you all.
I hope you enjoy it. And I hope the detail shots meet with your approval - these are the kinds of shots I always want to see - and it is the internet - a little bigger photo don't cost a thing. Click on a photo to get a larger version that will open in a new window. Simply close that page when done and this page will still be here for your next choice.
One of the reasons so many like this bike is that it is slender and sleek. You can see it here - just like a knife to cut through the wind.
While most of us never get into a position where the rear view is what many riders will see of us because we are a whole lot faster than the new flashy sportbikes
But for sure, if you take care of it, this is the view many will see when we just keep riding along while they are fixing their bikes.
One real bonus of the bike was that it took me from Arizona to California, to New York and to lots of places - whenever I wanted to go, and it never failed me.
I always got between 65-75 mpg the entire time I rode the bike - and my riding partner on a Moto Guzzi T-3 would get about 33, filling from the exact same pump. I'm a pretty gentle rider, and have been for the past 50 years. I like that slow ballet of mountain curves, caressed by cool breezes, and showered by raindrops - it's all good.
This was the only vehicle I owned for some time - years in fact. So some practicality was considered really important. You'll notice the milk crate on the Yamaha factory rack - probably the single most useful thing I put on it. I made a mount from wood that fit on the underside of the rack and a piece of plywood dropped into the crate, bolted through to hold it in place.
A sturdy cardboard box for Oranges fit perfectly inside this crate for laundry days. And the old paper grocery bags would fit three across too.
I used the same mount to hold a locking box I made for it - the plywood and masonite box was designed to hold a briefcase snugly inside (something manufacturers apparently don't consider at all) and still left a flat top for that occaisional item I needed to carry home. Still have the crate and box too.
The only real problem I had with the bike was the upper left shock mount bolt sheared completely off
three days after I bought the bike! The dealer said they would have to ship the bike back to Japan for a new frame!! Hmmm? Send my three-day-old, brand new, zero mile, bike back to Japan for an unknown period of time. Not a good feeling I tell you. It broke off when I was removing the nuts to mount the Yamaha factory luggage rack. I pondered the idea and decided I would just drill through the mount and put in a real bolt. Worked fine for the next ten years. Send the bike back to Japan
I did get to spend a little bit on the bike over the years. But not quite as much as I'd like to have spent - just like most of you all. You can see from the photos that the bike looks somewhat different than a standard 'E' model looked like when new. I bought the deep green model - still like that green on a bike. Unlucky color for bikes some say - but not on mine. The dealer told me that he noticed experienced riders were buying the green ones, and young or first-time buyers bought the black ones. Just an observation he made. And in the end, mine ended up being painted black too.
I managed to track down a few things in junkyards, and had to (got to?) buy some new stuff for the bike. Most all of it had to be ordered because 'no one fixes up one of those things' right. I even had the opportunity to order, and used for several years, the complete chain enclosure made by Peter Furlong in Britain. The story goes that he made these things for all the 'popular' bikes over there - but since he actually rode a Yamaha 650 twin - he made one for us too. Never got around to making the modification to it for easy access to the chain, but I loved it anyway. If more bikes with chains had these things it would be better all around - clean and fixable on the side of the road
unlike belt drives.
Lucky is the only word that describes a couple of the items I found for the bike. And the fact that I traded for the right-side rotor and caliper was a bonus too.
I traded a set of black Yamaha factory fibreglas saddlebags, in near perfect shape. The guy at the 'recycling' yard in Fresno, California said the brake parts were worth a lot more than the saddlebags - but - I asked him how quickly the brake parts would sell compared to the bags. I had my second disc partsa few minutes later.
After I found a couple of other things from a Special - actually could not find anything from a standard anywhere - I began working on the bike again. What you see here is the way I left it after getting done most of what I wanted to get done.
Some of the little modifications that got done were written about in some of the motorcycle magazines and in the Yamaha 650 Society's newsletter. My best friend, Roy (my grey tabby cat) would even come and sit on the seat while I worked on the bike.
I joined the Society in either late 1978 or 79, can't remember when exactly. Jim Griner was running it from Peoria then. And when I was riding across the country, running late, I did not get to stop by his place at all. My newsletters began with issue number 13. Still have the photo pages around here somewhere - and a bunch of other 650 stuff -paper stuff-. Sorry.
I never was all that interested in making it go faster - just wanted to go period. I never take a passenger anywhere - if I can help it. So the size and weight and power of this thing was just great. My Dad really liked it too and he had been riding since the '20s as a motor officer, carnival performer, and a short time in 1933? as a Harley-Davidson dealer ( though he disliked Harleys a lot ). Preferred Henderson, Ace, and of course - Indian.
This great photograph was made in late afternoon soon after this project was 'completed' - and not too long before I left Fresno for Phoenix again.
Here I am, kneeling by the bike in its' day-to-day form after I moved back to Phoenix (one more time) and it still ran great, and worked for me. It was here in Phoenix, one afternoon I was riding across a major street here that I went to squeeze those giant front brakes with the tiny master cylinder (for really really great stopping power) that I simply did not have enough strength in my hand to stop the bike. I got it stopped about one foot from the car in front of me - which was stopped at the light at another major cross street. I got the bike home, walked down to the Mazda dealer near my home and bought a little pickup. A VERY sad day indeed.
I kept the bike for some time as I found it really difficult to let go of it - I'm sure you understand - I was very attached to the thing. But I finally sold it. The low frequency, high amplitude vibration of the twin was apparently causing problems in my hands.
Much later I got a Suzuki GS 850 and at first the weight and the strange feeling of it made me really tense - and tired. It finally went away - and the doctor kinda agreed with my assessment. The high frequency, low amplitude vibration actually helped the problems with my hands fade - for several years. I learned to love this bike too. I hated to let the 650 go - and it was my second XS-650.
The first bike I bought after coming home from the Army was a red 1969 Norton Fastback. It was a real bear to start. A friend - Reger Tejmar, helped me get it home in the back of my 1969 SS-396 El Camino. He left to go to work. I rode it for about five minutes until the throttle stuck near the end of the street where I lived. The front wheel hit the curb, came up in the air, and I ended up with my head stuck -through- the wall of the neighbor's storage room. My right hand somehow had gotten pushed through a chain link fence and I could not move. I looked back and there was Dad, walking down the street - chuckling. We got the wall fixed before the neighbor came home from vacation. But the Norton was done - bent the frame in a few places.
I bought the very second XS- sold here in Arizona in 1970, soon after I got home. (I originally bought a Yamaha 360 dirt bike as all my friends were riding in the dirt. Mine worked for about two weeks. NO ONE could figure out what went wrong. They gave me 100% back to put on the 'big' bike.) Yep, I had an XS-1 - another green bike. I became the only one in my crowd on a street bike. It was Number 00622.
It was bought from BSA-Yamaha West, owned by Ron and Claire Dorsey. Their service manager, Lakin Gabbert, used to compete in TT and flat track locally at our regular Wednesday night hangout - Manzanita Speedway (closed in 2010 or 2009!). And Claire used to kid me about not being able to start that old kick-start original (about the third or fourth time I came in - unable to start the thing again, Claire asked me ''if I wanted Mom to come out and start my bike for me''
). Once I -finally- got the hang of it, I didn't have to come back for 're-training' regularly. It was a good time for bikes, dealers were still friendly, and Phoenix was not all that big yet, so riding here was great.
This is the view I wish I still had. I've seen some really great versions of the bike in photos I've found online - and it has made me wonder about getting another one just to ride around town if nothing else. And some of the 'chopper' types are really attractive to me. Hmmm, Indian Larry makes an 'air shock' seat to make a rigid tolerable
In June of 1981, I rode this bike to New York with zero problems. Funny, going across I-40 in New Mexico I see a bike stopped by the side of the road. I was another Yamaha 650! I stopped, the guy was low on oil - I had extra - he would not use it. Not the right brand. ! Shortly, another bike came up and stopped - another Yamaha 650! He also offered his spare oil too. The guy refused again. OK. We rode on with him still there. I ended up riding from Omaha to New York in exactly 24hrs (my personal 1000-in-1) - well over 1000 in 24.
A few more of my bikes from the past - as I find the photos. I'm lucky to have my little Honda Helix now and, strangely enough, I love that thing.