Yamaha XS650 values have been skyrocketing the last few years. The early models in particular are quite valuable. However, they were sold in such large numbers over such a long duration that it is still possible to find some old junkers for pretty cheap.
I picked up the two XS650 specials below for a ‘bargain’. I put ‘bargain’ in quotes because they would only be a bargain to the right type of person, a person like myself, who likes a challenge and is handy with a wrench. Both bikes had a difficult time over the last ten years spending most of their time outdoors, uncovered, in the new england winters.
1980 Yamaha XS650 Heritage Special
1981 Yamaha XS650 Midnight Special
These Yamaha XS’s had an uncertain history. I bought them from a father and son who were given them when their neighbor died. I’m not sure if the neighbor was responsible for the butchering, or the father and son team, but someone did some shade tree work to these bikes and it didn’t turn out so well. Both bikes had a lot of snipped wires and some creative wiring. Neither had working electronics when connected to a battery. They were covered in lots of rust, didn’t have keys, were missing a couple parts,and had frozen everything â€“ except the motors. The motors were rock solid, looked to be in good condition and kicked over with great compression.
I’m not much of a chopper guy, but I’ve always wanted to hardtail an XS650 and build a bar hopper. Something like this:
These Yamahas seemed like just the ticket, so I picked them up. There is a lot of debate over the best years of the XS650’s. By all accounts the electronic ignitions introduced in 1980 (correct me if I’m wrong on the year) are more care free than the point based ignitions of previous years, but there is something in the mechanics of a points ignition that has always interested me. I like to tinker, and points definitely allow for that.
The later model Yamaha XS650’s however had a different frame which was a little more ‘robust’ with many heavy gussets that weren’t present in previous years. This makes for a little more work to get the stripped down chopper look (if that’s what your going for).
All in all I was extremely excited to finally have a couple xs650 twins in the garage and had all sorts of sketches of what I envisioned. Unfortunately those plans got curbed a little earlier than I expected and I moved on to my off-road bike projects instead. An XS650 chopper is still in my future though. As well as an XS400 SOHC cafe bike similar to the one I had before.