Since I’m already on the topic of late 70’s Yamaha bikes and mentioned my sorted history with XS1100’s yesterday, I figure I ought to dispense a little information about how to build one properly into a long distance touring bike.
This is my 1978 Yamaha XS1100 that I picked up in Arizona.
1978 is the first year of the XS1100 and also the best in my opinion if for nothing else than they came with a kickstart shaft. They do not have a permanently affixed kicker, but one can be easily bolted on. They instead came with a small kickstart lever hung under the seat for use in emergencies. The later year XS1100’s did not come with a lever or shaft in the engine. The hole for the kickstart shaft was plugged and the space for the mechanism inside the cases was left empty.
As far as XS1100’s go, this one is setup for touring as good or better than other out there. Here’s a rundown of some of the modifications:
- Final drive conversion from XS850. The Yamaha XS750 and XS850 final drives run a taller gear ratio than the XS1100. XS1100’s are widely known to be a little tightly geared and run higher than ideal RPM’s in extended high speed highway cruising. A very popular mod in the XS1100 circles is to swap the final drive of the smaller triples onto the XS1100. It is not a direct bolt in mod, it requires a small bit of custom work to make proper spacers and washers, but is not terribly difficult. Some people experience failure over the long term because the XS750 and XS800’s gears aren’t built to the same strength specs that the XS1100 parts are. But as long as you don’t beat the piss out of it the gears will spin long and happy. The big benefit? Reduce highway cruising RPM’s and improve gas mileage.
- Yamaha Venturer auto cam chain tensioner conversion. The Venturer automatic tensioner is swapped on so that the cam chain no longer needs to be adjusted manually. A wonderful conversion for people who will be riding endless miles.
- 3 Ohm Honda ignition coils with marine grade caps and wires. Jumping up to 3 Ohm coils allows you to ditch the ballast resistor completely and uses less draw.
- Fuse panel replaced with automotive grade blade fuse panel. Lets face it, pretty much any old bike with glass fuses will benefit from this type of conversion over the long term.
- Kerker 4-into-1 exhaust. Meh. I rarely care about what exhaust is on a bike, but it sometimes feels impossible to find an older big bore bike that doesn’t have an aftermarket exhaust on it. The kerker does sound nice, I’ll give it that.
- Fork brace. The XS1100 is one of the most flexi bikes around. It has a huge amount of weight and power packed into a typical 1970’s rolled tube steel frame with spindly forks. A fork brace won’t cure all the flex, that’s for certain, but it definitely helps and I would highly recommend one. They are hard to find these days.
- Progressive fork springs. The stock springs in these bikes were never ‘good’, and after 30 years they sag like crazy. A good pair of progressive springs will liven up the front end, and combined with the fork brake make the bike feel much more solid.
- Of course the bike also has all the standard touring equipment. Luggage, guards, case savers, forward pegs, etc.
If you are preparing your XS1100 for some distance cruises (real distance cruises) then I would recommend you invest the time in a few of these modifications. None of them are expensive, they just a little time and effort.
I toured this bike very aggressively all over the west coast and central US. I’m typically a back roads kind of rider, but once in a while it’s nice to be on a big vintage hog and eat some highway miles. The XS110, when setup properly, is a an excellent distance cruiser. It was sold as a middle market type bike, appealing to both the sport bike crowd because of it’s speed and performance, and the touring crowd because of it’s weight, comfort, and the accessories available. Afterall, it was competing directly with both the Honda Goldwing and the CB900 – CB1100.
It toured like a dream both solo and two up. It’s a real workhorse of a bike.
It gets a little squirrelly when it’s overloaded, but that’s to be expected. The above picture is heading south through Central Nevada. Below is riding 2 up and loaded down through the mountains of Northern Montana.
After crossing the United States on the bike a couple times and zig zagging the southwest I had had my fill and moved on. Back to a lighter single cylinder for the time being….