Back Street Heroes
XS650 CAFÉ RACER – MINIMAL TRACK CONQUERING YAM’
WE FEATURED MARCEL ORTMANS’ LAST XS650 BACK IN ISSUE 415 – A GORGEOUS FENLAND CHOPPERS-FRAMED CHOP WITH A BSA TANK AND LONG SPRINGERS. I SAY ‘LAST’ AS THE BIKE YOU SEE HERE IS ACTUALLY HIS FIRST XS650, BUILT BEFORE THE CHOP…
Prior to this, by his own admission, all he’d really done was bolt stuff on to his Sportster, but he wanted to learn more about motorcycles and, inspired by the first Bike Shed Show in 2013, he thought he’d have a go. After some research he found one of Yamaha’s venerable XS650 twins’d be a good basis for a custom, and was both an ’andsome-looking bike, and one for which many spares and custom parts’re available.
A very rough donor bike was sourced from north London (the owner kindly rode it across the river to his home in south London) and, not long after, he’d torn it completely down to clean/refurbish where possible, replace if needed, and add his own custom touches inspired by other bikes he’d seen. It wasn’t easy though – living near the centre of London in a second-floor, two-bed flat, with no shed/workshop, meant all the work was going to have be done either in the communal car park under the building, on his balcony (de-tabbing and grinding, he says, was fun for his neighbours), and in his kitchen.
Being a part of the Bike Shed culture, he wanted to build a café racer, something the twin cylinder
XS really lends itself to, and one that was useable – not just something pretty to look at. To that end, he contacted the now defunct RB Kustoms to have a seat loop added to the subframe to tidy the back end up, and also got Russ to make a box to hide away underneath it to house the electrics (including a Shorai lithium battery) so they didn’t spoil the de rigueur under-seat emptiness. It’s topped by a brown (of course) minimal seat, covered by Stan Leather, and sits just in front of a Wrenchmonkees mini tail-light that, like the Bates-style headlight, came all the way across the North Sea from Denmark. Aftermarket clip-ons replace the stock ’bars, and give the café racer crouch, and a set of chrome clocks’re
complemented by a minimal idiot-light cluster cleverly set into the top yoke. The front end is, like the back, mostly stock (albeit rebuilt/refurbished), save for a set of Hagon springs in the forks, and a pair of upgraded vented discs from Heiden Tuning in ’Olland. Hagon also supplied the rear shocks, and that not-usually-seen-on-an-XS left-hand master-cylinder, like the one on the right, is a Nissin, and operates an XS650 Shop hydraulic clutch conversion.
Actually, that’s not all that’s clever about the motor. It’s quite trick actually, with new Mikuni TM34 carbs with Steel Dragon Performance velocity stacks; said hydraulic clutch conversion; a Boyer Bransden Micro Digital ignition; and a Smedspeed oil filter conversion with a Heiden Tuning oil cooler extension. It’s had a host of new parts (valves, guides, pistons, rings, etc.), and the gearbox’s been converted to run needle-rollers for strength/longevity. The exhaust’s a hybrid of stainless Motad downpipes with Cone Engineering stainless cones, and Sid the Sloth was engraved on the left-hand engine cover by BSH’s old mate Tony ‘The Engraver’ Reynolds – somewhere along the way, the bike’d gained the name ‘Sid’ (although Marcel has no idea why), and it seemed apt. It took, he says, two years to complete, but now it’s registered as Historic (so no tax/
MoT and no London Congestion/ULEZ charge), and it’s been accepted into the Bike Shed Show twice, done the DGR a couple of times, and’s also been raced (“badly” he says) at the first Bike Shed Café Racer Cup at Lydden Hill in 2018, where it acquitted itself admirably for such an old trooper.
It was all quite a steep learning curve, he says, and going through some of the documentation he’s kept, he asked a lot questions to other people, and says that, knowing what he knows now, he probably could’ve made some more economical decisions, but that’s all part of the fun of building, isn’t it? (Don’t answer that…) Finally, as he really and truly has the building bug, it may be up for sale at the right price – ring or text him on 07940 988883 if you’re interested.