Project bike #2 - The 5K Cafe Racer

The W650 Cafe Racer is now 98% complete (pics coming shortly) and as such I recently started the hunt for a new project. I spent a lot of time researching motorcycles to find a bike that I was confident would meet the requirements for my 2nd Cafe Racer build. I gave myself a set of strict rules to abide by to ensure I didn't blow my budget or bite off more than I could chew (my mechanical skills are still quite limited). My rules included the availability of the bike in Australia as International shipping wasn't an option, availability of parts (OEM and aftermarket), popularity as a custom motorbike (following in other people's footsteps guarantees success and helps you avoid stupid mistakes) and a total budget of $5k or less if possible.

I had my heart set on a Yamaha SR500/SR400 from the day I first set my eyes on the Deus Ex Machina Grevious Angel. But they are hard to come by and their popularity has soared since Deus came on the scene so prices were in excess of $5k. I would love a big single for thumping around town but my budget won't allow so the SR dream will be placed on hold for now.

Honda CB 750's also made my list but aesthetically they aren't quite my taste (no offence Carpy) and they proved hard to come by. They are however a great base for a Cafe Racer build and parts are easily accessible so don't let me put you off.

A while back when I was digging through images on Google when I came across photos of 2 bikes built by a guy in the Netherlands. The bikes were HOT and had a unique look so I was intrigued to find out what type of bike they started life as. To my surprise, they were a pair of Yamaha XV750's or Viragos! In Australia, the Yamaha Virago appeared most commonly in a 250cc format so I was shocked to learn they came in much bigger, more respectable engine sizes (Virago's to me had always been a bit of a offence to the Virago lovers). Here are the specs: "Zero Cafe Racer, XV750 1981, total rebuild, sharp steering low, ground clearance, bad brakes but f...... faaaaaaassssssssstttttt. Owner Engelbert Visscher, Enschede, Netherlands". After finding as many pics of the bike as possible and even trying to contact the builder I started a search for a similar bike in Australia but to my disappointment, I was unable to find any for sale online so I sadly moved on.

Then I remembered a comment made by a reader about the Yamaha XS650. A quick search online revealed that the XS650 was a popular bike for customisation (usually Bobbers) and had been sold locally in Australia for years. The XS650 was renowned for having a bullet proof engine and responding well to engine mods and in recent years has started to become a bit of a collector's item so good examples were going up in value. After finding a few clean XS650's on the east coast I was confident that one would eventually come up for sale in Perth so I waited. In the meantime, I discovered several online communities of XS650 owners (650 Rider, XS650Forum) and a couple of online stores where I could purchase pretty much any replacement part I required (Mikes XS, XS650 Spares, 650 Central).

At the start of December, a 1978 Yamaha XS650 popped up for sale on eBay just outside my hometown. Bids were starting at $2000 (well within budget) and the bike ran. The seller was very upfront about the bikes condition so I placed a bid. The auction finished with my bid being the only one at $2000 so I was the proud owner of a running, but in need of some TLC, 1978 Yamaha XS650 Special. With $3k left in my budget, I am pretty confident I'm going to be able to create something special.

Now the teardown and rebuild can begin....stay tuned for more!

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