Shaft driven motorcycles have been around since the early 1900’s, but Yamaha’s shaft driven debut didn’t come until the late seventies. The shaft driven XS750 triple was one of the first and was released as an affordable motorcycle designed to appeal to a younger audience who were drawn to European styling. Between 1976 and 1979 Yamaha sold around 150,000 XS750’s and Cycle World Magazine listed it as one of the top 10 motorcycles of its time. Despite being 40 years old Matt Schindler at Dapper Rat Motorcycles figured the XS750 still had plenty of appeal and thanks to some well executed upgrades managed to turn it into one hell of a sexy Cafe Racer.
The Yamaha XS750 came into our shop a few months ago. Since it didn’t have a speedometer/odometer, we can’t be completely sure of the miles, but according to the previous owner it had about 55,000 miles on it. With so many miles a teardown and inspection was warranted. We started with the engine and found that everything inside looked good, but the cylinders were slightly out of tolerance. Due to lack of availability of oversize pistons for the 750, we bored the engine out to 850cc and used the standard (not oversize) pistons of an XS850.
The engine is just the beginning. The standard forks and brakes on a ’78 XS750 leave a lot to be desired by modern standards (even though the bike was one of the first to have dual disks), so a front end swap was in order. We decided on a 1987 FZR1000 front end as it was one of the best handling bikes of the 80s. To get it to fit right the triple clamp assembly was modified slightly. Due to the shaft drive and to keep it looking period correct, we decided to stick with the stock XS wheels. Going one step further, the brakes we converted to modern Brembo calipers and the master cylinder from a Ducati 996. The disks are EBC with a special 15mm offset.
The XS750 rolled out of the factory in 1978 with many bells and whistles, such as self cancelling turn signals. Being sport bike enthusiasts, we at Dapper Rat felt this was overkill, so we took all that extra crap off and pulled it back to the basics. A stock charging circuit and Shorai Lithium battery (very light weight) were sourced. Since the stock battery box is huge, Dapper Rat fabricated a custom aluminum battery box which was mounted under the seat. The stock electronic ignition was kept (the first use of electronic ignition on factory Yamaha motorcycles) and we replaced the speedo and tacho with a single Motogadget Chronoclassic dial that reads both RPM and speed.
The seat was replaced with a custom cafe’ racer style unit with a small rear cowl. Low profile turn-signals were installed front and rear and due to the many electrical modifications, the stock wiring harness was thrown out and a custom one made using high-temp, chemical resistant wire. Light weight Woodcraft clip-ons replaced the heavier (steel) FZR1000 bars and engine was given a new lease thanks to a few coats of VHT (Very High Temperature) black “barrel” paint. The frame and wheels were also powder coated and all wheel and steering head bearings replaced with new stainless steel sealed bearings. Finally the exhaust was replaced with a Mac 3-into-1 with a stainless steel reverse megaphone.