Yamaha XS650 Strawberry Shortcake

British vs Japanese engineering. It’s a debate that I’ve often heard between motorcyclists. It’s easy to see why each party would argue one over the other, but it’s not often it goes beyond the verbal banter. Chris Kelland of Limey Bikes entered into such a discussion with the guys at DeathTrap Cycles about Yamaha’s XS650 and Triumph’s T120 Bonneville. There’s no denying that the Japanese based the XS was modelled off the T120 but which is the better bike? Rather than rabbit on about it the two workshops started a build off and the result of the work done at the Limey workshop is this bike, the “Yamaha XS650 Strawberry Shortcake”.

According to Chris, this is how it played out…

“I had this questionable idea to have a build off with Deathtrap Cycles in East Austin after I claimed “the XS650 was the best Triumph ever built“. After all, the XS650 was a copy of the Triumph T120 Bonneville… minus the leaks and the Lucas electrics and the bronze engine bushings etc.”

“So, the plan was for Limey Bikes to build an XS650 and for Deathtrap to build a Triumph T120 (650cc) to prove which is the quicker machine in a 1/8th mile drag race. We set a strict budget of no more than $1000 to be spent on the engine to make it go fast; and it had to remain a 650cc engine capacity.”

“My donor bike was a 1980 Yamaha XS650 Special… for no other reason than I had one laying around. Now, the Triumph has a big weight advantage to start with (the Special weighs in at nearly 500 lbs and a T120 Bonnie, a shade over 400 lbs) but power output is about the same at around 45-50 horses. So, this would be a test of the XS650′s ability to produce many more horses with not much money and retaining all Yamaha engine internals. The plan was for serious head work, good carbs and a well balanced engine…oh, and a healthy amount of weight loss!”

Although the Strawberry Shortcake is “get down to business” bike Chris hasn’t skimped on style. In fact Chris has built a bike that is still somewhat practical despite wanting to win the race and prove his point. The quality of the work that’s gone into the alloy is clear thanks to the lack of paint and the brass fixtures and a red flaked frame and a touch of show bike pizzazz. While some may argue a hardtail may not be the best set up for a drag bike it does contribute greatly to the reduction of weight as do most of the other modifications Chris has made. “The end result is one very short, very light and very, very low hardtail that is actually not too bad to drive on the road.”

The DeathTrap T120 hasn’t been finished yet but I’m hoping this feature could be the extra incentive they need to get it wrapped up. Chris then promises to get us a video of the resulting race. Who will you be putting your money on?