Matthew Patek's 1978 Yamaha XS650 Special

First-time builder Matthew Patek found his 1978 Yamaha XS650 on Craigslist. Having previously restored dirt-bikes and four-wheelers he had decided to tackle something a little more ambitious. Having been wise and done his research, talking to builders both pro and amateur at shows and on blog sites, he decided on an XS for its ‘blank-canvas’ platform, the availability of parts, and the volume of resources and information. The three magic ingredients for a first-time builder. Matthew searched for a ‘78 model, the year he was born.

The bike was beyond neglected, having been left to experience a slow painful death, abandoned in the northern part of Maryland. The engine was seized, there was a bees nest in the neck of the frame, no carbs, cylinders filled with water, and a whole lot of rot and rust. The positive was that it was located close to home, the frame and engine matched, and a clean title was in hand.

“I'm a pretty shy guy. I'm not loud, I'm not flashy. Naturally, the bike would represent both my craftsmanship and personality. As a result, I wanted the build to be extremely minimalistic, with absolutely no fuss.”

Matthew figured he would need around $3K to build his first bike, including the price of the bike itself.

“I just wanted to get my hands dirty, and bring the '78 back to life. I quickly became obsessed with the project and decided that I might as well give it my all. Honestly, I'm too frightened to add up all of the expenses. I'm certain I'm way over budget.”

The engine had seized and the cylinders had filled with water. As a result, the engine went through a complete rebuild including separating the cases. The cylinders and heads were vapor blasted, and the cylinders bored to 75.50mm (two oversize). New pistons and rings were fitted. A kick-starter delete was installed and the cases polished.

The fuel tank was in a terrible state, it had to be cleaned and relined, and taken down to bare metal before being dispatched to J&B Motors of Wrightsville, PA for paint. The seat pan went to Counter-Balance Cycles in Providence, RI for upholstery.

The wiring woes were the biggest challenge, as is often the case with a first-time build. Matthew became lost in a wiring labyrinth, until he took the plunge and bought a Motogadget M-Unit Blue from Revival.

Matthew got to work de-tabbing the frame, fabricating and welding custom brackets for the seat support, the M-Unit, and the rear fender support.

Matthew felt he’d turned a corner when the frame and wheels came back from the powder coaters J&M Enterprises out of Cedarville, NJ.

He re-installed the engine. “Ah! It actually looks like a motorcycle again.”

He paired his phone with the M-Unit Blue. “It's Alive!”

He fitted the tank, and put in some fuel, started the bike and heard it run for the first time.

The crowning glory was taking the bike for its first ride. “I can't remember the last time I smiled so big. Well, actually it was in 1987 when I received a NES for Christmas.”

The project took four years to complete. He purchased the bike in May of 2015 and deconstruction started in November of the same year. The first ride took place on November 27, 2019.

Being a true basement builder with access to limited resources, Matthew is 98% satisfied with the results.

“Nothing is ever perfect. It's simple but robust. Absolutely a keeper. There's way too much blood, sweat, and tears poured into this build. I would never be able to sell it.”

We really like Matthew’s build; it’s simple, clean, functional and sleek. We look forward to see what he plans next.

Here's a list of the parts and components Matthew used on his build:

  • Motogadget M-Unit Blue
  • Motogadget M-Switch Mini 35mm
  • Tarozzi Clip Ons
  • Tarozzi Rear Sets
  • Progressive Fork Spring Kit
  • Progressive 412 Rear Shocks
  • Hugh's Handbuilt Fork Brace
  • Hugh's Handbuilt Stainless Speedster Pipes
  • Hugh's Handbuilt Slimline Master Cylinder
  • XS Charge Ignition & Advance
  • XS Charge PMA
  • Paughco 5.75" Chrome Headlight
  • 2.25" Classic Round Taillight
  • Revival Cycles Signature Universal Starter Solenoid
  • Biltwell Whiskey Throttle
  • Biltwell Kung Fu Grips
  • CRG Lanesplitter Mirror
  • JBM Carb Boots
  • JBM Carb Diaphragms
  • HEL custom brake lines
  • MotionPro custom clutch cable
  • MotionPro custom throttle cable
  • Bridgestone Spitfire (100/90 19" Front, 130/90 16" Rear)
  • EBC Vintage Disc Brake Rotors
  • K&L Tapered Head Steering Bearing
  • K&L Brass Swingarm Bushings
  • Stainless Steel Caliper Pistons (HVC Cycles)
  • K&N Air Filters
  • 2FastMoto Fork Gaiters
  • 2FastMoto Manual Petcocks

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