Leo Brown knew he was mechanically inclined at an early age when he began taking bicycles apart and was able to put them back together. In the natural progression of his two-wheeled passion, dirtbikes came next as his choice of mobility.
Even in his formative school-age years, Leo would draw old-school choppers reminiscent of the radical bikes from the ’60s and ’70s. During that progression as the years passed, Leo moved from taking bicycles apart to tinkering with motorcycles and cars. His mechanical inclination was mostly self-taught, but he recognizes that some of his knowledge came from his father and the mechanics at the local garage.
All of this love for mechanical things led Leo to become a marine engineer. His education, job and life in general kept Leo busy, so he didn’t get too serious about building customs until about seven years ago, when he built his first one in his mother’s basement – it began life as a 1979 Yamaha XS650. His second build was for his brother, Jeff, also using an XS650 and a homemade welded-chain frame of Leo’s design.
His most recent build, shown here, was for another brother, Greg. After some discussion about style and details, both he and Greg agreed that it should be long and low, and, once again, Leo should use the venerable and versatile XS650 engine. Leo built a frame jig on a steel table, and after purchasing a donor bike for $200, he began to hack away. All that was left was the engine, engine cradle and steering neck. Just like Jesse James of West Coast Choppers fame on the Discovery Channel, Leo hand-bent the new frame tubes using wooden forms, resulting in this single downtube, stretched rigid, with an 18-inch seat height. With wheels mounted, the bike has an overall measurement of nine feet, three inches. Part of that long stretch is the fact that the rake in the steering head went from the original 27* to 40*.
On the rear, Leo used a 200-section tire mounted on a Harley spoked wheel, and after some fork modification, he installed a salvaged front hoop from a 1972 Yamaha. While Leo rebuilt the 650 vertical twin into a big-bore 750, Dave MacDonald of Gulf Marine fabricated the seat pan from eighth-inch stainless, and owner Greg and brother-in-law, Glen MacKinnon, cut up an old black leather jacket for the upholstery. Suspension for the rider is via a bicycle shock mounted under the seat. Leo widened and stretched the stock fuel tank, and the side covers were fabricated to fit.
Now you need to understand, Leo is a pretty ingenious and talented guy. Not only did he bend and build the frame by hand, rebuild the engine and fab up the tinwork, he also laid down the final paint, including all the airbrush work. That kind of talent doesn’t go unnoticed.
The problem with life is that work gets in the way of a good hobby. Living in the Sydney, Nova Scotia, area means that his marine engineering job takes him out to sea for long stretches at a time, so it took Leo two years to complete this bike.
When it came time to start this bad boy up, the garage was not only full of those directly involved with the build, but also a few extra buddies who were hanging around for the big moment. Leo felt the pressure, but it was unfounded – the brand-new, rebuilt bike started on the second kick.
For Leo, the smiles on everybody’s faces said it all, but another source of great pride for him was that whenever he finished a bike, he would ride it up to his mother’s house for her to take a picture of it. This bike is dedicated to her; she passed away a few days after Christmas last year. MMM
Owner Greg Brown
Builder: Leo Brown
Time to build: Two years
Name of Bike: Bajo Paseo (Low Rider)
Builder: Yamaha/Leo Brown
Displacement: 750 cc big bore kit
Lower End: Yamaha
Pistons: Mike’s XS
Cylinders: Mike’s XS
Exhaust: Mike’s XS
Builder: Modified stock/Leo Brown
Rake: 40 degrees
Painting Leo Brown
Air brush Leo Brown
Molding Leo Brown
Front Size: 19-inch Yamaha
Rear Size: 16-inch Harley-Davidson
Wiring: Joe Brown/Leo Brown
Gas Tank: Modified stock/Leo Brown
Seat: Dave MacDonald, Greg Brown, Glenn MacKinnon
Handlebars: Leo Brown