As you’d expect, there are a few bike nuts around the Mojo office, and quite often, our conversations revolve around stuff we’d like to build for ourselves. A common theme has emerged, involving mid-sized Japanese bikes from the ’60s and ’70s breathing through carbs, lightweight frames and an electrical system that you can draw on a napkin over a couple of beers. This minimalist formula is well within reach of most enthusiasts and makes for a far less daunting endeavour than most modern customs.
Lucid Kustoms in Calgary, Alberta, brought us a fine example of how to do more with less. The basis for their exercise in simplicity is a 1979 Yamaha XS 650. Not a bad choice, as this motor, or at least a slightly modified version of it, powered racing legend Kenny Roberts to many number-one plates on the flat tracks of North America. It was one of the most advanced twins of its time, with a single overhead cam and unit construction, which combined the engine and gearbox into one case. The design allows for a simplified lubrication system and a much more compact and attractive package.
The small size of the motor and transmission also allow them to be mounted in a variety of chassis. For a case in point, have a look at the modified XS frame in these pictures; the rigid rear section is a custom fabrication, mated to the original front portion. There aren’t a multitude of sparkly bits to distract your eye, and as a result, the skeleton of a bike like this needs to stand up to scrutiny. Tabs are ground away, holes filled and welds laid with care and precision.
Suspending the custom frame is a set of original XS 650 forks shaved of all unnecessary items. Although there is no rear shock, the rider has the benefit of a sprung seat made in house at Lucid Kustoms. The whole package rolls on spoke wheels from an older model XS for a more classic look than the stock cast hoops.
With the comfy seat limiting abuse from the rigid rear end, the peanut gas tank perched atop those two cylinders will now determine the useful range. Not that the owner should be concerned about how far he can get with that tank, as the frequent fill-ups will allow more people to admire the fine details of this build.
The most striking aspect of the bike is its paint job; gold and red candy metallic flake, elevates the finish of this bike above most other customs in this class. It takes a serious investment to get that quality, and artist Jeff “Shibby” Smith is one of the few who can deliver this kind of work.
A notable standout is the vertically mounted oil tank, which is not actually an oil tank. The XS 650 motor doesn’t require a separate oil reservoir. This addition to the design is used to conceal the electrics, of which there are very few. Starting the bike is accomplished by turning on the ignition located in the top of the faux oil tank and kicking it, old school. There’s no battery or starter motor and no complicated wiring harness to hide. You’ll only find the bare necessities here.
The name of the bike is “InThane,” and it would appear to be a play on the name of the owner. However, some might think it refers to the brake setup on this project. The clean front end and uncluttered controls were achieved by eliminating the rotor and caliper, so all stopping duties rest on the abilities of the rear drum. In some applications that might be cause for concern, but we must remember that this bike will spend most of its kilometres on leisurely tours around town. Besides, there’s not a whole lot of weight here, and the engine braking from the twin will do wonders to aid the single stopper out back.
Yamaha XS 650s are a favourite canvas for many, and as you can see here, they have plenty of potential in the right hands. This is a fine example of what the custom bike culture is moving toward; it’s simple, stylish and within reach for many of us. We think “InThane” has the formula just right. MMM