Story by Greg Williams// Photos by John Kerfoot
February 21 2023

Built as a nod to pre-war bikes and slapstick comedy.

Growing up, John Kerfoot was surrounded by old British machines. “My dad was a mechanic in the British army during the Second World War,” he says. “After we came to the Brampton, Ont., area in 1957, our driveway was always full of leaking old British stuff, including cars and motorcycles.” It’s no surprise then that Kerfoot’s first motorcycle was a 1967 Triumph Tiger 500, and it represented the beginning of a long riding career aboard many other British-made machines. Eventually, however, he came to appreciate Japanese bikes, and in particular, Yamaha’s XS650.

A Venerable Platform

Introduced in 1969 with sales commencing in 1970, Yamaha’s XS650 featured a 4-stroke parallel-twin engine with overhead cam and 5-speed transmission. Updated in 1972 with a disc front brake and an electric starter, the XS series continued through to 1985 in Canada with the Heritage Special model. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, Yamaha XS650s were plentiful and rather inexpensive to purchase used. During that period of time, Kerfoot accumulated a few previously loved XS650s and built a couple of customs using the platform.

His first was a street tracker featuring fibreglass parts from Omar’s Dirt Track Racing. Next was an XS650 race bike he and his son, Andrew, campaigned in Vintage Road Racing Association (VRRA) events. Then, Kerfoot began building bikes based around Honda’s CX machines.

But early in 2020, just as COVID lockdowns were being implemented, Kerfoot began pondering building one more custom based on the XS650 platform. “I wanted to do a flat track-style machine but wanted it to look a bit like a pre-war era bike,” he explains. “That meant running a springer front end.”

Let the Build Begin

From his shed, Kerfoot dragged out the carcass of a 1978 XS650 and stripped it down to the bare frame. He placed an order for a two-inch under Moto Iron springer fork, and while waiting for it to arrive, proceeded to cut off extraneous frame brackets. Those parting company included the side cover mounts, gas tank brackets and centre stand lugs.

An extra two inches was added to the wheelbase by extending the swingarm that is suspended by 14-inch Progressive Suspension shocks. After the forks were installed, he got to work building up rolling stock. An XS650 rear hub was laced into a 19-inch Sun alloy rim from Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim. Up front, a 19-inch Harley-Davidson wheel with steel rim went into the fork. Initially, Kerfoot…


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