Sensibility be damned: this bobber has no front brake, no rear suspension and a suicide shifter. But just look at it.
Like any self-respecting bobber, this Yamaha XS650 is an exercise in supreme minimalism. But the work goes far beyond just tossing random parts in the bin.
It’s a 1972 XS650, built by Justin Kagy and Kieran Thompson of FKKMOTO in their self-described ‘garage shop’ in Bloomington—a small town two hours south of Chicago.
The project kicked off with the frame: Justin and Kieran removed the back half, and added in a Voodoo Vintage MK21 hardtail. That resulted in a 4” stretch and a 3” drop.
In stark contrast, the front-end’s been upgraded with a set of Suzuki GSX-R inverted forks. They’re plugged in with a top triple tree from Cognito Moto.
The XS650’s original 19” wheel stays up front, but the lads swapped the rear out for a 16” Harley-Davidson Sportster item. It’s kitted with a Tokico 6-piston caliper—borrowed from a Suzuki Hayabusa—to compensate for the lack of a front brake.
The motor was completely overhauled, and treated to new seals, gaskets, pistons, rings and freshly bored cylinders. Note the single carb setup: it employs a 2-into-1 intake from Counterbalance Cycles, fed by a Mikuni VM36 carb.
Thanks to a Sparx capacitor and a Hugh’s Handbuilt CDI, the XS650 is now battery-less. A small electronics box at the base of the frame stores the important bits.
But our favorite mod is the unusual suicide shift: a handlebar-looking arrangement, complete with clutch lever and grip. Kieran fills us in: “The idea for the suicide shift was born through our never-ending quest for clean bars.”
“It was our original design to start with, that then morphed into an internal twist clutch set up and then quickly back to the original plan, after we determined the internal clutch setup was not going to be strong enough to operate the notoriously tough XS clutch.”
“So we fabricated a lightweight arm we thought suited the lines of the bike well, and added a lever for the clutch actuation and the rest was history. It works great!”
The handlebars are a one-off ‘flying Vee’ design from FKKMOTO. And they sure are clean—with no clutch or front brake to house, the sole control is a throttle with internally routed cables.
FKKMOTO finished the bike with a mix of carefully sourced and in-house parts. The tank—and the DIY kit used to build the exhausts—are from TC Bros Choppers, while the seat is a Counterbalance Cycles creation.
But the taillight, foot pegs, peg brackets and rear brake hanger are all custom. FKKMOTO laid down the designs, and then turned to their good friends at G3 Machining to cut them. (We asked if the parts will be for sale, and the guys replied that they’re looking into it.)
FKKMOTO aren’t too proud to admit that they don’t know everything. So they’ve surrounded themselves with talented friends that can fill the gaps in their skill set. Dusty Ghert is one such friend—he helped the guys hone their welding skills throughout the project.
Another friend—Nathan Noel—handled the paint, while J&J Performance Powder Coat saw to the engine. That sublime tint on the bodywork is called ‘Ford Brittany Blue.’
“We dedicated this build to Kieran’s grandfather, Floyd,” the guys tell us, “who passed shortly before this build was completed. Kieran wanted a vintage color that reminded him of a shirt that his grandpa Floyd might have worn.”
Perfect lines, clever details and plenty of character: we’d call that a fitting tribute.