We’ve spotted a rising trend over the last couple of years that we can get behind: classic bikes with modern tech upgrades. And if we were working on a project in that vein, Cognito Moto would be getting a call.
Started by brothers Devin and Nicholas Henriques, the Richmond, Virginia company is known for building parts that add modern performance to older bikes. Their online store’s stocked with everything from triple clamps to fit upside-down forks, to rear loops with integrated LEDs.
Naturally, they build some damn cool customs too—particularly when they’re developing new products. This Yamaha XS650 is their latest test bed, and the newest addition to our fantasy garage.
“Traditionally we’ve been focused on vintage Hondas,” Devin tells us, “but lately we’ve branched out into Triumph and Yamaha.”
“When diving into Yamaha, it seemed all too easy to pick the coveted XS650 as our starting point. It couldn’t be any XS650 though—we wanted a 1972 in particular. We happen to love the tank from that model year.”
Cognito sourced a donor XS locally; an abandoned chopper project. Almost three years later, they finally got started on it.
“As we started tearing the bike down we knew we wanted to do something a little different with this bike,” says Devin. “We’ve struggled finding beauty in the XS platform and really wanted to nail it.”
“As with most of our builds, we wanted the bike to look like it could’ve came from the manufacturer’s design studio.”
Cognito’s nip-n-tuck of the XS650 is one of the neatest we’ve seen. It starts with a stout front end, complete with Yamaha R6 forks and the Brembo calipers from a Suzuki GSX-R. The arrangement’s mated to the frame via a custom-made, ‘retro-style’ triple clamp, and even features a one-off front fender (it’s been removed in some of the photos).
The wheels have gone down in size, with new 17” Warp 9 rims laced up at both ends. Cognito used one of their own conversion hubs up front to match the wheel to the R6 forks.
Out back, the swing-arm’s been extended by 2½”, and notched to squeeze in the 5” wide rim and 170 tire. The guys even had to offset the sprockets to match the wheel’s extra girth.
The XS650’s rear brake’s been upgraded too. Cognito converted it from drum to disc, using a prototype conversion hub and Brembo caliper for more stopping power.
They left the frame mostly stock—clearing out any unnecessary tabs, and adding one of their popular LED-integrated tail loops. Cognito then carved out a new seat, and sent it to Ginger McCabe at New Church Moto to work her magic on the upholstery. The rear’s propped up by a new set of adjustable Fox Podium R shocks.
We’re sold on the suspension and braking mods, but as it turns out, there’s some hidden goodness under the hood too. The motor’s been rebuilt from the ground up, with a 700cc kit from Hoos Racing. And the crank and cam have been re-phased to 277 degrees by Hugh’s Hand Built.
The new air intake is noteworthy too. “We wanted to create a new alternative for pod filters,” explains Devin, “due to their poor performance and inability to tune. Our design is made to reduce turbulent air induction, while giving the rider the ability to change out filter material for more or less restriction.” Nifty.
The crew’s installed a Hugh’s PMA charging system too. The exhaust is stainless steel all the way through; a combination of Hoos Racing headers, and ‘Quieter-Core’ mufflers from Cone Engineering.
For the electronics, Cognito tapped into the Motogadget catalogue for various components—the most obvious being the tiny gauge embedded in the LSL headlight bucket. The headlight itself has been upgraded with a custom-made reflector and Morimoto projector HID kit.
The guys even hit up local shop Kugo Laser to etch the Cognito logo into the lens. Finishing off the setup are headlight brackets from Moto Demic, held in place by Motogadget pin-style turn signals.
Woodcraft clip-ons are adorned with Biltwell Inc. grips, and Motogadget mini-switches. The rear-sets are Tarozzi units, attached using prototype brackets that retain the stock rubber bushings to help keep vibrations down.
When it came to paint, Cognito decided to offset the bike’s modern upgrades by keeping the livery traditional. So they recreated the factory graphics on top of a vintage-inspired red wine pearl.
“We think we’ve created something that pays homage to the original beauty of the XS650,” says Devin, “bringing it into the modern era with improved performance and rideability.”
“Not to mention it looks badass.”
Yes. Yes it does. Wouldn’t you agree?