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Cabin Fever: Daniel Peter’s XR650

Daniel Peter's customized Honda XR650
Daniel Peter is a photographer with petrol running through his veins. When he’s not shooting, he’s riding—and his ride is worth a close-up of its own.

‘Cabin Fever’ is based on a Honda XR650, although you’d be hard pressed to tell. Like its CX500 stable mate, the XR650 is one of those bikes often passed over in favor of more photogenic machinery.

Daniel Peter's customized Honda XR650
Daniel was after “a motorcycle that didn’t exist: 70s styling, twin shocks, air cooled, powerful yet light and reliable, with enough ground clearance and suspension for riding trails, and electric start.”

Of course, the answer was right in front of his nose: he was already the owner of an XR650. “The performance was there, but the looks were seriously lacking. Awkward all-plastic bodywork, purple side covers … good enough for a dirt bike, but not quite the pony that would turn heads.”

Daniel Peter's customized Honda XR650
Daniel is good with his hands as well as his eyes, so he’s treated the Honda to a completely new subframe, suspended by twin YSS shocks. A custom seat nestles into the frame rails, upholstered in brown antelope leather by Janusz Kukulski.

The front end now sports LSL Street Low bars—with brown Tommaselli grips—behind a Hella 500 Black Magic headlight. A compact Shorai battery hides in an aluminum box under the seat.

To boost performance from the 644cc air-cooled single, Daniel focused on the breathing. He’s ditched the stock 40mm Keihin CV carb and installed a 41mm Keihin FCR-MX flat slide, supplied with fuel via a high flow Pingel petcock.

Gases now exit through a high-ridin’ custom exhaust: The 2-into-1 header has a slip-fit mid pipe, terminated with a 1.75” Cone Engineering muffler.

Daniel Peter's customized Honda XR650
“The carburetor and stainless exhaust are the only performance mods on this bike,” he says. “I felt that the XR650 motor offered just the right balance between performance and reliability. The engine is much more responsive now and the pipe has a proper bark to it.”

Bigger upgrades were reserved for the suspension and brakes. Daniel has lowered the lofty stock forks by three inches, fitting stiffer springs and Race Tech Gold Valves for better damping.

Stopping power now comes from 4-piston Brembo calipers, clamping on a 320mm floating front rotor taken from a Husqvarna SM610. (“I had to machine the XR650 hub and change the bolt pattern to match.”) Stock hubs are laced to classy Excel rims, using stainless spokes from Buchanan’s.

Daniel Peter's customized Honda XR650
Daniel has given his XR650 the body to match its performance, with a low-profile Honda CG125 tank and shorty aluminum fenders. The dewy, subdued two-tone paint job comes from the Chicago specialist Polowy Fab & Finish.

The paint is also the inspiration for the ‘Cabin Fever’ name. “I saw a grayish-green paint chip with said name in a small hardware store in Wisconsin,” says Daniel. “That was to become the base for the bodywork color.”

Back in 1992, Cycle World described the XR650 as “the most fun you can have on two wheels.” Daniel Peter has just ramped up the fun factor a notch—and turned the ugly duckling into a swan.

Daniel Peter Photography | Instagram

Daniel Peter's customized Honda XR650