When John Ryland of Classified Moto sent through images of this heavily customized Honda XR650L, our jaws hit the floor. So we asked him to explain his thinking. His replies, reproduced verbatim below, are gold dust—and food for thought.
AS REWARDING AS creating custom motorcycles can be, there’s a degree of frustration that goes along with it. For instance, you build something that any red-blooded gear head should appreciate—then here come the trolls.
Even through the positive comments far outweigh the bad, we’re human, and the trolls have a way of getting under our skin. Not because what we build isn’t their cup of tea, either.
It’s more that they’re so freakin’ arrogant. Presumptuous. Uninformed. Typing their little quips and assuming the few minutes they’ve spent looking at a bike on a screen, trumps all the hours we spent on it. THEY are the experts after all.
“Your butt is gonna catch on fire with that exhaust. Good luck riding it in the rain. That thing ain’t gonna turn for shit. All your bikes look the same.” So say the armchair builders. Who have loads of time on their hands to opine, while the rest of us are hard at work trying to make stuff happen.
If you think you’re an adventurer—a real motorcyclist, whatever that is—yet seem to demand the ultimate in practical, cushy, two-wheeled sterility, you are absolutely gonna despise this thing, you crotchety old fart.
And we love it as much as that type despises it. It has all the signature cues of a Classified Moto machine, with the addition of two insanely huge knobby tires that probably aren’t even street legal. Except that they are.
And a massive, jack-shafted swing arm that probably doesn’t work as well as the original setup. Except that it does.
Blasting around the city, roosting through the dunes, cruising at freeway speeds, slinging gravel and dirt and snow. It kind of does it all.
I loved it, but of course I had no frame of reference about how a bike should handle. It just looked cool and I had a blast riding it. That was almost 30 years ago, but it made quite an impression.
At first, we wanted to have a lower stance, similar to most other Classified Moto bikes. But then we kept thinking about the places we could take it—if it had the same travel as the XR650L.
Many man-hours later, a Yamaha BW swingarm was reinforced and mated to a Progressive Suspension 465 monoshock with the full XR linkage. You can jump it, wheelie it, and slide it around. It feels amazing and soaks up bumps like crazy.
The bike had to be street legal too. The tires were the major hurdle, but we found a set in sizes similar to the original BW200 and 350.
These things are huge and really complete the look.
Any plans to ‘productionize’ the bike? We built this one as a prototype for one of my former advertising co-workers, Dave Gibson, here in Virginia. I convinced him to let me realize the dream on his dime if I gave him a fantastic deal.
As it is, we went in the hole about US$10K to build it, but no regrets here. We’re marketing it in a fairly targeted way to existing customers and referrals overseas and the in the US. The goal is to sell 15 or so in the next 18 months. Dubai seems to be the sweet spot at the moment.
The dune shots look amazing. What’s the story behind that? Photographer Adam Ewing and I drove to Pismo Beach, California, where we were able to let loose on the massive network of dunes there.
Even with me not knowing what I was doing, the bike was incredible. And even with the crazy machines that were there, the XR650L attracted lots of admirers. That was half the fun.
Despite not having a paddle tire, the bike was a beast. It climbed, jumped and drifted with ease. Even with a noob in the saddle.
Donor: 1996 Honda XR650L
Forks: 2014 Yamaha WR250R
Triple tree: CM custom billet upper and lower
Front wheel: Honda ATC250R
Front brakes: Honda XL600R
Rear wheel: Yamaha BW200
Tires: STI Black Diamond (DOT radial)
Rear shock: Progressive Suspension 465
Tank: Honda CM185T
Intake: Custom CM stainless
Exhaust: Full CM custom stainless
Seat: Custom waxed canvas and leather
Battery: Shorai Lithium Ion
Chain: DID Gold X-Ring
Instruments: Acewell digital