A few months ago, one of the leading Australian motorcycling magazines was redesigned. (I shall avoid naming it to protect the guilty.) It was admittedly looking a little staid and nondescript, but now it’s worse—it’s virtually unreadable. Every page and every gaudy little detail is overcooked, clamoring for attention. So I now leave it on the newsagent’s shelf. I was reminded of this principle when I saw this lovely café racer, because form over function applies to motorcycles as well as the magazines that feature them. Unless you’re a fan of Harley full-dresser aesthetics, bikes invariably look better when they’re pared back to the bone. And so it is with this lovely Yamaha XS 650.
Built by Chris from Limey Bikes, a Texas-based builder, it’s nicknamed ‘The Hornet’. The stripped-down parallel twin weighs less than 160 kg—about 350 lbs—and packs an engine boosted from 53 to 70 hp. The spec sheet reveals that the bike is running superlight Excel 18” rims, progressive rate springs, an alloy swing arm and Brembo brakes. To upgrade the motor, Chris used a 750 cc kit and a Shell No.1 race cam; stainless steel and titanium valves are set into a gas-flowed head, and drink through Mikuni RS36 flatslide carbs. Everything that does not have a purpose has been removed, from frame tabs to miscellaneous wiring, and the bike is all the better for it. I used to think it was Colin Chapman who said, “Simplicate, and add lightness” and although he wasn’t the first—it was Ed Heinemann, creator of the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk—there’s a small-scale builder just north of Austin who knows more about design than a certain publishing company. [With thanks to Ted of xs650chopper.com.]