BMW Motorrad Spezial

Classified Moto XS650

Yamaha XS650 cafe racer
Classified Moto is the side project of Virginia-based John Ryland who, like me, works in an ad agency during the day. “I’ve always been into vehicles, but never paid much attention to motorcycles until a few years ago,” he says. “My buddy left me his bike when he was out of town. I got my license and fell in love. I started modding bikes about a year and a half ago, and I can’t stop!” This Yamaha XS650 custom is one of Ryland’s creations; he already has a handful of bikes under his belt. He’s under no illusions about the business, though. “Clearly, my bikes aren’t perfect. My welds aren’t very pretty and I don’t mind a little rust. But I love taking something that was neglected or under appreciated and bringing it back to life with a whole new character. I’m a fan of transforming the more mundane bikes, as opposed to something that’s already special or collectible.”

Yamaha XS650 cafe racer
If Ryland has a signature, it’s putting modern sportbike or dirtbike front ends on older bikes. (“The machine shop I use is owned by riders, who make sure everything is rock solid.”) And why the ‘Classified Moto’ name? “When people can’t tell what the bike used to be, my garage mates and I joke that ‘it’s Classified’. That’s the working name of our pipe dream of a bike shop/café. One of these days…” Check out more of John’s classy bikes on the Classified Moto website. [Thanks to Cindy Hicks. Images by Adam Ewing.]

Bike: 1982 Yamaha XS650 Heritage Special
Carbs: Mikunis, jetted with pods
Exhaust: Open at the moment with recycled pipes. (“Ordered Supertrapps in August. They just arrived and both are for the left side. Haha.”)
Front end: Modified 2004 Suzuki RMZ450 forks, triples and brakes with Warp 9 supermoto wheel.
Bars: Woodcraft adjustable clip-ons
Tires: Kenda K761 Dual Sport in front, Bridgestone TW in the rear.
Touches: Custom battery tray with Autometer voltmeter mounted behind custom perforated metal sidecovers. (“When I looked through the side covers, it reminded me of an old tube guitar amp. I wanted something to glow from behind the screen at night. The gauge casts a nice glow and serves a purpose.”)
Touches: “I stripped the old ratty paint off the tank, but left a stripe of the former non-stock red. It’s cracked and weathered and gives a hint of the bike’s past life.”
Owner: Adam Ewing. A great photographer from Richmond, VA. “I worked with him when I was on the BFGoodrich account.”

Yamaha XS650 cafe racer
Yamaha XS650 cafe racer
Yamaha XS650 cafe racer
Yamaha XS650 cafe racer

  • Oh

    I’m (still) in the process of determining what i want to do with my CB, and this Yammie is so inspirational. It’s just a piece of bad ass!

  • I dig it..a lot: forks, side covers, etc. Good idea on the tank, leaving some signs of its past.
    Where did you get the grips?

  • richmond represent!
    love the tank stripe, the perforated side covers, and the supermoto kit.

  • Joe C.

    hoyt: the grips look like Amals, You can get them from British Only, and sometimes on ebay.

  • Grips are Posh Grips and we got them here:

  • eisele

    I really like the old bikes Ryland builds with modern sportbike front ends (stole the idea from him already ha) but this supermoto set up is the deal. Very nice.

  • It’s like a sort of ratcaferacer XDDD Nice!

  • Tinman

    Nice striped down bike, It would be illegal where I live. It would need turn signals, front fender, mufflers and a horn to ride here, pretty much back to stock. The front suspension looks good but its worth more than the original bike. Great Photos, you can tell they were taken by a Pro.

  • Bcoop

    Love the work JR. Privileged to have been there at the beginning. I swear I’ll get a bike in your shop soon.

  • w

    Cool, except for the front end.
    Looks like a Lada with Mercedes bumpers.

  • KIK

    nice, looks pretty stock except for the front end and wheels, nice tho

  • Derek Larsen

    I think the wrenchmonkees just shit their pants. The front end might seem like it’s too money for the rest of the bike–but those UJMs had mediocre suspension. Those side covers really drew me in, I may have to crib the idea for my own bike. Did you actually source the material, or was it fabricated? I hope I can find a pic of gauge glowing on your site–that sounds hot!

    • Ryland

      Derek: Thanks for the props! Much appreciated. I don’t think the monkees are too nervous though! Those guys are a great inspiration to so many people — me included. Regarding the side covers, I bought a big sheet of perforated steel from a local metal supplier. I made cardboard templates for the main shape, then framed them out with 1/2-wide steel. I like the way they came out on all three bikes. If you get into it and have questions, just email me through my blog. Thanks again! JR

  • Joe D

    Hell yeah, RVA represent!!! This bike and all the bikes John and the crew(what up Greg, Devin, Cindy, Dee Dee, Adam, etc. etc.!!!) build are really something. I love the grips on this one and how long it is. You can’t really tell but it is a fairly long bike. Something my 6’5″ skinny @$$ could fit on! I wanna see the Kawazuki up here!

  • Joe D

    Oh yeah, that tank stripe is [email protected]$$!!!!!

  • I gotta say, this is the first bike in a while that I absolutely fell in love with at first read. It lines up with almost all the aspects I love about motorcycle builds. Maybe I’m just relieved to FINALLY see something fresh besides the countless, drab/lookalike Harley builds that’ve been floating around the blogosphere lately, (especially after the Mooneyes show), but I need to cancel a few RSS feeds, really getting tired of seeing the same shit. Thank you for a new blog to keep up with!

  • This is really what the ‘cafe’ racebike should be about these days. Maintaining the vintage soul and aesthetic, with tech and performance upgrades using whatever is ‘lying around’

    Everyone who is knocking the RMZ frontend- what would be more expensive, this or a vintage set of cerani forks that maintain the ‘vintage’ purity? Using whats cheap and available to improve rideability and performance is the cornerstone of what makes cafe racers what they are.

    This looks like a bike that could actually go from place to place at a reasonably high rate of speed, and i wouldn’t cry over laying it down or riding in the rain.

    Beautiful job!

  • CaptMike – Shawnee, KS

    I imagine the name “Classified” as applies to motorcycles still belongs to Dan Wilson of Carmel Valley, Calif. Dan modified Sportsters in the early and mid-’90’s (and sold a kit so you could do it yourself) into a bike that looked a little-or-a-lot like a Vincent. Dan knew it wasn’t a real “classic”, but thought it had been “Classified”!

  • carson Leh

    This bike is great. Something anyone can take as inspiration from. Amazing.

  • adrenalnjunky

    I’ve just picked up a free 79 XS that I rescued from 20 years of barn life – and a set of 92 model CBR600 forks – I didn’t actually intend to try and combine the 2, but seeing as how they’re both just taking up space in the carport…….

  • series3

    Bashed up, mean and sweet as. Nice job.

  • series3

    Nice Blog.

  • db

    Love the feeling behind all of this. ‘Real’ job not fulfilling you in the ways you want, start building motorcycles on the side with the dream of being able to make a living out of it.

    By no means original but I’m sure it’s definitely something we can all (most of us, at least) can relate to. Certainly struck a cord with me when all I can think about during the week is the weekend and working on my bike.

    Looks good as well. Nice job mate.

  • Kerry

    It’s nice but looks like pretty much every other type of Brat Style bike that’s been coming out of Japan for years . . .

    BTW you can but Posh grips on eBay for $19.

  • PeteP

    John makes great rolling art. Glad to see he’s getting the attention he deserves. I live his Virago better than this one, though.

  • ofred

    who makes the oversized front brake rotor?

  • micah

    I like. However, the front wheel is visually “heavier” than the rear, and messes up the whole look as a result. Other than that, its pretty slick.

  • Denzel

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned form this blog, it is that I luuuuurvre a slightly shitty lookin’ bike. Shiny forks, rauchy tank? Yes please. Very much so.

  • Saginaw

    The front end completes the bike – anything less would have been boring.

  • RobL

    Love this bike. It’s got a serious “cyberpunk” vibe, a high-tech / low life look to it (that’s a compliment!). Could be something right out of a William Gibson novel.

    Details are brilliant, none of them over-done. The bike isn’t trying to be something it’s not, in fact it’s understated in it’s uprated performance. It still knows it’s an XS650. The perforated steel side covers are pure genius, simple yet they stay interesting. Great choice on the tires, too… proper modern rubber, not some of that silly “classic” stuff with circumferential grooves and rubber compound equal to a foam beach sandal.

    Like the look of those mini-mufflers on it, but it’ll sound awesome with the SuperTrapps. I’ve used them on a few projects and they have a very unique sound and appearance.

    I wish Mr. Ryland the best of luck and hope he can make a go of it in the bike business.

    • Anonymous

      test reply

  • Revdub

    I agree with Emmet. I’m in love.

  • Thanks for doing this, it is has been fun to witness it up close & have my girl Lefty Lucy, part of this group. it is amazing to find a old ratty bike & make it exactly what you want to ride, and fits my under five foot fame! love this bike & am i am already planning the next one.
    Chris, you do a top notch site, please keep up this labor of love.

  • Derek Larsen

    Adam, thanks for posting that link!

  • I like this bike, Very Wrenchmonkeesque, and the fact the he works a full time job and has the energy to build bikes on the side. Nice work!

  • JLukenswaffer

    Keep dreaming and making mine jr lukenswaffer!
    See myself cycling in Frankfurt in early years.
    Keep my dream alive, keep making bikes for all the nations.

  • Lew

    The original bike was fugly. This creation is miles nicer. Top marks!

  • Fantastic motorcycle good work!

  • mack-o-matik

    WOW, that’s a brilliant job: bike as well as the pictures. Top work, thx for this xmas gift chris.

  • Devin

    I’ve known Ryland for many years and I can tell you don’t know anyone else with as much raw talent as him. He’ll also work his hands to the bone in the process because he’s actually passionate about the work itself. He worked on my KZ650 with me in his garage a few months back to create this…
    It never ceases to to put a smile on my face.

  • Hello, all. I posted earlier but it doesn’t seem to have taken. Will probably appear soon.

    But just wanted to say THANK YOU for all the feedback. And thanks to Chris for the great site.

    If my post doesn’t show up, I’ll jump back on and re-cap it.

    You guys and gals made my day, for sure.

    John Ryland
    Richmond, VA

  • Good looking bike! I really like the “original” paint stripe on the tank.

    I have to agree this is definitely an approachable bike. It’s like the girl next door.

    And Adam Ewing has an incredible eye for photography!

  • Killer bike and awesome shots. Thanks again Adam for posting a link to my site. I look forward to seeing more bikes from Classified Motos.

  • There are things to be learned here. Both about building them and about
    taking pictures of ’em.

  • kellyrva

    YES! Stoked to see this bike on this site! And for that matter…any of Johns creations are deserving of praise. I mean c’mon!!!! look at those pics, freaking beautiful in every angle. Super nice guy to meet and hang with. One of my favorite motorcycle memories will be of a group ride after a Sunday brunch in Richmond… on my KZ and with half a dozen of Johns creations, snarling like rabid wolverines at the stoplight 3 lanes wide….it looked like Mad Max Richmond style, and the sound of us all taking off was an aural cacophony of the apocalypse…..

  • Al gonzalez

    Great bike, I like it a bit rough, this looks awesome,a bike you may use daily, without having the need to polish something everyday.
    Totally 100% agree with John in” taking something that was neglected or under appreciated and bringing it back to life” usually people take nice bikes and make them awesome, but he got a regular one and make this beauty.
    Saludos desde España

  • awesome. just pure awesome.

  • Bald Shaun

    Awesome bike! Classic good looks with modern components where it counts. I sick of seeing trailer queens with no front brakes, no exhausts cans, and tires only an idiot would ride on the street. This is what bike building should be about. Machines that are at least as fun to ride as they are to look at. Well done!

  • Mule

    @Graham motzing,
    Actually Cafe racers were state of the art in their day. They weren’t built with the intent to make them look like “Retro Salvage”. I can appreciate anybody’s effort to build a functioning motorcycle my intent is not to criticze that. However, the mass appeal of ANY and every bike that looks like a rolling recycle prject has me puzzled. AND the fact that if someone wants a bike to have clean lines or nice components or even a decent paintjob, that somehow makes them a snob or elitist escapes me.

    “Using whats cheap and available to improve rideability and performance is the cornerstone is what makes cafe racers what they are”. Yea? Says who?

    That may be what makes them what they are in the trendy “Rockabilly” world of tatoos, body peircings, head scarfs and rat-rods, but the originals (known as the essence), were all about nice equipment, shocks, cams, big carbs etc. Not a misguided copycat version of a long past style of bike. Back in the day, a Cafe bike was all buiness, not a lifestyle accesory that sorta looked like it would pass for the real thing.

  • PB


  • So I guess my original reply got lost in the ether. I was just about to revisit it when I saw Mule’s post. Then I was like, aw man! Somebody really hates this bike! I quit! No, it wasn’t like that.

    In fact, what I said in my AWOL post is that it feels surreal to have so much consideration given to something Adam and I did for our own kicks. The feedback has been overwhelming, and while the bike clearly is not everyone’s bag, it’s just fun to see people interacting with it — virtually, at least.

    My garage mates and I do this out of a love for bringing things back to life — Greg, Adam, Cindy, Devin, Joe and the gang — we’re all getting something different out of it, I’m sure. And far be it from me to take issue with any one of those reasons. Bikes make them happy. Good enough for me!

    Anyway, whether anything ever comes of our bike addiction or not, I owe Chris a huge thanks for letting me hang out on here for a few. My little blog is freaking out now. Like where did all this traffic come from?!

    Thanks again, and Cheers from Richmond.

    John Ryland

    PS: please excuse typos or weird sentences. On my retro salvage rockabilly hipster iPhone! And my thumbs are fat.

  • Steve-R-R-R


    Mr. Pollock, with all due respect, what is cafe racer today is not the same as cafe racer in the 1950s-1960s. Nobody is building a textbook cafe racer today for the same reasons that people built them for back then. Today, a classic cafe racer is an homage to the bikes built 50 years ago. They aren’t built to make a super fast bike – if that was the goal, the end result would be what is currently called a streetfighter. Or even worse, the person would just buy any of the really fast sportbikes brand new.

    I don’t claim to be an expert but I’ve seen and read enough interviews with the likes of William Shergold, Paul Dunstall, etc, to know that the true roots of the cafe racer scene was the young guys, all wanting to go really fast, and all having the budget of the average 16 year old. That is, more pocket lint than paper money. Cobbled-up bits, fabricated bits, and making the bikes faster by pulling off useless parts, all that stuff was the only resolution for their need for speed as the performance aftermarket did not exist to any real degree until the late 1960s or 1970s. Sure, guys with money could afford to build their Tritons and Dresdas, but what is that other than building with what is lying around? There were no pieces of CAD designed billet aluminum fresh off a CNC to bolt on.

    As an homage or tribute to the cafe racer scene, the modern versions such as Mr. Ryland’s bike reflect what was a simpler time without the gloss and polish of modern customs, and has a patina of an aged, hand-built budget machine. Real character, that’s the point. Recycled parts left raw are the real deal. The ultra-chrome perfect Tritons, etc, built today are not homages, they are idealized fantasy pieces. Apply silicone boobs and botox to a pretty girl and you have the essence of these hyper clean bikes. Not knocking them but acknowledging that every built bike reflects a statement as much as a specific purpose.

    Finally, and again no disrespect meant to you Mr. Pollock, but your comments on this bike can be considered quite insulting to Mr. Ryland. That’s a sad reflection on Mule Motorcycles as it seems that you may feel threatened that your ultra-clean XS650 builds don’t generate the same gut reaction as experessed here in the comments. Not to compare the two of you and not to disparage what you do, but Mr. Ryland’s website shows a lot of creativity spread across different designs… while your Mule Motorcycles website shows one design repeated over and over and over. Just because one has a parallel twin while another has a V-twin doesn’t make them unique – they’re the same XS650 based bikes with different motors and slick paintjobs.

    Rise on your own merits, you don’t stand any higher when you try to knock down another builder.

    • Mule

      @Steve RRR,
      Let me try to take this a point at a time. First of all, I have exchanged emails with John Ryland and he was not insulted. He explained things to me and I explained things to him. I respect what he has done and the efforts required as expressed in my original post. The following has nothing to do wth John Ryland or the bike featured here, just so we’re clear.

      “Nobody is building a textbook Cafe Racer for the same reasons people built them back then.” Then what are they building?

      I agree 100% and that was supposed to be my point. Cafe Racers are the new “Choppers”, meaning as long as they sort of have a few of the necc components and kinda give the impression to someone that doesn’t really know, then the build is a success. This to me is like saying that mediocrity is the new standard. Almost close is good enough and if people that don’t know the difference, slobber and drool, then the build becomes “Art, Pure sex, the bomb” etc. To someone that is uninformed, that’s all fine.

      I wasn’t hanging out at the Ace Cafe in London in the late 50-60’s, were you? What the guys were thinking back then, I don’t know or care. Just as I don’t know or care what the guys that build the all the new beater “Rat” bikes are thinking now. I’ve pieced together junk, spent a jillion hours pouring through piles of used crap at yard sales, swapmeets, salvage yards and I’ve built bikes that I’d rather forget. Does that make me one of the guys now?

      When I get into something, I go 106% minimum. I don’t strive to be accepted, approved of, “Cool”, fashionable and least of all politically correct. What I strive for is to do the best possible work or craftsmanship that is humanly possible. If I’m racing, I want to win, not compete for fifth or sixth place. However, when I’m racing, I appreciate the hoards of riders that are competing for fifth or sixth because their entries increase the the amount of the purse that is paid out.

      I love motorcycles all. I can appreciate and respect the heart and soul that anybody actually puts out in the build of a bike. Doesn’t mean I’ll fall all over myself with praise, so I will sit silent. I read all the posts, as opposed to jumping in and being critical. Chris posts quite a few bikes that really are not worthy of a whole lot of discussion, but on those particular bikes, the comments really take off for some reason. When it becomes all I can stand, I dive in. For that I apologize. But like everyone else, to me motorcycles are my lifelong love and the object of my full passion. When the uninformed try to redefine it to me with absolute conviction, I get bugged. When chopper lovers tell me how cool a bike is or how much they’d love to ride a bike with no front bake, a plate aluminum seat, no suspension and knobbies on the street, I go off. That comes from a lot of years of working hard to make bikes work correctly, stop quickly, be light, run better, be reliable. When I see a bike posted on this site with mostly stock parts and many of them with rust and then scads of people start mounding up the praise like they’ve just witnessed the second coming, all I can do is bang my head against the wall!

      A Sreetfighter? What the hell is that? That’s a sportbike turned chopper. The seat angle kicked up to look as uncomfortable as is humanly possible with short MX type bars. Then polished and chromed to look like a Tijuanna taxi. NOT at all a 2010 version of a cafe racer.

      How about Carpy’s CB750 Cafe Racers? He tries really hard to make them “Authentic” in your Homage tradition without going nutty in an attempt to make them look like a used up beater bike with rust, scratches, dents and shit falling off. He paints, polisheds, does motor upgrades, exhaust, fixes the gauges so they work, drills brake rotors, gussets frames to be stiffer and that my friend is what Cafe Racers WERE all about. Not pretending to be a Cafe Racer. See, because in the original Cafe era, you had to put up or shut up. You’re bike had to actually run out better than a stocker, unless you were a girl. Then just riding was good enough.

      In the interviews you state you’ve read where the original trend setters had the income of the average 16 year old, did those guys save up for new cams or spend all their spare time making their current bikes look as if they were 40 years older with years of abuse? I’ve seen junk, I’ve had to work on neglected junk and I’ve been on “Spirited” road rides where the guys on junk ended up sitting by the side of the road or worse yet, crashed and got hurt. Don’t try to sell me on how cool junk is.

      The botox and boobs example goes both ways. It sounds like you would prefer to take an average girl, give her dirty hair, introduce a complexion problem and horrible clothes to give her more “character” or patina. Wow! Look how natural she looks! That’s so cool!

      Do I feel threatened? Sorry, no. Website? On my site, I try to show what I start with and how far I have to go to get to the end result. I show the work involved in striving for continued improvemnet in my processes and skill development. I don’t sell art, attutude, lifestyle accessories, homages, leather jackets, skulls, tatoos, body piercings or moods. I’m into bikes, not bullshit. There are enough sites to cover that stuff 100 fold.

      Also, the bikes I build are what customers call for, order and pay for. When you start building bikes, I’ll tell you what to build. Hopefully you’ll be very receptive to that. Ask me what I ride and build for myself, not what customers ask for.

      I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I’ll give you the same response as in my earlier post. You shouldn’t dictate to me or others what a Cafe racer is or is not. Then or now. If you have an old bike with clubman bars and you think that’s all it takes and you’re satified that you’ve achieved Care Racer-dom, good for you. If that’s your version of “Homage”, whatever. That’s probably the fastest way to get there with the least effort expended. Mediocrity exemplified. Don’t expect people that build bikes to get all goofy over it though.

      Lastly, I get jillions of emails from people asking how I do stuff, where to get certain parts, will this fit that bike, and on and on. I answer thenm all and give the best advice I can from the experience I have. All for free. When I comment on bikes on a forum whether I like it or not, that’s for me. That’s also free. And as I said before, I’d rather hear constructive criticism on what I do than blind praise, because I would like to be learning and improving forever. So from you I’ve learned that I don’t know what a Cafe racer REALLY is, I build too many of one style of of bike, I feel threatened by the beater bike trend and to you, my comments were insulting to Mr Ryland. I appreciate all your input. I really do. I’ll bring all these items up at my next board meeting.

      I’ve built a lot of streettrackers. Believe me, I never intended to at all. If I had built 2-3, I would have been ready to move on. However, I’d like to think each one is better than the last and where to get what parts and making stuff lighter, cheaper is easier when you take out the variable of going all over the board with your build styles. I currently have 2 Cafe racers in work. One has been a 2 year project which puts it’s start date well before the craze/trend/TV show. Hopefully you’ll get to see it here and you can chop it all to pieces. It won’t be an “Homage” though.

      • Ryland


        Of course the derogatory comments in your two posts were insulting. The fact that I responded cordially and offline may have obscured that. So, insulted? Absolutely. Feathers ruffled? Nope.

        Mule Motorcycles has fans worldwide. I’m a hobbyist who was humbled to appear on Bike Exif. Next time you might consider the cost/benefit of trashing the early efforts of an industry nobody like me. We all know where you see yourself in the food chain. We get it.

        But come on, Richard. Maybe lighten up and let us like what we like. Surely, it’s of no consequence to Mule Motorcycles.


        John Ryland
        Richmond, VA

        • Mule

          My intent as clearly stated in both posts was not to criticize your efforts. And as I said in both posts, great effort! My apologies if somehow you missed that. Once again, good job, great effort. My style of bike? No. Did I trash your work? Boy, I sure didn’t think so. Where am I in the food chain? I’m nobody in the food chain in my view. I just work out of a 2-car garage like a million other guys. So I thought I’d get to voice my opinion like everyone else and I call it like I see it.

          My point was that I disagreed with individuals that have decided what a “True” Cafe Racer is based on some things they have read. I don’t agree and tried to articulate why. Guess I failed. Sorry again.

          Keep up the effort.


  • Tyres B.

    Why do people want to buy normal bikes after you have seen this…

  • Mookie

    this discussion brings up some interesting points and i can see it through both angles. i think.
    we all have to admit the current craze with the whole”builder” trend is at times overwhelming.
    it seems that everybody and their brother are slapping some old bike together, printing some t shirts with their”logo” on it and opening shop via the internet.i’m 53 years old and have been living and breathing bikes all my life and i like to think i know craftsmanship from- well, all the rest.
    cmon- ya gotta admit the is a lot of junk being passed off as “builds”
    does the guy that built the bike like it and think it’s the shizate?usually. does THAT make it a bike with anything resembling craft involved? does it have to? well no. UNLESS your one of the few who actually approach the process with an unyielding commitment to”the craft”

    • RobL

      Mookie, you bring up a very interesting point that encompasses old and new:

      The world is now connected. That means even if the world does not bring you your “15 minutes of fame”, you can bring your fame to the world. Print-to-order apparel, e-z web templates, and the difference in exposure between a small company and large company is nearly indiscernible. However, that doesn’t make _your_ job as a consumer or enthusiast any different; figuring out what you like, figuring out if the source is worthy of praise and appreciation, none of that changes whether you had only 10 choices (20 years ago), or thousands of choices (today). Despite the manufactured celebrity of tv shows, the cream still does rise to the top, so you do have some help from part of the collective conscious.

      Quality; you just hit on one of the core memes of the deeper psyche, both in general and motorcycle-specific. The stone tablet to reference on this is Robert Pirsig’s musings on “quality” in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”.

      It’s a disservice to him for me to distill what Pirsig discussed, but we can touch on a few of the points. Is quality how well something is built? Or is it the effort, concentration, and care values, seperate from the result? For specific example, a novice welder puts his heart and soul into building a frame that he’s dreamed about, obsessed over, designed specifically to his vision, taking months for completion. On the other side of the world, a robot welder on a frame production line runs through some lines of code in two minutes, completing a stress-analyzed, weight-optimized, hyper-strong frame and then goes on to the next one. Compare the two frames; the novice welder’s frame is good… a few booger welds, it mostly lines up straight, maybe one shock bracket is a bit crooked but the hole is in the right spot. The robot welder’s frame is perfect… “row of dimes” weld lines, measure it with the most precise micrometer and there isn’t a flaw. Which one has better “quality”? The intense labor of love, or the mindless mechanized standard production piece?

      Thinking (or non-thinking) on that will help you with ideas of “quality” or “craft” and what it is that you appreciate.

      • Mookie

        very good. i like this point of view and i agree whole-heartedly.
        i think the thing we forget- or haven’t figured out how to dissern
        is another persons underlying intentions when commenting on someones elses
        reply.i do it and i think most everyone else does to and that is we read into a sentence what we want to read- not necessarily what the person intended to convey.that can only be done,IF at all, face to face.
        but hey- were here on a motocycle blog(?) whatever that is and were all passionate about the bikes.
        someone else stated that an old bike resurected is better than a cookie cutter bike off the showroom.for me and for a lot of folks”out there” it’s our “truth” geat site. great pics great folks.
        Merry Christmas to all and as Red Skelton use to say-“may gawd bless”

      • Mule

        Regardless of what the book said, we all have an opinion on everything. Art and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I agree. Quality though is not a gray area. It’s not like “Value” or style or a fad or a trend. Quality is like a dyno reading of build integrity.

        To use your example, the booger weld guy puts a bike together and it fails on the first ride, collapses the suspension and the guy rides into the fence. That’s still “quality” because the guy worked hard at the cobby shock mounts? Somehow I’m not seeing it. Maybe it would qualify as a low level of quality that needs improvement?

        I work in aerospace and “Quality” is much more than an abstract concept. It is a physical fact of life. It’s there or not there. There is no, “What do you mean it exploded? I worked on that for 3 weeks!”

        I can agree with tradition, value, getting your money’s worth, retro, patina, style, pinache, guts, dedication, hard work, more hard work and passion. Those all make up an abstract world and are a big part of the bikes featured on this website.

        But price, weight, speed, output quantified by a dyno, laptimes, winning a race, Bonneville records and even “Quality” are black and white facts in the motorcycle universe. Not up to interpretation in my opinion.

        Note: These comments have absolutely NOTHING to do with John Ryland’s bike posted here and are merely an opinion in response to the implied abstract nature of quality.

        • RobL

          Richard, thanks for your viewpoint.

          I am reminded of the Oscar Wilde quote, “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

          Motorcycles are not a static thing. They are not just machines, transportation, sporting vehicles, racing vehicles, works of art, labors of love, individual expressions, lifestyles. They are all of these things and more. Apart from the exercise of comparing numbers, the numbers themselves are just another part of the cloud that makes up “motorcycle”. Outside of price comparisons, magazine testing, and pure race applications, the absolute numbers are beyond what the average rider exploits regardless of high or low.

          I posit that the value of an enthusiast motorcycle is mostly appreciated in the intangibles. As a point of reference, various factory offerings of specific motorcycle types have for years been essentially interchangeable, reviews ceding the point and giving extra value to the small and often unquantifiable details. Whether it was the rise of the “UJM” in the ’70s, or the sportbikes of today, the numbers fall into irrelevance in the equation of enjoyment and perception.

          Let me state something that will sound antithetical to the very core of what I just wrote; I am a motorsports engineer, racecar builder, and bike-building hobbyist. I do live and die by precision and numbers. When looking at an enthusiast hobby like motorcycling, numbers appeal to the head, all other aspects to the soul.

          Going even further, perfection in numbers can even lead to disinterest, to boredom. Scott Dadich, creative director for Wired magazine, discusses “Wrong Theory” wherein you perfect a design, then make one wrong move. Something that adds tension, or interest, keeps the mind buzzing about that thing rather than accepting it as-is and moving on.

          Back to Pirsig, he breaks quality down into Static and Dynamic. You’re focusing on Static exclusively, the quantifiable. Dynamic quality is simplistically conceived as the force of change, the creation of new and unique patterns… which eventually, through a continuous process of refinement, become Static. Quality in it’s true metaphysical form is a combination of Static and Dynamic, a dialectical monism.

          That’s far afield from the realm of measring instrumentation for sure, but the craft of motorcycle encompasses much more of the human experience that “x > y”.

          I could get into this even further if you like, and explore how Dynamic quality has expression within Japanese craftwork and other Zen Buddhist-inspired art, where parts or complete sections are left crude and unfinished specifically to express the essence of materials and the revelation as to why things exist. To a degree, this occurs naturally in a rough-hewn motorcycle whether unintentional or not. This doesn’t mean it has to be a “rat bike”, the expression in a show-caliber bike can be miniscule but of significant value to the builder alone, as I did in a recent build. The craft and therefore the overall quality of such a bike extend far past numerical measurement.

          • Mule

            I’ll have to re-read what you wrote a few times, but basically I have no idea in hell what you just said. My point was art is art and quality is not an “Intangible”. Quality is a standard. I love eye candy in any condition. From old to new. I can appreciate a rusted out hulk of a an old truck or car sitting in a vacant overgrown field of high grass or sitting next to an abandoned building. However making the goal of a new build of car or bike to replicate a trashed piece of used up hardware seems to contrived to me. And they always end up looking contrived.

            AND, I can appreciate the soul-less super machines called sportbikes that are currently on offer. I don’t own one and I wouldn’t but one. I prefer simple to complex, but without the dents and rust. If that is the new bike building style, any knucklehead can just kick his bike in the tank to knock it off it’s side stand and leave it in a vacant lot over the winter. Next spring? Voila! Custom bike built with soul.

            I think I’m responding to what you said, but I can’t be sure.

          • RobL

            You’re absolutely right; you will need to re-read it a few times. Maybe even before responding. ;-)

          • RobL

            Richard, I’ll give you one more thing to think about before you respond. What’s higher quality, red or blue? Vanilla or chocolate? Matisse or Picasso? Cats or dogs?

            None of this may matter to you, you mentioned earlier that your customers tell you what bikes to build. The hammer doesn’t care about the nails it strikes, perhaps.

  • John,

    Love what you’re doing. If you’r eever down in the Roanoke area, look me up!

  • Mookie

    i’m with mule on that one.

  • Mookie

    i’m with mule on that one.

  • MIKE

    This sand box is full of cat crap and I am going to find somewhere else to play.

  • Mookie

    not to worry-it’s biodegradable!

  • Rocky0

    @steveRRR,ryland,RobL, +1 on your comments. in reference to “that guy” that always seems to be overly critical to someone elses efforts,and comments always revolve back to his builds,his shop, his racing.all I can say is if the universe only revolves around him how can you introduce anything else.”That guy” discounts anyone elses build back ground,riding experience,etc without knowing the person,and how could he, afterall,this is the internet! Just shy of posting a resume,which “that guy”seems to do in almost every post, how do you convince him he is not at the top of the food chain? BAM!!!! one new enemy,right?

    • Mookie

      THATS a very wide paint brush…

  • Rocky0

    oops! more than one enemy, I forgot the fanboys.By the way, I forgot to comment on the bike, if the owner likes the bike,who else matters? Bike looks great and is probably a blast to ride!

    • Mookie

      you o.k. man? you seem a bit tense.

  • RobL

    I’d rather not post the pic because it was taken for a magazine article that wants exclusivity on the pics until publication.

    Basically, many of the mechanical parts of the bike are from other models. They’re all refinished, shiny paint and polish. However, there’s a “rebirth” theme to the bike, all of the parts were sourced from dismantlers. We all know where used late-model bike parts come from, right? Yep, crashes. Even what bits remain of the original frame came from a bike that had a horrific accident. With that in mind, one of the components has a noticeable gouge in the aluminum, through the black paint. It’s the only part of the bike not refinished and wears the scar of the original bike’s crash leaving no doubt as to it’s origin. Rebirth as a new and different type of bike, but showing where it came from. Dynamic transformation.

  • Rocky0

    @mookie,haha sorry if it comes off sounding tense,the internet you know.A lot of effort goes into these builds, even if they dont have a fully equipped shop but that shouldn’t diminish their efforts.some of these builders have to do more with less.I just think that one builder in particular would be better served with a little encouragement and a dose of humility and not crap on every build he comments on with his condescending comments.we all love motorcyles or we would’nt be visiting this site.If mule would lighten up maybe a new builder would feel welcome to show their pride and joy instead of feeling like they got kicked in the guts.Your thoughts?

  • Mookie

    what do i think? who the f**k am i !? i am a no body with an internet connection like about 99.99% of us.
    well you asked-where did mule say anything in particular about any ones builds?
    like everyone else here he,as i saw it and as i do,stated his ideals/gut feelings about building bikes.
    as i interpreted it anyway.just as everyone else here got what they got out of it.

    have you seen the caliber of his work? i mean c’mon ya gotta give the guy props.
    like a lot of folks these days i build,and i use the term loosely, bikes as well. i too spend a lot of time whittlin out half assed parts with a hacksaw/ file and i enjoy it. a lot. i wish i had more money and talent but unlike the tide that apparently turned on mule i don’t look down on him for being one of the few who really have some serious talent and dedication to this crap.
    i like the Virago a lot but this XS650(in particular) is as common as houseflies- theres nothing there- i.m.h.o. that is. i mean i can have an opinion about something i see- right?
    this whole post subject has turned ugly . i’m off to bikemetric for some solace…

  • front view of bike…. might just be perfection.

  • front view of bike…. might just be perfection.

  • BoxerFanatic

    To the builder of this bike…

    Fantastic work.

    I keep coming back to look at this one. Not all of the bikes on this site are that appealing to me, although they all seem well done.

    This one speaks to me, though. Very nicely done.

    I love the finish on the tank, but I have to wonder… is it clear-coated or anything, to fix it as it is?

    I like boxer engines, myself, and I would love to see a 70’s-80’s BMW boxer done with similar finish and fantastic simplicity, maybe with a toaster-tank.

  • Please BikeEXIF, more bikes like this. Bravo, Mr. Ryland.

  • Ryland

    Boxer: Thanks! And the tank has a clear top coat. My painter warned me that it would not prevent rust but would definitely slow it down. You all know how I feel about rust, so I really like that it will change a little at time. Of course the alternative is to get an aluminum or stainless tank, but I enjoy the transitive nature of steel, visually. Can be a pain, though sometimes. haha. Also, it looks like I’ll be doing an old R90 over the next few months. I’ll post progress on my blog…

    • Have you considered nickel plating? It’s rust-protective, won’t apply a shine like chrome, and has some interesting appearance characteristics of it’s own.

      Looking forward to seeing your R90.

      • Ryland

        I will consider it now! I was actually going to get a tank chromed as an experiment and then brush it. It gives factory chrome (exhausts, fenders, light buckets, etc.) a nice natural metal look, so I was hoping it would work the same on a chromed tank. Nickel might save a step. Thanks! JR

  • summerman

    Well, I have never worked on a bike more than to straighten out a bent shifter or twisted brake grip or pull grass out of parts, but because of this site and others. (I have yet to see cafe racer tv.) I am going to get my 78xs 400 which hasn’t been run in 7 years and is frozen to the ground at a 30% angle in a friends barn, and get it started and try my part at customising it in the most basic of ways. Handle bars, bla bla bla. and I will then put it on youtube or some forum just to say, “here’s my attempt” or “here’s a pile of parts for sale”. I like the idea of getting some thing different and functional by my self from someting I already have. I’m 47, no real experience with mechanics except for the dozen or so times in my life I had to fix something on a car, lawnmower, etc. but I have been inspired and excited and to me that is what this is all about. I realize that even if I’m as successful as I hope to be that I will only have a crude, slow, low tech, generic looking hobbyist, bike that will have cost way more in time and/or money to build than a good used more modern bike, but I still want to try. My altimate goal is a great handling, reliable, quick, comfortable, cool looking ride. What I achieve is unknown at this time and that is what also drives me on to try. I read these posts and think that there were very few if any intended insults but many hurt feelings. I’m sure a few minutes together with any of the above posters tanding around even the worst of motorbikes as a back drop would elicit the common ground that we all as motorcyle enthusiasts have. So to all out there… build, ride, criticise and be safe