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White Hot: Upcycle hot rods the Yamaha XS1100

1980 Yamaha XS1100 (XS11) customized by Upcycle Garage
We don’t see many Yamaha XS1100s around these days, which is a shame—it was an absolute beast of a machine. It was often called the ‘XS 11,’ because it could run the quarter-mile in under 12 seconds, but its extended wheelbase made it more of a tourer than a sportbike.

The unusually long air-cooled engine pumped out 95 hp, and although the handling was widely regarded as terrible, the XS1100 still made it into Cycle World magazine’s Ten Best Bikes of 1978 list.

1980 Yamaha XS1100 (XS11) customized by Upcycle Garage
Johnny Nguyen of Upcycle has a soft spot for the XS1100, and he’s made this 1980-spec Craigslist find the basis for his newest build. “I chose it because my first bike was a Yamaha,” he tells us. “And I like the idea of a classic liter bike.”

Unlike most builders, Johnny builds bikes to suit his own taste, and then sells them. “None of my projects are client-based,” he reveals. “I just build what my heart wants—I like the freedom!”

1980 Yamaha XS1100 (XS11) customized by Upcycle Garage
Despite being almost 40 years old, the XS1100 was in pretty decent shape when Johnny started. “The engine ran very well before take down,” he recalls. “So I just inspected the valves and did a full gasket change while I was in there.”

The entire engine was then chemical washed and soda blasted, and Johnny replaced the rear cases with a tight mesh.

1980 Yamaha XS1100 (XS11) customized by Upcycle Garage
The four Mikuni carburetors were completely stripped too, dunked in chemical wash and re-jetted, synced and tuned to match the new red velocity stacks and the 4-into-1 chrome megaphone exhaust system from Mac.

This machine is likely to have no problem matching the 136 mph (218 kph) top speed of the original factory bikes.

1980 Yamaha XS1100 (XS11) customized by Upcycle Garage
Now it was time to add a hot rod-meets-boulevard cruiser vibe. New Progressive Suspension shocks lower the stance at the back and the forks are chopped, with modified internals to drop the Yamaha just over three inches.

Clip-on bars are matched to Biltwell grips and CNC’d aluminum push button switches. Forward lighting comes from a 6500K LED ‘HaloMaker’ headlight, from HogWorkz, more commonly fitted to Harleys and Indians and installed here minus the bucket.

1980 Yamaha XS1100 (XS11) customized by Upcycle Garage
Everything’s hooked up to a new wiring loom from Revival Cycles and controlled by a Motogadget m.unit blue box. “That unit drives the entire bike,” says Johnny. “It has tons of configurable functions, including an alarm, keyless ignition and so on.”

“The electronics are now all crammed under the tank, and the battery is an eight-cell Antigravity lithium battery in a custom-made box.”

1980 Yamaha XS1100 (XS11) customized by Upcycle Garage
The original square speedo has been swapped out for a simple circular gauge, now mounted to the left of the tank to keep the bar area clean.

Although this XS1100 looks like a heavily chopped bike, there’s actually very little grinder work. “The subframe was left alone,” says Johnny. “I just chopped the rear end off—and did weld on some risers for the seat.”

1980 Yamaha XS1100 (XS11) customized by Upcycle Garage
He’s color-matched the tank to the powder-coated frame, and handled the paint himself. “The pinstripe work wasn’t planned. I just went with the flow till I found a pattern that worked for me.”

The seat was outsourced, though: upholstered in a gray suede with white stitching and piping, it’s the work of Costura Seats, a neighbor of Johnny’s in Orange County, CA.

1980 Yamaha XS1100 (XS11) customized by Upcycle Garage
And those white wheels ..? “They’re the original wheels, powder coated white,” says Johnny. “It’s the hot rod look. I just really like white wheels!”

Normally we’d beg to differ, but in this case, they suit the build perfectly. It’s a curious mix of the weird and the conventional, but Johnny has managed to pull it off. We’re betting it won’t be long before this Yammie finds an appreciative new owner.

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1980 Yamaha XS1100 (XS11) customized by Upcycle Garage