Mechanical animal: Simone Conti’s custom Yamaha XS650

Custom Yamaha XS650 by Simone Conti Motorcycles
Simone Conti has what many custom motorcycles builders strive for—an instantly recognizable style. Working under the banner of Simone Conti Motorcycles, the Italian craftsman creates machines that look fast, aggressive and futuristic, like two-wheeled mechanical aliens. His style is so distinctive, that when he told his friends he was about to customize a Yamaha XS650, they scoffed.

“I had this 1971 Yamaha XS650 engine,” Simone tells us, “and I thought I could make a bike with an old engine and a modern aesthetic. All my friends told me that it would never be beautiful, because the engine has totally different lines.”

Custom Yamaha XS650 by Simone Conti Motorcycles
Determined to prove his friends wrong, Simone set out to build one of his wildest motorcycles yet. Calling this a custom XS650 is actually a bit of a stretch, because the only original parts left are the engine, transmission, wheels and rear brake. Everything else was either upgraded—or scrapped and remade from scratch.

Yes, that includes the chassis, too. The XS650’s twin cylinder mill no longer sits cradled in its original steel frame. Instead, it’s suspended from a full aluminum setup, designed and fabricated by Simone.

Custom Yamaha XS650 by Simone Conti Motorcycles
It’s a modular design; the front half and the subframe are tubular pieces, with a set of CNC-cut mounting plates tying everything together. Once Simone had built the individual pieces, he set everything into a jig and put it all together, like a life-sized Meccano set.

The boxy swingarm looks like it came off a sportbike, but it’s also a custom piece. It’s hooked up to an Öhlins shock, and makes allowance for the XS650’s OEM drum brake hub.

Custom Yamaha XS650 by Simone Conti Motorcycles
Simone kept the Yamaha’s original 19F/18R wheels, but upgraded the front suspension and brakes. The forks are from a Honda CBR600RR, and the twin brake calipers are Brembo units. For the tires, Simone paired an Avon Speedmaster (front) with a Dunlop K825 (rear), to mix a classic touch into the bike’s otherwise futuristic vibe.

Custom Yamaha XS650 by Simone Conti Motorcycles
Metal shaping is Simone’s forte—so this XS650 is swathed in handmade aluminum parts. The vibe is lithe and muscular, and if we had to guess, we’d say that Simone’s mood board is covered in pictures of futuristic jet fighters and anime robots.

From the nose cone, through to the sculpted fuel tank, waspish tail section and generous side fairings, each piece is heavily sculpted and loaded with tiny details. We love the juxtaposition of sharp edges and visible welds, and the way Simone has worked a plethora of vents into the design. Quarter-turn fasteners on the fairing prove that he’s considered the practical side of owning a servicing a motorcycle like this, too.

Custom Yamaha XS650 by Simone Conti Motorcycles
This Yamaha sports even more custom goodness, in the form of a number of custom carbon fiber parts. But since that’s outside of Simone’s wheelhouse, he first prototyped everything out of aluminum—and then called in reinforcements.

The aluminum templates were handed over to a friend, Ivan Motta (who also handled the bike’s striking paint job). Ivan collaborated with a kiteboarding company, Devils Kiteboarding, to build molds and reproduce each piece in carbon fiber. The new carbon parts include the vented front brake scoops, rear wheel covers, rear hugger, exhaust heat shields, and shields for the engine’s pod filters.

Custom Yamaha XS650 by Simone Conti Motorcycles
Simone would have been happy with ‘regular’ woven carbon, but Ivan had a better idea. All the parts were shaped using unidirectional carbon—a non-woven type of carbon with a unique look to it. The carbon contrasts the raw aluminum and candy aquamarine sections perfectly.

The Yamaha is finished off with a smorgasbord of smaller one-off parts. Simone made the foot controls and heel plates himself, as well as the twin stainless steel exhaust system. The slash-cut silencers use a combination of carbon fiber and aluminum tubing.

Custom Yamaha XS650 by Simone Conti Motorcycles
Not too many custom builders would try to turn a Yamaha XS650 into a neo-futuristic café racer, but Simone has pulled it off spectacularly. But do his detractors agree?

“My friends said that I was right,” he says with a smile.

Simone Conti Motorcycles Facebook | Instagram | Images by Mattia Negrini

Custom Yamaha XS650 by Simone Conti Motorcycles

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