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Low, loud, and black: Motocrew’s 1979 XS650 custom

1979 Yamaha XS650 cafe racer by Motocrew
When we think of Motocrew, we think of sleek, muscular customs with a very modern edge. But sometimes it’s good to try something new, even if that ‘new’ is something old. And that’s what’s happened with Chris Scholtka’s latest build.

The full-time firefighter, part-time builder has taken a swerve with his latest creation. The style is familiar but beautifully executed, and designed to meet a very tight brief from the client.

1979 Yamaha XS650 cafe racer by Motocrew
The donor bike is a 1979 Yamaha XS650, and for most of its life, it had just two owners. “The second owner bought it from his best friend in 1981, and has ridden it ever since,” Chris tells us. “He handled it with a lot of care. The bike was in nice condition, and in some ways, too good to take apart!”

Chris describes the current, third owner as “a car guy living in Stuttgart.” He had three requirements for the custom build: the XS650 should be low, loud, and black all over.

1979 Yamaha XS650 cafe racer by Motocrew
Last November, with the wintry European nights drawing in, Chris started work. “The decision was to build a classic cafe racer,” he says. “After building more modern bikes, such as my BMW K100 and a Ducati 848, I was fired up to build a classic.”

That’s not to say this Yamaha is full of archaic technology. One of the biggest changes is a switch to Honda CBR1000RR forks, using a frame conversion stem from Cognito Moto.

1979 Yamaha XS650 cafe racer by Motocrew
Using a CBR wheel would make the transplant pretty easy, but Chris wanted to use spoked wheels all round. “The concept was to fit the biggest tires I could find—and fit legally.”

He located a company in Kiel that could make 3.0 x 18” rims, complete with an all-important certificate for the German TÜV. The rims were pressed and drilled specifically for the hubs, and wear chunky Shinko E270 rubber—tires with a modern construction but a traditional sawtooth tread pattern.

1979 Yamaha XS650 cafe racer by Motocrew
The front hub was problematic, but Cognito Moto helped out with a CNC machined black anodized unit. “It allowed me to put the wheel in without resorting to a spacer.”

It also meant that Chris could use the CBR calipers, which he’s matched to a new disc from TRW, Brembo brake pads and a Brembo brake cylinder. (The rear brake is stock, rebuilt.)

1979 Yamaha XS650 cafe racer by Motocrew
To get the low stance desired by his customer, Chris has used Touratech fork springs and Black-T shocks. “I got a custom setup for the rear, which fitted perfectly for the rider weight and ride height I wanted.”

Although the XS650 had been well looked after, it was still a 43-year-old bike. So Chris removed the parallel twin engine and stripped it down. He treated it to new pistons and replaced worn parts, then installed a new clutch before slotting it back into the frame.

1979 Yamaha XS650 cafe racer by Motocrew
The exhaust pipes sneak just under the Cognito Moto rearsets, and Chris fabricated the whole system himself, using 48mm tube. “I sawed it into 42 pieces per side, and welded it up. Trust me, it’s loud enough!” The overhauled carburetors are running larger jets to compensate.

New clip-on bars are finished with grips from regular collaborator Hookie Co., alongside new switchgear, turn signals and a glassless aluminum mirror from Motogadget—and a complete rewire.

1979 Yamaha XS650 cafe racer by Motocrew
A Motoscope Mini speedo sits in a 3D-printed fascia, the ignition system is keyless, and it’s all controlled by a bluetooth-enabled mo.unit box—including the 6.5-inch LED Puig headlight.

After modifying the gas tank with cutouts to retain the steering lock, Chris topped it off with a classy pop-up cap and shaped up a rear hump to fit the classic cafe racer design. It’s sitting atop a simple but effective new subframe, which also houses discreet lighting from Highsider.

1979 Yamaha XS650 cafe racer by Motocrew
Not many builders can switch styles with ease, so this is another feather in Chris’ cap. And we have to admit we’d love to put this machine in the EXIF garage—even if it would mean annoying the neighbors.

Motocrew Instagram | Images by kylefx

1979 Yamaha XS650 cafe racer by Motocrew

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