A letter to a Classic Bike, published some years ago.
In 1972 I sold my BSA 500 single and Norton Commando, and didn't ride again
until 1987. In that year I walked into a dealer in Montreal, Canada, and said, "
I want a British bike that starts, doesn't leak oil, and is reliable".
He pointed to a 1981 Yamaha XS650 and said, "There it is; only it's made in Japan".
I bought it on the spot, rode it away, and was back in ten minutes, somewhat shaken, to ask; "how do you get this thing round a corner?" He told me "stay on the gas, don't throttle back or it will plough out on you. Talk to yourself if necessary". So I talk to myself on corners;" stay on the throttle, stay on the throttle", and it works, even if I do come out of some corners with my heart in my mouth.
But otherwise, I have ridden it, hard, for 12 years, and never needed a repair or tune-up. The only parts I've ever needed to replace are those that I've bent or broken when I've fallen off the road, and naturally tires, bulbs, and once, the battery.
The 81s were a little uglier than the previous years, but then that was true of all bikes built in the '80's. Through the years I have removed all tank and side panel insignia, replaced the ape hanger bars with flat low bars, replaced the mag wheels with alloy rim spoked wheels, made a flat saddle, and replaced the megaphone exhausts with shorties, installed small crash bars, made it all black, chrome and aluminum.
All to make it more like real 60's Bonneville.
Only I haven't been able to make it hard to start and leak oil copiously. Only kidding, I would love a Bonnie myself. Have my eye on a 1967 beauty, only whenever I go to test ride it the owner can't get it to start.
Please publish an article on the XS650; there are many of us all over the world who love this Japanese Englishman with the bulletproof engine.