Farrell's Shade Tree Corner
Farrell Hope brings a different perspective (as noted in the title) to the 650 Central pages: A wealth of practical knowledge gained over, well, let's just say, a long time, stated in laymen's terms. 650 Central hopes that his views will help in the maintenance and enjoyment of our beloved XSs. Farrell has kindly consented to be contacted for comments or advice at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yamaha XS650 -The Quintessential Motorcycle
With the advent of
the Model T Ford in the US, motorcycling passed from being a means of transport
to being a means of recreation. It took a little longer in the UK, not until the
introduction of the Mini in the fifties did a car appear that rivaled the
motorcycle in affordability.
But today, in most countries, riding a motorcycle is a recreational activity only. Setting aside the "lifestyle image" group, the balance of riders ride for the emotional satisfaction that riding a motorcycle brings, and it is quintessentially a visceral satisfaction. There are a number of factors that contribute to that visceral delight; sound, vibration, feel, wind in one's face, precision, speed, power, torque, maneuverability and flickability, acceleration, oneness with the machine, satisfaction of doing ones own maintenance, etc. I don't need to explain it to this readership.
When one considers the above, it becomes clear that not every motorcycle can deliver all of these factors in equal amounts. Singles have the sound and the flickability, but not the power. The four cylinder multis have the speed and power, but not the sound or the vibration, and they tend to be bulky and overly wide. Rather like riding a very fast sewing machine. Maintenance is a nightmare. Only the twin has it all, only the twin gives one the full gamut of all the sensations that contribute to making riding a motorcycle the experience we all so enjoy. Three cylinders came and went, they gave up the benefits of the twin, without delivering the benefits of the fours.
However, size also plays a part. Make the twin too large, and the frame has to be larger to handle the power, the tires have to be fatter, and the size of the bike goes up by the square. It gets, longer, wider, heavier, quickly becomes a bus, and loses the maneuverability and flickability. Sure, it is the right machine to eat up endless miles of highway crossing the country coast to coast, but some of the riding pleasure is lost. So the right motor size seems to be between 600 and 900 cc.
Which brings me to the Yamaha XS650. It delivers all the above. In a good looking package, and is doggedly reliable. Mechanically, it is far superior to the parallel twins of it's day, and is better looking than the parallel twins being made today. The W650 gives it a run for it's money, but the XS650 is above all an honest bike. There is no subterfuge in the bike, and this "form follows function" contributes to it's looks and appeal. The W650 has a shaft drive to the overhead cam masquerading as a pushrod tunnel, this subterfuge detracts. The W650 also has too little chrome, and looks a little too Spartan. The XS650 has just enough chrome to make it stylish, without being ostentatious.
Whether one prefers a V-twin like the Ducati, or the more upright looks of a parallel twin is a matter of taste. I like both, but tend to the upright twin. There is no bike, including the most modern, that I covet above the XS650 I already own.
And that is my whole point. Not only do I think the XS650 was a great bike in it's day, I think it is still a great bike judged against any and all bikes, even those made today. Overall, it delivers all the factors needed to make motorcycling the visceral experience one seeks, and takes a back seat to no machine. It is the German Shepherd of motorcycles, it may not excel in any one particular thing, but it can do everything, and it can do everything well.
It is the quintessential motorcycle.
A list of the XS650 Yamaha's foibles
Diagnosing if a cylinder miss is due to electrics or fuel
Electric starter fix without gear replacement
Excessive XS650 Blow-by
Setting the valves on an XS650
Changing the clutch push rod seal on an XS650
Repairing a tear in the carb diaphragm
So Your Bike Chokes Off At Stoplights
Smoking due to worn valve seals?
If your XS650 with standard Yamaha electronic ignition has no spark.