Montana's XS650

An updated and upgraded Yamaha twin by Vintage Steele

Josh Steele Yamaha
Clean and classy-- Vintage Steele's Yamaha XS650Josh Steele

Vintage Steele is a shop out of Vermont that is pretty unique in a couple ways. First off, the guys are honest, straightforward and a pleasure to deal with-- something that many of us have learned the hard way is not too easy to come by. Secondly, they're a motorcycle shop that builds customs that is absolutely crazy busy all the time.

When I was in their neck of the woods last year in Laconia, they'd been selling and working on bikes so much that they didn't even have time to fix up their own to ride out and hang! But the carpenter's family eats on the floor, right? So it goes.

yamaha specs
The large battery and airbox have been replaced to open up that triangle under the seatJosh Steele

The latest build we have from them is an XS650 with a little bit of a different take than the Craigslist monstrosities we are used to seeing these bikes become. Because of their low price, high production numbers and simple design, the XS650 became the choice of every backyard welder and kid with a grinder that wanted to chop some stuff up. Luckily, not all of them suffered such ill fates, and one with such great luck has ended up in the hands of these vintage moto magicians.

They've spent the time describing the build better than I ever could, so, straight from the horses mouths-- here's Monatana's XS650

The xs650 is Yamaha’s mid-sized motorcycle made from 1968-1979 (not including the xs650 Special). These bikes were light weight and had very advanced motors for the time. Production and shipment to America resembled that of all the competition, and these bikes were known for their reliability. Fast forward to today and they continue to have a large cult following. Because of their continued popularity, parts are readily available, you will find a plethora of aftermarket companies developing and producing parts for these bikes to improve their outdated systems. Originally, these bikes were considered to lack style, but not anymore, their style is now an icon of the bike, highly sought after and mimicked in many other models.

yamaha specs
Vintage Steele's Yamaha XS650Josh Steele

Montana came to Vintage Steele (V.S.) with big ideas and lots of questions. She was super excited for her first bike, and even more excited for a custom built motorcycle. She wanted something with enough style and plenty of curb appeal that was still sensible for the Vermont countryside. Being a new rider, naturally Montana had tons of questions, and V.S. had loads of suggestions. The xs650 is a natural go-to when people are looking for a lightweight, reliable, and good looking motorcycle. And the best part about the Yamaha is you can keep up with all your friends no matter the situation.

yamaha specs
Vintage Steele's Yamaha XS650Josh Steele

After exploring ideas, budget, and general style concepts Montana decided on the 1975 Yamaha xs650. She was excited to include spoked wheels, attracted to the look of spokes over the original mag wheels, a challenge when adapting a 2005 Suzuki GSXR 750 front end. Fortunately, V.S. was able to make this adaption with the help from Cognito Moto, who had the steering stem and hub already all figured out. With that change, the build would now have a rear drum and dual disc brake up front, making sure this bike would stop on a dime. As always, the idea beyond functionality is reliability and dependability — this is why V.S. installed a complete aftermarket electrical system. Also, adding a single mikuni carburetor to replace the finicky dual-carb setup to simplify the tuning and maintenance process. The addition of the mikuni carb also assisted in enhancing the performance of the handmade high-exhaust setup. One of the most exciting elements to this build was their discovery of the GPS driven speedometer market for the V.S. crew— they may never go back to the outdated cable driven type. To keep true to the tradition of giving the customer some creative control, Montana designed the beautifully executed paint scheme to really help set the bike off.

The completion of this bike adds another bad-ass woman to the ever growing populous of women riders ripping the back roads of Vermont and all over!

Aftermarket Features
Mikes XS charging system
SPR GPS Speedometer
2005 Suzuki GSXR forks
Excel rims
Buchanan’s stainless steel spokes
Cognito Moto stem, front hub, and top triple tree
Shinko Trail Master tires