XS650 Chop-Off Winner

Article and Photos By: Kerri Schindler

Originally Published In The February 2016 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

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Brian has been around bikes since he was a kid and has had many different kinds of bikes. It wasn’t until going to a few shows and seeing what people were turning the XS650’s into that he got the bug… So the story of this bike goes like this… It was rescued out from under an old man’s porch on the North side of Pittsburgh. It was rusted all to hell but Brian thought, what the hell he would give it a try and see if it kicked over. Sure enough it did. So Brian handed the old man $400 and loaded it into his truck and went on his way. He got it home and did a compression check on it and found that it only had 6000 original miles on it and still had 140lbs of compression! After running it for a bit and getting it cleaned out it was running 150lbs of compression, but as with many of these old XS650s it was having charging issues. It was then that Brian decided to tear it apart and make it his own. Brian is a welder by trade and had originally bought a hardtail but when he got it home and started looking at the welds he wasn’t happy with the imperfections and knew that he would be happier making it himself. So he made his own frame jig, bought some 1.125 DOM tubing and started making the hardtail. When he sat it on the ground with the front end bolted up he couldn’t help feeling that “this looks like everyone else’s”. The fever for something different grew so he started researching and decided to make his own front end. He knew he wanted a springer but didn’t want it to look like all the rest of them out there. After some searching he came across some vintage photos of girders and fell in love with the simple mechanical action of them. He knew that was what he would build. After hours of research he came up with enough info to make his own plans and mocked up his first set. He used cheap plumbing pipe because he knew it would be a process of cutting and welding many times. Finally he got the stance that he was after. He made the jig and went to work making the front end out of 7/8 DOM. The shock is from a 50cc dirt bike rear. He changed the spring in it so it has a smoother ride.

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With the front end complete it was on to the motor, since it only had 6000 miles and had great compression he didn’t want to tear it down so he just freshened it up with new bushings, seals and bearings. He had it soda blasted down to the bare aluminum and painted it with high temp black satin. Then he got some of the goodies to shine up the hardware a bit. With the motor cleaned up it was time to find a fender. Again Brian didn’t want something that everyone else has so he had read that in the 70’s guys would use spare tire rings… on an EBay hunt he went to find one. He found one on EBay that was from a 35 Ford and was pretty beat up but it still had a nice 90 deg section that was usable. He reinforced the section with 1/8” on the inside since it was a little flimsy and he isn’t running fender struts. By this time Brian really had the bug and was fabricating everything that he could for this bike so he figured why stop there and went on to the handlebars. He knew he wanted them clean so that meant running drum all the way around. Brian didn’t want the bends that typical drag bars have and it ended up being made from 5 different pieces all welded together. Now the brakes for the project– He needed another front drum and ended up finding one off of a 1970 XS1. This was big money and even though it looked like it came out of the bottom of the ocean it was still big bucks. He shelled out the cash, got and bead blasted it so it looked like new. Then he had it powder coated black along with the rear and put new shoes on both. When it was time to move on to the wheels he decided to lace the wheels himself with stainless spokes. The tedious job came with many swear words, maybe even some new invented words and many beers but he got the wheels laced. Brian didn’t like the lids on most of the battery boxes he was seeing so he decided to make his own. His has a lid but how he attached is a secret that he won’t let out!

The last thing to fabricate was the pipes, so with a full kit of 180’s and 90’s and 6ft of straight he started cutting and bending till he got the look he was after. Then he wrapped them and coated them with high temp black paint. The only things on the bike that Brian didn’t fabricate are the gas tank which is a Cole Foster and the seat is a Biltwell Slim line. He says he will fabricate a tank for his next build. To finish up the bike before paint he needed to get the charging system issues figured out so it was decided to switch it all over to using a Pamco Ignition and a Hugh’s Handbuilt charging system. With the help of a buddy, Steve, the paint was mixed. His buddy was reluctant to even spray the bike because he knew how anal Brian is…. So he gave him a crash course in painting instead. Steve let Brian use his gun, so he painted the bike himself, and this was the first time Brian ever used a spray gun. Brain said he had a blast building this bike and has the bug and is ready to build another one. He said that one of the best times he’s had with this bike is when he pulled up to a show at Steel City Harley and the editor Chris Callen of Cycle Source came up and asked him about it before he even shut it off…And getting invited out to Pandemonium for the XS650 ChopOff Bike Show by Dan down at Mountainfest and winning Best of show! All the other fun times are at bars or shows, getting respect from older Harley guys that used to ride these bikes in the past….. …”And every time I kick it over”

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Chop Off Winner Tech Sheet

Owner: Brian DelTorre

Fabrication By: Owner

City/State: North Huntington, PA

Year: 1983

Model: XS650




Year: 1983

Model: XS650

Ignition: Pamco

Displacement: 650

Pistons: Stock

Heads: Stock

Carb: Dual Mikuni BS34s

Cam: Stock

Air Cleaner: Uni Pods

Exhaust: Owner





Shifting: 5 Speed


Year: 1983

Make: Yamaha

Rake: 30 Degrees

Stretch: 4” In The Hardtail


Type: Custom Girder

Builder: Owner


Triple Trees:


Front Wheel: 1970 XS1 Drum/Hub

Size: 19”

Front Tire: Firestone Champion Deluxe

Front brake: Drum

Rear Wheel: 1983 Rear Hub

Size: 18”

Rear Tire: Firestone Champion Deluxe

Rear brake: Drum


Painter: Owner

Color: Steel Silver Metallic




Bars: Owner

Hand Controls:

Fuel tank: Cole Foster

Front Fender: What??

Rear Fender: 1935 Ford Spare Tire

Seat: Biltwell

Foot Controls:

Oil Tank:

Headlight: 5.75” Bates Style

Taillight: 2.25 LED Mini Bates

Speedo: None

Photographer: Kerri Schindler

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