The Yamaha XS650 was praised for its reliability and criticized for its styling
Dick Hutting takes a rural cruise on his 1973 XS650, with its original metallic blue and gold paint scheme.
Photo by Ric Anderson
Years produced: 1970-83
Total production: 500,000 (est.)
Claimed power: 53bhp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 105mph
Engine type: 653cc, four-stroke, vertical twin
Weight: 192.6kg (428lb) wet
Price then: $1,245 (1970)
Price now: $1,500-$2,000
If you’ve toured on a Yamaha XS650 for more than a sitcom’s worth of time, you probably fall into one of two groups in your opinion of the classic Japanese touring motorcycle.
Group one considers the experience as nightmarish as "Joanie Loves Chachi," thanks to the two-cylinder bike’s well-documented tendency to vibrate at highway speed.
The other group’s feelings are perhaps best voiced by Jim Griner, a longtime Yamaha XS650 owner from Hoopeston, Ill., and founder of the 1,000-member Yamaha 650 Society.
"At the right speeds and in good tune, there’s a cycle of vibration that seems to be very harmonious with the human anatomy," Griner says. "Those of us who are able to tune the engine correctly tend to think of that as the motorcycle’s pulse in a friendly sort of a way."
Okay, so maybe one man’s Mary Ann is another man’s Ginger.
But Griner is hardly the only rider who waxes a little poetic now and then over the Yamaha XS650, a classic Japanese motorcycle that has generated a deep fan base for its reliability, adaptability and classic lines.
In a production run that stretched from the Who to U2, or 1970 to 1983, the affordable twin hooked generations of riders. As a mainstay on the used-bike market for years afterwards, its appeal continues today.
"I thought it would just kind of fade into oblivion, but it didn’t," Griner says. "It had the phenomenon of the Model T or Model A, where just about the time you think it’s gone, things happen to make it pertinent and popular again. Vintage racing would be one example.
"They just keep being recycled," Griner says, "and that speaks to the bulletproof nature of them."
The XS650 debuted on the market in 1970 as the XS-1, the biggest bike in the Yamaha stable. Available in one color scheme, green and white, the first version featured drum brakes and was not equipped with an electric starter.
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>