Yamaha XS650

The Yamaha XS650 was praised for its reliability and criticized for its styling

| Premier Issue

  • The 1970 XS-1, seen here in a Yamaha promotional piece, was the first model of the twin that would later be
    The 1970 XS-1, seen here in a Yamaha promotional piece, was the first model of the twin that would later be.
  • Yamaha unveils its 650cc twin to dealers in this 1969 publication
    Yamaha unveils its 650cc twin to dealers in this 1969 publication.
  • Dick Hutting takes a rural cruise on his 1973 XS650, with its original metallic blue and gold paint scheme
    Dick Hutting takes a rural cruise on his 1973 XS650, with its original metallic blue and gold paint scheme.
    Photo by Ric Anderson
  • Yamaha touted the XS650’s speed and reliability in this 1973 advertisement focusing on a 9,000-mile trip through the Australian Outback
    Yamaha touted the XS650’s speed and reliability in this 1973 advertisement focusing on a 9,000-mile trip through the Australian Outback.
  • Yamaha touted the XS650’s speed and reliability in this 1973 advertisement focusing on a 9,000-mile trip through the Australian Outback
    Yamaha touted the XS650’s speed and reliability in this 1973 advertisement focusing on a 9,000-mile trip through the Australian Outback.
  • The 650 engine was designed before computers, so everything in it was built overly strong
    The 650 engine was designed before computers, so everything in it was built overly strong.
    Photo by Ric Anderson

  • The 1970 XS-1, seen here in a Yamaha promotional piece, was the first model of the twin that would later be
  • Yamaha unveils its 650cc twin to dealers in this 1969 publication
  • Dick Hutting takes a rural cruise on his 1973 XS650, with its original metallic blue and gold paint scheme
  • Yamaha touted the XS650’s speed and reliability in this 1973 advertisement focusing on a 9,000-mile trip through the Australian Outback
  • Yamaha touted the XS650’s speed and reliability in this 1973 advertisement focusing on a 9,000-mile trip through the Australian Outback
  • The 650 engine was designed before computers, so everything in it was built overly strong

Yamaha XS650

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.

John G
2/6/2018 5:40:04 PM

I bought a new heritage special in 83 and it was a wonderful bike that I took on many trips. Recently I was looking for another when I luckily stumbled across a fellow selling an xs650 for a few hundred dollars. He said the engine was locked up and it hadn't run in years. I showed up with a few hundred dollars and when I saw it the money couldn't leave my hand fast enought. It was a real numbers matching 1970 xs1 with its original green paint. I am having a good time restoring it, though parts are scarce. Should be ready for its 50 year anniversary in 2020.


John G
2/6/2018 5:40:02 PM

I bought a new heritage special in 83 and it was a wonderful bike that I took on many trips. Recently I was looking for another when I luckily stumbled across a fellow selling an xs650 for a few hundred dollars. He said the engine was locked up and it hadn't run in years. I showed up with a few hundred dollars and when I saw it the money couldn't leave my hand fast enought. It was a real numbers matching 1970 xs1 with its original green paint. I am having a good time restoring it, though parts are scarce. Should be ready for its 50 year anniversary in 2020.


Orion61
5/26/2015 3:17:40 PM

The biggest trick of owning a Yamaha 650 is knowing how to time them, this includes the cam chain adjustment and valve settings. Without that the valve timing is retarded and it sucks the performance completely out of them! There are so many of them still on the road they must have done something right. I still have my 1975 650. She still starts on the first kick, (I never really did use the electric starter). It still gets about 50 MPG, the only thing I have to remember is to shut the gas petcocks off when I park. I have owned many different motorcycles in my life, but not a one had the magic feeling of the 650, especially in the City. The throaty purr of the horizontal twin through shorty mufflers is the perfect balance of sound and legality. I will NEVER part with it, plus it wasn't stripped of Flashers and had a stretched set of forks that were as popular as Bell Bottom jeans in the 70's installed. Vibration?? naw, she's just purring.







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Make plans for the 28th Annual Blue Moon Cycle Euro Bike Swap Meet on Saturday, Oct. 27, followed by the Blue Moon Cycle Vintage Ride on Sunday, Oct. 28!

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