After a cold winter of work my bike is ready for the season.
This is my 1982 Yamaha XJ750, my first bike, and my play bike. Pretty much every winter since I bought it it’s gone under the knife to slowly be transformed into the bike I really wanted it to be. I always held myself to one goal though, it had to be rideable in the summer. The funny thing is because I’ve had this bike for about 8 years now the ideal state of this bike has changed a lot throughout the years.
When I bought the bike the American Chopper trend was just starting to wind down and I was really into that chopper/cruiser look. For a UJM the XJ750 maxim had a pretty good look, so for 1100 dollars I was the proud owner of a pretty worn out 80's Japanese bike with half functioning electronics, discolored castings, flaking emblems, and worn out paint. I couldn’t be happier.
That feeling didn’t last long. I started to hate the square headlight, and the massive gauge cluster, so off they came, along with the rear fender and the tall cruiser bars, and on went a set of drag bars, a round headlight, and the smallest gauges I could find. I can’t find any pictures of the bike at this stage, but it was only the begging of what was to come.
Over the next year the cafe racer phase was just picking up pace, and I was %100 aboard that styling trend (still am, but my tastes have expanded to appreciate and love pretty much everything now). The customization bug bit me hard. Off came the old rusty mufflers because in your early years of college, the louder the better. Even with the mufflers off this bike is fairly tame and quiet at low rpms, but open it up and it makes one of the most glorious sounds I’ve heard a motorcycle make. Next to go was the front fender, a chop job to make it substantially smaller was done, and it was painted black to match. Then came the big one, the frame chop. Off came the rear portion of the frame, and on went a few pieces of tube, some poorly welded brackets for a taillight, and a hand built seat pan, wrapped by a pro.
The next winter was a bit more simple, a quick matte black paint job, elimination of the front fender, factory side panels, custom built side panels painted to match, and pod filters. At the time I knew nothing about carb tuning, and didn’t touch the carbs. The next summer was fraught with tuning problems, hard starts, and eventually a blown head gasket, on top of many electrical gremlins. After struggling to get it running right after replacing the head gasket, and refusal from a shop to work on it, twice (another story that really pissed me off)* I was broken, I bought my Sportster and let the XJ sit for close to two summers.
But the love for your first bike never dies, and soon I was back at it again. After lots of research and reading I learned how to tune a carb. I bought many sets of jets, but eventually got it running well, not perfect, but well enough for easy starts and riding without overheating. In quick order off came the drag bars, on went clip ons, off came the factory mid controls, and on went a crappy set of custom rears. The bike was back.
That brings us to this past year. After riding with the clip ons for a year or two I was tired of the crouched riding position and with a set of dirt bike bars I had laying around made for a very good reason to transform the bike into a Scrambler/Tracker/Brat style of bike. Clearly that’s not the direction I went. When swapping the bars out I decided I really wanted to clean up the bar controls, and while I was at it I also wanted to fix and clean up the wiring mess and eliminate the clunky factory computer system which I had poorly stashed within the frame.
That quickly led to the entire wiring harness coming out of the bike, and a new one being built, ground up, from scratch. While cleaning up that mess I also wanted to clean up some of my less experienced, first attempts at fabrication. Off came the side panels, the fasteners that held them on, the battery box, and the factory mounting locations for the CDI and igniter.
A battery tray was built, ignition and electrical components were relocated, switches were relocated and hidden, wires were ran and new foot peg mounts were built. Other than a few minor things the bike was complete and ready to terrorize the neighborhood and surrounding country side. I took it for a ride last night, despite the cold, and fell in love with this bike all over again. The feeling of having a bike that is uniquely yours, and knowing you made it that way is an amazing feeling that is better experienced than told.
Side story, I met a guy at the gas station who loved the bike as well, he got to talking about old bikes and mentioned an ‘82 KZ1000 sitting next to his garage that he wanted to get rid of and offered it to me for $200. I need another bike like I need a whole in my head, but for $200..... I mean.... how can you not? (Unless it’s absolute trash) Quick flip maybe? To be determined.
Like every good project this bike is far from finished. This summer yet I want to pull some dents on the tank and paint it. There’s a yellow/cream color HD has been putting on their bikes lately that I’m in love with and with a couple of black accents I think it would look really nice. Following that, and likely next winters project will be pulling the engine out and sanding/polishing/detailing that up to make it look a little better, along with touching up some of my lesser quality welds and brackets. Beyond that I’m really wanting to do a full suspension swap/revamp, better shocks in the rear, and some decent USD forks in the front with better brakes than the numb dinner plates that are currently on it. The next major project I have in mind is converting to fuel injection.
I really have no idea whats in store for this bike in the coming years, everything I’ve done up to this point has been mostly spur of the moment decisions, and the overall vision was built right along side the bike. I do know a few things though, this bike will never leave my ownership, I will do everything I can to ride it every year, and it will never be finished.