Yamaha XS650 El Bob Is Full of Vintage Bobber Charm Wherever You Look

Brian Kates is what you might call a man of many talents. He studied mechanical engineering at the University of Waterloo, worked as a biomedical device researcher at the Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, and eventually decided to get into metalwork. In 2016, Brian founded Root 2 Engineering and began offering his metal-shaping services to clients, which is how he makes a living today.
Yamaha XS650 El Bob 13 photos
Photo: Lights & Gears
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He’s also a self-confessed sucker for motorcycles and all things vintage, so his firm has a dedicated custom bike division named Motobrix. There may not be too many builds in Brian’s project archive at this point, but each and every one of them is absolutely magnificent to say the least! Take, for instance, this stripped-down hardtail bobber put together back in 2020.

It’s a mouth-watering sight to behold, showcasing the author’s metalworking prowess in all its glory for onlookers to marvel at. The bike goes by the name of El Bob, and it had once been a neglected 1978 Yamaha XS650 purchased as a pile of rusty parts. Sir Kates wasn’t too impressed with their condition, for sure, but he did manage to negotiate a great price with the previous owner.

The aim was to create a minimalistic head-turner with all the traits you’d expect to see on an antique bobber from, say, the fifties – a foot-operated clutch, no battery or turn signals, and the mandatory jockey shifter. First things first, the mastermind at Motobrix busied himself with a bit of frame surgery, cleaning up the main section and taking the rear end out of the picture.

A rigid structure from Voodoo Vintage was welded on in its stead, and the XS650’s forks have been lowered to achieve the correct stance. Down in the usprung sector, Brian installed the repurposed wheel hubs of a TX500, lacing them up to 18-inch aftermarket rims via stainless-steel spokes. The chosen tires are Firestone’s retro-looking Deluxe Champions, but what really catches our attention is the front brake.

Yamaha XS650 El Bob
Photo: Lights & Gears
It’s a distinctively modern touch in a sea of classic eye candy, employing a Ducati Monster’s floating disc and the beefy Tokico caliper of a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-7R. These are operated via a premium master cylinder and a braided stainless-steel brake line. The stylish hand shifter and foot-operated clutch mechanism were both made from scratch, but El Bob’s powertrain hardware needed some proper TLC before it could be reassembled.

Brian had the parallel-twin engine vapor-blasted, bored out by 0.5 millimeters, and rebuilt with fresh internals wherever necessary. A capacitor discharge ignition provides the spark, while the air is kept nice and clean thanks to aftermarket foam filters. On the exhaust side of things, we find custom pipework running nice and high on the right, with a layer of Cerakote to prevent temperatures from getting too toasty.

An open clutch cover finishes off the powertrain-related mods, but the custom wizardry continues with some handmade bodywork. The centerpiece is a snazzy peanut-style gas tank shaped out of steel, and our protagonist got pretty creative in order to compensate for its modest capacity. He sourced an old oil tank, transformed it into an auxiliary fuel cell, and placed it right beneath the seat.

Yamaha XS650 El Bob
Photo: Lights & Gears
Speaking of the motorcycle’s saddle, it makes use of a sprung seat pan, elegant brown leather upholstery, and diamond pattern stitching done in black. Those springs make up for the lack of rear suspension at least in part, but who wouldn’t sacrifice some comfort to ride such a charming piece of machinery, anyway? In true bobber fashion, this XS650 only wears one fender at the back – a bespoke steel unit complete with supporting struts.

The sole lighting component you’ll see on El Bob is a yellow-tinted headlamp, adding a pinch of color and further enforcing its old-school aesthetic. It attaches to the lower triple clamp by way of a tailor-made bracket, and the tall handlebar placed in the cockpit is also a custom part. Brown rubber grips match the seat upholstery, accompanied by a couple of tiny switches on the left.

Of course, there’s not a single gauge or rear-view mirror in sight. As he didn’t want to cover his seamless metalwork in any paint, Brian left the fuel tank and rear fender raw. He added a gorgeous cream finish to the faux oil tank and frame, though, while painting the rims black to draw more attention to what really matters.

Aside from the brown accessories, yellow headlight lens, and touches of gold on the running gear, El Bob is a very monochromatic affair. The project’s mastermind was happy to call it a day once the paint job was done, and we can probably all agree that he knocked it straight out of the ballpark. A well-built custom bobber is something we’ll never grow tired of admiring, especially when it has as much old-school flair as this XS650 from Canada.
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About the author: Silvian Secara
Silvian Secara profile photo

A bit of an artist himself, Silvian sees two- and four-wheeled machines as a form of art, especially restomods and custom rides. Oh, and if you come across a cafe racer article on our website, it’s most likely his doing.
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