Thursday, October 21, 2010

Trent Reker's 650 XS Chopper


When i saw this crasy, sexy, cool bike from Trent, i ask him to send me more pictures and the story of this Yamaha. I love the idea to work, invest time, money and savoir faire on this kind of bike because even if i'm an english motorcycles addict this kind of project shows us that when you have talent you have talent and thats THE point when you're digging with motorcycles.
Thank you Trent for sending me this story, your bike is rad. Frank

all pictures © Trent Reker took with his android phone.

Last summer I was run off the road riding my 2002 Honda VTX1800C while getting on the freeway onramp. Three months later I became editor of After three months I decided that instead of repairing my beloved VTX, I'd build a custom XS650 chopper. I had no money and worked part time drinking. In my internet travels seeking out content for the site, I discovered Matt Hurtado, proprietor of Working Man's Customs here in Austin. We met for burgers and beer and struck a deal; he'd create a killer hand-tooled leather seat, I'd promote him for a year on my site and build him a little website. I still owe him the site but he's been too busy lately to even bother.

I also found Jeff of Saint Motorbikes. I did an interview with him, the first on my site, and we became friends over the course of it. I asked if he'd be interested in building a bike for me. Sure he would. It had to be different. I demanded the "kitten catcher" curved single downtube design, a little headlamp cowl, 21" skinny 36-spoke wheels with Avon Distanzias, flat-sided tanks, and it had to be black and gold like my football team. No chrome. No polish. Raw. I wanted something a little steampunk, a little ratty, and a whole lot of badass. This was the thing that was going to give me credibility as a radical motorcycle designer, something I'd been dreaming of since I turned on the Discovery Channel and saw bikers and strippers and beer.

The difference was that I wanted this bike to be cheap to build.

I scored a nice freelance graphic design gig for a hospital and it was supposed to run for six months. Well, I have been known to tell people to fuck off and after six weeks of bureaucratic bullshit that turned my work into bland mediocrity, that's what I did. Even so, Jeff got enough money from me to purchase a 1979 XS650 Special for $850, plus about $500 more. With little funds, he did what he could and built the bike in about three weeks, hauled it to Austin where I'd arranged a big unveiling party in a biker bar during the Republic of Texas Motorcycle Rally in June, and then he slept for 14 hours at my place afterward. Between the two of us we put in about $2,500 in cash total as we begged and borrowed.

About the begging part; around the time I figured the hospital advertising design gig wouldn't last, I started emailing folks to see if they'd like to get pimped on my site for the rest of the year for a part. We received the biggest gifts from Robert Elswick of Elswick Cycles. He sent the hard tail weld on and a custom-made "oil tank" Jeff wanted to use as a reserve fuel tank. Rock at Rock's Chops donated the pegs and the one-off license plate bracket/brake light, Biltwell sent us their exhaust kit, Fabricator Kevin sent a seat hinge, Lick's donated a distressed leather solo bag, After Hours Choppers sent brass risers, and not to be outdone by anybody, Dan at 7 Metal West sent two ribbed brass fenders that Jeff connected to fit over the large circumference of the rear tire.

Jeff found the tanks online and modified them to look right and slaved over getting the front tube to a place I was happy with. He even created a sprung luggage/passenger rack that comes out in one minute with clevis pins. It looked great in pictures and as he promised, it was started and ridden into the bar to the amazement of a couple hundred weekend warriors riding the same chrome things we've seen on the roads for over a decade.

Matt and Chris (of Limeybikes fame), took a look at it and knew it was no where near being a safe ride. The next day we hauled it to Matt's garage, where he determined the frame was good. He then he spent the next few weeks bending and welding and cursing and replacing things to make it straight. My friend Adrian helped me haul it to Chris at Limeybikes where Chris did all the mechanical work and some light metal fab. He had already rebuilt the carburetors and now he had 20 hours worth of work to clean up cables, wires, fix brakes, linkage, and to make the reserve tank below the seat operable with a vacuum pump off an old snowmobile.

About that time I left Bikernet to strike out on my own with bikerMetric. I had to be my own boss and after four months, I've seen it pay off. Being asked by you to profile the FREEDOM or DEATH MACHINE is a testament that yes, I am a madman, but my vision isn't totally insane.

Thank you everybody who helped make the machine happen and thank you, Frank!

Freedom or death, people. Don't let anyone take your rights and liberties away for any reason.


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