Marcel Ortmans has been volunteering at the Bike Shed shows since day 1 and is a regular here in Shoreditch. We’ve lost count of how many bikes he’s built and rides but this Yamaha XS650 is a standout which has rubbed shoulders with the work from pro builders on a few occasions.
Check the full feature here www.thebikeshed.cc/2015/04/23/voelser-customs-xs650 but Marcel … the project in his own words
“Right after visiting the first ever Bike Shed Show I decided that I wanted to build my own custom motorbike, even though I had never done anything like that before. I knew what kind of style I wanted and after some research decided to look for an XS650 project. They are reliable, good looking and spares/mods in good supply.”
“Once one was sourced I tore into it and carefully catalogued each part, deciding to either fix, replace or completely ditch them. I wanted to keep as many original parts as possible, which in the long run is more work and cost, but that was the choice I made. I rebuilt the brake calipers, carbs, wheels (even lacing them myself!), front suspension, etc. I even had the mechanical speedo drive apart for a clean and grease. And each part I touched proved a new learning curve and I made sure I used a manual or did a lot of research online to deal with any potential issues.”
“The only component I didn’t work on myself at first was the engine. Not only was it to daunting, but as I live in a small flat in Central London and didn’t have a space to take an engine apart and lay it out. So I had a top end rebuild done by a pro. Later I did do work on the clutch basket and gear selectors in the bottom end myself. But that was more necessity than choice as right at the end of the build there were some issues in those areas. Having said that I’m glad I did as it made me less hesitant about tackling something like that in the future.”
“One of the biggest challenges of this build was actually my work space. Most of the work was done in the communal car parking area under my building, but my balcony on the second floor, my kitchen, dining room table and spare room also functioned as assembly and stock room. The laminated glass on my balcony still bears the scars of grinding the frame lugs of in the heart of winter! It was very limited, so I had to be careful which job I did when and if I could finish it in a day as I needed to clear up every day. It did of course slow down the build.”
“Another element that hampered progress was waiting for third parties: the engine rebuild, welding (as I don’t have the talent, equipment or space), parts, etc. For some reason I always seemed to end up waiting for others and in the meantime was stuck. So planning and time keeping was key.”
“Even though I had an image in my head of what I wanted to achieve, some of my favourite details came about while actually working. I was undecided on a colour for the tank for instance until I stripped the badly painted tank to bare metal and discovered the faint impressions of the old Yamaha logo still visible. I liked it and left the mtal unpainted. I also liked how the calipers were worn, so all I did was clean them and lacquer them just the way they were. I didn’t like the stock passenger pegs, but I did want some and then I found that a stock Harley toeshifter peg would fit, so I used two of those. And when trying to figure out where to mount the idiot lights and key ignition I discovered they’d fit into the old riser mounts in the top yoke with the help of some plastic table feet.”
“In the end it took about two years from teardown to finished build and some more months before the last kinks (carb tuning anyone?) were worked out. But we all know builds are never finished, so this winter I’m planning a few upgrades.”
Ronin – 1980 BSAmaha TriBM DuCaRley
Not satisfied with just one XS Marcel embarked on even more ambitious project, here’s his tale.
“One of the (un)fortunate side effects of custom motorcycle building is that you start hoarding parts. So even before this build came to be I had already Ebayed myself an original 1950’s BSA C-15 fuel tank, same era original Lucas headlight, a 1970’s Harley Shovelhead oiltank and some other miscellaneous parts. This also included a 1980 XS650 engine. While working on my other XS I discovered a whole range of dream upgrades, so during one of my late night Ebay browsing sessions a newly rebuild engine came up as part of an abandoned project with 750cc cylinders, PMA upgrade, electronic ignition and a set of brand new Mikuni TM34 racing carbs – I couldn’t resist having a punt. After winning the auction I sold all but for the engine and the V5 and so for about a year it stood in an engine stand in my spare room.”
“But when a long term house guest announced himself and I had to clear the room for its intended use I decided to scratch that ‘I need to build a chopper’ itch. To ramp up the pressure I entered it into the Tripout Bike Build Off! This was in January and since the Tripout was in September and my previous build took me about two years I was probably up against it a bit.”
“As the engine was more or less a bolt-in item this time I decided to make the rest of the build a logistical exercise as well. I ordered a Zero Engineering style frame as I always wanted to make a chopper in that style. One of the modifications I had made to the stock frame was to add a classic BMW Denfeld seat suspension. I’d seen it on a mate’s bike and it looked good and was quite comfy for a hardtail! Some Harley Softail wheels and a DNA springer fork were sourced and I had a roller. Unfortunately that did not arrive until late April, so I lost about four months of my build before I even started.”
“What I did manage to do in that time was to set up trades in a particular order to try and streamline the process as much as I could: metalwork and welding, custom exhaust, powdercoating, seat upholserty and paint. Once I had the roller back I took it to a metal workshop to fabricate and weld the last metal parts to the frame. Once that was done I could do a dry-build with all the parts. The whole thing then went to the custom exhaust builder and when it returned the whole thing was blown apart again for powdercoat, chrome plating and painting. When it eventually all came back and I took a week off work to assemble the bike. By now it was August and time was running out.”
“So this is where careful planning turned out to be most effective. Even before I had the roller I’d already planned and prepared a lot of the parts and details. So I only really needed to add them to the bike. Like the restored BSA fuel tank, Cadillac rear light, combined with a brass WWI artillery shell, into the sissy bar. The Shovel oil tank was converted into an electrics box with the battery, coils, fusebox and ignition switch. The Brembo brakes are from a Ducati and the rear brake master cylinder is mounted to a custom chromed footbracket. My favourite part is probably the restored Lucas headlight which was in pretty rough shape. I replaced the old amp meter with a modern Mototgadget Speedo. I could have bought a new repro for a third of the price, but it just wouldn’t be the same. In the end it all went together pretty smoothly.”
“I did manage to put the everything back together including a full re-wiring job from scratch in that week and although the bike wasn’t quite running right at the time I did make the Trip Out Bike Build Off and even snagged myself the ‘Far Out Bike of the Festival’ prize!”
And if that wasn’t enough, Marcel nursed an old army Guzzi V50 back to life and his daily runner is a much modded Harley Sportster.
He looks like this, but isn’t mean at all, quite a pussycat in fact and will gladly chat bikes and building with anyone who’ll listen. Hat’s off to you Marcel, despite not having the so called proper facilities you’ve ploughed on regardless in true shed building style.