I Told You So..

Back on issue 318, I mentioned in the“Fast Forward to the Past” editorial that “I think Yamaha is using the SR400 to test depth and potential of the retro/café/classic bike market that has been steadily growing for the past 5 years.” Prophetic words, as it turns out.

Since 2004, Yamaha launched a few models under its (new) Sport Heritage line, including the XSR900 and the SCR950, both featuring modern water-cooled fuel injected engines (in-line triple and Vtwin respectively) and conspicuously chasing the XS1 look.

On May 11th, Motorcycle.com “poked the tiger with a short stick” by asking Shun Miyazawa, Motorcycle Project Coordinator at Yamaha about a 650 twin revival. I’ll let you read the interview on your own but, in a typical tight-lipped corporate fashion, Miyazawa-san did not confirm or deny that an updated, water-cooled and fuel-injected XS650 (or 750+) was in the works. Motorcycle.com went even further and drew a concept on how the bike would look like.

Well, that made me raise an eyebrow. A friend of mine, who is one of the most prominent bike builders in the US today, has been working on a “special project”, commissioned by Yamaha, to modernize an XS1/XS2 so they can put the bike on the show circuit and collect customer feedback.

According to the builder, Yamaha is particularly interested in the “feelings and first impressions” that the old twin brings up on people. In other words, they want to understand why we love that mechanical icon so much.

As I predicted, Yamaha is following Triumph very closely, trying to understand why their “neo-classic” (Bonneville, Thruxton, etc.) models outsell the modern ones. It’s clear that “heritage” sells. The question is how.

One thing is unquestionable: the XS650 is the only model that Yamaha can compete with Triumph (or anyone else for that matter) in the hearts and minds of us baby boomers. Now you know why Polaris paid good dollar for the Indian name. Nice to know that the Millennials haven’t killed us yet.

Check out the story and the color concept drawings on Motorcycle.com

John Chaves – jchaves@xs650society.com

Ozarks Rally 2017

Another great rally. Thanks to all members who came down to Mountain View to ride with us.


Ridin’ and Fixin’ them

Funny how fellow riders react to my passion for old motorcycles.  My old pals from Clearwater, FL couldn’t care less, preferring to concentrate on the latest Transformers-looking GSXR1PANTVRZX that require 10 hours of training just to learn how to zero de trip meter. They often ask me “why do you spend so much time on those old things?” My answer is always the same: If I have to explain, you wouldn’t understand.

It might be a matter of age too. With one exception, the FL guys are much younger so they didn’t lust for these bikes in the dealers showroom, staring at them for hours like they were posters of Ursula Andress coming out of the Caribbean sea. The first Yamaha dealer in my little sleepy town (across from Rio de Janeiro) opened its doors in 1973. Its tiny showroom was cramped with DTs, RDs, and TXs. Brazil usually got its models from the International lineup (Europe, Asia, Africa, and So. America) so the colors were a bit different than what was sold in the US. For example, our TX500s and TX650s were gold and black, looking just like the American TX750.  Add the RD200 and the showroom looked (and it was!) a gold mine. I spent more time there than I did in school!

Region might be another factor. Every time I take one of the old ladies out for a spin around here (N. Georgia), I get a lot of compliments and – the best part – questions about the bike. Refueling stops on the ‘75 650 generally earn a thumbs-up or two.  Dogwood Rally’s boss Marty Hallberg introduced me to a nice group of chaps that immediately identified every bike I rode to our meetings. I can’t wait to see if they can correctly identify the year/model of the little Ducati when they see it.

I do like the modern stuff but working and riding those old things make us feel “at home.” For me it’s like I’m on an intravenous drip of pure endorphins.  Perhaps it’s the satisfaction of working with my hands.

Matthew Crawford explains that very nicely (if not scientifically) in his book “Shop Class as Soul Craft”. If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend that you do so. And quickly.

John Chaves – jchaves@xs650society.com

New Address and more

The Society has a new address (at the side bar on the right) so make sure to use it in all communications with us. The USPS is forwarding any current mail but let’s avoid unnecessary delays. Thanks David Mangeim for the welcome card!

I am excited to be living up here for many reasons. The excellent never-ending network of great riding roads and the mild weather are a no-brainer however, being closer to a few fellow Society members ranks up there.

Doug Whiteaker’s gorgeous 79 Special

Marty Hallberg is one of the most influential persons in the classic bike scene around the Smokies, successfully promoting and producing two major gatherings around this neck of the woods, the Smoky Mountain Dogwood and the XS Southeast (re-baptized as Vintage Yamaha) rallies.
I attended the XS SE in 2015 (European trip kept me from participating in this year’s event) and I was impressed with the number of participants (near 100) and the overall quality of the event host at the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge near Robbinsville, NC. If you have never been there, I strongly advise you to make plans to go in 2017. You will notice that I have included it (as well as the Dogwood Rally) as an official Society event (used to be listed under “Other Events”) and we have big plans for 650 riders.

Bruce Leinaar, Doug Whiteaker, Steve Fillweber, and Camden “Shorty” Price are also a full tank away (maybe 2 but who’s counting) so I am hoping to get to see them more often than one or two rallies every year.

Since the new year is upon us, I will take the opportunity to reveal my two Society-related resolutions for 2017: Get our loaner bike up and running and complete the website.

I have enough parts to put a 1980 650 together, mostly with original parts donated to me, requiring a few bucks in gaskets and other small services to get it running reliably. The objective here is to haul and have the bike available for far away members that could fly/travel to an event and will need a bike to ride. I have had every newsletter since issue #1 digitized and they are ready to be uploaded to the website. It will be a bit of work for cataloguing, archiving etc. but I promise to get it done in 2017.

Movin’ and Shakin’

After many years of pondering and evaluating, my wife and I made the decision to move to north Georgia. I never required any convincing to live there (phenomenal riding roads, scenery!) but it took her a little while to come around. In fact, it wasn’t even in her mind until we spent this past summer in a rental cabin in Helen. Sipping her morning tea, overlooking the forest covered hills, plus hiking in a few of the many parks in the area won her over. She then went on a secret house hunt, finding a little mountain side jewel just outside Dahlonega that checked all the boxes on our “must have” list. Garden tub, wood floors (for her) and a cavernous 1500 sq. ft. full size basement (yay!). I’m talking about true man cave with lounge, 4 working bays and plenty of room for a machine shop and motorcycle parking. All that plus a 2 car garage upstairs! Yes, we are excited with the change of scenery (I have been living in FL for 27 years and she’s a native). We’ll be there by mid-November and I’ll notify members of the new address.

Speaking of change, I had the opportunity to visit the new headquarters of MikesXS, meeting Russell White and Norton Muzzone, the new General and Product Development managers, respectively. Norton needed no introduction to me. He’s the owner of Legacy Cycles from Melbourne, FL which specializes in restoring XS1s and XS2s and a longtime supporter of the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club (VJMC).  Russ was very friendly and eager to show me the place. While visiting the warehouse, I brought up the number of complaints I have heard in the past from members all over the country who had problems with poor customer support when they had issues with their purchases. He assured me that the old “sell & forget” philosophy that tarnished the company’s name was gone with the old ownership & management. They are now committed in establishing long, lasting relationships with their clients, listening to their feedback and ensuring that any issue will be resolved to satisfaction.

I left impressed and optimistic with what I saw and heard. Norton’s technical reputation and attention to detail (his work speaks for itself) definitely contributed to assure me that there’s a new Sheriff in town.

Can I have a Hallelujah!


2016 West Virginia Rally Preview

The 650 Society West Virginia Rally

Event HQ will be on the Marlinton Motor Inn, Rt 219N, Marlinton, WV 24954. Call 800.354.0821 or 304.799.4711 to book your room.

The Marlinton Inn

Pocahontas County is motorcycle-friendly and is a destination for riders from all over. The mountains and scenery are beautiful and offer the best motorcycle roads in VA and WV. The weather is looking great too, with temps in the 70s. The town of Marlinton is small but has everything we need. Contact Dave Hoopengardner at caferacerdave at gmail dot com or jchaves at xs650society dot com.

Join the conversation on Facebook event page

Pocahontas County

Marlinton Map

2016 Ozark Rally – April 28th – 30th, Mountain View, AR

Ozark Poster 2016Daily rides around one of the best riding region in the USA. Rally headquarters at the Ozark Folk Center State Park. Great food, bench racing and the best looking bikes around the Forest.

Book your rooms by calling (870) 269-3871 and mention the Yamaha 650 Society for a special rate ($70.00/night). There are 2 rooms per bungalow and the Park has reserved a set of bungalows for us. For more information call John Chaves (813) 391-five four zero seven or email jchaves@xs650society.com


  • Thursday (April 28th) – Noon. Meet & greet. Short ride (Loop 0, 98 miles) int he afternoon
  • Friday (April 29th)- Full riding day (Loop 2, 268 miles)
    • 7:00 – 8:30 AM – Breakfast at the OFC restaurant
    • Lunch  at the Low Gap Cafe in Low Gap, AR
    • 7:30 PM – Dinner at the OFC restaurant
  • Saturday (April 30th) Loop 1
    • 7:00 – 8:30 AM – Breakfast at the OFC restaurant
    • Lunch at the Neighborhood Diner –
    • 7:30 – Dinner drive/ride to Mi Pueblito 4 Mexican Restaurant in downtown Mountain View. Awards time!
  • Sunday (May 1st) – Drive home.

Ozark Rides

The 2016 Rally Season is here!

2016SocietyRallyMapThe Society rallies are all about guided rides, swapping stories, looking at 650s, (working on some?), good food, and trophies! Regardless of where you live, there’s a rally near you.

  • We’ll kick things off with the Smoky Mountain Dogwood Rally (April 15th – 17th. Suches, GA). Back on the Society calendar for 2016, the event always bring a large number of Yamaha 650s.
  • In April, we move to north Arkansas for the 2nd Annual Ozarks Rally (Apr 28th – 30th. Mountain View, AR). If you are a fan of nice and (almost) un-patrolled twisty roads, this is for you.
  • The 33rd edition of the always fabulous Land-Between-the-Lakes Rally (May 19th – 21st . Grand Rivers, KY) has an agenda packed with rides, bike shows, and a group banquet.
  • The 2016 West Virginia Mountain Rally (June 3rd – 5th. Marlinton, WV) promises to be a blast. Beautiful scenery adorns great motorcycling roads.
  • Always held in conjunction with the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days festival, the 2016 Mid-Ohio Rally
    (July 8th – 10th, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, OH) adds rides and cookouts during one of the oldest motorcycle vintage events in North America.
  • Finally, we wrap up 2016 in grand style with the 24th Smoky Mountain Rally (Sept 14th – 17th. Townsend, TN) with roads made for the 650.