Inherited a Motorcycle Shop...


XS400 New Member
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Lexington, South Carolina
...well, not father is still alive, if not by much. :-(

My dad, upon retirement from the railroad in the early '90s, got back into motorcycles in a large way and over time, built himself a very nice one-man semi-professional motorcycle shop in his back yard and was the areas only BMW Airhead wrench around these parts for a number of years. He made lots of friends, and along the way, accumulated a few motorcycles...

Personally, I put about 100,000 miles on several motorcycles, including 57k on my beloved KLR 650, which I sold about twelve years ago when I got married. Decided the risk wasn't worth it anymore...

Now, my dad is in a nursing home, terminally ill and I am having to raise funds to keep him in the very nice facility we found for him. That entails selling his house, and that entails moving all of his stuff out of there. So, I purchased a 12x32 portable garage building and put it in my back yard and have been dragging his stuff over one trailer load at a time.

Included were no less than eight motorcycles, including two '77 Airhead BMWs, one '65 BMW R50, a '77 Suzuki 750, a '72 Honda 125 (with all of 27 miles on the odometer), an '87 Honda TLR200 trials bike, and (of relevance) two '83 Yamaha XS400J Maxims. None of these bikes have been run in at least four years, some of them not in 15 or more. All sorts of parts, tools, accessories, and a Weston pneumatic lift to boot, not to mention welding gear, lathe and milling machine. Like I said, a rather complete one-man semi-pro shop. Most of the bikes are going to be sold off as I get it fixed up, but the big-ticket item is the house and it has to go NOW...

Oh, and if anybody happens to be trying to restore a Honda Twinstar 200, Rebel 250 or anything in that class...I do happen to have a factory brand-new motor for one...just sitting there...

One of the Yamaha's has been run in recent years, the other is a parts bike that spent a decade or two rusting in a tool shed...good parts donor, though.

I love the idea of a nice, light 400cc twin to ride around on, and these Yamas are about as good as it get in the light twin category. Also, I have two of them, and they really are not worth very much compared to the rest of them...and I really dislike heavy, ill-handling bikes like the BMWs and the Suzuki, and the 125 and 200 really are not enough bike to move my big ass around very well...

Only problem is, I am tall, and I HATE these early-'80s cruiser styled bikes...would much rather them have been an earlier, more standard-configured SX400 variant that I can stretch out on a bit. What I am most comfortable with, of course, is my old KLR 650...big and tall with room to stretch out on, fairly light, with a comfortable-for-me sit-up-and-beg riding position. and the long-travel suspension saved my ass big-time on a couple of occasions...

So, I see people have done all sorts of mods on these things to turn them into scramblers, cafe' racers, dirt-oriented dual sports, on and about turning one into a "standard"? Or a road-based dual sport/adventure tourer?

Below are some pics to illustrate my situation...


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Sorry to hear about your father. That's rough, but it's good to hear about your devotion to him. That garage space is pretty awesome though and I really miss access to a mill and lathe. It sounds like you've got a good head about bikes and what you'd like to build. I look forward to what you come up with. I guess being average height (me) does have some advantages in the motorcycle/sportscar realm... Grass is always greener and all that.
Thanks for the of the things I have been noting is that there is a lot of similarity between the J-model Maxims and the R-model Secas of the same era...same engine with different carbs and jetting and the same frame as practical would it be to fit a tank and/or seat off of a Seca to a Maxim? Any ideas? Or to rebuild the seat to more of a Seca-like configuration? I would prefer a larger gas tank anyway...
I had observed that also, it's cool how Yamaha designed such radically different tank styles for the same frame. Those seca tanks are so much sportier looking for a cafe type build. I would imagine that seat interchange-ability might be straightforward too, but I haven't researched that.
Yeah, everything hooking up to the engine, pretty much identical, and the attachment points for everything else moved around. I can handle a bit of that...I also got all of the welding gear...MIG, TIG, AC/DC stick, oxyacetylene...but I was the machinist, and he was the welder. :-/

I have an impressive array of semi-random tanks to play with...BMW, Honda, a Bultaco, I think...and seats as well. Guess I'll just have to play with them...
Here is a quick and dirty Photoshop-ish workup of one thing I had in mind...just building the seat up to where I can sit higher up and further back...having spent time with my rear end perched on the "queen" part of a king-and-king seat on a Suzuki GS250, I know that sitting that far back on a bike with that short a wheel base can make for, popping wheelies without intending to do so...but, these 400s are a bit heavier and I suspect a bit longer, sooo...

And, yeah, a small windshield or fairing would be the norm for cool-to-cold weather...I was always a year-round rider...

I suspect I will end up doing the same thing with tires as I did on my KLR...heavy touring rubber on the back for maximum road life (used to use an Avon RoadRunner, but I dont think its made in this size), and an Avon AM21 Gripster up front...a guy I knew put me onto that combo, the reasoning being that that you can't get any rear tire to hook up with the kind of greasy mud we see in this part of the country anyway, but washing out the front tire on a dirt road really sucks and keeping the front hooked up on any soft surface is kinda' important....

Also, it occurs to me that all that extra space under my new rear seat would be useful for some extral fuel...the 6 gallons I had on the KLR was quite a luxury, one that I would rather not do without...I gather that the factory tank is about 3.5 gallons, with perhaps a .5 gallon reserve...I have some aluminum rectangular tubing that I could use to build up a flat tank that would hold about another two gallons...still thinking on that one...


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