Of Minds and Motorcycles

"Turning the beast around is effortless and smooth, as if I’d been riding it for years." - Doug Mitchel

So I've finally moved on to the next project! And good timing too; if I have to look at my SV650, or even mention the word "SV650" one more time, I think I'm going to lose it. It's a cool bike, but I'm ready to move on...

...to the 1979 Yamaha XS1100, aka "Big Bertha", aka "The Excess 11". I bought this monster back in July, and almost killed myself driving home from Peterborough on the highway, when I got a flat tire on the front. Lesson learned on doing my due diligence before riding a recently purchased bike. I somehow managed to steer carefully off to the shoulder and get it towed back to Toronto, but I had trouble riding normally for a few weeks since I was so shaken up.


Weighing in at just over 600 lbs, the XS1100 was one of the bigger bikes of its time, and one of the fastest too; that is unless you tried to take it into a corner at high speeds. As one reviewer put it:

Cycle warned its readers that the bike could easily go, stop and steer — just never two at the same time. A high-speed wobble came on readily if you pushed the 600-pound machine too hard into the turns. And while the point at which this happened was above most riders’ skill set, that didn’t make the issue any easier to deal with. - Motorcycle Classics

My intention with the XS1100 was originally to buy a vintage bike to turn into your average cafe racer. I've been drooling over vintage builds for a while now, but still haven't actually built one of my own. Coming from a sportbike riding background, and being used to more power - or at least to 600cc supersport power - I was determined to buy something with a bit more balls than your typical 70s Honda, or dare I say CB750 (my garage mates won't be pleased with this statement as they each own one). Over the course of the summer, and after establishing our garage, the idea morphed into a plan to build more of a touring bike, while in keeping with the kinds of modifications I did with my first build.

And so it begins

So enough background, let's get to the build. I started taking things apart today, starting with the seat:

XS1100 Before

Actually I lied, I had already removed the seat last week when I stopped riding, teehee!

Then I removed the headlight, which I forgot to take a picture of. I still need to empty the gas tank, since I'll eventually be stripping the paint off of it - but for now I simply removed it and set it aside. I took off those pesky Yamaha emblems too! No "look-at-my-cafe-racer-that-I-just-made-just-like-the-pros-build" is complete without stripping the emblems off the tank!

Gas tank removed

I then started taking off the airbox and the carburetors, where I found this:

rice in airbox

It looks like someone left their dinner in here; just a bit of rice, no big deal. I leave rice in my airbox all the time. Actually it doesn't even look like rice necessarily. It's something unrecognizable, and much stranger than rice. Julienned bamboo shoots? So the previous owner was a gourmet chef. Maybe this is normal for XS11s; factory spec.

After messing with lots of tubing, I finally removed the carbs and the rest of the airbox:

Carbs and tank off

And that's it for now! What? You were expecting more? I just started! Ok, well I'll be doing more soon, so be sure to check in...


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