Art art Science are fickle mistresses. Their benevolence can be even more illusive. Vincent Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime, and died penniless and insane. Serbian scientist Nicola Tesla successfully debunked his one-time mentor Thomas Edison regarding the merits of alternating vs. direct electrical current, yet the Wizard of Menlo Park is regarded as the brightest mind of the 19th century. How society chooses to measure Scott Towne's dedication to the art and science of motorcycle customizing is a subject for the ages, but one thing is certain. If you ask the man why he builds and rides two-wheeled freedom machines, his answer will be fast and pure. "Because it's fun, bro."
This bike came to me as a free parts bike to supplement the '81 XS650 I had been working on that is still hugely unfinished. I took a good look at this one: dusty, rusty and clearly neglected, yet mostly together, and decided to shift my focus to it and simply see if I could make it go. I mounted the carbs from my '81 and after finally getting my mind around the lever-operated compression release I got it started and took it from there.
It runs mostly great and starts in a couple kicks. I wouldn’t call it “done” now, but the rate of change has slowed substantially. I got a loaner MIG welder a few months ago and the final stages really started taking shape. Tank, seat, fender and taillight mounts, kickstand re-do, etc. This is the fourth gas tank. It didn’t have one when I got it. I had a '60s Yamaha tank that was too big, and another Yamaha tank I scored on eBay was too square. The third tank was actually the second one (a CT-1 tank) and after I burned a hundred holes in it trying to relocate the petcock I gave up and bought the one you see here. It had huge dents in it but my pro welder friend Thomas Hosford beautifully moved and brazed the petcock in place and I uglifully Bondo'ed the dents and made more or less symmetrical in shape.
I didn’t put much effort into the paint, as I wanted to preserve the original Yamaha graphics and retain the purple color. I laced and re-laced four different rear wheels until I was happy with this 18-incher—the one I started with, of course. The front wheel is a 21, but it is the second one of that dimension. Turns out rims from the salvage yard aren’t always straight and sometimes have giant flatspots. I tried a couple seats until settling on this choice. The rear shocks are some shorties I found, but looking at the side-view shot of me riding, clearly not stiff enough for my fat ass.
I’ve switched out the bars a few times. Last week I welded together some new bars which, ironically, ended up too much like stock handlebars. I came full circle from crazy, custom bars that I fabbed but didn’t weld to bars I chopped and welded myself that look and feel like normal cruiser bars. They feel good but I'm going to chop down the “heartbreaker” bars in the pics two inches and I think they will be good.
There have been constant re-dos on the wiring as well. A few nights ago I came to several "duh" realizations. My brake light wasn't working because it was already on full-time (the spring was too short from the switch to the brake pedal) and beyond that, my sissy bar and tail light were supposed to be brake lights anyway. I literally had the wires crossed. I have that issue more or less sorted now but wiring is still not my strong point. I guess I don't have a strong point in motorcycle building but let's say that I dread wiring while eagerly taking on the fabrication aspects. I set rule-based goals too. For instance, after I skidded past my driveway with my rear brake locked up, I set the goal/rule that I wouldn't hit the streets again until I had a working front brake—probably the most Frankensteined component of the whole bike. At one point I performed a full money shot, blasting brake fluid directly into my mouth.
The extended fork legs were in place when I got it and part of the motivation to build this bike as it stood. Same with the criss-cross exhaust. Also, I tweaked the sissy bar so it curves behind the seat since these photos were taken. And the fairing? It’s one of my favorite creations while being the standout stupid part of the bike. The windshield is cut from a genuine Bell Star helmet shield. My only true embarrassment on the fairing is that I transposed the black and white on the stripe while trying to replicate the tank stripe. Supposed to be a black stripe with white outline. Whoops.
Home turf: Otsego, Michigan, America
Bike name: Mothra
Year, make, model and modifications: 1972 Yamaha XS2/650
Frame: Stock frame minus a lot of tabs, and plus a couple other ones
Fork: 6 inches over stock; origin unknown
Chassis mods: Disk grinder overload
Tire/wheel size and style: 18-inch rear, 21-inch front. Classic combo
Favorite thing about this bike: It feels good going down the road. It's skinny
Other mods, accessories, cool parts, etc: Fairing, sissy bar, handlebars
Thanks: Andy Haan for the bike; Josh Wilson for some wiring input, and to Thomas Hosford for not blowing himself up when he welded the gas tank