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XL600 Desert Sled Sorta Thing Project

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I had a nice little Bonneville that was in beautiful condition, and I wanted to do something sort of Jack Pine-ish with it, but felt bad about cutting it up, so I did what I thought was responsible. I sold it, paid off some debt, and bought a little XL600 beater. I had a wicked awful day bringing it home. I'd left it at the warehouse at work, so I rode my scooter in. I'd botched the oil mix and it died about 3 miles out, so I pushed it in. Then I hop on the XL and ride home 15 miles on the highway. At the offramp it's revving crazy high and smoking and spitting and my day has gone from terrible to disastrous. I just paid a grand for a bit more of a project than I'd wanted. 

 

Growing up, my dad had a BSA in the garage. I'm not sure what model it was but it was HIS dad's, and he'd restored it and earned the bike in the process. It was rad, looking now I think it was a Victor, but we've parted ways so that's as close as I'll get. I probably should have just bought a Victor, but I'm making my 83 XL600R into something along the lines of

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It's sat in my garage for.... 1.5 years now. Just sitting there. Compression was low, and from reading numerous threads here and beyond it seems like the high revving was potentially from air leaks around the carbs/intake that present themselves when warmed up. At first I was going to just make a super basic bike that had the look I was after and could get me around town. I bought a 19" ebay rim thinking I'd just get it measured at Buchanan's, lace it up myself, and have at it. But then, the 1.85" rim was a little too narrow for what I wanted to put on it. So I decided to just get another oem 17" rear rim and lace that up in the front. Then I discovered the tire wouldn't fit between the fork legs.
 
So I bought another 19" in 2.15, with plans to powder coat the rear 17" and be good. I even bought tires. TKC-80's. Love those. Then I realized I'd be pretty unhappy with the actual narrowness of the tire. I thought I'd settle, but then I went to The 1 Moto in Portland this February and decided I wanted to do this the way I wanted to do it.
 
I debated between CRF and XR forks, and went with the CRF. I like they way they look, so eff off. I'm really excited that the 1x bike used XR forks, but I'm using these. Then, I decided that to keep up with some modern forks, I'd probably want something other than a chromed 1983 coil over, so I bought the XR650l shock. Which then presented the problem of blocking one of the carbs. So now I have an XR600 shock with remote reservoir. Perfect.
 
The drum rear brake is going to look super out of place with the CRF front end, so...I bought an XR swing arm. Even if I just strip the rear wheel and powder coat the factory rim, there's going to be a wheel build happening, so I went this route and bought an XRL rear wheel and brake package. 
 
I just picked up the hubs from powder coat earlier this week. I'd wanted to go black but at the last minute decided to do wheel silver with clear coat. I'm always late to the party. In '99 I wanted to do battleship grey or black wheel on my Karmann Ghia. I never got to. I wanted them on my CRX, on my Jeep buggy, and on my current Tacoma, and on my KLR, my Bonneville, and this bike...but now, everyone has 'em. EVERYONE. So I'm gonna do my own thing, and try to make this project look like it could have possibly come out of a factory somewhere, like it's not an obvious custom other than the weird orgy of parts on it. Rims are going to be silver Excel. Wheel Works in Garden Grove (for the locals) are getting them laced up to Pirelli MT43's for that old time desert tire look. It was a debate between those and Dunlop K70's. I want to join in the fun of a local vintage groups flat track goofball event and thought the K70's would be good, so maybe I'll do another wheelset eventually. I REALLY REALLY wanted shouldered rims, but couldn't find them to mate up with the 36 hole XR rear hub. I need, and I mean NEED, to find a 32 spoke hub option for the XR swing arm. I really, really really really, want those on the bike. 
 
Wheels should be ready late next week or early the following. I'll bolt them on and mock up the rear shock mount and then truck it over to Race Tech. I was going to cheaparse the suspension. Had an XR's Only lowering link (oh yeah here's the other reason I didn't use the original shock..... I bought this link because it was spec'ed out on the website to work. Except that it doesn't. The dust caps from the XL didn't fit, so I ordered new from the dealership. Then I find out that the XR dust caps don't fit inside the smaller mounting section of the XL600 shock) but now that's gotta go in the classifieds, and was going to use PVC spacers to lower everything, but now I've made the call and Race Tech is going to lower the front and rear, revalve, respring, lower and dial in everything for me. I want to do this right, and I want it to ride well. I don't want to fight this bike. I want to commute on it, I want to go camping on it, and I want to have fun on the local fire roads around Big Bear and Idyllwild and Santiago. If I use their calculators and buy everything I can buy a few tools and do it all myself, or just spend $100 for the labor on each end and have it done right the first time with everything really dialed. The parts are all still the same, so it'll be worth it. I'm at the point now where I just want people to do what they're really good at. I spent my 20's doing everything myself. Engine swaps, engine builds, axle swaps, fabrication, and on and on and on. I'm tired of the learn by screwing up method, I just want it done right, and it rarely ends up being cheaper anyways ;D I'll still do the fab myself though. What's the fun in sending that out?
 
For now though, this is where I'm at. I've got a random aluminum tank that I cut the tunnel out of to fit over the OIF top tube. Had started with a Husky aluminum tank but it would have such a small capacity by the time I'd modded it that it wouldn't be worth hacking it up. I'll save it for another project someday. Or to finish paying for this one. A friend with a fab shop has an idea for doing sectioned exhaust that he wants to try with titanium, so I'm buying the tube and he's practicing his technique and I ought to come out with something special. 
 
I'll still need to get the engine sorted, which I'm not looking forward to. Could use a Southern California referral for that. I don't want to get nuts with it, just want it to be reliable for a few years. 
 
Light will be maybe an LED unit, one of the thin ones. Or maybe a Baja Designs HID from ebay. Or maybe just a 4" Lucas style simple somethin' or other. The tail light is a nice little round LED deal from Dime City Cycles. The bars are 'tracker' style right now but I'd like to get some taller vintage desert style bars. Maybe end up bending some myself if I can't find them just right. 
 
So, enough text, really, geez. Here's a couple of pics of the recent mockup.
 
This is what took me so long to get started... A lot of false starts! 
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There's a lot of adjustment to do here, I hope you can tell that and not question certain things that would make this quite unrideable. The subframe is just resting as best as it can, the steering bearings are not present, so the fork is at a ridiculous angle, etc. I'm headed to Bates Leather on Sunday to do a photo shoot, and now I'm starting to think about doing a Bates single seat with a p-pad instead of a brat style thin Triumph style sorta seat. We'll see. I'm dumping all my money into this now so who knows where I'll end up.
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Yesssss, wheels are in! Had a mixup where I didn't pay attention to the listing about bought an XR650R wheel so I had to sort out bearings to match up with my XR650L swing arm, but I think I've got it worked out. We'll find out tonight when I try to bolt it up! Will be putting some serious time into things this week in an attempt to get the bike hauled out to Race Tech next Monday before I hit the road for work for a week and a half. Had intended to either take apart the forks and shock and get the tubes anodized myself in the mid grey color I wanted, but now going to "settle" on black from Race Tech after mocking up the color combo with this image I found on Google.

 

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struggling with the steering bearings, figuring out how to properly space everything, but got a new pdf from All Balls so I'll post that along with an explanation once I finally figure it out. 

 

Need to locate a bearing retainer for the drive side of the rear hub. Will probably stop at the Honda dealer tomorrow and chat them up a bit. I think that'll help me fix the excessive amount of side to side play on the axle.

 

cut off the lower shock linkage mount last night, cut some tabs out for a new one. The linkage on the XL650L swing arm is offset about 3/4" so that's getting tacked in place tonight/tomorrow

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Got it all pieced together and turned into a roller last night. Pretty happy with where it sat, until I let it down, haha. Something isn't quite playing right with the rear suspension. I need to get some measurements off the xl600 stock linkage mount, and look at an xr650l as well to see how I need to place the linkage mount. It sits ridiculously low. The way it's sitting in this picture, is at full droop, and I'd like that to be ride height. I took it out to Race Tech though and am working through the quote process with them. It came in much higher than I initially estimated from an uneducated browse through the site, about double at 2 grand. But, that's with all the options. I'm asking to remove the Gold Valves since I'm not going to be racing, and to pick the tubes up to take care of the hard anodizing myself. That'll get me down to something I can afford, while still leaving some money for the engine rebuild I'm going to need.

 

Worked out the steering bearings, I ended up sticking the spacers in my vise and carving out the insides with a rotary rasp until they were the same width as the base of the races. The bearing cage would sit on the spacers rather than dropping all the way into the race, and if I took the spacer out, then the whole thing sat too far down into the head tube and the seal would get smashed in and not fit correctly. So, I spaced the bearings up, the seal fits well, I stuck one spacer on between the clamp and the bearing on the lower... and I did what EVERY single post about steering bearings warns not to. I started installing the the lower bearing without slipping on the seal. lol, fortunately I only had it on ~1/2" or so and it was a relatively quick fix. 

 

The rear wheel mounts up great once I put the caliper mount on, I had to run to the dealership and look at an xr650l to see how some of the stuff went together, now it all makes sense! Still want to get a look at the drive side of the hub on an xr650r, the bearing and seal are driven all the way in and there's ~1/2" gap from the edge of the hub. The top hat spacer fits in and everything's great though. 

 

Back to the rear suspension, not sure where I went wrong, haha. The link should be about level, and as you can sort of see here, it's not. I hit the road tomorrow for about a week, so no progress for a little while

 

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Thanks man, I love yours! That's what I intended to do with mine, quick and easy (relatively) and just reuse parts  and make it happen, but then it snowballed. My buddy did that with a GN400 (http://www.bikeexif.com/suzuki-gn400) and yeah, the intention was to just do it, but then it turned into "well that rim doesn't fit, so maybe the forks won't be such a bad idea, but then the rear drum will look silly and the easiest way to fix that is with this swing arm, and then I may as well get this other shock because the chrome original will clash with everything" and then now I'm here with a bike at a real suspension shop. I definitely won't be going nuts with the engine, just want to fix the low compression and get it on the road! Unfortunately, I could have either just built my Jack Pine-a-like and been in the same position $$-wise, or bought a really decent BSA for the same money. I sort of wish I'd kept the Bonnie, because that was such a great bike, but maybe someone will love this bike enough at the right time that I'll sell it and get into another project. Or maybe I'll just keep it and be happy with something for once, and start getting back to work on my model T :D 

that's a great project its going to be a cool looking bike ,

I love those jack pine bonnie scramblers too , if I had the funds I would have built myself one ,

as it was my budget would just about stretch to a clapped out nx650 http://www.thumpertalk.com/topic/1013338-nx650-scrambler/?hl=%2Bnx650+%2Bscrambler#entry10699253

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Flew back in yesterday at 11:45, at about 12:45 I got a call from Race Tech that the bike was ready for pickup! Unfortunately, the cost is about double what I'd estimated it would be. The hard anodizing through Race Tech was much more expensive than the first quote I'd gotten elsewhere. I tried to have them do the work without their Gold Valves, but they wouldn't adjust the shim stack without them, and if they're opening everything up, I don't want to half ass it. I called another, closer to home, coatings place and the cost was about 2/3 of what RT wanted, so considering the potential for screwing up the insides of the tubes I just decided to go with RT for everything. This will slow down completion of the build a bit, getting the engine dialed in, but it'll be done right the first time. I've wasted enough buying parts that I'm not using. 

 

The rear is a real bear! I need to build a third link mount on the frame. The swing arm is at about a 3 degree lean, Jimmy Woods (AMA flat track racer, road racer, and the suspension tuner) suggests 6-8, so that's what it'll be. His father is a pretty legendary cat in the flat track scene so I may be sending the engine to him for freshening up eventually. I'm DEFINITELY going to take one of their flat track classes in the fall. $200, bring your own bike. I'm scheduled for the Supermoto class at the end of July that I think I've mentioned, really excited for that... I wanted to get this bike done for the local vintage groups flat track night, but that's going to be the night that some friends are running the Leadville 100 race in Colorado, so maybe the grand unveiling will become the Halloween Hillclimb!

 

Got sidetracked there, but I'm also considering using one of the Race Tech GS-3 shocks. It's about the same price as rebuilding the XR600 unit I've got, but a more modern design. Torn though, it may end up a couple hundred more, but once I sell off the shocks I've collected, it'd be at least the same, if not less expensive. However, I also won't be riding this like a pro that's going to feel some of the advantages it'll offer. I've read reviews where they'll put the RT fork kits and the GS-3 shock on mid capacity sport bikes and drop a few seconds from lap times, but I'm not so concerned about that. It would be really nice to say I used mostly OEM components on this build too, but if it's cheaper or easier... They can make the shaft any length on those, which would be beneficial with this frankenstein suspension.

 

This weekend I'll be reworking the link mount, reworking the subframe, maybe making it bolt on so it can be replaced with aluminum tube work someday, maybe mounting some fenders and stuff like that, hooking the harness back up a bit... Need to order up a few bits like the headlight (debating between a small Bates style headlight or a Baja Designs 8" HID) and the TrailTech Vapor computer. The Born Free show is this weekend too, which is a nightmare to drive into anytime after ~9am, so I've got to figure out plans for that, but should be a great moto weekend after being on the road for almost 2 weeks.

 

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The rear link mount has been fixed now and the swing arm is at the appropriate angle, per the suspension builder. Dropped the bike off again this morning for the shock build. 

 

The subframe was rebuilt, and is in the final position along with the tank and an approximation of fender locations. The seat pan was raised, which required bends in the tube work to meet at a narrower point in the frame. I didn't want to wait to get to a bender, so I used the torch to heat the tube and give it a gentle bend, 25 degrees in or so? Mocked up and marked out, sleeved the inside and butt welded the new bends to the existing tube work, gave me an opportunity to do some more tig practice. Then notched out the ends and mated up at the junction in the frame, pretty clean joints there. Had to cut new supports for the seat pan that are a little longer than I would like, but I like the angle and the lower mounting point. There's a lot of bike getting built with super stubby tail ends or super steep angled supports or super high off the frame supports and they don't look right to me, this isn't perfect but I'm happy with it. I still have to work on an air box design and fit that in that space, along with a small battery and a horn maybe (will run one of the wolo bad boy air horns. Had one on a rock buggy and it was great)

 

The seat pan actually looks a little long, but the seat isn't going to run all the way to the back of the tube work, it'll be like the bike in the first post of this thread. 

 

When I get the bike back I'll work on mounting the fenders, prepping the tank for the new tunnel, skid plate and seat pan. Then it's time to start working out wiring and engine work. And that air box, and a headlight mount, and and and....

 

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