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2006 XR650L Cafe Racer Project + Bike Advice

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Hey All,

Made an original

post on this forum that is a bit wordy, so giving a condensed summary here for those willing to read a bit more (pics are also in that post), and help me out.

19 year old with very little mechanical knowledge, fairly proficient rider, looking for advice on proper bike maintenance and how to get started on converting my bike into a café racer/scrambler type of bike. In OP (and here) I included pictures of what I want the bike to look like more or less, and many other details. My bike has around 27,000 miles on it, and I've let it get a bit too rusted - so advice on the pics in that post and whether I need to replace certain parts or just get to polishing/scrubbing away rust with WD40.

Any and all tips are appreciated about this bike and project - thanks!

John

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First, figure out if you want it to be a Cafe Racer or a Scrambler.  The last bike in your list of photos looks like a screambler to me.

What sort of riding do you want to do with it?  If I were doing a project like this, I would go full Cafe bike, to be ridden on twisty roads.  I would find a new tank, figure out how to make a seat that works, and find new fenders.  I would replace the whole front end - forks, triple clamps, bars, front wheel, and brakes with something that is already the right thing for a Cafe bike.  Visit motorcycle junkyards to find that.  I would try to get a matching rear wheel, and make sure it isn't too wide to fit inside the swingarm.  I would try really hard to keep the stock swingarm, but get the shock and rear spring modified to lower it enough to match the front end and reduce the travel to match as well.

Then you need to figure out where to put the battery and how to run the wiring.  The exhaust system should use either the stock header pipes or something made for that engine.  The back can be whatever you like and can get to fit.

The rear of the frame will likely need to be reworked a bit.  Expect to strip it down to the bare frame, then have it sand blasted and probably powder coated.

Finally, do you want to do engine work?  I know of a great XR650L engine builder in San Francisco that you can ship your engine to, have any sort of work you want done to it at a reasonable price, then he'll ship the completed engine back to you.  He rebuilt mine changing it from 644cc to 675cc with 10.5:1 compression.  It still has the stock cam.  The change was worth about 5 more hp across the whole powerband.  It would make a great engine for a Cafe Racer, but it's also great for a dual sport, which is how I use mine.

Let's hear a few more of your thoughts on this.

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1 hour ago, ScottRNelson said:

First, figure out if you want it to be a Cafe Racer or a Scrambler.  The last bike in your list of photos looks like a screambler to me.

What sort of riding do you want to do with it?  If I were doing a project like this, I would go full Cafe bike, to be ridden on twisty roads.  I would find a new tank, figure out how to make a seat that works, and find new fenders.  I would replace the whole front end - forks, triple clamps, bars, front wheel, and brakes with something that is already the right thing for a Cafe bike.  Visit motorcycle junkyards to find that.  I would try to get a matching rear wheel, and make sure it isn't too wide to fit inside the swingarm.  I would try really hard to keep the stock swingarm, but get the shock and rear spring modified to lower it enough to match the front end and reduce the travel to match as well.

Then you need to figure out where to put the battery and how to run the wiring.  The exhaust system should use either the stock header pipes or something made for that engine.  The back can be whatever you like and can get to fit.

The rear of the frame will likely need to be reworked a bit.  Expect to strip it down to the bare frame, then have it sand blasted and probably powder coated.

Finally, do you want to do engine work?  I know of a great XR650L engine builder in San Francisco that you can ship your engine to, have any sort of work you want done to it at a reasonable price, then he'll ship the completed engine back to you.  He rebuilt mine changing it from 644cc to 675cc with 10.5:1 compression.  It still has the stock cam.  The change was worth about 5 more hp across the whole powerband.  It would make a great engine for a Cafe Racer, but it's also great for a dual sport, which is how I use mine.

Let's hear a few more of your thoughts on this.

4

Not sure how to quote multiple pieces of the same post because I'm a noob, so I'll address questions in the order they were asked.

The only difference between scramblers and cafe racers that I'm aware of is that scramblers seem to have off-road tires. I don't know anything else about them. I like the look of the last bike pictured the best. I use my XR650L as a daily driver, and have done so for two years (minus winters because I'm in the North East). However I haven't had the chance to do any real off-road riding, so it makes more sense to me to make the bike more designed for on-road use. I like the idea of keeping off-road tires on, if possible because I ride in inclement weather on occasion. Any drawbacks to keeping off-road tired on a bike used mainly on-road?

I want to keep my passenger seat, as well, if possible. Metropolitan riding with occasional longer interstate trips (500 miles round trip to visit family or whatnot). 

What are some options for battery placement and wiring if I build...whatever it is that I'm building? Granted, this project might not take effect for a while, as I still need to use it as a daily driver for the next two months, after which I'll be on campus and won't need my wheels. 

As far as engine work goes, ideally I'd love to maximize my engine's power and performance, particularly if I'm converting it for more smooth/speed oriented on-road riding. However, this project might be something much more long term (only start doing all the building next June or July), as I will be going overseas starting in January to study. It wouldn't make a lot of sense to spend a few grand or even a few hundred on stuff I'm not going to be able to use/finish up until a year from now. 

Just trying to lay down the plans, know what to do, and know which parts to buy. Will definitely look into scrap yards in my area, and browse craigslist for old bikes!

Thanks for all your recommendations! 

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If you're wanting to keep it passenger compatible, you will need to keep your subframe strong. That means less like the top picture you posted, and more like the bottom scrambler pic you posted. Keep that "triangle" bigger, and supporting further back. A lot of guys doing cafe mods chop that triangle right out, and their seat kind of "floats" out the back. It looks totally sweet, but there's not alot of strength in that design for extra weight — although there are some things you could do to make it strong if you really want to go that route, just think it through.

Really, you're getting into a big project where this bike is going to need to be "down" for an extended period of time. Like Scott mentioned, at some point, it needs to be stripped all the way down to the frame, and then built back up. What you're doing is very artistic & personal, and shouldn't be rushed, lol [emoji4] Personally, I'd plan on picking up alternate daily transportation as part of your plan, and then having the project bike be just that until you can ride it again.

Lastly, if you are not very mechanically inclined, think about becoming so. Doing your own work is super fun, rewarding, and saves you a ton of $$ over the long haul. Personally, I find working on my bike is just as much a release as riding it. Sometimes I find myself in the garage just looking at the bike... deciding what to dig into next on it... just for fun, haha. In the end, life is busy, and you just don't have time to move forward on a project, so like Scott said, there are guys that specialize in certain things, and you may just need to send something out to get over that hump.

Some helpful skills for this project would be some basic welding skills - If you end up doing mods to the frame that change it's shape/configuration, and you're afraid of the final strength of your welds, you could at least fab up your design by tacking things in place where they need to be, and how they will work with your overall design... and then have a competent welder do the final welding for you. Sometimes fab work takes a while to "get it just right"... even trial and error depending on how detail oriented you are. Remember, what you are doing is art, right? You don't want some guy standing over you charging you by the hour when you're thinking about how you want it, lol. Sometimes I fab something up, stand and look at it, and it's just not right... go to bed, wake up the next morning, and inspiration hits... don't be in too much of a rush that you fly past the best job you can do on this.

Get on Amazon.com, and order some books on this kind of stuff. Learn the basics of welding. Learn the basics of mechanics, even doing your own painting if you feel up to it. At least learn about how to prep metal for paint by preparing the surface, and priming. Learn the products to use to control rust before painting, so your paint jobs last longer. This kind of stuff. This kind of knowledge will take you way beyond this project, and open you up to tons of possibilities for your next project and beyond, lol... sorry, this is getting kind of epic. Hope that helps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks a bunch Congo! I'm definitely looking to become more mechanically inclined, haha, that's why I'm on TT and not still scratching my head about what to do with the bike!

Sounds kind of dumb but changing the brake pads and greasing various bolts was very therapeutic. I love spending time with my bike, even when I'm not riding. I also understand the size of this project. I wouldn't be afraid to defer to a professional welder for certain aspects, just because I wouldn't want to f**k things up, but what I can learn to do myself, I will. The best things in life are worth waiting for, so it's completely okay if this takes a long time!

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