Yamaha’s XS650 is known for its shape-shifting ability. Whether it’s a chopper, tracker, or café racer, the cosmetic chameleon lends itself to custom builds. Italy’s Simone Corti knows as much and set out to test the limitations of the XS650’s versatility with a one-of-a-kind retro racer build.
To aid that transformation, Corti only retains the model’s air-cooled, 654cc, parallel-twin engine, five-speed transmission, wheelset, and rear drum brake. That Ship of Theseus approach enlists a stressed-member aluminum frame in favor of the tubular steel cradle while a custom-made, sportbike-style swingarm replaces the original dual-shock unit.
Gallery: Simone Corti Motorcycles: Yamaha XS650
Corti then turns to an Ohlins monoshock and a Honda CBR600RR front end to suspend the project. While the rear drum brake offers modest stopping power and feel, twin Brembo calipers at the fore up the XS650’s performance pedigree. Corti completes the chassis with an Avon Speedmaster front tire and Dunlop K825 rear rubber.
Unsurprisingly, the build’s bodywork commands the most attention, with the master craftsman distilling MT-03 and R1 design language into a petite package. From the headlight cluster to the fairing gills to the stinger-like tail unit, the angular aesthetic sets this XS650 apart. Still, Corti has to reconcile the timely with the timeless, and vintage bar end-mounted levers align with the long-in-the-tooth engine, transmission, and wire-spoke wheels.
The build balances both influences, though, with rear wheel discs, brake scoops, a rear hugger, exhaust heat shields, and pod filters protectors constructed from carbon fiber. The high-mounted, slash-cut, carbon fiber-clad custom exhaust system also fuses old-school form factor with new-school technologies.
Lastly, a striking aquamarine/silver paint scheme finishes off the moto metamorphosis. Yamaha’s XS650 already earned a reputation with garage builders, but Corti’s project proves the platform’s shape-shifting abilities have no bounds.