Cheney Sonic Weld street tracker (father son tribute build).

Ugh. I think I'll build a bicycle.

These projects can become so involved. I have a lot of ~me~ in this one. I get discouraged at times when things seem stuck/motionless. I just wasted a bunch of time on a guy that was going to buy some specialty parts from me, spent days trading correspondence, spent all this time working out shipping and duty fees to Canada. And then (you already know what's coming) he flakes. Bastid.


I'm getting to the point where I may just chicken out and go with a standard telescopic front end. I feel like I am totally pussing out here though. Anyhow, maybe some telescopic front end that is well supported by Racetech and isn't too heavy. Perhaps the stock XS650 forks with the stock drum brake, 19 inch front wheel, good triples (Cheney perhaps). I mean if I'm gonna bail on the idea may as well totally bail out on it, the girder front end, 21 inch front wheel, the works. It just looks so cool in my mind's eye. It's certainly something my dad and I would have tried had there been a really good girder builder known to us at the time. The downside back then would have been crappy hydraulic shock availability until the likes of Works Performance and FOX went online. I mean we were just privateers with support coming from "Joe's Garage" sponsors that worked on engines at the kitchen table and welded frames in the driveway. So we were always on the hunt for any edge that we could obtain inside of our "nothing" budget. Hell I gas welded good enough that I could have made up the framework of the girder myself, had I the dimensions. I'm just mumbling about what never was. Yea, Anyhow.


I've settled on a fuel tank. Going with a Yamaha DT type fuel tank, it fits with the format of this bike. So that part is settled.
Do you allready have that tank, or looking for one?

Looking! Like anyone, I'd prefer no rot. I've seen a few decent ones on eBay for around $100 to $150. They need paint of course, but they're structurally sound.

I'll also need a cap, and depending on ~stuff~ I may need the stock petcock. I'd prefer an aftermarket petcock but if for whatever reason a DT tank cannot accept one then I'd suppose a stocker would be needed.


Ok, I know I pretty much started giving up on the idea of using a girder type front end, that is until I saw that Harley (picture attached). I think it's a WR rigid with a modern girder front end. Note the modern rims, hubs, fuel tank (is that a Mule tank or a Storz?) and how well old combines with new.

So, this prompts a telecon with the folks at Spitfire regarding some tech and pre-sale info of one of their front ends. If things are the way I think that they are, then adding a girder front end might be far simpler than I first thought.

I'll report what the telephone conversation with Spitfire produces soon.


In one pic I blacked out the engine to remove it as a distraction. It made it easier for me to imagine an XS650 engine in there. The 2nd pic is the same as the first but the HD engine is left visible. And the third pic is of the entire Army Tank of a flattracker in all of it's glory.


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This is probably more like it, the black girder front end on a rigid frame. Just imagine a single or dual front disks on it. The front end I am looking at has an option for adding either side or dual mounts for modern stock Harley calipers and 11.5" disks. That sortof implies that any aftermarket stuff that would fit the modern Harley would fit the girder. If so, that would mean I could use perhaps lighter or ~better~ brake components with it rather than stock Harley Ferguson. Same with the shock, I am guessing but I would think that any of the current shock shops (Racetech, Works Performance, Hagon, et al) would be able to cook up a shock for one of these front ends. I'm picturing something along the lines of what a rear "piggyback" shock (like what sportbikes and MX bikes are equipped with). You could conceivably have adjustable ride height, adjustable preload, and adjustable compression and rebound ... all at the rider's fingertips.

Other possibilities with this front end design are promising as well. (Hmmm .. replace the four control links of the girder with adjustable links that would permit super easy adjustment of rake, trail, and offset. All without goofing with little spacers or tearing apart the bike .. ) Many other aspects of this design that I feel have been ignored due to the girder's stigma.


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Oh yea, and it looks like I got me a gas tank!

Member "RacerDave" and I have struck a deal on the tank pictured below. It's the very first part I have actually purchased for this project! (As soon as I speak with the folks at the girder fork shop I'll have the info I need to order the Cheney Sonic Weld frame).

The tank is a touch small at 2.1 gallons, but I figure that will afford me roughly 75-90 minutes of freeway time. Which is actually just fine, I don't figure I'm not going to want to put in any more than an hour or so seat time before I'll want to stop and walk a bit (after all it is a hardtail). So having to stop every hour or so for fuel is actually OK. This bike is not a touring machine.

So, it looks like this tank will work out fine. :thumbsup:

One step at a time, right? ;)


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Ok, this is what I'd hoped it would be. Paul's girders do not require any frame changes to use his front end. The offset from the headstock line and the parallel line of the axle is the same as stock. There are no other changes to the geometry or dimensions, as far as the motorcycle is concerned it won't see a difference between the stock forks and the girder (if one chooses to set it up that way). The point being Cheney doesn't have to modify his frame for me to use the girder front end. And another part of that same point is that since the frame will not require special dimensions to use the girder, if I decide the girder was one of my really bad ideas I can simply replace the girder with whatever front end I wish since the frame is unchanged to accept the girder. That gives me some cushion to work with on the front end. Having options is always better than not having options. Well, almost always. Sometimes it's best to have less to choose from, but that is the topic of an entirely different forum.

Also, since I want the front end bare instead of chrome plated that knocks off $100 bucks from the posted price of $999. So I can have the girder front suspension system for $900, plus whatever adding the brake caliper mounts (optional) ends up costing. Paul quoted a three week lead time.

The two little shocks are only 6" eye-to-eye (center to center). About like a mountain bike shock. Hmmm ....the wheels are already turning in my skull (can you smell the smoke?). I may just be forced to look into something different. Y'know, because that is the motorcyclists creed .... mo trick, mo fast, mo bettuh. :) Haahaa!

So ok, moving forward now. :)
I've discovered the "XS650 Tech" button up there at the top of the page. I know where I'll be lurking for the next month or so.

I've already gone through the entire "Pictures" galleries, something like 165 pages or whatever. I think I've downloaded around 500+ pics from there by now. Some really excellent work going on within the membership here.

Any other XS650 gnoobs should just stick with the "XS650 Tech" section for at least a month to get a solid grasp on things. At least it may reduce the volume of silly questions and topics by yours truly. :)


Engine: Paying for the engine tonight. I have located one that seems as good as any, I guess. If it isn't suitable for a quick freshen up, I'll use it as either spares or as the "bench engine" that I'll build up. I usually like to have at least two engines when dealing with these vintage bikes. One that's in the bike, and another that's on the bench or is ready to install at a moment's notice. It's just a ~thing~ of mine I suppose. Just another thing that makes me weird.

Fuel Tank: The fuel tank is still on hold. Only reason being is that I've yet to hear back from Cheney Engineering about whether or not that tank (pictured above) will fit well enough on the Sonic Weld frame. If all is a "go", then I'll pay for the tank and get it en route.

Girder front end: The girder front end is locked in and a go. All I need to do is send Paul a deposit and about one month later it shows up. The discovery of the engine that I'm buying forced me to postpone ordering the front end, but no matter since the details have all been worked out on it, and all it takes is an email or phone call to get the front end construction started.

Cheney Sonic Weld Frame: The frame is to be ordered soon, perhaps this coming week. All the details are totally worked out by now (I think so anyhow). All I need to do is confirm everything with Jerry Cheney (he's personally building my frame, I kinda like the hell out of that :) ) and send the deposit (25%).

Moving along: I will need to start thinking about things like brakes, wheels, and so on. The engine will most likely sit for a bit until some of the framework is finished (I will have to fab-up and weld-on various tabs and brackets on both the frame and the girder). Along the way I also need to begin collecting stuff such as handlebars, controls, and so on. I still need to settle on what brakes I want to use up front, the girder front end has options for installing Harley caliper mounts on both legs for dual disks. I'm not crazy about using actual HD brakes, but I'm thinking that if the girder accepts HD calipers/disks, then that implies it will accept aftermarket stuff made for the HD. That said I need to start sniffing around in the HD-aftermarket brakes parts of internetville.

There we are. :)
FUEL TANK - POW! - paid for and awaiting the package (not like I need it or anything right now, but I'm just excited to receive the very first part of this project in hand!).

FRAME - ~sorta~ POW! - Ordering today! As long as I can get through to Jerry (Cheney). He's a longwinded chap so when he gets on the phone with someone it's impossible to tell how long he'll be. The first time I spoke with Jerry was on a Saturday on the phone, we spoke for OVER THREE HOURS. On a Saturday. So, as long as I can get through today that frame will finally be ordered. Wahoo!

ENGINE - bla .... nothing heard from the seller yet in regards to the actual price that includes the actual shipping costs. I've told the seller I want the engine, and since then I've been waiting for him (her?) to provide me with an exact price on the engine plus shipping. That was last Tuesday, here it is Friday and I've yet to hear back. I know that building a suitable pallet for an engine is a hassle and takes time, and I know the seller most likely has a job during the day, and I know that taking the palletized engine to a shipping company for a cost estimate is also time consuming. All of that having been said I have been giving the seller some space to get those things done. It's been several days by now so I think a polite tickle sent to the seller is in order regarding the status of this transaction.

As far as how I intend on building this engine up, I think I'll keep it a 650cc with a reasonable static compression level that's pump gas friendly. I'll still do pipes, cam, carbs, ignition, kick-only PMA, oiling improvements, and so on. But anything like big-bore or rephasing is (for now) off the table.

GIRDER FORKS - In holding pattern (it's a lack of money thing). The design is finalized, and I've personally spoken with Paul (owner) at Spitfire regarding this entire project bike. So the front end is worked out, all that is holding it up is me. If this engine deal flops for some reason then I'll have enough cash to put a deposit on the girder. However, if the engine deal works out, then the girder will have to wait until I can generate enough cash to get that moving.

FRONT BRAKES - AH HA! Decided upon (at last!). After much consideration I've decided to go with a set of dual disks up front (rather than the propose stock Yamaha XS650 drum brake with modifications to improve it's performance that include re-arcing of the drum and shoes by Racetech). The optional caliper mounts available on the girder front end accept 2000 to 2007 Harley Ferguson calipers and 11.5 inch disks. Well, I sniffed around a bit and discovered that there are MANY MANY MUCHO MANY aftermarket calipers and disks made for the HD of that year range. So, I think I am going to go with the dual disk front caliper option on the girder front end. The calipers I have in mind are Wilwoods (see pics below). The black ones are what I have in mind .... for now ;)

As far as disks go there are as many choices for those as there are for calipers. Fortunately the aftermarket for HD stuff is probably the most rich of any bike made. That said I have many selections to choose from when it comes to calipers and disks. Some of the modular "floating" disks are attractive, and man oh man do they look lightweight! Those "wavy" disks look silly to me, at least for a project bike of this type. For some sportbikes and other showbikes those modern wavy disks are all the rage. I prefer a more classic looking approach, like a swiss-cheesed round disk, or even a modest EBC modular two-piece disk as long as it's round and lightweight.

FRONT HUB - Hmmm. The Spitfire girder front end specifies the use of any Narrow Glide Harley front hub (as in "Sportster" type hubs, or other HD hubs that fit the
narrow glide" format). And, like the brakes, there are bazoodles of choices here through the aftermarket. I can go as inexpensively as used HD on eBay, or as exotic as CNC billet aluminum hubs anodized in my color of choice. The hubs simply have to fit "narrow glide HD" and they'll fit the girder front end.

That girder front end comes with a 3/4 inch axle so the hub will require 0.750 wheel bearings, which is no big deal for HDs.

I've been able to locate entire used spoked front wheel assemblies with the proper hub on them for less than $150. For instance I found a 21 inch front wheel assy from a 2006 HD (40 spokes, chrome steel rim, no brakes) for $139 and free shipping. Add to that a PAIR of used HD calipers (I found many for $100 per pair!) and used HD disks for $50 per pair. It boils down to being able to have the rolling/braked front end for around as little as $300 bucks if I wanted (or need) to go "cheap" on this. Add the cost of caliper rebuild kits and perhaps disk refinishing (DIY) and the total moves upwards a bit. I can do a 19 inch setup for about the same $$$ as well. Granted those prices are for used steel rimmed setups, but nevertheless they are options should I need to go that route. I'd much prefer to use brand new aluminum shouldered rims (a la Akront or DID look-alikes) and aluminum hubs, but if the banker (Mrs. Jeeter) says "NO!" then we shall seek the other route and go used! :)

So then .....

It's all piecing together little bits at a time. I expected it to be so. I cannot wait to have the frame, front end, and fuel tank all here to cobble them together with masking tape and zip ties so I may begin to get a mind's eye view of what direction I shall take with further pieces. I already have several seats kicking around here, all different types ranging from the old-skoo flat track type solo seats to early 80s UJM seats to MX racing seats. So it will be fun beginning to piece all of these little bits together to get a better idea of the direction to take with various things.

Cooly! :)

PICS: The first 2 pictures are Wilwood calipers, I kinda prefer the black ones (available for less than $375 per pair). The next picture is a pair of Drag Specialties narrow glide front hubs in chromed-steel (just to show what one of the narrow glide hubs can look like, just imagine that thing in red anodized CNC'd aluminum!). The last picture is a Drag Specialties 4 piston caliper that would fit the girder front end (another "just to show you more stuff that fits the girder"). Man there are so many choices for those brakes!!!


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Waiting on parts with nothing to do is maddening. So I've begun to work out the front hub/brakes situation.

In short, I can buy a front wheel (hub, spokes, rim) all laced up with steel rim and hub, totally chromed (yuk!) in either 21 inch or 19 inch for around $150 brand new. Or I can buy a hub, spokes, rim and DIY the thing.

The second approach permits me to use whatever hub/spokes/rim of my chosing, which appeals to me greatly.

*** A STORZ all aluminum front hub (CNC billet) with bearing installed goes for $190.
*** A set of Buchanon (spelling?) stainless spokes are roughly $100.
*** A 21 inch (or 19 inch for that matter) shouldered aluminum rim goes for around $125 or so.

Totals out to roughly $415 or so for a far far lighter wheelset, and it's what I want in the end.

Calipers that I've found that I feel ~fit~ this project bike very well due to their look/feel are these used Harley calipers (see the pics of the grey colored calipers). Their natural aluminum finish is perfect for this project bike. Chrome and highly polished aluminum have little place on this bike. These HD calipers are from a 2007 Sportster (which I think ... or more like hope ... still fall within the "2000 to 2007" caliper requirements for the girder fork). Like Honda and many other manufacturers, Harley uses pretty much one caliper on a number of their bikes. These calipers are the same ones that are used on their big touring models.

Why is that significant?

Well, these same calipers are used on the HD "FLHT" which is one of their land-boat touring bikes. That bike has a GVWR of nearly 1,300 pounds :eek:. These calipers and their mated 11.5" disks are designed to stop a motorcycle that has a gross weight of 1,300 pounds. This project bike of mine has a gross vehicle weight of only 550 pounds (350 pounds wet for the bike, plus 200 pounds "wet" for me, there is no passenger seat on my bike so that's pretty much "it"). So these brakes will be tasked to stop a bike that weighs half as much as these brakes were designed to haul down.

I think they'll be fine. :thumbsup:

WEIGHT: This is something I am checking out as I type this. I don't know how much these HD calipers weigh. If they are quite a bit heavier than (let's say) those Wilwood calipers (see pics of black calipers) I may not use the HD calipers. I'm trying to keep as much excess fat off of this bike as I can without getting crazy about it (like spending a bazillion bux on four titanium nuts that will save me three grams total .. yup, that's too much of the crazy for my budget!) But saving a couple of POUNDS by using lighter calipers (unsprung pounds, no less .... keep in mind that the engineer's rule of thumb on unsprung weight is that for every pound of unsprung weight added, the bike will "feel" and "handle" as though you added TEN pounds of sprung weight to it. So that "10:1" thing is something most engineers I know use as a general rule to go with).

The disks that I select can save a lot of unsprung weight as well. Some of those two-piece rotors (such as those by EBC) are pretty danged light, far lighter than the stock HD "manhole covers" that HD calls brake disks.

The shouldered aluminum rims and the CNC billet STORZ two disk front hub are very light components as well. And not only that, here's a surprise ... those STORZ aluminum hubs (see pics below) are actually about $100 bux LESS (yup, less!) than the chromed steel stock HD replacement hubs (even aftermarket!). Those "stock type" chrome plated steel hubs go for around $250 or so, while the super cool STORZ aluminum CNC hubs are "only" $180 or so.

THAT LEAVES ME ..... checking into the weight of the HD calipers in the pics below. If they aren't typical Army Tank heavy Harley Ferguson stuff, I'll go with those (I located a nice pair of those same exact calipers for $100 for the PAIR). Repair kits that include all four brand new pistons and all of the o-rings and gaskets et al cost roughly $50 per caliper - see pic of kit below. And new pads (I picked an average cost of "good pads"? that I found on eBay) are about $30 per set (EBC semi-sintered, semi-organic).

I need to select some disks, I have experience with EBC stuff so I am inclined to stay with them, but I'm always open to suggestions! Same goes for pads, in fact that's one of my weakest areas so any help on that would be appreciated and welcomed.

Ok, so I think I have a focal point for the front wheel and brakes now. I'm trying to tackle little "modules" of this project bike at a time. So this hub/brakes "module" is a good place to start.



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Cuz yea, I'm still way stuck on that girder front end!


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Keep in mind the clearance any caliper needs from the wheel spokes to the caliper backside.
AH! Yes, I had not specifically considered that issue. I suppose I assumed everything would fit since it's all 2000 to 2007 HD narrow glide parts (hub, calipers, disks). But you're correct, everything's gotta work together!

Thanks for the reminder on that, I'll have to make sure everything is good together. :thumbsup:
Speaking of "will it fit?", I've been wondering how that fuel tank is going to work out with the girder, as far as lock-clearance is concerned. That tank has a nice slim taper (from the top view) that permits the MX bike's forks to turn inward a good deal. I am pretty sure I can make it all work out without having to modify that mega-cool looking tank.

The angular features it has will fit in well with the angular frame look of the girder.

There's a lot to work with though, I'll need to work out fork-stops (turning stops), what type of steering stabilizer I will use (the standard cylindrical type or the fork-crown mounted type), and numerous other bits. So there may be enough engineering space to keep the tank intact, and mount everything I want to use without major dramas (as I look for wood to knock on). Since this bike is so raw and pretty much everything has to be worked out and done (like the steering stops, tank mounts, and so on) with this type of custom bike project it leaves room for working out certain issues.

Here's to hoping I can make the best with what I am given to work with!
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I hadn't heard from the seller since last Monday regarding an actual cost including shipping, so I sent him a short "wuddup?" message. He's been down with a stomach bug of sorts that his 3 year old brought home (?). So he said he'd get me a quote tonight.

Wow, I hope he isn't going to try to crate that thing up and figure out a shipping cost on a Saturday evening after he's been wrestling with a flubug all week! Oh well, we'll see what happens I suppose. If it's too much, I'm out.
ENGINE UPDATE: Ok, got the solid quote of $245 shipped to my front door. I obviously went for the deal. So the seller has told me that he's paid for the FedEx chip and it should arrive here by around this coming Thursday (April 3rd, 2014). Through a little miscommunication between my wife and I, the engine has already been paid in full via Paypal. Probably not the most ideal situation, but it's done so now I have to sit back and wait. I'll feel better when the crate lands in my driveway, and I'll feel WAY better when I remove the head from this engine and I find that everything is inside of it that's supposed to be in there (y'know, pistons, valves, cam, and so on).

Buying an engine online is so friggin nerve wracking!!!

FUEL TANK: Ok, that too is paid in full (thanks to XS650 forum member Racerdave for his help on that, he sold me the tank). It should be en route tomorrow and hit here in a few days or so.

FRAME: Dang me. Couldn't get through to Cheney over the weekend. I sent an email for him to call me tomorrow (Monday morning). I needs to order me some flattrack frame!


El Engine Hath Arrived!.

Showed up at about 8:45am this morning via FedEx truck. It left on Monday March 31st and hit here Friday April 4th. Happy. :)

Fuel tank is tracking with UPS as "Out for delivery" on the truck since 5:50am this morning. UPS usually shows up around here afternoon sometime.

Really REALLY neat day! :thumbsup: :bike:

I'll do a teardown posting with pics on the engine a little later. There is a thread I started regarding the arrival of this engine. It's an interesting subject if you like paranoid buyers (me) and stories of total shipwrecked online deals and purchases. Haahaa! Here's a link to that thread .....

Adios Muchachos! I have an engine to break down! :bike:
Thu Fuelling Tank has arrived!!!.

It showed up this afternoon, packed very well, and so far it looks to be a solid tank. I'll post pics of it after I finish sanding it down to see what I ended up with.

Man, I just LOVE LOVE it's lines and angular facets.

Many thanks go out to member RacerDave for offering this tank to me. He was easy to deal with, treated me very fairly, and did everything he said he was going to do.

Ok, so back to it here ....... zah lumbah yahd!! (Young Frankenstein fans will recognize that line ....)