First time bike builder. Lessons learned


XS650 Enthusiast
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North Carolina
I was able to find the perfect project xs650 for me this past January. The owner had purchased quite a few of the parts I wanted for the build. The hard tail had already been welded on and most of the parts test fitted. I had a good solid starting platform to start my build. I decided I wanted to go battery less and the bike already had a new alternator installed. It also had a pamco e advance but I decided to install a new ignition system (XS Charge) and capacitor. This in my opinion would be a straight forward install. NOT. The coil I was shipped would in no way fit in the stock location under my high tunnel tank. After going back and forth I ended up having to purchase a different configuration coil with the same ohms. It for right in the stock location. I have no idea why this coil that was purchased from mikes xs wouldn’t come in the kit to begin with. Once it was installed and wired up I began trying to fire the motorcycle up. This bike hadn’t been ran since I owned it. List of things had changed since it last ran, new 34mm mikuni carbs, new ignition, new wiring and new exhaust. I was surprised to be able to fire it up with only a few kicks. It didn’t run good but it ran! I decided with so many things changed I needed help to sort out what was going on. The new alternator had been installed but I didn’t have the sticker I see some come with that help with ignition timing so it was a guess. After changing jets back and forth it still never ran great. We decided to play with the timing a bit more and found out to get it timed correctly I had to remove the screws and advance it beyond the allowable screw slots. Hmmm. We checked the cam timing and it was dead on. I contacted Mikes XS and explained the symptoms and he asked for manufacture date. After providing that I was made aware they had a bad batch of those and a new “advanced” rotor was shipped to me. I was able To get the timing in the screw slots and properly jetted. During the test rides my brand new chain stretched and began to hit my rear fender. Apparently I didn’t clearance it enough for a loose chain. Also saw the rear fender had burned the paint off the entire center portion. I didn’t account for tire growth under acceleration either. Rookie mistakes. So lessons learned for the next one. With the bike assembled and running correctly it was extremely noisy around the timing chain area. Tensioning made no difference. It also had a bit of smoke from the exhaust. At this point it was time for a rebuild. Upon disassembly I found the rubber on the fixed timing chain guide had fallen into the bottom end of the engine. The cylinders showed some water damage at some point as well. I grabbed some JE pistons from Hoos and had it bored to 700. It came alive! Now I have a few final tweaks I haven’t been able to get finished to make it road worthy. The fake oil can that houses the electrical components under the seat seems to vibrate quite a bit with higher rpms. So much so that the caps fall off. I’m not sure how to prevent this but I did purchase 2 anti vibration mounts to try and solve this. The issue there is it puts the fake tank closer to the chain by 1/2”. This may be fine with the new tensioner I installed. If this doesn’t work I’ll have to drill and tap some fine thread screws to keep it together. Another issue is mirrors. The Amazon ones I purchased won’t stay put with the vibrations. I have aluminum hand grips with rubber vulcanized to them but I think I’ll bore the ends out and try some of the handlebar mirrors to remedy this. The only other issue I had so far was one day when I turned the key off to grab something from my shop it had no fire when I tried to restart it. I had to apply 12v to the capacitor in order to fire it back up. Maybe I’ll need to keep a small 12v battery with clips handy. Any suggestions on the above issues are welcomed.
Good Work! You have encountered, and overcome, many common problems that have stumped others. As you've probably noticed: some of the off-the-shelf parts currently marketed aren't the best design nor quality material.

One alternative to the "oil tank" electrical boxes is a "Batt boy" box from Lowbrow, another is to fab. your own. Always more than one way to "skin the cat".