Dave Spooner’s Home Built Cafe Racer


Words: Chadly Johnson & Dave Spooner
Photos: Chadly Johnson


Dave Spooner has been building bikes for nearly 6 decades, and has used the Yamaha XS650  platform to create a multitude of bike styles.  His latest creation is a stunning cafe racer that he built in his home garage.  He described the build to me in detail.

“There is an old saying ‘you can't make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.’  I'm not sure how true the saying is but the sow’s ear in this story is a 1977 Yamaha XS 650.  The 650 had six over forks, six bend handle bars, a king and queen seat, a square headlight, a stuck engine, lots of rust, and an asking price of $75.  On the positive side the bike had Akrunt style rims, 38 mm carbs, points ignition, and after some negotiating a $50 selling price.  It was the perfect donor for a cafe racer project.  My patient wife encourages me to take on these types of endeavors knowing I'll be busy in the garage all winter. Whether the end result is a silk purse is open for discussion.

“I usually start these projects with a total disassembly and discarding of all unneeded parts. I'm sure the garbage man hates me on those of weeks.  I like to sand blast the frame after removing all the unnecessary brackets.  I then weld on mounts for the gas tank, battery, and exhaust pipes.  I also add a plate underneath the seat for all the electrical components.  A set of donor rims cleaned up nicely. The hubs were sand blasted and highlights polished.  New spokes from Mike's XS completed the package.  I trued the wheels using my homemade stand and dial indicator.  I then mounted and balanced a new set of tires from Dennis Kirk.  I decided to use dual disks on the front end of this bike after scoring a pair of Brembo four pot calipers at the Symco Shakedown swap meet. 

“I made adapter plates to mount the calipers to the stock fork legs and drilled numerous holes in the rotors.  The stock triple clamps were cleaned up and stock length fork tubes were used to complete the rolling chassis.  The "stuck" engine came apart easily and required only honing of the cylinder walls and installation of new rings.  I did a quickie valve job on the head and reassembled the engine using new gaskets from Mike's XS.  I then polished all the aluminum engine covers using paint remover to take off the factory clear coat and used progressive grades of wet and dry sandpaper and buffing compound to provide the shine.  I cleaned and rebuilt the carbs and had my friend Mark Schoonover fabricate the velocity stacks. 

“To me, the engine is the focal point on a motorcycle, but the gas tank defines the style of the bike. The Manx style tank on this project came from Mike Mefford at Classic Glass.  The stainless strap and toggle mount were scourged from Clubman Racing Association.  Other after market parts include: Seat base from Classic Glass, headlight mount and exhaust from Mike's XS, clip on handle bars from Scrambler Cycle, reproduction Smith's speedometer from Nfield Gear, rear seat parts from Dennis Kirk and Speedway Motors, and finally upholstery by Mac's Seat Cover in Eau Claire, WI.  I don't reuse any of the stock wiring harness, and prefer to hide all the electrical components and wires as much as possible.  I mounted the regulator and rectifier below the seat and the battery below the swing arm pivot.  I retained the electric starter as at 73 years old I no longer enjoy kick starting. 

“I painted the bike using Dupont Croma base and Croma clear.  Local artist Ray ‘Sprocket’ Nelson performed the pinstriping duties.  I'm not sure if it turned out to be a "silk purse", but I feel this home built project is an improvement over the sow’s ear."

Dave latest creation is definitely a beauty, and I can’t wait to see what emerges from his creative mind and talented hands.  If you ever find yourself around the Chippewa Valley, kept an eye open for this slick cafe as Dave doesn’t build his bikes to collect dust.




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