This summer we took a trip to Michigan to participate in the Zylstra choppers Apocalypse Run up to the upper peninsula, (a feature we will be running next month) and we had the chance to connect with some really inspiring and interesting builders along the way who also made the trek for the run on their custom bikes. One stand out bike that refused to go unnoticed at every stop was this 1973 XS650 built by Nick Moyer of Chicago. With every single element of this bike custom made and fabricated from other found parts this bike was unlike any XS650 we had ever seen. Not to mention it's hard not to love a chrome frame and nods to builders like Indian Larry with his wild twisted downtubes. Basically every chance that Nick had to change up an element of the bike to make it completely innovative and original to him he went with it. Repurposing old hot rod car parts and custom fabricating other parts the bike really stands out on it's own. We waited for the dreaded upper peninsula Michigan rains to subside on day 2 of the run and sat down with Nick to discuss some of our favorite parts of the build.
So let's start with your full name and where you're from?
Nick Moyer and I'm out of Chicago, Illinois.
What about the bike what year did you pull the donor motor from?
It's a 1973 XS650
So to start off with one of the coolest parts here, the frame. You did a full Chrome frame, that is not easy you gotta have a Chrome bath large enough to pull that off first off and not everybody can do that?
Exactly, most companies won't even touch a frame. There's one old timer chopper dude that I go to in Chicago that agreed to do it.
So who was the actual company that did it?
They are called "Star Chrome" they used to be in Easyriders magazine a lot back in the day but it's kind of a bit of a hole in the wall now.
Haha, well you know what's funny about Chrome work, that is some of the grungiest and toughest work out there. I have a Chrome guy I take everything to back in Indianapolis and every time I walk in to give him stuff for a quote he is just covered in polishing compound from head to toe. Like his whole entire face is black except for these rings around his eyes where he was wearing goggles, the guy does absolutely incredible pristine work though.
Yeah my guy in Chicago he also does all of that polishing work, he even does unchroming too. It's like you can put it in the tanks and then reverse the polarity and get the Chrome off. I was like redoing stuff and grinding all the Chrome off of it and he can just put it in there and pull it right off for me like nothing.
So did you have to unchrome any parts of this build?
Yeah different parts really mainly stuff that preexisted I modified or chopped up a little more.
So is this bike still sort of a work in progress? Like you've been working on this for a while right?
Yeah, well I've had it running for like 4 years probably.
So this current incarnation, how long has it been together like this?
Just for this season.
So when I first met you at the gas stop on Apocalypse run you said this clutch set up here, this is new right? Like this is something you've been working on? You just added this whole hydraulic set up.
Yeah I added that because the mechanical clutch was just so stiff on this thing so I had to go hydraulic. I went through 4 or 5 different variations.
So did you make this all custom or was it a pre existing part off of another bike you modified?
Well this actuator is actually a high performance after market one for a 2018 Kawasaki 1400 I just milled the face of the cover to fit it. I got it cause you know if it's gonna push the clutch plates on a 1400 high torque bike then it will definitely work for this.
Yeah I gotta be honest touching that clutch is like butter it's so smooth like impressively smooth and I own several XS650's that have the standard mechanical clutch it's a big difference.
It really is, it's so much better.
So you've made pretty much every part on this bike and you definitely made the frame for instance. So first off wow these twisted down tubes on the front, you see this style on a lot of Indian Larry builds but never on a Yamaha, this was all you right?
Yeah yeah, that's some good old Indian Larry stuff me and my buddy we actually did those downtubes forever ago.
Ahh, so you had those waiting to use them on a build?
Yeah I had those along with the motor it was fun doing these tubes back in the day in my parents garage with a friend.
So was there any part of the build that was like a specific pain or just like a hurdle to get over? There's just so many cool details on the bike you really put a lot of thought into everything.
Yeah definitely getting the super E carb to work on it was pretty hard at first.
So this is an S&S super E that would have been meant for a big twin Harley right?
Yeah I had to make my own intake manifold and get the porting and baffling on it. That took a lot of time to figure out, then getting it tuned to to the bike being that it's a 650 was a challenge also I basically bought every kind of jet there was and tried it until I got it right.
So do you feel like it's actually given you some boost and performance out of the motor?
Yeah definitely, I actually have another chopper with one on It and for me I feel like it's just the best carburetor. They are great carbs and reliable. I also feel like it gives a better sound too.
I've honestly never seen a super E on a parallel twin motor especially a Yamaha before or where did you actually get the idea to try that?
Well I did them on some other bikes evos mainly it's just a simple and reliable setup I figured if the jetting is right it should work theoretically haha.
Well you definitely figured out how to make it work, I saw this thing running and it really purrs. So the Springer front end did you have to modify that you did some work to the front legs for sure and actually twisted them but it's like a single twist?
I started with a moto iron front end and the front legs I replaced with an old Harley Springer front end I had. I remilled the ends and extended them I also made the rockers for it too just last Winter.
Oh wow, yeah, so they actually spoon out further than a stock rocker I just now realize that?
Yeah I made these because I wanted to get a couple more inches of swing.
Wow and that actually probably improved your trail there as well.
Yep. I also finally came across a set of square Springs too and did those, they are hard as shit to find.
You know that was one of the 1st things I noticed on the front end like, where the hell did he luck out and find those square Springs haha!
I actually one Winter went to go pick up a 1967 BSA chopper roller and it just happened to have them on it. I polished the existing chrome on them and swapped them out. Then got these Stalling and Hellings top trees, they were a cool addition too. I extended these out a little.
What's funny is you made them more narrow than went with wider bars kind of like match the width of the legs. Pretty cool. So, you have some other items like random stuff on the bike, are there any specific trinkets or things on the bike that mean something to you?
Well I really like all of the odd fellows shit.
So the gas cap is actually the odd fellows insignia then?
Yeah yeah, it was like a token, then this sissy bar thing was from over a door. I cast it with these fittings to work on here.
This inner part of the Sissy bar is really neat how you've done that actually. It's like 2 sissy bars in one, it's cool because when you see it from the side it's like "oh neat it's a Sissy bar" then you realize when you see it up close "oh wow, wait, this is actually a really intricate and well-thought-out design!"
Yeah it was tough to make, the seat was also a bit of a challenge.
Did you do all of the seat work as well?
No a friend of mine did the upholstery but I did everything else it's all formed and carpet lined just like a factory seat.
So let's talk a little bit about this rear brake set up what was that originally off of? You dont normally see these on any XS650!
Well I didn't like the original mechanical rod set up and I could never really get it to work even good at all. So I used this slave off of the 1980s Mustang T5 transmission.
Haha! That's too cool you know you stand back from the bike and you realize there's a lot of cool elements like this going on and there's a lot more than meets the eye. Then you look again and you realize it's even cooler because it's not a Harley. Like you picked a power train that people have been chopping since the seventies but it's still something that people show respect to. There's just certain motors I feel like in the community that will always carry that clout, it's like it's not trying to be anything else it's just a solid cool seventies inspired chopper.
Well thank you that's definitely what I was going for. Haha
So for these side cases I've got to ask did you weld on the fins individually or how did you do this?
I actually took an air cleaner cover for a dual carburetor, like you know from a hot rod car air cleaner and I cut the shape out of it and welded it on.
That's really cool, ohh yeah, you can just barely see the welds here on the top. It kinda matches these other parts too.
Yeah, you know another part that's sort of like that that I really like on this bike is the coil covers I made. The coils for these bikes were always super ugly and I always had mine super exposed so I drew this out and I had a friend of mine do a digital file and he 3-D printed it then I shelled it up at work and burnt it out and cast it.
So what is your day job then where you were able to do that?
I work for West supply in Chicago. It's a high end furniture company. We make furniture, sculptures, statues and all kinds of stuff. I've got a lathe and mill and welder's fab tables basically just everything you would need to build there.
So that's sort of where you get some of your craft from then right?
Man to have a job like that to have those things to get to utilize for yourself is awesome and it's cool that you've been able to bring bring some of that into this build. Well, last question, is there anybody you want to give a shout out that helped on the build?
Well I mean star Chrome did a lot of the Chrome and I also wanted to give a shout out to Jerry Chingas in Chicago who did all the stripping for me all the stripping for me.
Awesome well this is one of the coolest XS650's I think we are gonna find in a long time and I appreciate you letting us take some time to share it.
Photos and words by Mike Vandegriff