As we head towards the end of the year and deadlines become tight to finish a mountain of work before the Christmas holidays, the motivation to sit and research and write articles about complicated custom motorcycles until late at night during the week is beginning to wane. The enthusiasm and passion is still there but the energy levels are running a little low. It is for this reason that I am so very grateful for those stripped down to the bone, no frills attached motorcycles called bobbers. These beautiful, yet uncomplicated motorcycles are able to speak for themselves. Please do not misunderstand me. To build a striking “less is more” bobber is as complicated in the execution for the builder as what a flashy cafe racer or restored classic is to produce. It is just that by definition the bobber has less components to describe and thus makes it easier for me to present a “bobbed” midweek feature.
The ever obliging, always polite Tiago from OneOne Customs is developing a national reputation for being a quality builder of no fuss bobbers built in true old school style. His motorcycle of choice is the parallel twin Yamaha XS650. This is the fourth XS650 bobber from the OneOne stable to be featured by us. This particular motorcycle was one of his first builds, when he was still only doing panel beating and spray painting during the day. He and his friend Eugene, together with whoever happened to be visiting at the time, built this bobber in the evenings after work. There can be no better reason to have a beer with your mates than building a bike together.
This 6-fiddy, as she is called, is now owned by Robbie. It carries many of the features which have become trademarks of OneOne Custom’s work. The handlebars have been flipped over, a OneOne weld-on hardtail has been installed, the front fender is used as a rear fender, all elecrical components and wiring have been visually eliminated, the problematic electric starter disconnected and a small battery has been installed low down behind the engine. Sounds like a quick and easy process, but it is not. Take into consideration, after revisiting all of the previously featured Tiago built XS650 bobbers, that each creation, although similar in styling must have different elements and features to be unique. This motorcycle was basically built from scratch using a very shabby, stripped down XS650 which was bought in metal munching Durban in boxes. Tiago does almost all his welding, fabrication and painting in house. On this bobber, only the powder coating of the rims and frame as well as the complete rebuild of the engine were outsourced.
An example of an element which Tiago varies from build to build, is the seat and how it is mounted and sprung. Everything from bakkie leaf springs to mountain bike shocks have been used by him to create unique and hopefully effective seat springs. This bobber’s seat rests on two 3″chrome springs mounted to the frame. The rugged seat itself is for me one of this motorcycle’s best features. Using a four pound hammer and the counterweight on the back of a forklift as an anvil, Tiago and Eugene beat the 3mm thick flat steel plate to form the right profile. They then fastened the cowhide onto this seat pan in such a way that the fasteners became part of the seat’s overall character. A Triumph petrol tank has been used instead of the original XS650 petrol tank. This Triumph tank’s original fastening point to the Triumph frame was through a hole running straight down through the centre of the tank. Tiago has replicated this fastening method and has turned the mount into a feature on the top of the tank.
When it comes to custom motorcycles, bobbers were the original custom creations. They were stripped and modified for go and not for show. They were ridden in the 1950s by hard, restless men who had seen too much war to ever settle down to civilian life. Tiago captures the essence of these original bobbers but still manages to introduce his own unique elements and interpretation. This is not easy on such a naked motorcycle.