So I remember Bubba Shoebert's Honda 750 flat tracker when I was a kid. I loved that bike with its fierce wheels, coupled to an engine and frame and barely anything else. Minimalism!
I recently discovered that there were many projects out there to build "street trackers", essentially, street legal dirt track bikes. WOW! My TICKET! My main influence stemmed from a guy who shared his project on the 4strokes.com website. It started as an XR650L:
I wanted to do something similar to his bike, using the big Honda XR/XL thumper as a base to start from. But I didn't feel right chopping up my mint XR650L. I also didn't like the e-start on the "L". Not only does the starter motor clutter the engine, it necessitates a battery which I've always found to be kind of a weakness. I wanted kick start only to keep with the spirit of minimalism. So this left me with the XL600, made between 1983 and 1987. They have batteries of course to be street legal (vehicle code states that the lights have to be able to switch on, even when the engine is off). I plan on flaunting this rule and just going with a battery eliminator kit.
So I sold my L and began the project. I knew I'd need a lot of help with the heavy lifting fabrication work: getting the suspension lowered, modifying the subframe a bit, etc. Enter James Banke at bankeperformance.com down in Felton, CA. He does street tracker conversions all the time for clients, so this shop will be getting the chassis in order.
First step in the project is to find a beater that you won't feel bad about chopping up a bit. As James Banke put it: "you want a roached out runner." Honda XL's, and dualsports in general tend to degenerate to the roach strata almost before your very eyes. This poor bike is no exception. The previous owner could hardly make sure the bike was covered up during the many years it sat rotting against the sagging wall of the back shed where spiders could nest in the air box.
I wanted to hit the guy with a crowbar, but since he was kind enough to truck it to my place from up North, I decided to just let it go. Amazingly, the bike ran, barely. The guy would get it started by spraying half a can of starter fluid into the airbox, and then proceed to flail away at the kickstarter while standing up on the pegs with the bike on the kickstand. All wrong, but the bike at least started.
Once I got the bike, my first order of business was to tear it down and clean everything I could, just to see where the damage was. In actuality, the bike seemed to be in promising shape. Odo read 10,000 miles, and the paint was hardly worn off the side of the frame and engine cases. It was probably in pretty good condition until the last owner got ahold of it and left it out in the rain for 2 years.
Exhaust muffler pipe was a cheap rusted out aftermarket affair that had fused to the header. Had to be chiseled off.