Halloween Horror: Zac’s Yamaha XS650

Gather close, boils and ghouls! Let me tell you the tale of the Cursed XS650!

The Yamaha, a 1984 Heritage Special, came into my possession via a trade, a few months after I started riding. It was a non-runner. I would have been best leaving it that way.

On its maiden voyage, after a carb cleaning and new battery, it became obvious the rings were shot in one cylinder. I fixed that. A few weeks later, in the middle of an out-of-province tour, the other cylinder followed, gloriously self-destructing the piston in an oily smokescreen. Undaunted, my buddy and I pushed the bike into a ditch and hid it with branches, coming back for it with a truck a few days later. Surely the worst was over!

We should have left it in the ditch. The bike fell over in the back of the truck on the way home, leaving a massive dent in the tank. I spent the rest of that summer chasing engine problems, bleeding brake lines that didn’t want to be bled, changing mysteriously fouled plugs, and working on a charging system that defied the diagnosis of even an electrical engineer.

I spent far more time working on the bike than I did riding it, and when I did ride it, pieces would always fall off — the kickstand spring fell off in a field, the clutch mount came apart on my way home from university, a sidecover is probably still lying in a ditch somewhere …

Eventually I realized there was no way to exorcise the demons of the Cursed XS650 and put it up for sale. I got $342 for it — a paltry sum for all my suffering, but the loss was worth it, to know my misery was now passed on to somebody else.

So what did I do with my money? I saved up for a Honda GL650, which immediately turned out to have a buggered charging system too. Maybe the curse was on me, and not the bike?


  1. I had the same bike, same year. In 1990 it failed to start in Niagara Falls NY. Banged on the voltage regulator to get it going, twice in the same day. Could have gone back over the bridge to Ontario, but no. Two week trip in the Blue Ridge Mountains was calling. No problems the rest of the trip!

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