Some of you just might know of Evan for things other than the Artistry In Iron invite or his shop, Speakeasy Motors in Wallkill, New York. For those that don’t, he did a fairly long stint on OCC’s American Chopper during its CMT era. His shop began before that bit of CMT TV and continued on through until today. All of that only shows how driven this young guy is to succeed in the motorcycle industry and from the looks of what he’s built on his own, I’d say he’s secured his place and rightfully so. Even now he’s escalated things a bunch with his latest Harley-Davidson builds that are sure to take him out of “metric-only” class of builder as many people think of him. Wait until you see some of his Harleys kids.
In the meantime, we’ve got his clean as a whistle Yamaha XS650 bobber that showcases what this talented young guy does. Not only does he build a great bike, he’s got the eye for building a great looking bike. Those two talents can be mutually exclusive, but not here. Is it old? Is it new? What is that? That’s all I heard around the office as the photos came up on my screen and I think I understand why. It’s old looking, it’s not a V-twin and the color scheme is stunning. Even if those around me didn’t know what it was at first, they sure wanted to see more.
Evan began with a 1981 Yamaha XS650cc engine, Barnett H-D’s GM and motorcycle freak, Mark Barnett’s possibly all-time favorite engine from his flat track days. Mark’s not a Yamaha fan, but an XS650 engine fan and it’s not a surprise to see a new XS650 flat tracker show up at the shop now and again. This power plant could also be the favorite of metric custom builders and, just like a Harley, could show up in any type of build although I’ve never seen a big wheel bagger version. It’s probably on somebody’s workbench as I write, though. This version of the vertical twin wears its retro-mod camouflage very comfortably almost looking like a big single with those shorter-than-short header pipes.
The rigid frame’s basic dimensions and lines almost guarantee a good looking rigid bobber the way the top tube appears to run from the neck straight to the rear axle. Meanwhile, there’s some stylish whimsy going on underneath the engine and the tubing curvaceously extends to the rear axle plate adding some contrast to all the straight lines. It’s about as minimalist as you can get and still have a frame, but with a bit of S-curve style thrown in.
Hanging off the Harley steering tube that Evan adapted to the frame is one of Kiwi Mike Tomas’ (Kiwi Indian Motorcycles Inc.) products they’ve become well known for. Yup, that incredibly cool Indian-style leaf spring front end that’s been adapted for Harleys. Evan couldn’t just do a bolt-in after he changed the steerer tube as the fork was a bit to long for his application so he whacked nine-inches out of it. Yup, nine. Then he made the top tree and then built those comfy-looking bars right out of the fork like it came that way. Lots of clean engineering adds to the simplicity quotient. Oh, be sure to check out Evan’s skinny-tubing headlight mounts reaching from the top tree to the top of the headlight. Nice stuff going on.
Nothing goofy going on in the wheel department with laced wheels on white rims being the order of the day. Up front the 21-incher is brakeless while the 18 out back carries a big rotor and a four-pot caliper. If you’re going to have just one, it better be a good one and Evan appears to be no fool. Nothing crazy with the Metzeler rubber either, just reasonably sized for good looks and good handling. There’s even enough of a sidewall to the rear tire to soak up a bit of road shock and on a rigid, every bit helps.
Speaking of road shock, did you take a good look at Evan’s seat? Or should I say, under Evan’s seat? That metal seat pan with some nice leather work on top isn’t going to do much to cushion your spine against pot holes. But, in the open space under the seat there’s a lot more going on in the form of extravagant linkages and a multitude of Heim joints just to make riding a rigid not only palatable, but comfy-ass fun. Plus, I like seeing all the time and thought that went into them. Eye-pleasing mechanical complexity with a purpose.
Then there’s the Evan-built bodywork that was never once something else other than pieces of sheet steel. Not existing tank was modified during the building of this bike and that’s no big surprise when you find out how Evan got his chops. Besides working with sheet metal on his own, he’s spent time as a student of sheet metal’s best friend and all-around wicked cool smart guy, Fay Butler. You might remember the TV episode where Jesse James goes to Fay’s shop in western Massachusetts to learn the ins-and-outs of turning sheet metal into glory. Remember the lovely copper fuel tank Jesse made? Well this Fay Butler guy is considered one of the few real gurus of metal working and he’s imparted a lot of his knowledge to Evan and it shows.
The fuel tank fits the build and the space perfectly. It’s not an homage to anything other than a tank for this particular bike. There is a feel of nostalgia just looking at it and I’m sure that was intended. Evan’s stainless mounts holding it on the top tube are nutty cool and do what they’re supposed to while adding just the right touch of mechanical zaniness. I like this kind of approach to adding a unique touch where none was expected. And then there’s the #29 number plate over the front axle that denotes Evan’s grandmother’s birth year and, by the way, she also donated her name, Ethel, to the bike as seen on the tank.
Meanwhile, the rear fender is a trip on many levels. Evan rolled that one out too including the raised center ridge for strength and looks, but that’s not what kills me. It’s the way he mounted it with beautifully formed thin tubing holding it down low while the top struts are something else altogether. Starting at the middle of the rear stay and working their way towards the middle of the fender, they reach up a bit and suspend Evan’s own taillight while also providing a place to hide wiring. It’s really different and a thing of beauty. I love the way the fender looks like it’s floating with stainless tubing crawling all over it.
I have no idea who picked or painted the color scheme, but it’s a winner in my book. The soft white looks sharp against the light olive panels with gold pinstriping. There’s also a second shade of green involved and the gold leaf graphics on the tank add more interest. Nothing’s in your face, it just gets more pleasing the closer you get. There’s a vintage feel to the whole thing without trying hard to look vintage, it just does. There’s a calming or welcoming aspect to this work and, like any good paintjob, it only makes you want to inspect the build even more. For some reason, I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable if somebody said I could throw a leg over the bike. Maybe, just like the builder, there’s a lack of intimidation factor involved here, but not only would I like to sit on it, I’d love to give it a whirl too. Hey Evan, in case you’re reading this, I’ll pay for gas.
For more info on Evan Favaro and Speakeasy Motors, please visit http://www.speakeasymotors.com/ or check him out on all your social media.