“The first time I put photos of this bike online I got comments on the bike like I was some madman for running only rear brakes. Show some common sense, people. If you can’t see the brake lever and the drum how can you see the keyboard to put in your two cents?” That particular two cents comes from Jared Johnson at Holiday Custom Motorcycles, who created this chop from a 1976 Yamaha XS 650. The front wheel came off of a Honda SL 175 and, contrary to comments he’s seen online, it has a little drum brake. Every bend on the bike was hand rolled using a tube bender, and Jared told us making the battery box was a blast. Hell, he had a lot more to say than that. Just listen.
STC: You grew up around old iron. Want to tell us about that?
JJ: I think you can take something you like on a classic car and make it transfer to a motorcycle. I come from a car and motorcycle family so as a kid there would be 1946 and 1954 Chevy’s around and eventually I got some old cars myself but soon realized having a car collection takes up a lot of room, so motorcycles made more sense. My first motorcycle was a `68 Honda Z50 which my dad got when he was 21. That little 50 was the highlight at every party at our house and was the first ride for a lot of people in the family. I still have that 50--it’s a keeper. My parents house was out in the boon docks so if something broke on the bikes we made do with what we could. I feel that had a lot to do with how I approach motorcycle building today. If you can’t find it, build it.
STC: How did Holiday Custom Motorcycles come to be?
JJ: My brother and I had started an ornamental iron business in Southern Cal. For 5 years we worked our asses off welding and grinding on peoples houses. There is something about finishing a bike and firing it up for the fist time; it comes alive and has a personality. The houses just sit there. Working with the houses was fun and a great experience but I realized it wasn’t where I wanted to be.
STC: The frame reminds me of a bicycle. Was that what you intended?
JJ: I built an old Schwinn bicycle a few years ago and jammed a Honda XR 70 engine in it. I really like the lines on the Schwinn so I thought of making a bigger version of it with the XS 650. Also, I was so busy building for customers that I never got around to building a bike for me, and I wanted a bike that would represent the shop as sort of a flagship bike.
JJ: I found the bike on craigslist for $400. I called and it was out to this guy’s property within an hour of where I live. Yamaha XS 650’s are getting harder to find cheap lately. It was pretty rough, rusty, and forgotten about in this guys backyard way out of town. He had a few hot rods in his garage and projects everywhere and had planned to turn the XS into a flat tracker but realized he needed to fund his other hot rod project. I did get it fired up that day so I knew I had got a good deal on it.
STC: What was the hardest part of building it?
JJ: Getting all the lines to match up. I wanted everything to flow just right. I would be staring at the frame for hours throughout the day, getting all these ideas for more lines to go here or there, then checking myself. I started out with a different tank and made the hardtail arch to match it. Then found the Wassell tank and cut everything off and started the whole tail over. There were a lot of challenging things on this build including keeping a girlfriend and friends from giving up on me. I get so excited about building I find myself in the shop all day and sometimes late nights and forget about the world outside. While I was building this bike and everything was going smooth, I just couldn’t believe this one is going to be for me. I was so stoked. Around the time I was putting it all back together I kept checking the weather and rushing so I could get a dry test ride. It rains all the fucking time here in Portland. The day I finished it and fired it up it started raining. I had to wait like 2 days to ride it. That part sucked bad. STC