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Yamaha XS650 Board Track Racer


Yamaha XS650 Board Track Racer
Yamaha XS650 Board Track Racer
Image courtesy of Chappell Customs.

In the pioneering days of the motorcycle, many manufacturers had moved into the market from bicycles. Most of the new motorcycles of the time were based on a bicycle with an engine attached. The manufacturers also brought to motorcycling the idea that to sell, or just to make the buying public aware of their products, they had to show their machines to large audiences and the cycle racing Velodrome’s was an ideal location.

Motorcycles had been used on Velodromes before the machines had races in their own right. Bicyclists, who were attempting speed records, would follow closely behind a motorcycle in an attempt to reduce the air pressure on them (slipstreaming).

It was a natural progression of two wheeled sport when motorcycles eventually had their own venues: Autodromes.

Once the public got behind motorcycle racing on these wooden oval tracks, organizers began to build bigger venues where speeds of the machines stunned the spectators. As an example, Henderson rider Lee Humiston recorded a top speed of 100 mph on a board track at Playa del Ray California in 1911.

Classic Custom Board Trackers

Today classic motorcycle builders and custom shops are turning to the unique style of these early board track racers. The example here was built by brothers Rob and Chris Chappell, who although living in different countries (Canada and America respectively), managed to produce this excellent machine.

Although the machines the brothers make are to a very high standard, the work is only a part-time enterprise (at the moment) as both have full time jobs. Both Rob and Chris work in creative fields, doing Film and TV Visual FX in LA (Chris), and Design and Advertising in Canada (Rob).

The brothers had previously built various bobbers and café racers (including an XS650 based café racer), and wanted to do something completely different. This led to the board tracker style, but according to Rob, “with our own modern twists.”

The donor bike was a 1982 Yamaha XS650 Heritage Special. Although the XS was Yamaha’s first mass produced 4-stroke, it has proven to be one of the most reliable 650-cc twins.

Today the XS is becoming very popular with classic enthusiasts too, especially those looking for a solid base to build something special.


The original front frame rails and neck were retained but the rest of the frame was fabricated by the brothers using DOM (Drawn Over a Mandrel) steel tubes which were joined using the T.I.G. welding process.

Front Forks:

The front end is a Spitfire girder system made in Rancho Cucamonga California. The 2" under type was chosen for this application with stock rake--these forks were originally intended for Harley Davidson’s.


The original brake calipers were used on both front and rear, but the mounting brackets needed milling to fit the solid rear frame and the new Spitfire forks. The rotors were cross-drilled and stainless steel braided lines fitted.


In keeping with the original designs, the seat has minimal padding and was built in-house. A basic seat pan was modified to give the correct shape, then powder coated with a copper color finish. The leather covering was carried out by specialists Luis Leather Stuff.

For rider comfort the seat has a cantilever system to a small spring damper unit mounted under the top frame tube.


The intake manifold is a custom made in-house piece with a 36mm carb. The exhaust system is a Pandemonium unit which was high heat powder coated in-house, as were the frame, forks, wheels and rear-set foot rests. The custom-made fuel tank has a base clear coat paint finish. 3.50” x 19” Dunlop tires are fitted front and rear.

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