Saturday, April 2, 2011

AMA Flat Track 'Trip Down Memory Lane' & Yamaha XS650 Street Tracker

A fine example of an early-to-mid '70s Yamaha XS650 Street Tracker sits on display under the Yamaha tent at the Indianapolis RedBull MotoGP round in August of 2010.  Every year the Yamaha display also highlights bikes that have been entered into the Boz Bros Bike Show, and this particular gem was built by Ken Fontenot, the CEO of Cycle Sports, LTD. out of Houston, TX.  Blending a very nice mix of the version raced in the day by one Kenneth Lee Roberts for the Team Yamaha Dirt Track team in AMA Flat Track Grand National Championship competition, and a more 'modern' version of brakes and suspension to please the present-day rider.
This particular build by Mr. Fontenot is actually a '75 chassis with '77 engine and carbs, and the Jemco pipes alone are a work of art on this beautiful piece.  Roberts' XS-based 750s actually ran the pipes 'split' on each side of the bike (at least the version he raced at the Peoria TT in August of '75) and were also a matte black in color.  Painted in-house by Cycle Sports, the build also utilized Grimeca brakes, RK Excel rims and a swingarm off of a 1986 Yamaha Radian.  Very nice!

Having been a fan of the Yamaha XS650-based flat trackers since my infatuation with AMA Flat Track Series racing began in the summer of' '74, I've also always held somewhat of an affinity for them in terms of the modern day street trackers are concerned.  Not being a 'current' street rider myself for some time now and choosing to enjoy the sport of high speed motorcycle racing from behind the fence as my means of an adrenaline junkie fix, I do enjoy a well-built machine nonetheless.  And the Yamaha XS has held true to my personal passion if for no other reason then seeing the gods like Kenny Roberts, Gene Romero and Hank Scott, among others, thrash and rip on them back in the day in AMA Flat Track Grand National Championship Series competition.

One of the longest mass-produced models by most manufacturers overall numbers, the XS650-based parallel twin was Yamaha's weapon of choice for fighting the battle that was in the day against the might of the-then Norton, Triumph and H-D factory machines in the Grand National Championship.  Riders such as Hall of Famers Chuck Palmgren (who campaigned Dan Gurney Yamahas), Don Castro, Mike Gerald, Darryl Hurst, Billy Schaeffer and Skip Askland, among many others, ran the XS for several years during the early-mid '70s of the AMA Camel Pro Grand National Championship Series.  To this day many of those period racers show up in varying states of display or use around the country, and are a testament to the brand's standing and popularity as well as the durability of the motor itself.

With the different motorcycle builders and custom manufacturers broadening out as time goes on, the 'street tracker' versions have seen some very unique rides come about that 'mirror' the bikes of years gone by from my point of view.  Ken Fontenot's beautiful example above is one of many that get an ole fan like me to start drooling.  And remembering the days of Roberts, Romero and Scott gassing it up on the Yamaha XS.......
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- has another version of a great XS street tracker build here.  Check it out:

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