Yamaha’s XVS650 Custom may just be the perfect introduction to a life on two wheels
Live and learn
2018 Yamaha XVS 650
I GOT ANOTHER call from Dobie to doanother test. And, having learnt the importance of an open mind after my Suzuki Burgman experience (AMCN Vol 68 No 03), I was rather pumped. “It’s a cruiser – a 650 cruiser,” he said. I played it cool, but between you and me, it was not only going to be the first time sampling a feetforward cruiser-style machine, it was going to be the first time I had been let loose on the road with a manual gearbox at my disposal – I was bouncing off the walls! When I went to pick up the XVS, I couldn’t see it.
And then I heard that sweet but deep sound of the 649cc air-cooled V-twin engine. The hairs on the back of my neck instantly stood up; ‘Wow,’ I thought. ‘Is that for me?!’ And then I saw it, in all its bigger-than-expected custom glory, idling away in front of me, waiting for me to cruise off into the distance. What had I got myself into? How the hell am I am going to ride this thing?!
I loved the look of it, all blacked out and retro-looking thanks to its predominately black subframe,black handlebars, black clutch cover and black fork legs, all made ever more blacker by the subtle dots of chrome all over. Shiny twin exhausts, forks and a chrome headlight surround had it twinkling in my eye. Yamaha has made this LAMS-approved cruiser even more appealing by shortening both the front and rear fenders and giving the XVS a distinct bobber look.
This thing was right up my alley. But if it’s the classic cruiser look you’re after, don’t worry, Yamaha still offers that with the XVS650 Classic. It has a lot more chrome too, with the fork lowers, handlebars and clutch cover all glistening chrome, as well as the entire headlight and twinpipe exhaust system. Throw on a large screen and a couple of panniers and there’d be more than a few people who’d mistake it for Harley-Davidson Softail Heritage Classic.
Speaking of old-school, one thing I did find interesting is that the XVS650 range is one of the very few that still incorporates a carburettor instead of opting for a modern and more efficient fuel injection system. Customising the custom There is a vast range of accessories from Yamaha’s Y-Shop to further personalise or custom your XVS650. If I had either one of the bikes parked in my garage, this is what I’d add from the long list of available bits:
Cruiselite Classic Saddlebags $637.16 The Custom just wants to cover kays, so luggage would be a must for my XVS. Yamaha has a range of luggage for the XVS models, however I like the clean and subtle look of the Cruiselite Classic Saddle Bag. They’re not cheap, but they’d be worth every cent for those long haul rides without wrecking the sleek look of the bike. There’s also a studded version, if you’re into that sort of thing, for an extra $37.
Star Billet Mirrors $254.17 I wasn’t a fan of the square mirrors. To give the bike a more aggressive personality, while still maintaining excellent visibility, Yamaha has two diﬀerent shaped mirror options on oﬀer. An oval-shape mirror and a teardrop shaped mirror – I’ll have the tear drop, thanks!
Passenger ﬂoorboard $337.94 A happy wife is a happy life, so to improve passenger comfort, I’d replace the passenger foot pegs with ﬂoorboards. They come in a couple of colours, but I’d go with the Midnight Black aﬀairs – not only would they better suit the blacked-out bobber look, but they’d better blend into the frame when I’m riding solo. They’re made of die-cast aluminium construction with moulded rubber inserts that feature the ﬁrm’s Star logo.
Rider ﬂoorboards Yamaha doesn’t yet oﬀer a rider foot board, but I reckon there’s someone who does, and it’s something I’d also add. Not that the stock foot pegs are not comfortable to ride with, they suit its purpose just ﬁne. But if I am going to look after my passenger with some shit hot ﬂoorboards, then I want some too!
I loved the look of it, all blacked out and retro-looking
Enough procrastination and small talk, it was time to suck it up and have a crack. At 233kg, it was a bit bloody daunting as my first on-road experience with a manual gearbox. And I was wishing my first launch could have been out of my own familiar driveway, instead of under the watchful eye of a handful of Yamaha staff… I knew all the fundamentals of riding a manual motorcycle and I’ve been riding offroad for a couple of years now, but when you’re rolling out onto a busy road for the first time, it’s easy to feel instantly out of your depth.
I eased down the steep driveway of Yamaha HQ in first gear, pulled the clutch in, indicated my intentions to turn, slowed and checked my surroundings. Clutch out, accelerate, awkward stall, swear. I was wondering how long it’d take me to have an embarrassing moment like this, but I was glad the others were now out of sight. I quickly found neutral, thumbed the starter and was ready to go as if nothing had even happened. With a safe and successful start this time, I eased out onto the road and accelerated smoothly and into second gear as I approached my first corner. Ah, this is more like it! I connected with the XVS straight away.
It was so easy and intuitive to ride, even for someone with just a few months of experience – it was like the bike knew my weaknesses and flaws, helping me out where needed and putting my fragile mind at ease. I was pretty tentative on my first ride, I am not going to lie, the next 30 minutes were slow. It was in peak-hour traffic, stop-start the whole way, and I am pretty sure the XVS also wasn’t a fan. Whether it was my riding or not, it had a distinctive whistle in first gear, almost like it was telling me something.
I pressed on as the traffic began to reduce as I reached the outer suburbs, looking for some space and roads where we could continue to get to know each other. I just wanted to give it a little bit – so I did. I got out of second for once, into third, and then into fourth. Yes, this is more like it! And the XVS responded in kind, throwingmy head back with its unexpected acceleration. I looked down, 90km/h down a hill, and clicked into fifth. Now this is what I am talking about! With the light fading,
I decided to head home, back into suburbia. My small and quiet street quickly turned into an abundance of noise from the XVS, followed by plenty of head turning by the neighbours. It was a good feeling. As I turned the bike off, relaxed and relieved, I thought, ‘I am done with the small stuff, it’s time to tackle the open road.’ I waited patiently for the right day. And on a bright winter’s morning, with not a cloud in sight and the sun bearing down, I knew it was time. I decided on a 200km round trip to Wollongong and back. It offers the perfect amount of straight roads to getmy cruiser on, combined with plenty of tight stuff – and all among scenery you can stare at for weeks.
It was a winner too, as I got out on the open road and experienced just what this bike wasmade to do – cruise! Riding out of suburbia and down the Princes Highway, I just felt so comfortable riding this bad boy. Everythingwas easy. The gear changes were smoother than they were when I was trying to negotiate the rat race, the handlingwas a lot better, it was clear this was where this bike wanted to be ridden. The XVS seems to come into its own when it’s in open space.
Fed upwith cars and trucks jostling to get in front of the learner on a cruiser, I got off the highway earlier than planned, opting for the Old Princes Highway, where almost immediately I was on my PatMalone. Okay, time to open it up. Oh, man, I have never had somuch fun on a bike! I didn’t want to stop, and I almost didn’t. As I came down the steep and winding Bulli Pass, I thought I had better stop and have a break, and take a selfie of me andmy ride at the beachfront.
I planned to turn into Thirroul Beach, where I spent plenty of holidays withmy family as a kid, so I was keen to see howmuch it had changed. As the turn-off approached, I watched it sail by – I was having toomuch fun – and continued onmy way. I have never experienced anything like this. With the wind going throughmy helmet, the sight of the beaches tomy right, the smell of the surf, the sound of the V-twin, the cruise along the smoothwinding roads… I rolled across the picturesque Sea Cliff Bridge and understood
I had too much fun … I’ve never experienced anything like this!
Built for comfort EVERY TIME I clicked the XVS into gear, I knew we were going to have a lot of fun together. The XVS is a bike built for comfortable cruising, and it’s exactly how it makes you feel every time you ride it. It has an incredibly comfortable and low seat that you feel you could sit on for days. And, at a height of 695mm, for someone like me who has next to no legs, this was like music to my inseam.
The long wheelbase (1610mm) provides a stable and well-balanced motorcycle, even at low speeds, and while I was initially sceptical, the 233kg melts away once you start rolling. You know you’re on a hefty cruiser, but even for a learner rider like myself, you don’t feel that weight. With low but wide handlebars, turning, handling and lean angles seem to look after themselves. Something I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy or not were the forward-mounted foot controls. I have always been used to standard dirtbike-like ergonomics and never ridden with my feet positioned in front before. Surprisingly, I really liked it. It all added up to a relaxed, enjoyable, cruisey way of the world.
thismotorcycle could offer something special to so many new or returning riders. It was time to head back. As I rode past Coalcliff and got to the bottom of Stanwell Park, I was really looking forward to the climb up to the top. I wasn’t sure if I would need to drop back a gear or two on the steep run up to Stanwell Tops. But using its low-down V-twin torque, it just ploughed on through in fourth gear and tackled the hills without even labouring.
Grinning like a loon, I turned back onto the highway and started to reminisce about what we just achieved. I had a ball and wanted to go back! The XVS has an old-school classic cruiser design, boasting a large tank-mounted speedometer that also houses the tripmeter/ odometer displays and turn signal, neutral and high-beam alert lights. Having to lower my sight more than previously seemed unnatural to begin with, but I adapted to it quickly and soon didn’t give it another thought. However, without a fuel gauge, and distracted by how much fun I’d just had, I also didn’t give any thought to how much juice I had left in the 16-litre tank.
As I turned into a relatively busy road and began to accelerate up to meet the traffic’s speed, there was no power, and the bike stopped. Heart racing, I got off the road into a safe space and it took me a few seconds to realised I’d run dry. A week earlier I had been intrigued to see a carburettor; all of a sudden I was hugely grateful that I could swing the fuel tap around to reserve, which gave me more than enough fuel to ride the few kilometres to the nearest servo – once again, like nothing untoward had ever happened.
That’s what’s so great about this bike; it is able to coax you along with plenty of confidence, and the ability to cover up a learner’s shortcomings – whether they’re yet to be mastered skills, or when you’ve been a unmastered dill. And I think I’d be hard-pressed to find a bike that I will have me falling in love with motorcycling quicker than from atop the XVS650’s relaxed and responsive way of life.
And if you’re still not convinced, Yamaha is currently lopping $2000 off the prices of both XVS650 models. The Classic variant is now down to just $9299 (plus on-road costs) and the Custom model I rode is now just $8799 (plus on-road costs). That’s a hell of a lot motorcycle for not a lot of money and, with a pedigree like Yamaha’s, it should hold its resale value relatively well, too. Where do I sign?
ENGINE Configuration V-twin Cylinder head SOHC, two valves per cylinder Capacity 649cc Bore/stroke 81mm x 63mm Compression ratio 9.0:1 Cooling Air Fueling 28mm downdraft Mikuni carburettor Power 15.4kW @ 11,600rpm (claimed) Torque 20Nm @ 8600rpm (claimed)
TRANSMISSION Type Five-speed Clutch Wet, multiplate Final drive Chain
CHASSIS Frame material Steel Frame layout Double cradle Rake Not given Trail Not given
SUSPENSION Front: 41mm telescopic fork, non-adjustable, 140mm travel Rear: Monoshock, adjustable preload, 86mm travel
WHEELS/TYRES Wheels Wire-spoked Front: 19 x 2.5 Rear: 15 x 3.5 Tyres Bridgestone Exedra G546 Front: 100/90-19 (57S) Rear: 170/80-15 (77S) BRAKES Front: Single 298mm disc, twin-piston caliper Rear: 200mm drum
DIMENSIONS Weight 233kg (wet, claimed) Seat height 695mm Max width 880mm Max height 1075mm Wheelbase 1610mm Fuel capacity 16L (+3L reserve)
PERFORMANCE Fuel consumption 8.0L/100km Top speed 170km/h
CONTACT & SALE INFO Testbike Yamaha Australia Contact www.yamaha-motor.com.au Colour options Black metallic Warranty Two years, unlimited km Price $8799 (plus on-road costs)