Xt550 a perfect recipe for a modernized classic!
this last build has started its life as a 1982 Yamaha xt 550, and it belongs to my good friend Rino a passionate motorcyclist and renowned chef who has a thing for old thumpsters, ownes a ducati multistrada 1200 but his dream would have been to have a xt500 right next to it in his garage..in 2015 when he purchased this 550 we knew each other for a couple of years and he commissioned me this build even before I had my first ever custom completed, he trusted me.. like good friends does!
He surely didn’t trust my initial judgement!
it was early afternoon and I was walking along st kilda’s beach with my wife when the phone started ringing..
Rino: Fra! I’ve found a bike, I’ve sent you the link! Have a look!
Me: Give me a second Ri.. the link for what?
Rino: the link for the ad bro! so you can see the bike I’m talking about..
Me: that’s my point.. you said a bike, the only thing I can see is actually a rusty pile of white shit
Rino: but it’s a 550, my same year of birth and it’s cheap!
Me: Nah mate wait until I’m back in Brisbane
Rino: No no I want it, you’ll see it when you’ll be back i’m picking it up today..
Now, let’s specify.. Rino didnt get to buy the bike that day as per the seller didnt wait for him and sold it to someone else while he was on his way to pick it up, after that I’ve tried to point him towards a Ducati M600, which was cheap and running, but the 550 eventually popped back for sale a few weeks later and send me to check it out.
Heavily Rusted, sunburned, bent and not running.. what else should I’ve said to let him to pull away from buying this wreckage? nothing.. he bought it even if it was dearer than the first time He saw it.
Once I took it in the garage I’ve fitted a working stator, played with the dodgy wiring and did some basic carby cleaning, with some fresh fuel the bike started (not before it kicked back while kickstarting it and nearly broke my ankle! which is another reason why I’ve tried to talk him out of this deal.. anyway) and the adventure began!
“Let’s not spend more than 7/8 grand”(he said) “I want it to look classic, is going to be my weekender, take your time!”
..and I did! 5 years later, plus a spare project bike and 3 times the original budget this is the outcome..
A ground up build, very classic looking Xt, with retro tinwork and seat, modern led lights and components, twin exhaust, upgraded to modern brakes and suspensions.
Lets’s start with the only part which could still be called “standard”
Yes, it has been obviously fully restored,
when I bought the bike it had broken fins, the clutch cover was off and all the primary components were rusted, so after I made sure the the engine fired, I’ve pulled it completely apart and found scored Bore, loose timing and worned out sliders, rusted main bearing etc..
Stripped the crankcases and sent the whole lot to get vapour blasted then replaced conrod, oversised piston, timing chain, all the bearings and seals with genuine yamaha components. Despite I don’t really like to use powder coating on the engine, the magnesium clutch cover didnt like the vapour blasting which brought up a lot of porosity, so I’ve ended up using the clutch cover out of the spare bike we purchased and got it powder coated in silver.
On the intake, the rubber manifolds have been replaced ad the carburetors vapour blasted, rebuild and tuned to suit the k&n pods and new exhaust system.
The exhaust had to be full stainless! could have been easier and way cheaper if we would have just gone 2 into 1, we were undecided: I was suggesting a low profile Exhaust for different reasons, and would have loved to match it with a modern carbon tipped Yoshi mx muffler, but Rino liked the high profile more which looked boring at my eyes.. better with the reverse cone muffler but still not enough for the bike I was picturing and we ended up finding a meeting point making a hi profile exhaust but going double the mufflers!
As I’ve mentioned above this choice made my life way more complicated as per this bike is fitted with a monocross type rear suspension and we had to consider clearances between chassis and swingarm and also heat was a big concern for both the battery and the air cleaners. The only way for the twin Exhaust to work was to fit a crossover pipe underneath the seat which was drammatically increasing the heat in battery area and the lead pipe was in the way of the right pod filter, also a tricky one to being in very close proximity of the rear shock. a solution have been found fabricating an aluminum shield for the lead pipe rotating the right pod filter and offsetting the left pod using some intercooler rubber hoses, were under the seat I’ve made a heat shield for the crossover pipe and battery tray cover out of carbon fiber. The exhaust will still easily get over 100 degres in those areas were the shields reduces the temperature to around 30′ to 40′ on the filter and around 60 on the battery cover which is definitely Safe.
Upgrades to the suspensions an brakes were made replacing the old and worned out monoshock with a modern yzf 250 unit which needed mods to frame and swingarm due to different sized eyes, rebuilt and gassed in house. The completely rusted out 38 mm forks and way undersized single sided drum were removed to allow to allow the USD front end off from the very same donor yzf and was a fairly easy swap, still had to modify stem and match the height but once the forklegs have been thoroughly cleaned and serviced,yokes, caliper and all the alluminium components vapour blasted, with new disc and pads, combined with a nissin master cylinder. What I Couldn’t stand after fitting this front end was the heavy pitting of the outer forkleg (that donor Yzf died in the Simpsons desert and it saw many Many battles before to be wrecked and the suspensions got to us) so I’ve wrapped them in carbon fiber, and on the bottom legs the standard yzf fork protectors werent matching the style of the build, too square-ish and only available in blue so have been currently removed and I’m trying to make my own neoprene boots cause I didn’t like what ‘s available on the market.
The wheels are standard xt 550 hub at the back relaced to a new 18 inch alloy rim where at the front the yzf hub has been relaced with a 19 inch, rubbers are dunlop k180
Talking chassis and bodywork I was extremely happy to ditch that badly repaired and messed up tank alongside all the plastic and seat, I have to give credit to yamaha being the first to introduce that particular shape in the tank that has been used for easily 2 decades by all the manifactures around the globe but that doesn’t chance the fact that was probably the ugliest of all the xt ever produced. The frame itself has been shortened by 20 cm modified to suit the different tank and rear guard, allow the muffler and indicators on the loop and relocated all the electricals.
The bodywork is essentially just the three pieces, fuel tank and the guards
To complete the “keep it in the family” the tank comes off a 1980 Xt250, and has been painted to remember the 250 original livery without being too fussy on factory colour specs, front and rear guard have both Harley origins, modified to suit the new addresses and look as clean as possible and apinted gloss black.
The whole colour scheme is very iconic, you won’t get it wrong. Which series it’s may not something you can tell straight away without looking at the decals but you can tell it’s an XT from a distance!
I found the balance between silver and black pretty satisfying, I couldn’t see the bike having a black engine, I reckon we got it right. Despite the paintwork was a bloodbath costwise and had some issues finding an honest painter, who is really worth a mention is Roberto’s Custom Powder who worked his magic on the clutch cover, hubs, frame and the smaller components around it. Awesome quality as usual

The seat starts from a fiberglass base I made and then got uphostered under Rino’s specs
When it comes to look clean, the rear end works pretty good with those single unit tail light and indicator, I had to muck around modifying the stem to fit them at “legal distance” , I ended up turning stainless sleeves and weld them through the frame, in the end is better to give cops as less reasons as possible to argue about your custom vehicles, that’s also part of the reason why we chosed those big foldable mirrors, they’re legal and you actually see what’s behind you!
Yes, safety first! that’s the reason why I’m insisting to convert all the lights to good quality LED, the Koso Headligh for example apart from being a gorgeous looking unit is also magnificently bright!
I’m also not a big fan of the Daymaker styled headlights so this Koso with its orizzonal driving light it’s just another level! It was a bit of a challenge to fit it in between the yokes making a nice and thin alluminium bracket but i think that in theend I’ve got it fairly right, all those hours spent welding wasting gas and materials are slowly paying off!
The LED saga ends with a custom warning lights housing and daytona velona speedo placed on the top yoke
Wiring loom has been shortened, I’ve mantained the original switchblocks cause they’re way more user friendly and tucked all the electricals under the tank. the battery is a ultralight and small lithium antigravity located in a custom tray under the seat