First test..almost

The XS400 is coming together nicely.  We sent the seat to the upholsterer last week, and it’s supposed to be done today.  Check back for a photo of it as soon as we have it in our hot little hands.

Here is our highly detailed and precise mock up for the upholsterers:

We also got the tank all finished up: we installed the pin striping and the Spin Cycle logos on the side. It looks fantastic.  We matched the factory pin striping layout.

We are extremely excited about how this bike is coming together; for a relatively budget oriented build, it is going to look pretty fancy!

We sort of finished putting it together, finished up the wiring (mostly) and decided it was time to fire it up.  This one is still kick-start only, since we still don’t have all the parts to insert the starter.  So we kicked.  And kicked.  And kicked some more.  It made funny noises, and we kicked more.  It ran for about ten seconds, and that was just long enough for us to realize it was REALLY loud, similar to the CL450.  We decided to get ahead of the problem on this one, so pulled the baffles and this time we welded TWO layers of perforated sheet downstream of the baffles.  That should help.

Thankfully ‘the Phil’ was cruising by and stopped in to check on our progress just after he knocked out 5+ hours on his mountain bike in the morning, (did we mention he’s 70 years old!!)  His visit was timely.  We hadn’t really had much time to try to sort the XS’s starting problem.  We did a bit of trouble shooting, checking spark, chasing down wire connections, and Phil noticed that since we had yet to wrap the harness, you know, in case we ran into any problems, two of our metal connectors were touching each other.  They happened to be the two wires going to the points.  So, the timing was WAAAAy off.  Both plugs were firing at the same time, I believe.  Once we isolated those connectors, the bike started on the very first kick.  Miracle.  Seems like it’s always something small like that.  And it kept starting on the first kick for the next two days.  Pretty awesome.

With the bike sitting there looking so nearly complete: I kind of had to go ride it!  I taped a piece of foam onto the seat,  then performed the obligatory pre-first ride bolt check.  Good thing I did too, as the rear axle bolt had never been tightened.  I gathered my riding gear, fired it up, pulled it into the alley, admired it there in all it’s shiny glory, and then I noticed something interesting: those beautiful brand new stainless pipes…one was turning a nice golden color, and the other was not.  Hmmm.  A quick feel of the exhaust gasses confirmed, one cylinder was firing, and one was not.  Doh!

No test ride.  The funny thing is, Josh and I had tested the spark on both plugs, and they were both sparking.  Now one isnt.  But it turns out they were both sparking due to our connectors shorting out on each other.  Geeez.  Once we isolated the wires heading to the points, only one plug was firing.  Once I realized this, I remember we suspected the bike may have had a similar intermittent problem when Emma bought it.  We noted that one of the original head pipes was discolored and the other wasn’t.  We’ll dig into this issue tonight.  But it shouldn’t be too challenging to chase down, one of three things should be the problem; bad connections, an issue with the points, or an issue with the coil.  Hopefully we’ll have it running by morning…

Here it is, minus the seat.

Since it couldn’t be ridden, we spent some time on the cosmetic end of things.  We hand sanded the brake & clutch levers and did the same with the left engine cover.  They pretty much match the sanded finish on the forks now, so it’s looking pretty sharp.


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  • 26 October, 2012 at 9:46 pm // Reply

    Bike looks amazing! What is that tank off of?

    • 29 October, 2012 at 3:37 am // Reply

      The tank is the stock one. We stripped it, hand sanded it, then applied the white powdercoat followed by a clear.

  • 25 November, 2012 at 10:48 am // Reply

    afternoon,i love the look of your virago cafe racer,im trying to build one myself ive managed to get most of the parts i need,just having trouble with the short brake arm which conects the splined bar to the push bar,can you please tell me the one you used,thanks so much for your time,gary

    • 25 November, 2012 at 8:46 pm // Reply

      Hey Gary,
      We just cut the stock lever super short and drilled out the end. Worked great!

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