I have run into Adam Deso at the Gypsy Run for several consecutive years and it’s always a treat. He is an avid 33er and he stepped up to the plate in 2014 to fill a Greasy Dozen Builder Collective spot when a builder had to drop out due to health reasons. When I mentioned in passing that we had an opening, he jumped at the chance to fill the spot and contribute to the collective, making it 12 again.
I like guys that are positive and genuinely enthusiastic about building and riding motorcycles. It’s hard to miss Adam’s enthusiasm and genuine drive to build bikes and attend events. He wrote this entertaining chopper purchase tale, so I figure we should let him tell the story of how this project started in his own words. -Bear
At the beginning of November, 2013 my search had begun for an XS, but local searches turned up mostly nothing. Either people thought they were sitting on gold or they just weren't selling in November. One day, however, I came upon a listing that sounded promising. The ad stated that a motorcycle shop that specialized in XS650s was going out of business after 20+ years and had 8+ complete bikes, 10+ running motors and thousands of parts. I figured this was perfect, so I called the number and started asking questions. The person on the other end of the phone told me he was actually listing for a friend who didn't Internet, but he was very familiar with the collection and was a motorcycle collector himself. He stated that most of the bikes probably needed a battery, but we could fire some up. Next came the inevitable question, "How much is he looking to get for a running bike?" He said, "$500," which I thought was a decent deal, so I arranged to meet up with this guy and the owner of the bikes.
The location was a few hours away, so I called two buddies to see if they wanted to go for a ride and maybe pick up a bike themselves, since they were also in the market. They happily agreed and, with a quick stop at the bank, we were on our way.
Two and a half hours later, we finally pulled up to the address given to us, which was on a dirt road off a dirt road. What we saw was a house that looked like it hadn't seen any upkeep in 20 years and a lawn that hadn't been cut in probably twice that. Quickly this trip started to seem like a bad idea as we saw a guy walking towards us that looked all beat to hell, with rotting teeth and messed up skin. Great a Methhead. The dude proceeded to tell us that the place where the bikes were at was down the road a bit and we would have to follow them. Them?
A minute later, another guy walked out of the house. He looked pretty much normal, no messed up teeth or skin; just long hair and a beard, wearing a leather jacket. Ok, now I felt a little better. I could deal with a grizzled old biker. Then I saw what was in his hands: multiple long ass pistol mags and what looked and sounded like a coffee can full of ammo.
Methhead: "Ok guys follow us, we're going to take you to the bikes."
We got in the truck and immediately started to debate the merits of just blasting in the opposite direction and heading back home, but, in the end, curiosity and the threat of a wasted trip spurred us on.
During our drive, we had a lot of time to plan our possible escape and the rolls we would play. Since I had set up the deal, I would hence be known as the Negotiator. Nick, who had a little Rugar 380 in his coat, took on the alias of the Gunner. Not that he, or any of us, would have lasted long against Glocks with 30 round mags. Ryan, who was a distance runner that could put down a sustained 6 minute mile, was tasked with going for help if shit turned south and was deemed the Runner.
The gray pickup we were following finally slowed and turned onto a rutted driveway that led up a hill. Ahead, we saw a small single story home on the right, a workshop and wood shed on the left, and a guy working a tractor between the two. The guy on the tractor didn't even seem to notice or care that we were there, which we thought was quite odd since we had driven all this way to see him.
We got out of the truck and started walking toward the guy on the tractor, but were immediately stopped by Methhead asking where we were going.
"I thought we were here to talk to him about the XSs," I said.
"We are," he says, "but that isn't him, he doesn't live here, he lives further up the property."
WTF is going on, now there are three people involved and not one actually has anything to do with these bikes? Methhead points to the top of a hill where we saw an old yellow school bus next to a small, even older, tow-behind camper. The two had a small roof that bridged the gap between them. The whole surrounding area was a junkyard full of shit.
As we reached the top of the hill, I saw some kind of sport bike on a make-shift lift under a canopy in front of the school bus. Great, so this is the "shop"? Behind the lift, stood the "shop" owner, Izzy. To describe Izzy as a crazy, backwoods, separatist might be too kind. Tucked into his duck boots were heavy wool pants, covered in safety pins and secured by a piece of rope. Clipped to the waistband and pockets of the pants were not one, two or three, but four knives of varying sizes and a holstered pistol. (It turns out that he actually had a second gun in the small of his back that I couldn't see.) He had a long unkempt beard, greasy, tangled hair and the craziest goddamn eyes I have ever seen.
Introductions were made and I finally got to take a good look at the XS graveyard. I realized just how bad we'd been conned. The eight or so bikes were sitting on rotten pallets. Only one had a gas tank. Several were missing a least one wheel and all of them looked like they had been parked longer than they had run. The Gunner even saw a mouse climb out of the intake port of one of the engines.
After the intros, Izzy immediately went into sales mode and said, "So, you guys want three bikes right? Pick three out and we'll get you set up with some extra parts." The three of us looked at each other and it was pretty obvious we are all thinking the same thing. No one wanted anything to do with these piles of shit and we just wanted to get the hell out with our skins.
I finally broke the silence and told him, "Honestly, these are all a bit more work than we wanted, we kind of expected complete, running bikes."
Izzy, a little more intensely this time, started showing us a few extra parts he had lying around including a 21" dirt bike wheel and a Metzeler Marathon to go with it. He said, "Look, just pick something you like and we'll find all the parts you need in the shop (the bus) because THIS IS HOW YOU BUILD CHOPPERS KIDS." (This line got repeated probably 20 times on the ride home so it's worth highlighting here.)
Again, mostly silence from us.
Then Izzy said, "What do you guys expect to get for $800, a bike in perfect condition?" At this point, I started to get more pissed than nervous and asked what happened to the $500 running bike. Izzy looked at Methhead and they proceeded to have a heated discussion away from us.
Izzy came back and said, "Fine, $500 then for a bike."
Annoyed, I said, "Sorry, but these just aren't in the condition we expected for the price. I think we'll have to pass."
Izzy made one more push for a sale, but this time left the price open to negotiation. For the first time, I actually started seriously considering his offer. Not just because I thought I might be able to live with the crazy purchase, but that I would get to stay alive by making a purchase from a crazy. The first bike I looked at had some extended forks, raked trees, and 3-4" risers. The bike had no tank, carbs or exhaust. I went to kick it, but no luck, it was stuck. Big shock. The next best bike I looked at had carbs, an exhaust and trees, but no forks or front wheel. When I tried to kick that one, the pedal immediately went to the floor.
"Just a busted spring. Cheap fix," Izzy said. He told me to hold on a sec and ran to his shop/bus to grab a screwdriver so that he could pull the side cover off and turn the engine by hand. Sure enough, it did turn and sounded like it had compression. Not that sound means shit without a compression test, but his "shop" wasn't equipped for that. Ok, these were the two best bikes, so if any kind of deal was to be struck, it had to be on these. After a bit of back and forth, I gave him his $500, but I took both bikes, the 21" aluminum drum dirt bike wheel, and the Metzeler.
With the deal done, the guy on the tractor came up the hill and helped load the bikes into the back of the truck since they weren't exactly rollers. The ride home actually passed rather quickly as we told and retold the story to ourselves and to our wives and girlfriends who had been trying to reach us, since we had been out of cell coverage for several hours. "THIS IS HOW YOU BUILD CHOPPERS KIDS."
Photos by Danny Madureira taken during Strange Days.
Owner: Adam Deso, Vermont
Chop Cult Member profile: Ato
Bike name: BLAT! The first time we got the bike running I had no idea what the jetting should be since 2 into 1 carbs aren't exactly the norm on these. The main was so far off that the bike spit and sputtered whenever I got on it. Blat, blat, blat, blat, blat. I guess it sounded a bit like the Tasmanian Devil and the name stuck.
Engine, year and make, model, modifications: 1980 Yamaha XS650, stock internals, Hugh's Hand-built PMA, Pamco ignition. Frame: 1980 XS650 with a 76 Fabrication hardtail, 3" stretch, 0" drop. Fork: Stock forks with shaved lowers.
Tire/wheel size and style: 16" rear, 21" DiD dirt bike rim I laced to a Yamaha hub.
Favorite thing about this bike: That it's so open and bare bones and looks like it shouldn't run. To say I live in an area where choppers aren't particularly common would be an understatement. It seems like a lot of the weekend warrior types can't seem to grasp how a bike can run on 10 wires and no battery.
Next modification will be: I'm probably going to try my hand at making a cobra seat. The sprung solo really beat me up going 700 miles to Strange Days and back, so I need something a bit more padded that will handle the long hauls.
Other mods, accessories, cool parts, etc: 2 into 1 intake manifold with a Mikuni vm36 carb, hand flared trailer fender, the Voodoo Vintage chain tensioners which look rad as shit and saved a ton of headaches. I can't believe they don't advertise these things better. The kicker is a stock XS lower clamp with an HD arm, the stupid pipes I made trying to use every bit of a TC Bros builder kit and, best of all, the hand engraved oil filter and alternator cover.
Thanks to: Nick, Josh, and Ryan of the Hangry Chaps who helped push me to get this bike done, Wayne for the killer engraving, Danny for believing in me that this bike would actually run, Alex, aka Dieselchanic for all the troubleshooting and parts support, and most of all my wife Raechel for putting up with my shit and allowing me to hold countless one sided conversations about motorcycles over the years.
Follow Adam on Instagram: Ato_XS