1981 Yamaha XS650 Special | The Bike That Changed My Life

Rider: Brian Case
Then: 5-year-old baseball fan
Now: Design Director, Motus Motorcycles

“That snapshot says it all. I’m 5 years old, stretching to reach the handlebars, with my feet barely touching the pegs on my dad’s 1981 Yamaha XS650 Special. My dad always had bikes in the garage when I was growing up, and I just idolized that Yamaha, all black with gold emblems. It had custom pipes that were hand-built by Denis Manning (who went on to found BUB Enterprises) and they sounded so awesome, just like a Norton Commando. I’ll never get that sound out of my head. That’s definitely the bike that made me fall in love with motorcycles. And it’s not like some long-lost memory: That XS650 lives in my garage right now; I just rode it the other day. My dad finally gave it to me—after years of begging—in 2006. I drove from Birmingham, Alabama, back home to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to pick it up, and I think it was more emotional than either of us expected. He handed me the keys still on the original yellow keychain from the dealership in Harrisburg. I can remember going to the dealership with him on that day in 1981 when he bought it. I know it’s not the greatest bike in the world—I mean, it tops out at what, 85 mph?—but it’s so satisfying to ride. It’s basically riding a memory.