Spirit's xs400 Understated Cool
By Anthony van Someren - 09 Dec 13
The xs400 is an often overlooked machine, but like it's cousin, the SR, it's a great basic platform for a practical custom that can be ridden every day. It's also not the kind of bike that needs to be dripping with expensive Ohlins or Brembos, or have new wheels made up with extra-wide rims. Builds like these are all about simple good taste - and what makes them special is the detail. This bike, from Bike Shed Co-Founders Spirit of the Seventies, belongs to Charlie, who seems to be a very happy customer. "I guess for me more than anything it is the sheer art, design, craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into creating bikes like the ones coming out of Spirit's garage that got me into this scene. Just to have that one-off bike that's tailored to your own style is just an incredible feeling." "Also, it sets you out of the crowd of homogenous people that choose the same things and have no flair or excitement about them and just go through the motions. I wanted a bike that had style and character and that had its own soul, and not one of the new crappy plastic machines out there at the moment." "I set myself on an old 1980's XS400 because I could see that once you stripped away the bulky seat and fenders, you would have a bike that would deliver bold lines but also could look clean and simple once it was stripped down. Once I had bought my XS400 and had it in my garage I found out that it had some pretty terrible carb problems, and I was told to cut my losses and get a new bike." "The only problem was that I had already found from my first day of owning it that I was completely and emotionally attached to this bike and could never part with it. I initially thought that I would customise the bike myself in my garage, but quickly found out I didn't have the time to do that and study at the same time." "Around the same time as this was going through my head our family suffered a bereavement, and it was out of this loss that came a substantial amount of money my way. Being the rational and logical 21 year old I immediately grabbed my copy of Iron and Air I had on my table at home and saw Spirit of the Seventies on the front cover and thought, man these guys are the shit! So I started to play with the idea that these guys might be able to help me out." "I fired off an email to Tim and within days I was down at their HQ talking bikes and going through my ideas I had for the bike. I have to say too that I was probably a difficult customer because I had given them sketches and pages of notes on what I wanted." Tim from Spirit pitches in here... "Charlie is not our typical customer, it's not everyday that a 20yr old walks in and talks about a build. Charlie was keen for us to crack on. His 21st Birthday was on the horizon and he really wanted the bike to be ready for it. However, the bike wasn't running correctly, despite paying a lot of money to an established bike shop to sort it out it was still running rough and it soon became evident that they had ripped him off..." "All of this took time and ate into Charlie's budget for the project. This meant that we couldn't strip the entire bike and powder coat the frame, clean the engine up etc. He had very firm ideas of what he wanted (see notes) and we had to try to work the now extremely tight budget as hard as we could to make his vision a reality. We used some parts that we had on the shelf such as the Renthal bars, leather grips and indicators." "The mudguards were cut down and shaped to fit, the original chain guard was drilled and powder coated, we also powder coated some of the engine covers. A simple end can, new chain and sprocket, fork lowers and wheels refurbished, headlamp bracket arms, top yoke and clock mount powder coated. Hagon shocks, Koso speedo, Glenn Moger made the seat including the base, D-Luck's painted the bodywork." ...and back to Charlie: "When I came to view it and take it home what they had delivered was above and beyond my sketches and truly left me speechless. Just to see the level of effort and detail that they had put into the bike, like the crafted metal plate surrounding the speedometer, to the brushed metal finish on the fenders. The paintwork and seat too are out of this world and the way the whole thing comes together is perfect." Charlie looks very pleased, and when you take a closer look at this modest-looking build you can see why. For understated cool, the devil is always in the detail. We hope to see Charlie & the bike at the next Bike Shed Event in 2014. Thanks for Sharing your story with us, fella. The bike looks mint. See more from Tim & Kev at Spirit of the Seventies on the Bike Shed, their Website & Facebook pages.