Yamaha 650 XS



Introduced in France in 1970, the 650 XS was first and foremost the first four-stroke machine manufactured by Yamaha and it was also its largest displacement at the time. Indeed, at the time when we began to talk about anti-pollution standards, especially in the American market which alone already represented the most important part of the world motorcycle cake, the leaders of the firm with three tuning forks then thought of expanding their range. Unlike the two other Japanese manufacturers Suzuki and Kawasaki, who first developed models up to 750 displacement before switching to the valves, Yamaha, whose highest cubic capacity did not exceed 350, made large displacement coexist with timing chain and smaller with light engine. At the time, it was the only mixed 2T / 4T road range from Japanese manufacturers ….

Stiff as justice, the pistons at attention ... The engine of the XS remains absolutely sublime!


The 650 XS has a rare elegance for a large displacement of the time. It evokes finesse, thanks to its narrow tank and rigor, due to the perfectly vertical engine. A superb piece. Its design undeniably borrows a lot from the "so British" elegance of the Triumph Bonneville, which it takes on again. It was designed with the Toyota design office, which will provide Yamaha with all its experience with four-stroke engines, and in particular that acquired during the development of the 6-cylinder Toyota GT2000..

Drum brake, steering, chromes galore ... How not to fall into pamoison in front of the first 650 XS ?.

Yamaha 650 XS H1 speedometer

Many modifications between the first dashboard of 1970 and that of the H1 installed six years later. Note that the steering brake has also disappeared

In the city

On the first versions (XS-1, XS-1B, XS-2 but also the first 447), the hoarse sound flowing from the two silencers (not that much by the way … but at the time, even the constabulary was a music lover), is a real treat and superbly accompanies vigorous thrusts or downshifts according to the convolutions. Enough to forget the very present vibrations. A 650 does not lack agility and faces the drudgery of traffic jams with a smile at the end of the cylinders.

On the road

With the sleek tank and the two side covers with their chrome embellishments covering the frame removed, we discover the Achilles’ heel of the beast. The one who, the first, fiddled with his big pilot fingers the intimacy of the beautiful, is called Percy Tait, champion / technician, to whom Yamaha entrusted the mission of returning to the dancer XS, a "road ballistics" and more trajectories. controlled in extreme conditions. It was done and well done. From the first 447 model, the 650 XS will no longer suffer from this somewhat “undulating” handling on bad surfaces. Once the frame is equipped with reinforcements and upper section elements, as well as a strut to stiffen the double cradle at the front of the engine, the handling of the Yamaha 650 will fall into the rank of "senior" !

As easy to swing as it is to raise, the XS 650 H1 is docile and neutral in its grip

On the highway

Once again, from the 447 model, the 650 shows a good rigor of behavior. Aside from the chirping in the fingers caused by the intense vibrations, the Yamaha swallows the asphalt running smoothly. Naturally, the lack of protection seriously affects the wearing of the head of the pilot, whose helmet is well tossed past 140 km / h. However, unless you have to, the motorway is not her favorite playground ….

The 447 has a well-deserved motto:

In duet

Surprise, whatever the vintage, a 650 XS overlaps with pleasure. The first models even had a support bar. In all cases, a wide and comfortable saddle ….

Reassured by the improvement of its road behavior, we can attack on a 447. And the XS asks for more!


We really enjoy the small winding roads and the entire secondary network with these bikes. What happiness between each turn. On the other hand, in this little game, the XS-2 will quickly hold its own against its two drum sisters in certain sequences requiring muscular and enduring braking. The record that equips it rather honorably, while the front drum of the XS-1 and XS-1B versions will be more…. “Smoking” in some extreme cases ….

The front disc of the 447 second version. Innovation: the caliper went behind the fork!


Whatever the vintage, a 650 XS consumes little. 7l / 100 by pulling on it like a goujat, less than six liters by piloting reasonably ….

The interview

If the bike has been 100% restored, no problem. The 650 XS is a reliable motorcycle, worthy of pampering like any old lady back in business after a facelift. She will appreciate being warmed up, not too heckled and bladder checked every 1000 kilometers.

Warning ! A beautiful XS can hide another just as pretty!


1970, model XS1. The favorite of collectors with its fork bellows and drum brake ….

Yamaha 650 XS 1970, model XS1. Collector

1971, XS1 B. Modified fork, disappearance of the bellows ….

Yamaha 650 XS1 B. 1971 Modified fork, disappearance of bellows

1972, XS2 (also known as Europa). New front disc brake, new shock absorbers ….

Yamaha 650 XS2 1972 (also known as Europa). New front disc brake, new shock absorbers

1975, 447. Rigid frame, double discs at the front, large exhaust mufflers (nowhere to be found!), H-profile aluminum rims ….

Yamaha 650 XS 1975, 447. Rigid frame, double discs at the front, large exhaust silencer (nowhere to be found!), H profile aluminum rims

1975, 447 modified. New exhaust mufflers, calipers placed behind the fork, itself retouched. Redesigned hunting ….

Yamaha 650 XS 1975, 447 modified. New exhaust mufflers, calipers placed behind the fork, itself retouched. Redesigned hunting

1976, model H1. New decoration, new dashboard ….

Yamaha 650 XS 1976, model H1. New decoration, new dashboard

1978, SE Special. Custom positioning.

Yamaha 650 XS 1978, SE Special. Custom positioning.

Coast side

Distrust, prices are rising at a galloping speed. The recent craze for the XS 650 is taking its ratings to new heights. An XS1, restored to 100% competition condition, can be negotiated around 8,000 euros. Count a thousand less for an XS1B. The remanufactured 447 sell for plus or minus 6,000. H1 models from 76 are approaching 4,500 euros. It is however possible to find an XS "in its own juice", from 2000 euros ….

In case of purchase

Appeared in 1970 and withdrawn from the market thirteen years later, finding a 650 XS is not very complicated. However, the first models XS1 and XS1B (1970-1971), remain the most sought after. Depending on the use you want to make of it (salon motorbike, motorbike for occasional use or motorbike to be used every day), it should be remembered that the versions prior to the 447 of 1975 vibrate a lot and have a rather poor road.

Timeless, as playful as it is elegant, the 650 XS remains an exceptional motorcycle.


Starting with the second version 447 model and subsequent versions, whose fuel tank has rounded off for greater range, the XS is a little more opulent, but none the less elegant. Its beauty is now considered "classic" compared to the competition which prepares the passage to the 80s, often abandoning chrome in favor of plastic. Regardless, the reputation of robustness and reliability of the 650 XS is well established and impervious to fashions, it will keep its loyal fans until the end of its career, even made up as a chopper (Special SE in 78 or 3L1 the next year). It will last in France until 1983. This abundance of production is reassuring. Finding an XS is easy and fun, it can pay off big !

Strong points

  • Sumptuous allure
  • Scent of history
  • Parts availability
  • Sacred music

Weak points

  • Fierce vibrations
  • Special handling (models before 75)
  • Soaring prices (first models)
  • Average braking


Pubs !
In 1977, Yamaha, proud of its valve line, featured its entire fleet on a full page of advertisements. Of course, the 650 XS presented as a flagship! (Photo A)
Sober ads for a motorcycle not being less…. The 650 XS is seduction in discretion…. (Photos B and G)

Finally an informative ad! The message shows that a 650 XS trip necessarily ends with a goatee game. (Photo F)


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2 thoughts on “Yamaha 650 XS

  1. Very nice test of a machine that I appreciate on a daily basis, on the other hand I am not a fan of the robotic box.

    Small comment without wanting to throw stone at the editor: what mistakes and convoluted sentences, it would in my opinion have to go through a "proofreading" step before publication.

    In any case thank you for the pleasure taken in this reading.

  2. superb test, I appreciate all the more my AS of 2009 …. it has all the qualities of a great versatile road

    unlike others, I have completely forgotten the foot control of the speed to use only the handlebars and I find that great, and from time to time I use it more than on my old 2002…

    a very big hat low to this test more than complete

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