Readers' Rides: Ric McKinsey's 1981 Yamaha XS Eleven Venturer

Readers' Rides
by Readers' Rides
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1981 was just slightly before my time, when I was still in the “lusting in my heart” but “unable to obtain” stage of motorcycling. I do remember the XS Eleven being the fastest thing at the dragstrip there for a while, in spite of its shaft drive, but I don’t know if I ever knew of the Venturer version of the bike, lovingly semi-restored by Ric McKinsey, of Crescent City, California. The saddlebags are genius. Take it away, Ric.

readers rides ric mckinsey s 1981 yamaha xs eleven venturer, This is what the original Venturer looked like
This is what the original Venturer looked like.

In 1981 Yamaha had nothing to compete with the Honda GoldWing. Their V-four touring bike (the Venture) was still two years away, so as a stopgap they took their biggest bike, the XS Eleven, and tricked it out for touring. It was called the Venturer. It came with a special version of the famous Windjammer fairing (by Vetter), a braced frame, oil cooler, 6.3 gallon tank, rear rack and hard saddlebags.

readers rides ric mckinsey s 1981 yamaha xs eleven venturer

When I found mine in 2015 it didn’t look like this one, but with a lot of work on my part I got it to where it is today. This bike might be 40 years old, but for a lot less than anything new I was able to paint it, replace the windshield, rebuild the forks with Progressive springs, rebuild the brakes front and rear, put on a fork brace, and Progressive shocks, LED lights all around with driving lights, new master cylinder, new handlebars, old-school fork boots and knee pads and on and on… It was great fun to do and I never see anyone on any thing like it these days.

readers rides ric mckinsey s 1981 yamaha xs eleven venturer

The bike is fast, very smooth, and very comfortable – and having taken it on quite a few trips now, I’ve got to say I’m really happy with it.

readers rides ric mckinsey s 1981 yamaha xs eleven venturer

The original saddlebags were missing from my bike, so in looking for a solution I came up with what I call my Adventure luggage. I modified tool boxes from Home Depot (Husky brand). The two saddlebags and top box cost $65 originally. I used the original yamaha bag mounts and added LED lights to the rear. This turns out to be the easiest-to-use bag set I have ever had.

readers rides ric mckinsey s 1981 yamaha xs eleven venturer

Very nice. Thanks for sharing, Ric.

We’re suckers for nice photos and descriptive words and reasonably decent pics of your favorite motorcycle, or maybe just your most memorable one for all the wrong reasons? Send yours to contact@motorcycle.com, title it “Readers’ Rides,” and see yourself in this spot one of these weeks.

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  • Mad4TheCrest Mad4TheCrest on Apr 26, 2020

    The XS11, I recall, was the first production bike since the Kawasaki Mach III (or maybe the H2) to be labeled a 'widowmaker'. I certainly recall seeing my fair share of them returning crumpled on flatbeds. Still wanted one, but settled for a CB750 as I couldn't quite reach to XS11 pricing. Anyhoo, it was a beautiful aspirational bike then and it holds up well. Congratulations on keeping it in great shape.

  • Old MOron Old MOron on May 01, 2020

    In case any SoCal MOrons think they want to emulate Ric's genius:
    https://images.craigslist.org/00N0N_kEXYQtNBLH6_1200x900.jpg

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