Montgomery Distillery’s Salt Flats XS650

Montgomery Distillery 1980 XS650G Salt Flats Build


Back in January 2018, we were approached by a small craft distillery in Western Montana about sponsoring their new project. But, this was not your run of the mill restoration. The guys at Montgomery Distillery had big plans. While wrenching on vintage bikes and distilling, the crew came up with the idea of building a motorcycle that ran on methanol that they distilled themselves. “While we’re at it, we thought we’d go ahead and run the bike at Bonneville and try to set a record” said general manager Ryan Montgomery in his introductory e-mail.

This ambitious endeavor was born when head distiller, Chad Larrabee, found an abandoned 1980 Yamaha XS650G in a nearby field in unknown , but running condition. Literally, off the beaten path. He purchased it from a farmer who owned the land it lived on for $100.

“Since we’re big fans of Mike’s XS (and will probably source quite a few parts from you guys anyway), we thought it’d be worth reaching out to see if you guys might be interested in sponsoring our project.” After a few exchanges between Ryan and our GM, an agreement was reached.

And so it began…the Salt Flats 650 build was officially underway, right in the very place the idea was conceived.


The distillery has an unused space in the rear of the building that, like any unused space, started accumulating junk after a few months.  Being riders themselves but not yet pro wrenchers, Chad, Ryan, and the bar manager purchased some Honda CB350’s and decided to rebuild them together to learn the ropes, share parts, and generally have a valid excuse to drink beer together. Over time, this “unused space” morphed into a shop and, during their downtime, the crew would sneak up and wrench. After a few years of working on these vintage bikes together, the obvious experiment came to them to build a motorcycle that ran on fuel they distilled in-house.

1980 Yamaha XS650G Montgomery Distillery Salt Flats 650

1980 Yamaha XS650G Montgomery Distillery Salt Flats 650

Not long after that, the orders started rolling in and the rebuild was in action. This was the crew’s first full engine overhaul that they did themselves, with some tuning and testing expertise from Colin Cornberg at Number 8 Wire Motorcycles in Philipsburg, Montana.

The work was evident in the number of invoices that we’re accumulating. Engine overhaul, chain and sprockets, the exclusive XS Charge PMA and Ignition Kit, suspension and brakes, etc. (parts list below). The real magic, though, was all in the carburetion.

It started with Mikuni VM34’s, a benchful of jets, and a patient mindset.

“The alcohol used was the portion that’s normally discarded in the distilling process called the ‘heads’ “, says Ryan. “This portion comes off the still first and contains the more volatile alcohols: things like methanol and ethyl acetate, but it’s still mostly ethanol. There was some good literature on the internet for running on ethanol and methanol, but nothing on the strange brew we concocted. Therefore, it was a fun process of trial and error.”

“We strapped on bigger carbs with jets about 2.2 times larger than stock, and we advanced the timing quite a bit. Ideally, we would have upped the compression, but we were already near the limits of our skills so we decided to forego that.”

After talking with some local salt racers who have experience running on ethanol, they quickly convinced the Montgomery team to put it to the real test: the glorious salt flats of Bonneville. After hours and hours and hours of hard work, it was time to put rubber to road. They ended up breaking the land speed record in their class! The record was broken again later that week in the summer, but, as Ryan puts it, “we were champions for the 3 whole days”.

1980 Yamaha XS650 Montogomery Distillery Salt Flats 650

Salute to Ryan and his faithful crew on such an incredible build and feat! It is an honor being associated with a project like this from the talented team at Montgomery Distillery. Thank you for choosing Mikes XS!

[The distillery holds an annual event called “Spirits & Spokes” so if you’re in the Montana area, for check it and give the guys a pat on the back for us!]





1980 YAMAHA XS650G



1980 Yamaha XS650G Montgomery Distillery salt Flats 650




0.25mm Pistons and Rings 

Premium Full Engine Gasket Set 

Starter Block-Off Kit

Oil Seal Kit

Cam Chain

Cam Chain Tensioner

Cam Chain Guide Stopper

Top End Fastener Kit




35mm Black Clip-on Handlebars

Oval Pattern Sport Gel Grips

Steering Stem Bearing Kit




Mikuni VM34 Carb (Left)

Mikuni VM34 Carb (Right)

Mikuni VM34 Needle Jets

Mikuni VM34 Main Jets

Mikuni VM34 Jet Needles

Billet Intake Manifolds


Chain and Sprockets


520 Type / 17 Tooth Front Sprocket

530 / 31 Tooth Rear Sprocket

530 Type / 104 Link Heavy Duty Chain

Front Sprocket Lock Tab

Rear Sprocket Lock Tabs


Electrical / Ignition


XS Charge PMA and Standard Ignition Kit

High Performance AGM Battery


Suspension / Brakes


12.75″ Black Body / Chrome Spring Shock Absorbers

Stainless Steel Disc Brake Rotors

Brake Shoe Set

Swingarm Grease Seal Set


Clutch / Cables


Clutch Repair Kit 

Clutch Cable

Throttle Cable

Speedometer Cable


Maintenance / Tools


Sump Filter

Oil Filter Screen

K&N Air Filters

Auxiliary Gas Tank

Cam Chain Breaker Kit

Alternator Rotor Puller

World’s Best Oil Funnel

Seal Puller