The RD400 motor had just received a fresh rebuild from the 2 stroke gurus at Cycle Metrics in Portland, OR with some mild porting for better airflow with the aftermarket expansion chambers. The frame had been already chopped once and a café cowl adorned the rear that followed the lines of the original tank. From afar the project looked like “a one night and done affair”. For just $2,500, the RD400 was loaded and moved to its new home to be wired, put back together, and finished with haste. “I remember thinking in my head – man I’m lucky to find such an easy score” Anthony shared. Little did he know the surprises that awaited him.
After talking about the bike with another 2 stoke friend, Lance Forney, ideas began to flow. Anthony readily admits that this was the beginning of the end of that lucky streak he had experience beforehand. Slowly, a full spec sheet was built upon “what would be nice” and “what definitely needed addressing”. The process started with the wheels. Don’t get us wrong, the Yamaha RD400 was way ahead of its time when it came to mag wheels, but even now almost 40 years later they don’t scream vintage. A plan had to be hatched to convert from mags to lace spoke wheels. Many would opt for the Yamaha RD350 front wheel swap. Instead, a full few weeks of online search provided the rare but highly sought after XT750 front end and dual disc brake set up. Unfortunately for the rear, the European RD400 rear disc could not be located or purchased, so an RD350 rear hub was procured. Off to powerdcoating, done by Nick, the hubs were laced to some shiny new and widened Excel rims and Buchannan spokes.
With the new wheels in place the tear down of the front end began, until they slowly realized the fork tubes were bent and rather than a TX750 hub, Anthony actually had a Yamaha XS650 hub, which was way too wide to fit the dual disc brakes. Luckily, the seller was unaware and partially refunded the mistake. A new XT750 hub was found just in time, as it was the only one available on Ebay. “Slowly after this a weird idea kept emerging in my head about doing a mono shock. I had no experience in that area so I went to go see my friends at Little Horse Cycles again” says Anthony. Little Horse Cycles really hooked it up. They utilized a FZR600 spring and a gas canister, and before they knew it, goodbye dual shocks, and hello sexy. The only problem now consisted of way too much free space on the rear sub-frame. A clever idea was hatched to create an entirely new rear sub-frame that defintently puts the RD400 into a whole different ball park. The new lines accentuate the curves of the design and give the once slender frame a racier look. After some research, Anthony soon realized this was a common alteration back in the 2 stroke race club days.
Additional details needed for the build began to pile on quickly. The machined triple tree cleaned up the gauge area nicely. A steering damper was added for firm but precise handling, coupled with a machined fork brace with brackets made for a front fender in case the bike participated in rainy track days. Slowly, a fairing was mentioned and the wheels began to turn even more. Anthony reached out to Walt at Airtech Engineering and purchased the slimmed down version of the Ducati 900ss half fairing. After giving it much thought, he wanted the RD400 to be track ready with the smallest amount of work, so he reached out to his friend Brett at Glass From the Past to make a custom number plate that would cover up the headlight bucket, along with a fiberglass seat pan. With no turn signals, this could be a club racer by just pulling off one or two things. A bike you could ride to the track, on the track, and home. For the braking power, aftermarket controls were added with braided brake lines and a set of new reproduction Yamaha XS650 brake calipers were purchased new from Mike XS for the front end. The DG chambers weren’t going to make the cut on this build, so Anthony contacted HVCcycles and got a set of their Moto GP styled race chambers and stingers coupled with stainless mufflers to really give the RD400 a punch when you reach the powerband. Unlike the previous vintage racer #27, Anthony decided to go with Avon Roadmasters for #26. Not being able to get the upholstery down to a friend in time, and having already failed to do it properly himself, Anthony reached out to Arthur’s Automotive & Upholstery to get the seat pan upholstered in classic and simple black leather.
“It slowly seemed like things were coming together at that point. Parts were coming in, and Andrew had finished his piece on welding”. Then, bad luck struck again. The original paint scheme was done incorrectly, and set them back a few weeks. “Up until this point, I really wanted to get the bike down to the Deus Ex Machina Bike Build Off in LA which was a 15hr drive from Portland. I only had two weeks left before the show started” says Anthony. With the bike barely assembled, and tons of things needing accomplished, all hope seemed lost. Bad luck was starting to put an end to #26 and time frames were shortened. Some local professionals in the Portland area banded together to help Anthony get the bike done. Anthony Mautemps of Bridge City Cycles sanded down all the body work and redid the design and paint job in a record amount of time (hyperlink Bridge city cycles café racer previously posted on Pipeburn). Joe Tessitore and Jeff Johnson of Second Gear worked with Anthony each evening finishing wiring and assembly of everything. Anthony slowly learned that nothing in custom bike building goes as planned. You have to always hope for the best, but plan for the worst. You may recognize a few of the names (hyperlink Joe Tessitore’s bike also known as Digital Directive, used to work at Lossa Engineering and Jeff is a metal fabricator that did all of Moto Corsa’s builds) Working up until the last day on September 23, 2016, after a quick tune up, the bike was loaded on the back of their pickup, and Enginethusiast hit the road. Slowly looking into the rear view mirror as the bike slowly dips from the suspension of the truck, all the while thinking back on the first time he had loaded the bike on the back of the truck. A lot had happened to that “lucky and easy build”. A lot of frustration and a lot of disappointments, but when it mattered most, friends banded together. In the end, Anthony would do it all over again, and he plans to! Upon arrival to LA and fashionably late to the Deus event running on no sleep, Anthony unloaded the bike to realize the ignition had been on the entire time. With no power or juice the bike wouldn’t start. It seemed that Bad Luck wasn’t done yet.