If the Yamaha SR400 is the easy-going, easily swayed favorite of café racer builders, the two-stroke Yamaha RD400 is its delinquent half-brother. It was launched in 1976 as a slightly more refined version of the RD350 firecracker, but was still a quick, nervous bike to ride. (As the Used Motorcycle Guide said, “If it doesn’t wheelie in second then the engine is worn out!”) The RD400 was sold largely on price, being cheaper than contemporaries from Honda and Kawasaki, but this newly restored model looks like a million dollars. And it hasn’t just been lifted out of a crate, or rolled out of the workshop of a high-end Japanese resto-mod specialist. It was built by a member of the 2StrokeWorld forum called Dennis, and it’s just won the forum Bike of The Month award.
Dennis lives in Northern California and he’s got an interesting story. Sitting in a bar in Berkeley, he was talking about how he regretted selling his first Yamaha RD400 in 1983, when the guy sitting next to him asked, “Are you interested in an RD? It’s free, you just have to get it out of my mom’s garage.” The bike turned out to have aftermarket high-compression DG heads, with a distinctive radial fin design and gold anodized finish. Dennis also found Mulholland shocks, two spare tanks and side covers, and the original factory exhaust pipes. After a painstaking strip-down, restoration and rebuild—with a slight café racer touch—he finished the RD400 in a lovely ‘Geneva Green’, an original Yamaha shade. Pure class. [For more details, head over to this 2StrokeWorld thread.]