The XS 400 often lurks in the shadows of its more popular RD 400 brother, but it’s a good candidate for a compact custom build. Although it makes less power than the two-stroke RD, the engine is far more useable for a bike around town.
It’s also cheaper than the bigger XS 650, but has similar aftermarket support. All you need to do is find an XS 400 in reasonable starting condition—which should cost less than $2,000 in the States.
This elegant, beautifully finished machine comes from the Australian workshop Ellaspede. Their customer Dan had always loved the XS 400—mostly for its nimble size and 1970s vibe. Then a search turned up a 1977-spec bike hiding in a barn in northern Queensland.
Style-wise, Dan’s a fan of the bobber scene, and wanted to blend that look with a little cafe flavor. So he contacted Brisbane’s most famous workshop and sent through a collection of images for inspiration.
Ellaspede came up with a concept that mixed classic Yamaha style with a Japanese bobber influence. Then the bike arrived from the top of the sunshine state, and it was time to tear it down.
After trial fitting several other vintage tanks—including coming very close to using an RD 400 tank—Ellaspede decided to stick with the stock XS 400.
The frame was detabbed and the rear section modified: not just a standard loop, but with angles that mirror the rear profile of the angular XS 400 tank. The bar at the very back of the frame now has a recess for a frenched-in taillight.
The 392 cc parallel twin got a full makeover before finding its way back into the frame. It’s had a complete top- and bottom-end rebuild with genuine Yamaha parts—including oversize pistons, and new rods, valves and bearings.
Ellaspede also got the crank crack-tested and balanced, and they’ve ported and polished the head before shaving it slightly to bump up compression. Flatslide performance carbs now breathe through oval pod filters.
Exhaust gases exit via a custom 2-into-2 stainless system that matches the angles of the frame, and is bolted to the head via laser-cut header pipe flanges.
To produce a healthy mix of noise and backpressure, bolt-in pipe baffles are slotted into the straight-through rear section.
This XS 400 has been lowered, so Ellaspede have made a new battery box, seat pan and rear fender with maximum rear wheel travel in mind.
The battery box was folded up out of sheet steel—it sits as shallow in the frame as possible while still accommodating the electrical components. The back of the box was then shaped to help tire clearance.