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Yamaha RD400 by Motohangar


Posted on June 16th, by Scott in Classic, Racer. 22 comments

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Written by Martin Hodgson.

As the 2-stroke era of road bikes began to come to an end as the 1970’s excess collided with the red tape of the 80’s, most manufacturers let the smoke filled air slowly disappear. Honda had long since had the CB range, the triples of Kawasaki and GT Suzuki’s it had been confirmed would be no more. But Yamaha wanted one final shot at refining its wild RD range and the 400 model would be the perfect salute to reed valve filled delirium. So when decades on, the owner of this ride saw what MotoHangar of Virginia had created with their “Best in Show” 2-stroke, The Honduki, he knew exactly where to turn.

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The RD400 falls under MotoHangar’s “Moto2” package of build and customisation and includes a full frame off restoration. Stripping the bike back to a bare frame allows a builder to ensure no stone is left unturned in the pursuit of Automotive Nirvana. With the frame bare it is shaved of everything it doesn’t need and readied to accept the new components. Despite its handling prowess the RD400 factory shocks are known to fade quickly so a set of NOS Assault rear shocks are fitted to keep the rear tire planted. Famed for its ability to take a corner in go kart like fashion the front suspension is lowered 1inch and adjusted to match the rear without upsetting the natural balance.

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The superb handling of the RD is only surpassed by the grin inducing thrust and scream of the 2-stroke twin. The now rebuilt, detailed and painted engine restores the look and performance of the engine to its tacho needle snapping best.  But while Yamaha had built a true 2 pot screamer they undid all their good work with a huge air box and sound sapping exhaust. MotoHangar took care of the problem fitting K&N air filters to the induction side and those stunning JL expansion chambers give the RD the bark to match its bite!

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No frame off resto project would be complete without taking care of the way the bike looks and the MotoHangar crew set off the racer look perfectly. The body work meets the customer’s criteria of Le Mans style vintage racer, with the coloured race stipes and classic race number. While the custom flush mounted LED tail light, LED lights mounted in triple trees and fog light style H4 powered headlight giving a one off look. Showing the level of forward planning in the build is the cleverly relocated oil filler now taking pride of place atop the tail section and the hidden ignition switch.

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With the RD cannoning out of the corners in a frenzy of RPMs the only thing taming the beast is the crossed drilled brake rotors and new Dunlop rubber. Which is exactly the way the best 2-strokes are built, everything happens in an instant; they look, sound and smell incredible as they flash by but the edge between childlike delight and disaster is a second by second proposition totally controlled by the right hand of the pilot.

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  • William_Gibson

    OK this thing came from the factory with a large steel front mudguard which also had a steel connector which bolted with four bolts (two a side) to each fork lower. All blather aside this thing would be a death trap in a fast corner without it. At the very least it needs a fork brace! Apart from that, it is the perfect RD. Those chambers might mean the power is rather aggressive.

    • Theodore P Smart

      Indeed. The front fender bracket was also a rather ridgid fork brace.

    • Spyker May

      “STREAK”, the RD350 by BREW BIKES, should be the blueprint for any project of this nature.

      Concur – the front-end featured here is a ‘one-way ticket to a coffin’. As such, given the opportunity, I would follow the said blueprint, but will make an effort to fit a modern front-end – perhaps from a recent model 250 – 350cc scrambler (the spring etc trimmed down to the desirable ride-height naturally) or similar rigid light front-end.

      The “PERFECT RD” – IMHO,

      I would take the RD350 over the more mundane RD400 (in the perfect ‘imaginary’ world)); in the right hands the RD350 motor can do a true 45kW (60hp) at the rear wheel (and remain sensibly reliable); there are true professionals out there that will build a rigid frame and fitted with an apt modern front-end, etc, it is possible to have a dry weight for the entire bike of ~ 120kg (265lb) = 0.38kW/kg – that is almost 80% of the top-of-range 2014 Ducati Hypermotard. With ONE key difference though,

      A 4-stroke motor has so much more internal mass to accelerate, it just cannot reach its peak, with the same vigour as a 2-stroke. The reward of piloting a high-power 2-stroke cannot be translated into script, pictures and paint-schemes (not taking away anything from the livery here – it is gorgeous).

      Hence the reason, every dyed-in-the-wool petrolhead, must have a lightweight oil-burner in his/her cave…

      • http://www.mulemotorcycles.net/ Mule

        Spike, the stock front end without a fender is a one-way ticket to a coffin? Really? If you do a little research, you’ll find the same front end was on the TZ’s of the period except with aluminum lower clamp. Never heard the “coffin” comment related to RD’s or the similar TD/TZ’s. Having roadraced RD’s of 350cc and 400cc base bikes, no, the 350 is not better. The RD Daytona in fact had the best cylinders and power potential of them all.

        • Spyker May

          Master Mule – may I approach in peace..?

          I do not doubt your expertise and experience for a second; most of it gained before my father even reached puberty.

          I do not doubt for a moment that the RD400 (in one of its derivatives) could ultimately trump the RD350 in the absolute power stakes and perhaps even on the track. Commonsense will confirm this even before you have to prove it to anybody.

          I would not use my dream RD350 for either – I would use it for personal gratification and ultimately for the legend that the RD350 stands for.

          If I want to build a demonic racing two-stroke, I will put a Rotex snow-mobile machine in a Moto-2 frame, or something insane alike.

          Ultimately, I am of the humble opinion, one of life’s finest experiences would be to wedge the RD350 motor in a frame, with the appropriate suspension (both ends) that would comfortably cope with the motor’s full power range (and more), while still being feather-weight.

          The 70′s (and 80′s in part) demanded a special brand of bravery. Well, if you managed to survive, as a toddler, your cot coated in lead-filled paint, smoking in public, sitting on the front seat without any safety-belt-device of any sort, I am sure a wobbly front-ended Yamaha RD was hardly a life-threatening endeavour. I was cut from a much less hardy cloth and I would not dare a < 270lb RD350 with a floppy front-end, I don't care what you say, sir…

          I suspect the two-stoke gods will salute this accolade to what was likely their most incongruous child.

          • http://www.mulemotorcycles.net/ Mule

            We all have our opinions. Wobbly RD350′s? That’s not a fact or wasn’t in the first 15-20 they were on the road. There were many upgrades that could be done back in the day, primarily wider aluminum rims, way better tires, shocks and bronze swingarm bushing. Fork springs and heavier oil were also popular, but front end swaps back in the day were unheard of. Mainly because it wasn’t necessary. That said, I’m building an RD400 for a friend and we swapped the front end. Not because we had to, but because we can and friend wanted a fat front wheel. And yes, the Brew Bike is awesome!!

          • Clint Graviet

            As the owner of this bike (and three other RD”s) I don’t notice any difference in the stability of the front end from my stock bikes. I am not a racer so I am not riding it aggressively, but I think that the lowering of the front end and addition of clip ons (with the lower riding position) have mitigated any potential extra flex that might occur with the removal of the front fender. It rides really nice and has a sweet power band! A special thanks to Pat at Motohangar for the super job on it!

          • Spyker May

            Master Mule: I would really like to meet you one day Mr Pollock.

            First though, I want to make sure I have enough cash on me, to put down for you to build me one of your machines.

            In part, because I think your British Racing Green ‘MLAV’ Street Tracker (XS650 muscled up to 750cc) is the best of its kind around (I want one – in white and red), but more so because you will have to be nice to me; and that will be worth EVERY PENNY..!

          • arnold

            I have my doubts that you were ever that young, Mr Mule.

          • http://www.mulemotorcycles.net/ Mule

            I still am young! Except with 40 years experience.

  • http://www.mulemotorcycles.net/ Mule

    Very, very nice. It needs a tach though. One of the few bikes that actually does and the paint and color combo is tops. The “MH” on the head looks goofy though (would look a million times better on the tank). Cool bike!

  • http://setthemfree.tumblr.com/ Sasha

    Beautiful! One of the finest RD examples I’ve seen! Love the lettering on the heads, nice original touch.

  • Cliff Overton

    Assisting with the restoration of an RD400 at the moment – what is that amazing side cover paint colour and where do I get it?

  • revdub

    Very nice. I’d like to do something similar with my RD250. Maybe a little dirtier though. I’d be afraid of scratching that beautiful paint. I’d like to see the other side of this bike too.

  • http://ridedualsport.com/ Manxman

    Beautiful execution And outstanding design. The best RD I’ve seen in a long time.

  • http://www.pipeburn.com Andrew@Pipeburn

    Sublime.

  • milk it

    I love it. Wonder what the left side looks like. I’m trying to mount rear sets on my new DS 400.

    • http://www.mulemotorcycles.net/ Mule

      Put wire wheels with aluminum rims on that RD and you’ll probably knock of a quick 25 lbs!

      • http://www.mulemotorcycles.net/ Mule

        Or Morris magnesium wheels!

  • http://www.VintageSmoke.com Vintage Smoke

    Looks awesome!!!!

  • http://23moto.com/ Ofeargall

    Beautiful and combustion on every stroke, what’s not awesome about that?

  • Johnny Panda

    This bike looks like it needs to take a trip to Willow Springs International with me…..