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1977 Yamaha RD400 by Rusty Bolt Garage

Posted on September 17, 2014 by Scott in Café Racer. 16 comments


Written by Ian Lee.

Sometimes a bike appears in our inbox that is hard to write a post on. It’s not so much the bike is built in bad taste, or lacks description from the builder, it’s because the damn thing has so many features it can be hard to know where to start. Today’s bike falls into this category, it is a cacophony of build aspects, all vying for attention at the same time. Coming out of the Rusty Bolt Garage in Santa Fe, this Yamaha RD400 has been built with everything “either upgraded, replaced, or repaired on this baby.” And what a beautiful baby it is.


Starting at the heart of the bike, the engine has been fully rebuilt to almost original specifications, with a 66mm rebore increasing the cc’s to 425. While the engine was stripped down, the cylinder heads, cylinders and stock Mikuni carbs were sent to Vapor Blast Solutions to be “treated to a nice polish.” On reassembly, the engine cases and cylinders were treated to a fresh coat of black, with the fins sanded back to match the aesthetics of the rims.


Once the carbs came back from being blasted, they were rebuilt using new components where ever required. The Mikunis paired up with Pod filters. The Yamaha ‘Autolube’ system was kept on the bike, given a full rebuild and all oil lines replaced. The exhaust duties are taken care of by a custom setup, running DG expansion chambers, with one pipe per cylinder.

While the engine was out, the frame was detabbed and powdercoated in satin black. A new electronics tray was mounted, to suit the reworked wiring harness. To suit the clean ‘lightweight’ look the build was going for, the oil tank was relocated inside the seat. A new rear hoop was manufactured, angled upwards towards the rear to accommodate the rear tire and rearward lighting setup. The swing arm was also given the satin powdercoat treatment, after being mounted up with new bronze bushing.


It was decided to keep the original RD tank for the build, albeit with custom knee pads and decal set. A fibreglass seatpan was fashioned up to match the lines of the tank and the new headlight, and an Ultragel pad cut to size at B & M Upholstery. The choice of the Ultragel is primarily for rider comfort, with the pad able to absorb the vibrations of the two stroke engine cycle. The front fender has been cut down to the minimum size that still supports the front forks, the rear stock fender has been replaced with one that matches the front fender, and both were powdercoated in satin black to match the frame. Finally the tank, seat and headlight cover were given a coat of the Ford colour ‘Toreador Red’, to offset the dark colouring of the lower part of the machine.


The controls and electrics have had a good work over as well. The factory headlight has been ditched, in it’s place is an LED unit, cased in a housing which complements the lines of the tank and custom seat pan. Another addition is a set of low rise handlebars, fitted up with new grips and switchgear, and the aluminium levers anodised in black. To give a more sporting riding position, a pair of KamiKaze Moto rearsets are mounted where the passengers foot pegs were located, with the kickstart lever modified to suit.


For an improved ride, the front end has been rebuilt with Racetech springs, and fork caps with preload adjusters to allow for fine tuning the rebound. The back end is mounted up with Assault brand shocks that are half an inch longer than standard. This, matched with the front forks being dropped 0.75 of an inch, puts a lot more weight on the front wheel, helping with cornering and turning capabilities. The front and rear brake cylinders have been replaced, pumping the stop stop juice through stainless lines to new repro brake calipers. Finally, the rotors were cross drilled and countersunk to allow for better heat dissipation under harder riding conditions.


With so much touched up, but still keeping that ‘true RD spirit’, Rusty Bolt Garage have produced a bike which really stands put. A multitude of modifications have created a bike which looks good and goes hard, with a lot of work carried out inhouse allowing the build brief to be followed as closely as possible. Helped along by the fact the RD is an awesome platform for a custom, it has culminated in a build to be proud of.

  • AG

    Amazing detail work – on a bike that is hard to get by nowadays – congrats to the builder – by the way at my 5 years in the U.S. I lived 7 month an Albuquerque making many friends in the area – If I ever visit them again – I will hop in, cause I love to photograph bike workshops – if that’s fine with Rusty Bolt Garage.
    Some of my most sold pictures are made in NM

    • RustyBoltGarage

      Glad you like it! Come on by whenever you are in town, we’d love to have you.

  • Thomas William Pierce

    I have to have this.

  • mugello

    disgusting front mask! a rectangular or round light would be more harmonic.

  • foiled again

    Seeing more folks using Shinko 712s. Just mounted a set on my Guzzi. Good tahr for the money.

  • That is one beautiful RD! RD tanks are are the best designed stock tanks that still look cool today. This bike checks all the boxes and is one of the most sanitary Yamahas I’ve seen in a long time. Great color scheme, the motor and exhaust look all business and the seat/tail combo fit the overall design perfectly.

  • Kudos for a brilliant build! Loving everything – especially the fact that the original forks and brakes were kept as the bike looks balanced and keeps the RD DNA. Absolutely killer seat, and paint job.

  • al gonz

    Agree with mugello, front mask is not making a gorgeous build any justice! I love the touch of the knee pads, so very well integrated with the white decals!!!

  • Zoltán Kolozs

    Nice WORK!

  • Jape Sinisalo

    I think they put that mask on just to mock people, when they get done with showing it around, they will mount a more traditional one.

    I´m definetly gonna copy the front fender cut on my own r5, looks real balanced.
    The kneepads are also one for the ideabank.

  • looks great but maybe the front light comes from the wrong time capsule?

  • Pedro Cunha – Brasil

    coisa linda

  • Erik

    Everyone is harping on the front fascia, but I actually like it. IT sort of brings an older bike into the modern era, but still keeps the soul. Honestly, if Yamaha were to make a bike that looked like this now, I think it would easily sell.

  • sharon needles

    Rider position and suspension are very good, lighting is sad. Engine and tuning are obviously uninformed. The 70s brakes have 80s upgrades.
    I am sure it is fun to ride no matter what I say

  • jojojo

    Very cool build! I can live with the front mask. I just hate to see cheap chambers and knock off filters on such a nice build. I see you ditched the hard backed pod filters for a Yboot good call. All foam pods or Yboot or your going to have problems.

  • Terry R Smith

    I like bike . Know I love it. Yes there are some things I would do different but so would we all. If some of you shits can’t say something nice go bild your own and shut the FU up..Nice bild Tray