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‘76 Yamaha RD400 – Ellaspede

Posted on July 29, 2015 by Andrew in Café Racer. 15 comments


Written by Marlon Slack.

Motorcyclists have a place in their heart forever enamoured with the first bike they loved. It could be an oily Chinese pit bike, a reliable Japanese commuter or a ratty chook* chaser used for chores around a back paddock. But that first bike, no matter how unreliable, common or dangerous, that bike stays with you. For Sheldon, it was the gloriously volatile RD400. Riding around on the back of his fathers’ RD in the late 70’s gave him an itch that could only be scratched years later with a little help from Brisbane-based workshop Ellaspede.


Sheldon had fond memories of the RD400, having spent a good part of his childhood clinging on to one for dear life. Being ferried to Boy Scout meetings each week on the back of the peaky RD often left him white-knuckled “My dad thought doing wheelies at every opportunity was the thing to do” he remembers. And not much coaxing was required to point the front wheel skyward. “No effort was required with these little crackers – and helped, of course, with the well-positioned child ballast. Thanks Dad.”


Some thirty years later Sheldon found himself living the dream, working in a motorcycle shop during the week and spending weekends blasting around a racetrack. Even with the pick of the latest and greatest off the showroom floor he wanted something a little different, and a trip to a wrecker in Wooloongabba revealed a RD400 that reminded him of his childhood. It was in poor condition, but with a price tag of only $250 the decision to buy was easy. “That old pile of rust just had to be mine”.


That was ten years ago. The bike was bought and put aside, but after ploughing through some twenty-odd projects Sheldon had started to pay more attention to the RD400. He’d been slowly putting together a mean little café racer, fitting a new exhaust, 17” motard wheels, Brembo brakes and braced TT500 swingarm. The rest of the bike was a mongrel too, with forks and triple clamps taken from a Suzuki GS400 Bandit and rear shocks from a Kawasaki ZR550. And while the work done was admirable, the crucial, final touches were left to Ellaspede who relished the chance to get their hands dirty and get the Yamaha howling again.


Sheldon had already begun work on the frame, but Ellaspede finished it off with a healthy run of de-tabbing and some fabrication of a new frame brace to suit an aftermarket seat. A box was fitted to house a smaller battery, while the harness was tidied, trimmed and run short under the tank, with only the necessary wires extending forward to the rebuilt switch gear, new 5 ¾” headlight and Acewell 2853 gauge.


While Ellaspede mounted their own licence plate holder and indicator brackets they also continued the mongrel theme, with aftermarket R1 rear sets modified to fit and a VFR750 mudguard slotting over the front wheel. To bring the whole bike together, strategic parts like the clamps and rear shocks were removed and painted in a subtle bronze before being re-mounted. New paint was also laid on the side covers, swing arm and hugger guard, with a healthy amount of powder coating completed to refresh the rest of the bike.



Ellaspede and Sheldon have worked together to make a bike that defies the mantra ‘old bikes are better remembered than relived’. This RD400 is sleek, beautiful and much more ready for its manic power band than it was years ago. And, undoubtedly, so is Sheldon.


*Chook. An Aussie slang word for ‘chicken’.

[Photos by AJ Moller]

  • John Wanninger

    So much yes. Refreshing after yesterday’s bike. Who doesn’t love a pretty RD?

    My dad also had an RD400 back in ’78. I was 6 years old when he scared the living crap out of me for the first time. I couldn’t breathe… I remember the speedo going 50,60,70 80,90… I was hooked for life.

  • John Wanninger

    This bike has had me thinking deeply this morning. I lost my dad on June 4th … I miss him terribly. His RD was nowhere near as cool as this one, but it was also red.

    He was one of my best friends, and it is because of him that I am hopelessly addicted to motorcycles. He put wheels under me at a very early age. I was 5 years old when he brought home a Gemini SST-50 in the trunk of his 1971 Cadillac Coup DeVille. Eyes wide as saucers.. Kind of scared- My older brother said- “watch this” and took off on it… My turn! my turn!!…

    Sorry to bore, but this bike got me right in the feeling hole this morning…

    • revdub

      Sorry to hear of your loss, John. It sounds like your dad pointed you in the right direction. Keep on riding in that direction in his honor.

    • guvnor67

      Not boring John, always good to here a moving story involved with the love and addiction of motorcycles!!! For me it was a neighbour with a Honda CB750, and he gave me an old open-face lid, white with a blue stripe, lined with leather, and I’d wear it round the house or on my chopper push bike makin brum-brum noises. And 1st bike? RD250 LC … . !!! Great to see another hooligan machine @ Pipeburn!!!

  • revdub

    Clean, mean, and tastefully done, which is what we have come to expect from Ellaspede. The RD400 is, and from what I hear from those old enough to remember, has always been the “cool kids” bike. And, I mean that in the best possible way. Great build.

  • whytaylorwhy

    Just a gorgeous bike from top to bottom.

  • BabyPunch

    I really like two-strokes, though I’m not really sold on the seat. I would’ve preferred a seat like the Guzzi V50 that Revival Cycles made.

    • yamahappy

      I agree, it would be nice to see that great red behind the seat too.

  • rubberburner

    very clean build..hate the seat. looks awkward and not steamlined with the tank. sleeker without the ugly sidecovers. the tank is awesomeeee!

  • TruthBringer

    Perfect spine line and great symmetry from behind. Love it.

  • I love this RD. It bring back memories but I like the freshened up look that is typical of Ellaspede.

  • roscoe

    Wow, cool as hell-a builder more concerned about making a stock bike better, without worrying about ‘stance’. I’m guessing those spoked wheels are a lot lighter than the stock cast, great choice on the forks, really clean everywhere. Even has front and rear fenders. Only a real bike guy would appreciate the changes he’s made, which I’m sure is just how he wants it. Would love to see more of these over the dropped, wrapped, and knobblied hipster machines that make a bike worse where it counts-riding the damn thing. Hope that doesn’t sound too condescending, I like just looking at a stationary bike too. But I like riding them more.

  • Bultaco Metralla

    Ah! a two stroke, but not just any two stroke but the last of the Yamaha air cooled twins that dominated Australian roads from ’65. A wonderful restoration.

  • I started riding in 1980, and to me the bikes of the ’70s define what motorcycle should look like.

  • very nice, not sure if you really need the piggybacks and the wavy front disc, kind of ruins the classic styling