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STROKE OF LUCK. Enginethusiast’s Trophy Winning Yamaha RD400 Racer

Posted on April 20, 2017 by Andrew in Classic, Racer. 21 comments

Written by Martin Hodgson.

We’ve all done it. Scrolling through eBay or the classifieds and coming across a bike that was a project, 98% complete. The price seems great and hey, how hard could it be to finish that last 2%? Well Anthony Scott, photographer extraordinaire and man behind Enginethusiast found out that the maths doesn’t always add up. At the time he’d never had a 2-stroke and was looking for a new build to take on. So when a Yamaha RD400 came up for sale that had been treated to the beginnings of an “extensive restoration” in his home city of Portland, Oregon he snapped it up. Turns out extensive has a different meaning to some people, but the end result is a trophy winning tarmac and track warrior that Anthony calls a “Stroke of Luck.”

The Yamaha RD400 motor had just undergone a rebuild by 2 stroke gurus ‘Cycle Metric’ in Portland, with some mild porting to suit aftermarket expansion chambers. The frame had been chopped and a café style cowl fitted to the rear that followed the lines of the original tank. From afar the RD looked like “a one night and done affair” but for a measly $2,500 it was loaded onto a truck and relocated to its new home. “I remember thinking, man I’m lucky to find such an easy score,” Anthony recalls. If only he knew then what lay in store.

Anthony got together with his good friend Lance Forney who knows his way around 2-strokes and together they devised a plan. The idea was to give the bike a vintage look so the RD’s mag wheels were ditched for spoked items. An XT750 front end was purchased to make the job easier and deliver the benefit of its twin disc brakes.

But once fitted up it was realised the forks were bent and the hub was wrong; the struggles had just begun. Eventually the right bits and pieces were found with new Excel rims laced with Buchanan spokes. With an RD350 hub out the back, the drilled front discs up front and all wrapped up in modern Avon rubber it’s the perfect mix of old and new.

With the front sorted Anthony’s mind kept returning to thoughts of a mono-shock rear end. “Little Horse Cycles really hooked me up. They utilised an FZR600 spring and before I knew it I was saying goodbye dual shocks, hello sexy!” He was in love. But the conversion left a huge amount of space where the twin shocks once had been along with their supporting structures.

So an entirely new subframe was built, and it’s a piece of art! Beautiful curves of tubular steel with trellis styled supports give the ultimate in chassis rigidity. After some research, Anthony later discovered this was actually a common conversion back in the two-stroke club racing days.

With the rear end sorted in that classic racing fashion, it occurred to Anthony that he could have a bike for the track and the road all in one. So he contacted Airtech Engineering and secured a slimmed down version of a Ducati 900ss half fairing. Then he had Brett at ‘Glass from the Past’ make a custom removable number plate to cover the headlight; pull the indicators off and the street bike becomes a track machine.

But track bikes need race winning power, so HVC Cycles put together a set of their Moto GP-style chambers and coupled them with stainless mufflers to give the Yammie RD some serious powerband punch. While slowing it all down, aftermarket controls were added with braided lines and a set of new reproduction XS650 calipers.

“It occurred to Anthony that he could have a bike for the track and the road all in one.”

“It seemed like things were slowly coming together at that point,” says Anthony. Then bad luck struck again. The painter did everything wrong, deviating from the agreed plan and still demanding payment. After being given no other choice, he paid the painter and began searching for another. “Up until this point, I really wanted to get the bike down to the Deus Ex Machina Bike Build Off in LA, which was a 15 hour drive from Portland. I only had two weeks left before the show,” says Anthony. Thankfully, the good people of the Portland bike scene rallied around and it would be a 24/7 rush to the finish line.

Painters like time, and lots of it! But Anthony Mautemps of Bridge City Cycles sanded down all the body work, removing the dodgy last job and redid the new paintwork in record time. The yellow and black colour scheme is a tip of the cap to the factory Yamaha race team design, while still maintaining a classy street bike appeal.

Like a freshly fed python

With the colour going on, Joe Tesstoire and Jeff Johnson of Second Gear worked with Anthony each evening to get the bike wired and assembled. A machined triple tree cleaned up the front end nicely. A steering damper was added for firm but precise handling and was coupled with a machined fork brace that could allow the fitment of a front fender when required.

With only time for a quick tune-up, the bike was loaded up into the same truck that had collected the RD, and the west coast pilgrimage to Deus’s Emporium of Postmodern Activities commenced. Despite being fashionably late the drive, unlike parts of the build, had gone off without a hitch. Well, apart from leaving the bike’s ignition on, meaning the bike wouldn’t start upon arrival.

But by the end of the day, and with a 2nd place trophy in hand, Anthony could be well pleased with his first smokey, strokey racer experience. A lot had happened during that “lucky and easy build.” There were some frustrating times and some big disappointments, but when it mattered most, his friends came to the rescue. Anthony admits, “I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, and I will.”

If you’d built a bike that cool, you’d be staring at it, too

Enginethusiast – Facebook – Instagram | Thanks to Tank Moto magazine ]

  • bill smith

    Proper bike!

  • AB

    A very nice build – 8/10 – I’d have given it a 9 if it had a black hugger and a yellow front guard.

  • Duke Fan

    I’ll give it a 10!! Painters !!!!

  • the watcher

    Another belter! We are on a roll, aren’t we? Mind, stink-wheels arouse a weird nostalgia; we remember the power-band screaming, the smell of the 2T oil, the flickability, and forget what temperamental, unreliable fuck-pigs they are to actually own. Ho hum.

    • Jim Roberts

      can’t let that stand…yamaha rd250/350/400’s were one of the hands-down most reliable bikes ever built. any reliability problems could be traced directly to the owner. according to insurance stats in 1973 the rd 350 was the most frequently wrecked motorcycle. i was a yamaha mechanic at the time and we would deliver that new bike on friday night,pay day, right after work and many many times the new owner with fresh road rash and a bent bike in the back of his buddies pick-up
      would be waiting there saturday morning. we used to make bets. this bike brings back a lot of memories…all good. 2 strokes rule as far as i’m concerned. i’d ride it

      • They really were THE crotch rocket of their era, weren’t they? An unnamed expat British moto journalist who now resides in Australia once told me he took one (if my memory serves me correctly) on a test ride in the UK. Lost it on a corner and ended up in a hedge. Pushed it back to the owner’s house and did a runner. True story.

    • Heart on sleeve, much? 😉


      I would have to say, your opinion is as far from an accurate assessment of the RD series as one could be. I can’t think of a more reliable 2-stroke ever produced. Sure, there were idiots that tuned them into un-usability, but for every one of those, there were a hundred that lived trouble free for years. I owned and worked on hundreds of these from their introduction, through their emisions related demise. You are the first person I’ve ever heard call them unreliable. Also, they are as far from temperamental as a motorcycle could be. You are WAY off from reality. Maybe you once owned someone’s used up piece of crap, but If I was you I wouldn’t tell anyone.

      • Why, who’s that hottie?

        • the watcher

          Dunno, but if they don’t learn the difference between general and specific soon they’re likely to crash!

      • the watcher

        I never mentioned the RD series. I hear people in the media claim they were misquoted or taken out of context a lot, but not when the original text is on the fucking page in front of you!

        • the watcher

          P.s. This is the second time recently that I’ve been attacked for what I DIDN’T say. I don’t mind being hassled for what I DID say, it’s pretty much why I do it, but come on people, pay attention!

        • How stupid of me. I thought your post would have something to do with the bike featured here. Never thought it was about “The media” in general.

          • the watcher

            It wasn’t, it was about 2strokes in general. So yes, silly you.

  • Paul R. Breuhan

    Now this I like…it’s sex on two wheels…

  • It’s all about those exhausts for me. Wow.

    • Manesh Karunakaran

      Yeah those are just brilliant. Imagine crouching down on that motorcycle will the throttle rolled back and turning your head a little sideways to catch the ring-a-ding soundtrack….And those fumes!!

    • Taavi Piibar

      They sure are nice! I can’t make out the lettering on the silencers, is it manufacturer’s name? If so then what does it say?

  • guvnor67

    Oh my! Kool bike after kool bike appearing on these pages and here,s another gem. Have a flaming look at it, and try not to grin like a clown on crack! The only thing as attention grabbing as the soundtrack from those pipes would be the maniacal laughter coming from inside your helmet!!

  • Lowflying

    For sure. These strokers are awesome. I’ve got an RZ350 with a stroker crank. It may not have the hp of a Panigale, but when you wind that thing out and it hits, you feel like Rossi on a 500 back in the day. Hard to keep the front down. And they make so many different sounds, playing the revs against the throttle opening is a frikkin’ symphony. I do laugh in my helmet as I roll into the garage after a good thrash.

    I have other bikes with more grunt, but the stroker is the hardest one of the lot to ride legally! You can’t help it…

  • Lowflying

    Oh, and this bike is awesome. Love the rear subframe.