'77 Yamaha RD400 "Lost and Found"

NSNickName

Active Member
I'll be honest. A build thread is out of my comfort zone, but I believe the story behind this bike is worth telling, so I'm going to give my best shot at captivating my fellow bike enthusiasts. It all started about 18 years ago, and I still remember the first time I saw her. It was a typical grey January day in Southern Ontario and I was helping muck horse stalls. Lucky for me barns are often where old bikes like to be found. On my way back with the wheel barrel is when I noticed her. The barn owner had been moving junk out to make room for more useful storage. I didn't know what it was, I just knew it was RED, it had TWO wheels, a MOTOR, and it was the coolest thing I had ever lay eyes on. That night I mentioned to my father what I had seen, and sense I had been saving my money and he was the biggest gear head I knew, I convinced him to help further inspect the barn find. What we found was "IT'S A 1977 YAMAHA RD 400" My dad shouted repeatedly at me. Holding his hands overhead and shaking them wildly at me like I was suppose to know exactly what that was. I just smiled excitedly and felt happy and proud I had found something cool. Under my dads advice I made a deal with the owner and for $400 we drove away with what would end up being a healthy bike obsession and unhealthy addiction to everything that burns oil and gas at the same time!

Here is a pic of the bike about a year after I owned it, 14 year old me thought it was coming along nicely.
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NSNickName

Active Member
The bike was all original when I first bought it. It had just over 1k miles on the dial and a small scuff on the left rear signal light. The previous owner had "Hit a patch of diesel fluid and dropped it." My dad explained. I continued to work with the RD learning about automotive mechanics and how different modifications made it behave. In the photo above I had rolled oil sprayed scotch bright into a tight filter and stuffed it into the intake rubbers. It wasn't plated or insured, but seeing as we lived at the dead end of a mostly dirt road, outside of a small town, it didn't hurt to run some "Test and tune" laps.

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NSNickName

Active Member
Now the sad part - As I got older and had some experience on the road, I wanted to prep the bike for street use. I spent hours going over wiring, cleaning carbs, making it reliable and dreaming of puffing blue smoke down the open road. Unfortunately when it came down to it, I didn't have the budget for tires or insurance at 17 so it was parked under a tarp. ( I promise this actually is a build thread, not just a random story ) Then life got more complicated, advancing in the workforce, moving out, starting post secondary, first child, and of course a recession didn't help. I needed funding and the RD quickly turned from a dream into a financial asset. I had a friend who was willing to buy the bike and fix it up for personal use, so I jumped at the offer, as one can only eat so much pea soup. I had always intended on purchasing it back at some point, however plans changed for him as well. He was offered decent money for the bike, and sold it ( LOST FOREVER!!! ) I was a little butt hurt... just a little.. maybe a bit jealous, hostile even. I can't blame him though, he had other projects and couldn't wait around for me to sort my finances out and buy back a bike I couldn't afford.

Here are some pictures of the rebuild he did. Really great guy, I think it was his first bike build.
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sav0r

Coast to Coast
He’s a really great guy, you swear, just don’t trust him to with your bikes... I’m just kidding around.

I like that tank scheme a lot.
 

NSNickName

Active Member
The happy part.

After years of searching for my old RD online, Facebook, Pinterest, Aircooled RD clubs, etc... I was desperate to acquire one, to build and relive the days of my childhood dream bike. The world has a funny way, just about as I was giving up the ghost on finding my old bike, I found a shred of hope. A VIN Number on an old receipt of sale. Don't ask how I got it... (Did I mention I really loved this bike) I took the VIN to Service Ontario and was able to purchase a used vehicle information package for the bike, this gave me the current registered owners name, Google and Facebook did the rest. Not long after this I had gotten a hold of a gentleman who owned not just an RD 400, but My old RD 400. Now I know you may judge and/or criticize my methods. I'm not terribly proud of the lengths I went, but when the opportunity to purchase back the bike I once knew and loved arose, I had no care. The search was finally over. My dad, the amazing man he is was local-ish to the owner and was able to pic the bike up and exchange the cash on my behalf. I was once again the owner of a 1977 Yamaha RD 400 and was able to accept delivery of the bike close to two years ago today.

Here are some pics of the bike after it was picked up.
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The day I first saw her again.
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NSNickName

Active Member
I'm going to use the usual COVID excuse for the delay between postings here, but I do apologize for the sudden vacancy. To Pick up where I left off, I spent a few hours fixing small things on the bike to get it "road worthy" knowing full and well I cut corners so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I was left stranded a few times. Fouled plugs, bad regulator/rectifier, fuses blowing here and there, small annoying things that I had prepared for and was willing to deal with until I had time to spend fixing it properly. All in all I thought I had weeded out most of the issues, I was feeling good and enjoying my old bike again. Snap to Fathers Day 2018, I'm at the Devils Half Acre, a Nova Scotia bike show, and decide to run the old girl on a pay to play dyno. I'll post a pic of the dyno ticket and following events in my next post. To my surprise she ran well, no show stopping numbers, but I was happy with what she produced considering it was a particularly hot and humid day. It wasn't until after the show that my poor girl suffered the cataclysmic events that led to the complete re-build. Feeling all spooled up from the show and confident in the bikes performance I decided to take the highway home to run her up and try the old TON UP!!! The temp had dropped a good 8 degrees and the bike was feeling snappy, as I grabbed 6th and hugged the tank on the slight downgrade I thought to myself "This is really going to happen" as the needle danced and my heart resonated with the 2 stroke tune screaming in my ears I was approaching 100 MPH when suddenly... she popped, I knew what had happened as soon as the power faded. The clutch went in and my heart sank faster then the RPM could die beneath me. As I rolled to a stop over the crushed gravel shoulder, the only sound I could hear was the stones beneath the tires crackling and mocking my failure. I looked down, the blue heat mark on the right pipe told me everything. I reluctantly removed the plug to find no compression, there was a hole in my bike where a piston use to be, and it was the concequence to negligence. CHECK YOUR CRANK SEALS! I will post pictures soonest!
 

Jimbonaut

Over 1,000 Posts
DTT SUPPORTER
Cool story mate, glad you get her back. Have fun finally making it your own! Talented sister you've got there - does she take commissions? Serious question!
 

ridesolo

“Kto ne riskuet, ne pyot champanskoye.”
DTT SUPPORTER
DTT BOTM WINNER
^^ Yeah what @Hurco550 said! Sure sorry to see that, hopefully you can easily find replacement parts and get 'er going again!
 

NSNickName

Active Member
Cool story mate, glad you get her back. Have fun finally making it your own! Talented sister you've got there - does she take commissions? Serious question!
Thank you for your kind words. To answer your question which I am so happy you asked, she sure does! I can get more information for you if you'd like?
 

NSNickName

Active Member
^^ Yeah what @Hurco550 said! Sure sorry to see that, hopefully you can easily find replacement parts and get 'er going again!
Thanks for your interest. I have been rebuilding her for a while now, so most of the thread will be a recap of what I have done and where I sourced everything.
 

Jimbonaut

Over 1,000 Posts
DTT SUPPORTER
Thank you for your kind words. To answer your question which I am so happy you asked, she sure does! I can get more information for you if you'd like?
Great, I'll send you a pm now.

Bet there's a story behind that grenaded piston...
 

pidjones

Over 1,000 Posts
Just how much is left? The mechanicals for my '76 are finished, but it can't be tested until the tins get color, decals, and clear. You will probably be done before me the way out weather is going.
 

NSNickName

Active Member
Just how much is left? The mechanicals for my '76 are finished, but it can't be tested until the tins get color, decals, and clear. You will probably be done before me the way out weather is going.
There's always work to be done, I think I'll be working one this one for years to come. I have a lot of plans and little time so the end of the project will stretch out a ways.
 

NSNickName

Active Member
The RD sat in the garage for the rest of the summer mostly untouched. I was discouraged and needed time to do my research and build a shopping list. Once I finally started getting at it in the late fall I became highly motivated! (My poor supportive wife). The weather was quickly turning cold and I needed to shed enough weight to be able to carry it into my basement. Not many disassembly pictures were taken, but I did start taking some from my new warm workspace.

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Maritime

Over 10,000 Posts
I assume from the screen name you moved to NS. What part? My sister lives in Kentville and I love riding down to visit her when I can, Usually it's the whole family and a camper but sometimes I get to 2 wheel it. there are some great coastal roads in NS and NB, I find the NS ones tend to be better maintained though.
 

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