college kid with a dream (1977 xs400)

What should i do to the tank?

  • Bare metal with clear?

    Votes: 23 43.4%
  • Bare metal with gold or red stripe?

    Votes: 21 39.6%
  • or save myself some time and just paint it!

    Votes: 9 17.0%

  • Total voters


77 XS400,73 SL350, 73 RD350
Ok where do i start.. Well im a student at Western Carolina and iv been looking into Cafe Racers for a while now been jumping around here on do the ton and some other sites. So finoly i had enugh to get a project started so i looked for a bike. And didnt find one, but after a few month spent on craigs list a 1977 XS400D came up for $400 that was close. So i got ahold of the guy and drove out one ranny afternoon. A few hours later i had the bike in the back of the truck and for only $300!

Well this is my first bike and first build so im kinda clueless but i have been under my dads race cars and jeepd since i could walk so i know a good little bit about cars but not bikes.

My plans for the bike
Cut the frame
Remove all unneeded tabs on the frame
Chop the exhaust (only run headers)
Rewire fusebox

Long Term Plans
Modern fork
Bore to around 450cc
kick only
and a huge list of other little things

Want something that looks along the lines of this yamaha

But here is mine not as shinny and new but its a start.

Forks are shot hasn't run since... the owner before me didnt know when the last time it ran was it changed hands about 3 times in the past 2 years from people that were wanting to cafe it but never did anything with it.

luckly all the parts are there!




First thing first i changed the oil, the oil filter bolt was so sriped i didnt want to mess with it so i took off the bottom cover and the screen out


Got what seemed like 2 quarts out but im betting there is still some old oil in there i will flush the system again once i get the bike running and get all the oil moving around the motor, but there was some metal and a clip that i have no idea what it goes to.


So after that i put some starter fluid in the carbs and tried to kick it with no gas to see it i could get it to pop a few times. I had spark and got it to pop only once but thats better then i thought i would get. So after that there was alot more cleaning and removing rust. I tried to put some gas in the carb and try again. I started to put gas in the carbs and the gas came right back out of the left carb inlet. I was going to clean the carbs anyway so it seemed to be a good time to pull them off the bike.



After looking them over i noticed they were diffident carbs i got on the xs400 site and started doing some looking around. One carb is the stock carb and the other carb was off a new carb so i had to buy a rebuild kit for 2 diffident carbs.


77 XS400,73 SL350, 73 RD350
So once i got into the carbs they looked pretty clean but was just waiting for the rebuild kit to come. So i started looking at the front brakes they had no brake fluid and master cylinder had seen better days. So i found a master cylinder off a 98 ZX900 for around $50 I didn't want to go with stock because i wanted to get one with the reservoir like a new sport bike.


Also order a caliper rebuild kit for the front, the rear seemed to be working fine so i will hold off on rebuilding it.

After a week or so i got both the carb rebuild and caliper rebuild kits and stared off with the carbs. Every screw on the carbs were striped so after alot of penetrating oil and some vice grips i got them tore down. Then headed to ace hardware to get new stainless screews and hose clamps. $20 later i had a completly rebuild cards that were clean.




It was also my mom birthday and my dad got her a dench grinder! Well she uses it to polish jewry that she makes but i think my dad was really getting it for me and him. But any way i did some work with it cleaning every part a could pull off the bike nuts, bolts and all kinda of small bits.





Next was rebuilding the front caliper so after taking off the brake line and brushing all the bolts and clams till they were shinny i fiddled with it till i finely got the pads out.


I couldn't get the cylinder out and had tried everything i could so i started taking out the bleeder valve out to try and blow it out with compressed air. But like all the other bolts and screws on the bike it was stripped... So i got the brake in a vice and went to work trying to remove the old rusty bleeder valve. But it wouldn't move and ended up braking the bolt off in the caliper.



So after all this is was pretty pissed and called it a night. I also couldn't even test my cleaned carbs because the throttle cable broke and pulled back into the sleeve and wouldn't come back out.
Now that i had all this done i didn't have much more to do to get the bike running so i worked on some other things. I had removed the old plastic fender that was being held on by duck tape. I also removed the old ugly battery box since i wasn't going to put the side covers back on i saw no need to have that huge rusty box. So i decided to grab some sheet metal and try my hand at some fab work. So i figured the size of my battery and the tabs on the bike and got into CAD and drew up a design for what i wanted to do. Then made a trip back to ace for some sheet metal (i don't remember how think it was but it was some pretty thin stuff that would bend easily.) I started off by simply marking up my lines and cutting them with the jig saw.


Once i got it cut out i had to bend it and i couldn't do it by hand so i pinched the metal between 2 boards and then bent with my hand right on the edge of the board it worked pretty well but some one might have a better way.



It was looking pretty good but i wasn't done i garbed a brush for the drill and did my best to ruff it up to give it some texture. Then i laid out a pattern and drilled a bunch of 1/2" holes in the sides of the box.


I have to say it turned out a lot better then i thought it would and im loving the way that it looks on the bike



Also i found that a skate board deck works well for a seat. I may or may not keep a board as the seat ill just have to see how i like riding with it it might hurt a little to much. But it will give it a one of a kind look to the bike.

Since i had some sheet metal left over i started work on a new fender to keep rocks and sand from hitting the battery and wires. Lucky the XS already had tabs that fit perfectly so i wouldn't need any welding to get a fender on the bike. Started off the same as with the battery box cut to size and brush.





But i felt like it needed a little more so i went online and found a pic of the rising sun. I was going to paint it in red to the inside of the fender. So i cover the whole piece of metal with tape.


Then i laid or the design and cut it out with a razor blade and removed the tape from what i wanted to be red.


I just garbed some random paint from another project i was working on and laid down some color followed by a few coats of clear.



Here it is on the bike


I liked the way it looked so much i made another piece and did the same but i have it on my dorm room wall just for kicks


77 XS400,73 SL350, 73 RD350
Well more on the bike, one thing i did get whille i was out getting carb cleaner and brake fluid was i found small little air filter that would be perfect for the crank case!


It didn't want to fit to start but after a little work i got it on. Its a little bigger then i was hopping and almost didn't fit under the carbs but looks good and worked perfect since the breather ran up a tube to the air filter on a stock bike but i and going to run pod filters so i was looking for something to cover the whole.


Here are some more random shots as i started pulling off one piece at a time to clean





From the top of the tank it looked clean and had very little rust but i knew better then finding something on the bike that was in working order. So i pulled off the pet-cock and what do you know rust... So i am waiting till i get the bike in a ride able condition before cleaning out the tank.



So i finely got the throttle cable in and it was time to try and get the bike running. I put some more starter fluid in the carbs and tried to kick it again but nothing this time. So i added some gas to the carbs and it stayed in the carbs! After 10 min of kicking and nothing i gave up but i did find out one good thing, i was able to built up oil pressure and the oil light went off! One small victory after so much defeated. So after a failed attempt's to get the bike running i thought i would adjust the points.


As you can see all the screws are striped like all the other parts. I looked them over for a good little bit then decided to go online and see if i can find some help. One guy did the timing on the points in a video on youtube. He took a small bulb and hooked it to 2 gater clips. One was to ground the other to the small spring. He turent the motor till it hit LF (left Fire) and turned the points till it light up at just the right time. It was a grate video so i tried his method but i only had a 100w H3 bulb for a car so after turning the motor a few times i figured out the bulb was WAY overkill. It took the bulb 10 min to even start to glow so im going to need to find a 5w or something like that. So after seeing that i couldn't do the timing and i had no idea how to gap the points i gave up.

Now im back up at school doing some looking around and trying to get more info on the XS400's but its hard to work on a bike that is 200 miles away. I did order a new front caliper it came off a xs650 and from everything iv seen it will work on the xs400 but im still keeping my fingers crossed! Iv also been debating on weather or not taking the bike to a shop to try and get it running. If any one knows some one near charlotte NC that works on older bikes let me know. I don't want them to rebuild the bike just help me out with getting it running. There are so many little things you have to adjust (carbs, points, valves) and if they are not perfect it wont crank and i have never adjusted any of them before so i don't know what im doing.

I also tried chopping the back of the frame off with a pneumatic cut off wheel but it wasn't working to well so i stopped and im going ti wait to get a good blade for the reciprocating saw.

Here is the bike as it sits now.



1978 CX500 Cafe
I live in Mooresville not to far away if you need a hand-
First things first, you need to do a compression test. Before you start making it over you want to get it running. It may seem like the thing to do but get it running first , otherwise you will lose steam and another guy will be getting a good deal as it exchanges hands yet again. Looks like a broken cir-clip in that petroleum abortion you got there.

After checking compression check for spark. Check out electrical system , looks like a rats nest under that seat. Invest in a multi-meter if you dont have one . Invest in an impact driver if you dont have one. Down load a copy of the service manual somewhere online. I think I have one if you need it ! Also I have a set of fork seals for that bike you can have if you want 'em. After you get spark, and confirm good compression, tackle the carbs . Go to napa and get a 1 gallon bucket of carb cleaner dip bucket or go to harbor freight and get a cheap ultra sonic cleaner. Order a rebuilt kit . Rebuild carbs. check tank for nastiness- if clean do a happy dance. Otherwise MEK for old failed kreem or other sealers may be in order or muratic acid for rust- read alot . Read about people who have already cafe'd this bike bike and learn from there success's failures. read read read. gas her up kick like madness- have a friend videotape your futile attempts.... give up and give me a call :) JK - hope fully that gives you plenty to start with . For now try and focus on getting it running . Make a parts list that you will need and source them . Cables, seals, etc-

if you need help drop me a PM - xs400 is a cool bike - stay dilegent and enjoy the fruits of your efforts as you eventrually have a victory lap or two before realizing you should have done this or that different. Most of all have fun and be creative- your only limitation is your mind or perhaps your bankroll :)


77 XS400,73 SL350, 73 RD350
Hey thanks white orbs! I think iv got good compression but haven't done a test. Carbs are rebuilt and cleaned. I think that the timing is holding me back now. Iv got good spark but when i went to gap the points and redo the timing i quickly gave up when i saw how difficult the task would be! haha but im headed home this week end after studying up on gap and timing so i think im ready!! But alot of the screws are striped so im going to have to remove all of them and replace with some new stainless ones.

And it sounds crazy but all of the electrical bits work! i am waiting until i know what im going to do for a seat before i get a new fuse box.

I also have a new front brake caliper waiting on me with a rebuild kit so ill be able to stop (even more important then getting the bike moving)

I might have to grab them fork seals from you after a while. But iv got alot of other things to get fixed before i get to that point. The front end is ride-able but i wont know how good/bad it is till i ride it.


1978 CX500 Cafe
cool man, just let me know - setting the timing on that bike is a cake walk compared to a two stroke --


Been Around the Block
don't take this the wrong way that petcock gigantic or do you have small hands? sorry lol I saw it and I was just like...whoa. :D

just a comfort thing: the bars flipped upside down like that are very uncomfortable. I rode my GN cafe like that for a week and it ruined my wrists.

and an aesthetics thing: flip that skateboard deck up the other way and pad it, it'd look way better.

I'm keeping an eye on this on though, you're off to a good start :)


77 XS400,73 SL350, 73 RD350
Hey thanx n0regret5! And yes that petcock is huge! It is some how powered vacuum.. Don't fully understand it but i haven't got to that point yet!

Ya im not keeping the stock bars just wanted the look. Im going to run clip-ons but im waiting on them. I may ride a few times with the bars like that but i have a plate in my arm from a bad mountain bike wreck from a few years back and it hurts to just bend my wrist like that, so that bar wont last to long.

As far as the skate board deck goes i was wanting to run it flipped over the other way but the scaffolding on the back was in the way so i just flipped it so i would have some kind of seat. But over the past weekend i have cut all of that off and i can now have it "right" side up. But i havent gotten a pic of it now.

One thing i want input on it the fablic for the seat i want to run a skate board deck kind of like this bike


But since my bike wont be completely rebuilt like that bike but it should look decent. But im thinking of covering the seat in plaid! something like this


So what do yall think? its a little different and i would only ride it for a while but i thought it would be kinda cool.

I am also probably going to take it to someone to get it running in the next few weeks. My dad is asking around for people who can work on the bike on the side (just to get it running).
So i need to decide what jets in going to run in the carbs, im running headers and pods so i might have to jump over onto the XS400 site and see what people are running.


Coming along great, man. I like the direction it's taking.

Just a note, however, there's no way you're gonna get 450cc out of an XS400. It has a really short stroke and so you're be looking at increasing the diameter of the pistons by +5mm to hit 450cc. +2mm (probably the "safe" max bore) will only get you 15cc extra. Possibly not worth the time and effort. Your call though.


Active Member
Always nice too meet other xs400 builders.
I agree with Sonreir, boring this little basterd is going to be expensive, as there are no overboring kits available, heck it's even hard to find STD pistons/rings. I have heard someone is working towards it with gpz1000 pistons (should get 440cc out of it) but we'll see.
Looking forward to updates!

Check out my build, too.


77 XS400,73 SL350, 73 RD350
Ya that's what i was thinking about doing was getting piston from a GPZ or i think some people use a GSXR pistons, but that is way down the road! They are just ideas of what i would like to to.
I will probably just rebuild the top end next winter and maybe a new clutch. It all depends on how things are going.


77 XS400,73 SL350, 73 RD350
Ya Swivel I have been looking on bike bandit and i think i may hove found it


I think it is #25 but i cant tell if that would be in the crank case or on the outside?

Don't know if the pic will work but its the sifter schematic


New Member
Looks great man. My first bike was a 1978 XS400, still have it. I'm really considering cafe-ing it one day.

Quick note- I restored my XS a few years back. I somehow came across a website about a recall on the petcocks on it. Anyway, to make a long story short, I went to my local Yamaha dealer and they ordered me a brand new one, no charge. Definitely worth looking into!

If you need any info, let me know and I might be able to help you out.


77 XS400,73 SL350, 73 RD350
I did some looking around and it looks like its only the 78 and 79 bikes that had a problem with the petcocks. But thatks that one thing i never thought to look at was recalls on the bike.


the future is my friend
I like what you did for the battery guard. I need to do something similar. I removed the original plastic protector and now I've got good and dirt slung all up under there. Nice job!


77 XS400,73 SL350, 73 RD350
Thanx Blake! Ya i really like how the mud guard turned out, im just hopping that it will keep the water off if i ever get stuck in some rain, and keep any electrical bits from shorting out.

Well iv been doing some more cleaning and keeping with the cafe racer way I decided to see how many pounds i was able to pull off the bike. So I went and garbed all the pics that i pulled off the bike and i was pretty impressed!

I was able to pull off 38lb!!!!

That's a rough estimate but Its probably closer to 32lb from replacement parts and things like that. But 32lb it a good little chunk! Might help me pull of the line a little faster! I have a buddy with a 72 CB350 and i want my bike to be a little quicker so this will help!

Hopping to get more pic back up after the weekend because my laptop is acting up right now.


1979 Suzuki GS425E
I laughed when I saw the skateboard for your temp seat. Is that what you are keeping on there? I skateboard and had never thought of using one as a seat. Bike is looking good and looks like some good progress so far.


77 XS400,73 SL350, 73 RD350
Ya i kinda like the look of the skate board but im probably going to make a proper seat. I am thinking about cutting some 1/2 ply to the shape of the frame and some how bending the back up to have a lip like the skate board. I was going to work on it thing weekend but time and the fact that i had no 1/2" ply...

Well i did find a guy who can work on my bike, his a old friend that lives down the road from us. He used to work alot on jeeps (he has installed lift kits on 3 of are 4 jeeps and the 4th jeep was bought from him anyway) so he is real good at wrenching. I work at the hardware store in my town and he came in the other day looking for some bolts and we got to talking. Turns out he is fixing us a old triumph and has a supple cafe projects of his own. He said he would look mine over and that he should be able to get it running. And the best part is he is just down the road so im not driving across state to find a guy that i trust. So I am trying to get up with him some time this week and I can get my dad to drop off the bike when im gone. So stuff is looking good!!


the future is my friend
Yeah, I hear ya' about weight loss. I pulled a lot of weight of my bike by removing the fenders, stock gauges, mirror, headlight box, stock turn signals, electric start, center stand and stock size battery. Look into this piece of kit: Dyna ignition booster. I paid around $50 for mine, easy install and an obvious power difference when you hit the throttle.

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