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  The Story of my Yamaha RD400 

Yamaha Motorcycle stories from an old motorcycle rider.  In the past fifty something years I've owned about sixty motorcycles and right now I have six 750 Hondas, the old sand cast bikes, one Yamaha 550, two Kawasaki KE-100 dirt bikes and a 1978 Honda Hawk, which I have just got running. 

As far as the Yamaha's that I've owned are two DT175 dirt bikes, a DT250 dirt bike, then called the DT1, an SX650 Twin Cylinder Street bike, a 550 Yamaha four cylinder and an RD400 with a pearl white paint job.  I had a fantastic time riding all of the Yamaha motorcycles but my favorites of the Yamaha's that I've owned were the DT250 and the RD400.  

The RD400, RD stood for Race Developed, was very fast.  It was really light weight and had mag wheels.  This bike was box stock and would wheelie very easily.  Having a CB750 Honda for my street bike kept me from taking long trips on the Yamaha RD400. 

However I certainly loved riding the RD400 for shorter drives and terrorizing the back roads.  The RD400 was faster than a box stock sandcast CB750 off the line and would stay in front of the 750 until about 110mph.  This was a big surprise to me and I never realized that one of these little ring ding motorcycles could be a super rocket.  The bike weighed about 325 lbs as opposed to the much heaver 517 lb CB750 and from my readings it works out to be about ten pounds per horsepower.  So looking at the power difference of about two hundred pounds meant that there was like an extra twenty horsepower added to the Yamaha RD400 which made them to have about the same power to weight ratio. 

The little RD400 was great to just jump on and go and it would really go fast.  I bought the bike for fifty dollars from a guy who had it stuck in the garage for many years and it was all covered with dust.  When I took it home it really looked like a pile of junk and I was wondering if it was worth that much in just junk.  But, after I cleaned the bike up, it looked like a totally new motorcycle.  I cleaned every part and then put Armor All on everything.   The chain and sprockets looked like they were new and I was a happy camper. 

After cleaning the whole bike and fixing the little things and cleaning all of the chrome and waxing everything I was super, super happy.  So I took the bike for a ride around the yard and it was great.  Once it passed that test, I got it licensed and ready for the street so I could have a good time. 

I took the bike out for it's first ride and everything went well until I got about ten miles from home.  It felt like there was a loss of power a little bit at a time.  At first I thought that there was something wrong with the engine, but when I pulled in the clutch and gave it the gas, it revved very well.  I also noticed that when I pulled the clutch in that the bike wouldn't roll correctly, it was like something was dragging it down. 

Now I knew that there was a problem with the brakes.  In just a short time longer, the bike just had real problems with the brakes getting hot.  I pulled off to the side of the road and let them cool for a while and then started driving again.  It seemed that the problem happened even faster.  So I let it cool again.  Everything that I did was to no avail, the problem was still there and it was getting worse.  I didn't want to get stuck on the back road after dark so I had to think quick and find a way to cool these brakes down as fast as I could.  So after some thought, and not wanting to do this or even tell you that I did this, I pulled out my personal fire hose and hosed down the brakes.  This finally got me home but left a bit of a yellow stain on the brakes. Ha. Ha.  

I took the brakes completely apart and reassembled them and tested the bike and still had the same problems.  So I took them apart again and tested them again and again I had the same problem.  What did Yamaha do different with the addition of a hydraulic back brake? 

Now listen to this very closely.  When you clean a brake system out there are the bigger holes and a very, very small hole.  I never knew what this small hole did, but what could it do, it was very small.  The reason that the small hole was put in the master cylinder is so that the brakes can equalize in pressure as the temperature of the brake fluid would change.  So when my brakes started to get hot, instead of the little hole letting the pressure equalize, since it was plugged, it caused the pads to move closer to the disc and make the disc friction increase, increasing the temperature and increasing the pressure.  You can see how this would create a loop and eventually cause the brakes to lock until they cooled down or unless someone poured sparkling yellow tinted water on them. Ha. Ha. again. 

It took me almost a month to get this problem fixed and figured out.  What a waste of time and a waste of a good riding summer, I want to ride not fix a broken motorcycle. 

Well, I'm a disabled Veteran and at times I would go through tremendous problems.  As I was having more and more problems, I thought that I was going to die, that's how bad they were, so I put the Yamaha up for sale.  A guy named Bob bought it and drove it without a license.  He had it a week and was picked up by the police and was ordered to park the motorcycle.  He wanted it to sell it back to me and I should have given him his money back, but I was still very ill and couldn't think very well.  So that's my short lived, one summer of having a Yamaha RD400.

Many years before I used to work on a lot of Yamaha RD350 race bikes.  They were super fast.  I was first introduced to this super stealth crotch rocket when the owner of the Yamaha shop told me to take his brand new 1975 motorcycle for a ride and really give it the gas. 

Well, I was a 750 owner and what could this little bike do that would even interest me in any way.  What a surprise.  I drove it up and down the street outside of Lemoore California until I was convinced that it may be faster than my 750.  I came back into the store and told him that I thought the motorcycle was faster than my 750 so we took both bikes out and did about three drag races.  Totally illegal now, but back in the old days the police would just tell us to hold it down and that would be it.  Each and every time the Yamaha pulled ahead of my 750 about two bike lengths and I was at 110 mph before I would start to catch him, and that guy weighed about thirty pounds more than the skinny kid that I was. 

Altogether, I have gained about three thousand miles on the Yamaha RD400 and RD350s that I have driven.  Not a lot of miles, but enough to know that they were fantastic motorcycles. 

Click Here are some videos about the Yamaha RD Motorcycles


1976 Yamaha RD 400
This bike was identical to my old bike except that mine was pure pearl white.


Yamaha RD400 track day

The Old RD400 on a race track


Beautiful Girls on Cafe Racers


'77 RD400 with '93 FZR600 Running Gear


1978 YAMAHA YZR750 OW31

This bike became the ultimate motorcycle for the race track.  It was a 750cc about 325 lbs, the same as the RD400 but put out around 135 hp.  It was very, very fast.  This #2 on the front of the bike was the famous numbers from King Kenny, Kenny Roberts the three time AMA World Champion from Modesto California.  I never even had the chance to sit on one of these monsters, but I did shake Kenny's hand at Laguna Seca, in Monterey California, a great honor.

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