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Bike of the Month

October 2020

1977 Yamaha RD 400

By George Canavan

The back story:

The first new motorcycle I owned was a 1973 Yamaha RD 350. It was flashy, nimble and very quick. After a few months of commute and recreational riding the romance ended with a set of orders to report for temporary duty at Andersen Air Patch, Guam for 180 days of temporary duty. This is how I learned to buy bikes at retail then sell at a loss. I knew that this was a temporary interruption as I would get back to the ZI*. Of course, that never happened.


The Tee up: recently noted, “If you bought a mid-size two-stroke Yamaha street bike in 1975, you got the very, very good RD350. You also got shortchanged, because buyers who waited just a year got the 1976 Yamaha RD400C, which Cycle World lauded as the perfect motorcycle, and which carried way more improvements than a simple displacement bump.”


The pertinent bits:

That brings us to Mark Siegel’s pretty spectacular oil-burning twin. Cruising the classified postings on the world wide inter webs, Mark located this promising Yamaha right here in Lemmon Valley. Before it arrived, he knew it would need attention to bring it up to his standards. And for this, he got his reward. How about fixing that little bit of piston slap? How about discovering he was at the end of a long line of previous owners with the same idea? Cha-Ching went the cash register bell after he located a new set of barrels that would hold the pistons upright again. Our very own Peter Hipp worked his magic to exorcise the devils who made the piston rattle. End of story? Nah, not by a quarter mile. Seems a previous owner also went the asymmetrical jetting route to cover up the worn rings and bores. If one side is sucking lots of air, just add a fat jet to make up the difference. With that fixed, you would hope we could cut to the dreamy bit of riding enjoyment. Well, not quite yet. Remember the cliche, “When he is good, he is very very good. And, when he is bad, he is horrible!” Mark spent several months chasing intermittent cut outs and dropped cylinder performance until a bad wire in the ignition system was diagnosed and repaired.


Happy ending, now? Yes! Mark rode his sweet running RD400 to Saturday coffee in downtown Reno the morning of August 8 and was all smiles. Good on ya, Mark!


Oh, as if he wasn’t lucky already, Mark also nailed down a rare and desirable 1989 Honda GB500 from Colorado Springs. How’s that for a happy ending?


*Zone of the Interior as we called the Continental U.S. of A. back then.

1977 RD400.jpeg
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