1979 Yamaha XS400 Cafe Racer



This one was special for me as it was the first motorcycle I ever wanted.  I was 8 years old when I saw one of these by dragging my dad into the motorcycle dealership.  Sensibly he said, "No!"  I had all but forgotten about this bike until 2012 when I disappeared down the rabbit hole of Google search and then remembered it again.  Craigslist helped by providing me examples of local basket cases to chose from.  I was determined to have this bike in my life and create it in my method of improving it all 'round yet keep its essence intact.

I liked the style of the "square" tank models versus the "teardrop" tank versions but found that the same era XS500 tank had better lines and more length.  After mounting it up I discovered that the FZR400 tail section complemented the lines of the tank and had a narrowness in keeping with the small XS400.  It was a huge amount of work but I sculpted and melded the tailsection to the original seatpan so it functions and opens just like the stock bike.  I upgraded the entire front suspension by replacing the original 33mm forks and triples with the front end of an SR500 going up in size to 35mm.  A lot beefier with provision for dual front disks going from 280mm to 320.  I used calipers from both bikes as one was left and the other right.  They clamp down on 320mm disks from an FZR600 with spacers that I turned on a lathe.  The front wheel and fender from the SR500 also grace the motorcycle.  I skeletonized the wheels by machining out voids in the spokes offsetting some of the unsprung weight of the brake components...

Geez this is turning into a freakin' novel.  Okay I'll just laundry list the stuff and I can go into further depth with anyone who wants minute detail.

Front suspension:

Yamaha SR500 35mm forks, triple trees, fender, and wheel

35mm cartridge emulators in new stanchions

custom fabricated preload adjusters

taper roller bearings in steering head

skeletonized and lightened front 19" wheel

fork gaitors for period look

Rear suspension:

period Honda CB/CBX 1000 FVQ shocks with adjustment for preload, compression and rebound

increased suspension height by 1" for better handling and clearance via mods for the shocks

modified swingarm for shocks and installed bronze pivot bearings

skeletonized and lightened XS400 18" rear wheel

hollow rear axle



Bridgestone Spitfire 11R

100/90 19 front

110/90 18 rear




FZR 600 320mm brake disks

SR500/XS400 calipers rebuilt with new seals and pads

FZR600 master cylinder


XS400 rear disk drilled and lightened

XS400 rear caliper rebuilt with new seals and pads

FZR400 rear master cylinder


FZR400 7" halogen headlight welded into XS400 ring with custom led circumferential turn signals

led turn signals front and rear

led turn signal flasher

led brake lights


superbike style handlebar with period grips

FZR600 rearset footpegs

FZR600 custom rear brake pedal

FZR600 custom shifter

FZR600 heel plates custom carved and lightened


Stock XS400 engine with ~8,500 miles (I had to source gauges which had mileage in the 14's)

PAMCO electronic ignition

aftermarket filter pods

EMGO reverse cone megaphone mufflers repacked with db killers installed (loud but not obnoxious)

stock XS400 muffler outlet plates welded onto EMGO outlets to preserve exhaust tuning

custom fabricated midpipes

custom fabricated exhaust hangers

Body and frame:

remounted rear fender with custom fabricated license plate mount into shortened and strengthened subframe

recovered rider and passenger saddles and recast saddle foam and incorporated dual density foam

XS500 tank (frame receivers modified to accept tank with ignition coils remounted lower)

tank and tail section finished and painted in red and pinstriped in silver and black

frame de-tabbed and modified in 38 places to simplify and enhance aesthetics and function

center stand lengthened to add 1" back for functionality and repainted

FZR600 kickstand modified and installed

frame and swingarm finished in gray

XS400 passenger pegs incorporated into frame

top triple clamps milled for gauges to mount lower

underslung aftermarket bar-end mirrors

remounted the horn

Essentially I've created my own version of a period cafe racer motorcycle with the intent to keep all of it's original functionality intact while also increasing its performance, safety, and reliability.  It starts easily with a prod on the kickstarter or a press of the button on the handlebar.  It has a friendly and enthusiastic powerplant that is simple to maintain and is beautiful in it's own right.  Yamaha does build some attractive engines.  The bike pulls with ease to its redline and can maintain 80-85mph on the highway all day.  It can also do this while making 60 mpg, so extra bonus there!  In the twisties the modern rubber combined with the uprated suspension gives neutral handling but the 19" and 18" wheels also impart nice stability to this tiny bike with a 53.5" wheelbase.

FOR SALE!  $4,500