Custom: Wrenchmonkees RD400

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First things first, straight pipes don’t belong on a two-stroke. The Wrenchmonkees built this custom Yamaha RD400 not to be ridden, but to decorate a night club in their native Copenhagen, which likely explains choosing pipes that complement the bike’s straight lines over, you know, flowing gasses in an optimal manner. Having said all that, this build emphasizes how simple creating a kick ass cafe racer can be; everything’s more or less stock aside for those pipes, the tailpiece, tires, rearsets, bars and front numberboard/headlight. The ‘Monkees have essentially just tidied things up, gotten rid of what’s unnecessary and applied a simple paint job. But, the results are transformative; a crappy ’70s bike suddenly looks more futuristic than anything released in 2010. You could probably do the same thing yourself.


  • DC

    The RD is not crappy. These things are a blast and stupid fast for their chassis. 2 stroke fun.

  • robotribe

    Helluva lot tastier than the Kimura comic book 999, IMO. I dig it.

  • Jimboz

    Crappy? Homeboy, you are badly mistaken. RD’s are crappy in the way that any bike of this era is crappy; they’ve got the weight distributed wrong, noodle frames, and pathetic brakes. But for its time, this was hot shit. I’m sure the CB1100 will be comparatively crappy to modern standards too.

  • CafeRacer1200

    That is just plain beautiful. The pipes are pretty silly though.
    Funny, I don’t remember the RD400 I raced waaaaay back when in WERA being crappy. Neither did the people I passed. :) (both of them)

    • Grant Ray

      Yeah, CafeRacer1200, but how much did you have to do to that crappy RD to get it fast? New Bronze bushings, new tapered roller bearings in the steering stem, fork brace, possibly an aluminum swingarm from Moto Carrera if you have the means, XS650 forks for dual front breaks, DG heads and minimally new chambers, electronic ignition to replace the points, not to mention new clutch springs and plates?

      And that’s without bothering to get into the whole porting, polishing, head squishing dark arts. Oh, and sneaky frame mods to strengthen the chassis.

      Ten years ago, I bought a backet-case in boxes and built a cafe racer to teach myself about making 2-strokes go. God, what a headache that princess of an engine was, but I loved it when it ran right.

      Obviously, that the ‘Monkees didn’t put chambers on this bike is total heresy for me. For a company that prides itself on its builds to make such a glaring omission instead of just making their cool-looking if not totally functional chambers is…

      • CafeRacer1200

        LOL. I never said it was fast or particularly good. Maybe I was just good enough to ride around it’s faults :)

        It reminds me of a friend that wanted an early ’80s “sportbike” and found an absolutely cherry ’82 GPZ550. He rides it over to my house, gets off and commences to bitchin’ about how horrible it handles (compared to his R6) and that the forks must be bone dry, etc. I take it out and put about 10 miles on it. I get it back and tell him, “Man, that’s about what they were like back then and this one was way better than most.” His rosy glasses just couldn’t handle the reality and he sold it three weeks later.

  • CMC

    Wes, this is why I think you’re a hypocritical douchebag. You hang Falcon out to dry because their amazing bike is a “fetish object” then you stroke WM over their nightclub decoration.

    • Wes Siler

      Maybe I am being a hypocrite or maybe I’m just pointing out the difference between something original and something derivative.

      I don’t expect everyone to agree with my opinions, but neither do I understand the people whose butts get hurt so bad by the mere existence of an opinion in motorcycle media. If you don’t like reading a publication with character, passion and intelligence, go read one of the many press release republishers that are out there. Personally, I’m way more interested in original thought than I am in sucking at the teat of conformist idiocy.

      • pauljones

        Really, Wes? What is it with you and feeding trolls lately?

        I don’t comment much here, nor do I always take the time to read the comments. Much of that has to do with the fact that the commentary here devolves into meaningless vitriol far too much.

        But what I do appreciate is the stories and articles. I do read those on a regular basis, and for the most part, I’ve liked just about everything I’ve seen on here, even if I didn’t always agree with the viewpoints of you or Grant. I appreciate the effort that you guys make, but you have to keep in mind that there will always be dissenters. If they communicate their dissent respectfully and intelligently, then by all means, interact with them and discuss. But don’t encourage the assholes and the trolls by responding to them. it only encourages them, and responding to them gives them the impression that you are defensive, and you have nothing to be defensive about.

        Leave the trolls alone and keep up the good articles.

        • Wes Siler

          Good points Paul, but I really want the level of conversation to be elevated here to what I know it can be. In a lot of cases, I think the people acting trollish are otherwise intelligent people and I’m hoping they can be encouraged to contribute something useful.

          It’s almost as if otherwise normal people remove their brains when they consume motorcycle media. They pick up a copy of the NYTimes and read thoughtful commentary and respond well to it, but then the same people read something about motorcycles and are only capable of speaking in tired cliches and conventional wisdom. My theory about why that happens is because there haven’t been any good motorcycle publications for so long that people just don’t know how to react when they’re suddenly confronted with critical motorcycle discourse.

    • Chris

      There’s a huge difference between this project and that waste of 4000 hours called a Falcon.

      The RD project was commissioned for a night club. People like to look at cool shit and fake tits in night clubs. And it costs a fuck-ton less than a handmade version of what was out many decades earlier.

      Also, I can simply swap the exhaust in under an hour and ride this bitchin’ RD all day. But the falcon only runs if you wear glassless glasses, plaid shirt, capri pants, and Birkenstocks. All of which are “vintage.”

  • brettvegas

    I like it, but it gots nothing on my guzzi V7 classic. Guzzi is a riders bike.
    Everybody keeps telling me to put pipes on it, I like it just the way it is.


  • Tommy

    Decoration or not. Fat front tires never belong on a cafe bike. I hate this wrenchmonkee trend. As a huge rd fan, it hurts a little. Rest of the bike is beautiful.

  • generic1776

    In other news, Doug, of Moto Carrera fame, is “back” and starting to make trick RD bits again. (He’s started with rider & passenger rear-sets, but has hinted at getting back into making pipes again.)

  • ryan

    Another tasteless POS that should have been left in the dark ages where it belongs.

    Function is part of the artpiece, or should be at the very least.

    For a while there I thought wrench monkees were going to make some cool bikes, looks like I was 100% wrong.

  • brettvegas


    I like the back and forth myself. I love that bike, but could see where somebody else would totaly hate it. Not saying I’d push my guzzi in a ditch for it, damn bike is near perfect(for me!) right off the showroom floor. I need to put some ‘cafe’ mirrors on it, after that just give it gas and oil.

    A 400cc two-stroke scares me a bit, only ridden on the back on my dads old rd350 when I was a wee chile. Remember being scared of that orange beastie.

    In my opinion strong opinions show a persons passion for the art. Bikes are an art.

    One mans troll is another mans, mmm, something or other.



  • W

    ot derivative? Really? 

    Recipe for hacked flattrack, naked, retro, mash-up, whatever…

    ** First – Buy Beer** the cheaper the better unless you are a Euro in which case it’s probably hard to find crappy beer.

    1. Gut all plastic boxes etc., cut off all loose s*it. Drink a few beers.

    2. Add period-ish – cast wheels or paint the ones you have, whatever it takes to make ‘em fit, do it, but don’t worry about clearence, you ain’t gonna ride it far anyway. As for brakes, eh’ whatever you can slap on there. Drink a few beers.

    3. Add flattrack or other non-performing period-ish tire (square tire/straight groove is best). Drink more beer.

    5. Add, vinyl covered plywood seat. This’ll show ‘em how ‘hard you are. Don’t forget to drink some more beer. Aggghhh who but their Phillip Morris Commander out in my beer?!

    6. Wrap exhaust with exhaust tape. You don’t know what it is actually for but neither does anyone else (most important! with this you can actually skip steps 2-5). Damn*t were out of beer.

    7. Drill holes in everything. DO NOT plan or mark the holes, just drill ‘em for more 70′s last-minute-at-the-racetrack cred. Seriously where’s the d*mn beer?

    8. Spray with Krylon paint – Arty colors with arty graphics are best….dont worry your Docs, black leather jacket, and metal-flake 3/4 open-face helmet will assure everyone you are not a cardigan wearing designer. 

    Well time for bed got to get up at noon so you can hang out at the alternative coffee shop and show off your retroness before everyone heads down to the dive bar…..


  • Mark D.

    Bit of an aside, but seeing as this build is pretty close to stock, what’s HFL’s opinion on restorations? I think the time it takes to track down the correct parts, clean them, and research just how to get a tired old bike to looking like it just rolled off the assembly line is cool. Probably not art. But very, very cool. Like this:

  • eric

    W, I don’t entirely agree with you regarding this bike, but I’ve gotta say, that was one seriously funny post.