Nearly two decades ago, Mark Miller (@nojoke2stroke) converted a Yamaha YZ400F into a street-legal dual sport and rode it 15,000 miles through Mexico, Central America, and across the United States from Florida to Oregon. The adventure even caught the attention of Cycle World, who profiled Mark in their May 2000 issue, with the title: “Prodigal Thumper.”
Fast forward more than a decade, and Mark returned home after years working abroad. He had a personal challenge in mind: build a bike inspired by his favorite street machine, “the one that got away,” a Yamaha RD400 Daytona. Mark wanted to create a functional, appealing 2-stroke street tracker of sufficient caliber to earn an invite to the Hand Built Show in Austin, Texas.
Mark certainly met and exceeded that goal, as we can attest. We were lucky enough to see this bike in person at this year’s Hand Built Show, and the build simply wowed us. Below, we get the full story on this beautiful RD400 street tracker.
Yamaha RD400 Tracker: Builder Interview
(Answers by Mark Miller. Highlights by us.)
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
Part time hobbyist builder and full time adventurer. My first build came nearly 20 years ago by taking a 1998 YZ400F converting into dual sport and riding it 15k miles through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and across the United States from Florida to Oregon.
The second build was this RD400 Street Tracker. Life’s journey took a detour in building bikes by transplanting me to Europe and the Middle East for a decade. The riding continued and the passion has always stayed strong since my teenage years where I scrapped together money to buy clapped out bikes to get running and race. Most motorcycles were 2 strokes dirt bikes with my favorite street bike being an RD400 Daytona. Everyone has the bike they wish they never sold and this is the one for me and this is why an RD400 had to be the starting point for my build.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1976 Yamaha RD400
• Why was this bike built?
The build was a personal challenge to create a functional and aesthetically appealing bike that would perform better than what came off the show room floor in the 70’s. In doing so I wanted to get acquainted with the local motorcycle scene and meet great people that could support the build.
I found the perfect donor from John at RD’s Only, which was an RD400 parts bike that had been off the road for 25 years. John was a huge resource to solve any problem along the way.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
There were 3 main things that were ‘must haves’ aesthetically on the build: 1) Spoked 19” wheels front and back. Had to source the rear hub from a European RD400 out of Germany, 2) Upside-down forks. These forks are off a YZ85 and mechanically lowered 4”, and 3) Right side exit exhaust chambers.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The only things left from an original RD400 are only a modified and de-tabbed frame, rebuilt engine, and carbs. The parts sourced off Ebay were the entire YZ85 front end, R6 foot controls and rear brake, rear hub from Germany, and HID headlight.
The custom one-off and modified parts were the tank and tail, front number plate, fork protectors, kickstand, swingarm, offset rear sprocket, battery box, rear rotor, Race Tech shocks, and complete wiring harness.
The cool upgrades fitted to the bike were Sun 19” rims with Mitas flat track tires, Drag Specialties integrated push buttons, Motogadget m-unit/m-lock/motoscope mini, Custom Dynamics integrated LED tail light and wrap around turn signals, and Powerdynamo electronics.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Not long after moving back Stateside I was determined that I wanted to build a bike good enough to reach the high standards to enter into the Hand Built Show in Austin, TX. The show is world class and the team at Revival are an awesome crowd. My end goal was to showcase the bike in the Hand Built Show, but the joy was the ability to meet so many talented people around Austin willing to support.
I was able to get the creative Working Man’s Custom to help with fabrication and leather seat, the genius of 812 Suspension to dial in the front forks, endless possibilities of Moto Lab Machine to deliver one-off machining, and the artistic Josh Trevino to put the awesome final touches on the bike with world class paint.
Photographer: Jason Lehecka
Follow the Builder on Instagram: @nojoke2stroke