Yamaha RD400 Custom by Keith Carlson

RD400 Cafe Racer

There is nothing quite like the blood-singing mania of screwing the throttle of a big two-stroke. Sadly, there are few of these blue-smoking screamers still around. Even at their height, the suspension and brakes of these machine-age banshees lagged behind their power.

RD400 Cafe Racer

Enter Keith Carlson of Indianapolis and his RD400 cafe hybrid. Keith, in a stroke of genius, has mated a ported and polished 1977 RD400 motor to a 2002 Honda CRF450R frame, creating one of the wildest scream machines we have ever featured.  We will let Keith give you the full details of the build.

Custom RD400/CRF450F Cafe Racer:  In the Builder’s Words

RD400 Custom

The bike started as two projects. A 2002 Honda CRF450R and a 1977 Yamaha RD400. The Honda chassis was used and the stock Showa suspension was shortened; the wheels were switched to 18″ Excel with Buchanan spokes. All the stock Honda Nissan brakes were used also. The engine, control switches, and wiring harness was used from the Yamaha RD400.

The RD400 is a 1977 twin cylinder 2-stroke. The engine was then dismantled, the cases were hydroblasted in PA, the cylinders were sent to Team Scream Racing in FL where they were ported. Original DG radial heads were modified and VForce 3 reeds added. The stock ignition points system was replaced with an MZB Powerdynamo ignition.

RD400 Supermoto

The fabrication began with Porterbilt Motorcycles and Hot Rods in Indianapolis. Here the motor was placed and centered in the frame and the initial design ideas were set in place. The final fabrication was then completed at Drinan Racing, also in Indianapolis. Here, Dan Drinan hand built the fuel tank, subframe, frame cradle, headlight bucket, and exhaust mounts. All the aluminum was then polished. Nothing is painted on the bike.  It is anodized, powdercoated or polished. Here is a list of the details:

  • Engine:  RD400 Yamaha 1977, Vforce 3 reeds, MZB ignition, DG Heads, ported cylinders.
  • Frame:  2002 Honda CRF450, stock hubs, Showa suspension, Nissan brakes, Excel rims, Buchanan spokes.
  • Miscellaneous:  Bike is a premix only 32:1 Klotz oil and has storage under the seat for three 8oz bottles.

More RD400 Pictures

Photos by Daniel Tijerina

Custom CRF450 Cafe Racer

RD400 4 RD400 5 RD400 7 RD400 8


  1. Dont forget the amazing photos by Daniel Tijerina.

  2. Toby Jones

    Keith Carlson is a cat that’s not afraid to “step outside the box”. His work always shouts quality, on the stock stuff he does as well as the wild stuff.

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  4. I had the pleasure to build the seat for Kieth. Seeing it on this bike reminds me of why I build aluminum seat pans. Thanks Kieth.

    • Keith Carlson

      Hey Pete…thanks for building the seat and trail piece. Your communication while building this piece was much appreciated!!

  5. Brad McGregor

    That is pretty crazy.. too bad he used a RD400 though.. they are very tame compared to the RD350.. I realize he likely wanted to say aircooled but the RZ350 would have been great too. I have 9 Yamaha’s from the DS7(preRD350) to RD125 up though RD350, RD400, RD350 liquids, RZ350’s

  6. Hoy Vintage Cycles

    Ive ridden this bad dude!!! Nice job Keith as always!!

  7. the cycle foot was a cool idea. Nice touch.

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