Chem Trails: Yamaha RD400 Street Tracker

Yamaha RD400 Street TrackerA Smokin’ Two-Stroke Tracker from DubStyle Designs…  

There are workshops who turn out a kaleidoscopic range of custom bikes, always experimenting with a style or era or make they haven’t yet explored, often at the behest of a client. Then there are those lone builders operating out of small sheds or home garages who have something akin to a singular vision — a focused aesthetic they keep honing with every build, creating a signature style you can identify at a mere glance.

Yamaha RD400 Street TrackerGarett Wilson of Colorado’s DubStyle Designs is the latter. One of our favorite builders, Garett has over the years turned out a small stable of performance street trackers designed to perform as well as they look — all bearing a good bit of 70s flair and built out of his garage.

“I’ve slowly been acquiring tools in my three-car garage so that now it’s a zero-car garage, but it fits a bunch of bikes.”

Yamaha RD400 Street Tracker

A new DubStyle build is always a treat, and this two-stroke tracker might be our favorite yet. It began life as a ’77 Yamaha RD400 that Garett acquired in trade nearly a decade ago. He’s been working on the bike on and off for years, but it wasn’t until January of this year that he got really serious about completing it in time for the 2024 Handbuilt Show in April.

Yamaha RD400 Street TrackerWe got a peek at what was coming back in December ’23 when Garett reached out, said he was working on an RD400, and wondered if we’d ever heard of anyone ever nicknaming their two-stroke project “Chem Trails.” We hadn’t, and we thought it was absolutely perfect for such a smoker!

Yamaha RD400 Street TrackerFast forward a few months and “Chem Trails” made its debut at the 2024 Handbuilt Show — one of the few street trackers in attendance this year, actually — but we were waiting on a full set of photos to run a feature of the bike. Now they’re here and we’re thrilled to share this root beer-flavored tracker with you.

Photo: Handbuilt Show / Revival Cycles

Garett took inspiration from the Champion frames so popular on flat tracks around the country for the last 50 years and more. He fabricated a new back half of the frame to mimic this style and used a Champion-style fiberglass tail modified to run a taillight and house some of the bike’s electrics. 

Yamaha RD400 Street TrackerThe wheels and swingarm are 70s Kawasaki units with custom-machined spacers and carriers courtesy of Jake Shellito, while the tank is from a Yamaha YZ400 of similar vintage with graphics hand-laid by Dan White of Whitey’s Paint Shop. Garett shaved the forks and lowered them slightly, matching them with a pair of 14-inch Fox shocks in the back for the stance he needed.

Yamaha RD400 Street TrackerTwo-stroke guru Gary Braun of Retrodyne rebuilt the engine complete with some port work and vapor-honed Webco heads, while Garett worked up the exhaust out of reconditioned Factory Pipe chambers and modified FMF silencers. He moved the controls back about an inch for a more aggressive riding position, and many of the components have been baked in black or bronze Cerakote thanks to Vernon Wagoner and Neco Customs.

The subtle LED headlight cleverly inlaid in the front number plate all but hides the street-legality of the bike, and the overall look is that of a TT racer from the 1970s — with some modern upgrades, of course.

Yamaha RD400 Street TrackerThe bike weighs 275 pounds dry, and while Garett has hardly had a chance to put it through its paces yet, we’re sure this two-stroke street smoker won’t disappoint. If you want to see it yourself, “Chem Trails” will be on display at Sturgis this summer.

Below is our full interview with Garett for those who want more details on the build.

Yamaha RD400 Tracker: Builder Interview

Yamaha RD400 Street Tracker

• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.

My name is Garett Wilson — I build bikes out of my garage under the name DubStyle Designs. I’ve slowly been acquiring tools in my three-car garage so that now it’s a zero-car garage, but it fits a bunch of bikes.

• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?

This started as a 1977 Yamaha RD400. I traded my 2009 KTM 250SX for it about 9 years ago and worked on it off and on but got serious about building it this January.

Yamaha RD400 Street Tracker

• Why was this bike built?

I built this bike for myself, I have a few Yamaha twin two-strokes and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to part with them.

Yamaha RD400 Street Tracker

• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?

I kept with my typical performance street tracker style for this RD400. You could call it a restomod; I like to make a bike perform as good as it looks.

Yamaha RD400 Street Tracker

• What custom work was done to the bike?

Starting with the frame, I cut the back half off and fabbed up the new tail section to mimic the “Champion” flat track frames. All the extra tabs were removed and I made a few crossmembers to mount my seat pan to. I used a “Champion” fiberglass tail and built it to fit the brake lamp lens and hid some electrical underneath.

Yamaha RD400 Street Tracker

The aluminum tank is off a 70s YZ400.

Yamaha RD400 Street Tracker

The wheels and swingarm are both Kawasaki pieces, also from the 70s. Carriers for the rotors and sprocket were machined to fit the wheels as well as spacers to make sure it all lined up correctly.

Yamaha RD400 Street Tracker

I brought the foot position back a couple inches by welding new mounts to the frame. I machined the extra lugs off the forks legs and lowered them an inch and balanced it out with some 14” Fox shocks in the back.

Yamaha RD400 Street Tracker

The exhaust is a mix of some old beat up “Factory Pipe” chambers that I froze to get some of the bigger dents out of and some new FMF silencers that I cut down a couple inches to be the right size.

Yamaha RD400 Street Tracker

• Does the bike have a nickname?

It’s a two-stroke — I call it “Chem Trails.”

Yamaha RD400 Street Tracker

• Any idea of horsepower, weight, and/or performance numbers?

The bike ran when I got it, but had a small knocking sound. I was hoping it just needed a top end but when I got it apart it needed to be completely rebuilt. I sent it off to Gary Braun (@retrodyne) and let him do his magic. I had acquired the Webco heads a few years back he machined them and did some port work and sent it all back with the lovely vapor-honed finish. The bike weighs 275lbs without fuel.

Yamaha RD400 Street Tracker

• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?

I’m very happy with the finished product on this one, each bike I build gets a little more refined.

• Is there anyone you’d like to thank?

@vernon.wagoner and @neco_customs_llc did the bronze and black Cerakote on the parts, @jake_shellito helped machine parts, Dan White @whiteys_paint_shop hand-laid the tank graphics and killed it all in a tight timeline. I took these photos at the flat track @imi_motorsports_complex.

Follow the Builder

Instagram: @dubstyledesigns
Youtube: DubStyle Designs

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  1. Love the bike back when I was young and still racing flat track. The guy had at 252 stroke, twin Yamaha. And he would exit the corner, grab a handful. Stand it up on the rear wheel. Throwing a Brewster, tail all the way down to half mile straight away. And set it down for the. Next corner, unbelievable.I got such a kick out of watch him

  2. Bought a 1976 RD400C brand new. It was very much modified before I was done and was a small rocket ship. It would kill the big bikes light to light or in the canyons of SoCal. Of course if they had room they would beat me. It was never modded to the level of this bike but I wish it had been! Very nice bike!

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