Monday, June 11, 2012

Motorcycle Mondays: 1977 Yamaha XS400D

 1977 Yamaha XS400D

I've been browsing the web for stock pipes for the motorcycle I bought last year.  It's fun to read about other people's experiences with their bikes and adventures.  Mine still has some kinks to work out, like a rear brake caliper that locks after 5 minutes of riding and a cylinder that cuts out.  For $500 bucks, I'd say the hassle is worth it.  This machine has barely a scratch and was kept in a garage for years. 

I'm most excited about exploring back roads and seeing the world in a different way.  For now, until the kinks are worked out, I'll live vicariously through those that share their experiences like the one below.  It's especially poetic near the end (so keep reading even if you aren't into motorcycles).  I think it will give you that extra nudge to go out and do things you love to do and experience the world in a new way.

From YamahaClub:
Posted 05 August 2009 - 03:46 PM
Just found your forum here.  I've been around the block a little with mine, and I may have some insight.

1977 Yamaha XS400D 32-year, 90,000 mile test

It was my first bike.  They said in the magazines to keep your first bike, that you would regret not having it, so I kept it.  It has always been my primary bike since I bought it in 1991, running mostly city commuter duty, as it was designed to do.   It has been as far west as Gillette, Wyoming, and as far south as Raleigh, NC, and as far east as Boston.  It has seen 500-mile days.

I ride it rain or shine, and down to 15 degrees, beyond which it will not start.  I have ridden it on snow, dirt, gravel and sleet.  I have carried up to two passengers, and up to 3 60-lb. bags of concrete.  I have maintained it myself the whole time.  I have personally sat on it for 80,000 miles. And now I am going to offer you my considered opinion of this particular machine.

I rode mine home in October 1991 with 10200 miles on the clock, for $300.  By $450 total, it was shod in new tires, and had a rack from JC Whitney.

The generic description:  Parallel twin of 398cc, four-stroke, air-cooled, two valves per cylinder, kick/electric start, 6-speed, single discs front and rear with single-piston sliding calipers, battery and point ignition with one point per cylinder, 180 degree firing angle, chain drive, suspension adjustable by shim and oil in front, preload only in rear, around 4” of travel front and rear, steel frame cradles engine, single downtube.

I would hesitate to call this bike a prima-donna, or unreliable.  In fact it has, on several occasions, been the only bike in my stable that had what it took to go on a voyage, while other bigger, better-suited bikes were inoperable or could not be counted on.  But it is quite high-maintenance by modern standards, and the attention it requires under heavy use is too much for anybody but a person who is happy to make lots of time for tinkering. 

If you need to learn about how motorcycles work, and are prepared to put in the time, the XS400 will respond well to your efforts.  It will reward you with a reliable, torquey ride that is great around town, and can head out on the two-lanes without trouble.   It will give you fuel economy around 50MPG, which is better than most, but exceeded by the Kawasaki KZ400 of 1979, and Suzuki GS500 twins, Kawasaki KLR650’s, and Ninja 250’s, all of which have more power.
How do I feel about the Yamaha XS400D?

I bought it because it was simple and easy to understand and fix.  After all this time, I know every washer on the bike.  I have already fixed every problem twice or more.  This lends a sense of security out on the road that is hard to describe.  I may need to get my hands dirty to successfully return from a long trip, but between me and the bike, we are hard to stop.  It’s nice to feel needed and involved, and it’s nice to know that my efforts will be enough.Also, as rusty and scratched up and unglamorous and wimpy and ungraceful as it may be, the lack of any particularly attractive traits in the bike seems to remind me of why I love riding so much.  Absent anything attractive about the bike, I am left with only the basics to enjoy.  I get on.   I pull out the enrichener.  Two kicks, and it spins up.  A sense of gratitude and excitement comes to me, understanding that this rusty piece of shit is once again about to deliver me one of the most joyful and miraculous experiences I have ever had, just like it has for 18 years.  I turn the throttle gingerly and wait for it to clear its throat, push the enrichener back in, wait again for it to smooth out, flip it into first, and go.  I feel the bike pull lumpily and unpretentiously away, and the world starts to move.

Some of my favorite blessings once again manifest in my life.  I get to use and control all this found energy, the product of countless earlier beings living, collecting energy, and leaving it behind for me.  One big twist of the wrist and more calories than my body could ever burn at once are at my beck and call, pulling me through the air, through the trees, through the traffic.  Who knew a guy would be able to just buy 20 pounds of liquid energy and zoom away at unnatural speeds, to go anywhere?  I could be so many places, so soon.  I could be alone with trees.  I could be laughing with friends.  I could be hugging my sweetie.  It’s up to me.

On my feet I am clumsy and slow.  But my little bike and I, we can dance, and if you saw us, you would see the grace of many, many miles and years together shining, rather than nice paint and chrome.   The joys of freedom and motion taste fine served raw.

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