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The “2 Stroke Attack” RD400 by Roland Sands

The Roland Sands Yamaha RD400: A Work Of Art

Updated August 9, 2018

“That’s not what I remember an old RD400 lookin’ like,” is the first thing that might cross your mind. But when you’ve got the acclaimed racer, designer and engineer Roland Sands at the controls, anything is possible. This amazing little (yet incredibly f*cking fast) machine was unveiled at the Born Free show a few weeks ago; an event that usually plays host to Triumphs, Harleys and other big, iconic machines – Roland’s two-stroke Yamaha was a real curve ball.

Roland Sands Yamaha RD400 1

If you’re not familiar with Roland Sands, you’re probably on the wrong website: Roland and his own brand Roland Sands Design are very well referenced in the performance and custom motorcycle scene. He’s an ex-racer with a flair for design and a passion for building, and has worked with everyone. Roland Sands is probably one of the most recognizable names in motorcycle customization, and that’s all you need to know.

The “2-Stroke Attack” Roland Sands Yamaha RD400

Roland Sands Yamaha RD400 2

So what we’ve got here is something truly special. It’s a Yamaha RD400, a classic two-stroke; Roland had always wanted to put a two stroke into one of his racing bikes and now, it’s finally happened. The original donor was picked at a swap meet for a mere $600 and took a year to transform it into the machine that you see now. According to Roland: “I worked on it for a year after I found a donor RD400 at a swap meet for $600,” Sands tells us. “It didn’t run. The only thing left now is the cases and the California title.”

Roland Sands Yamaha RD400 3

Knowing that, you’ll appreciate the level of work that went into making this old Yam a runner again. Since the engine was a non-runner, it was the obvious place to start. Roland called in Yamaha specialist Ed Erlenbach to give the engine an upgrade and a new lease of life. Ed ported and tuned the heads and treated the engine with a set of Mikuni flatsides. Ed actually owns the world’s fastest RD400 (top speed of 164.73 mph) so he knows a thing or two about those engines… In fact, Ed also supplied the hand cut gears for the transmission and fused them with a TZ250 dry clutch too. The TZ250 also supplied the bike’s silencers too, teamed up with a handmade expansion chamber built by Brian Turfrey.

Roland Sands Yamaha RD400 4

With the engine working and decidedly sportier, it needed a frame to house it. Again, the TZ250 was put to good use and revamped too. Ohlins forks up front, supported by magnesium triple trees from Team Kenny Roberts from around 1995. The rear shock is an Ohlins TTX, that rests under the seat and on top of the TZ250 swingarm.

Roland Sands Yamaha RD400 5

The bodywork didn’t end their either: the TZ250 tank (taken from Roland’s own 1998 AMA Championship machine) was reworked to fit, and had the worst of the dents removed and now compliments the brand new seat and tail unit. “Aaron Boss made that tail section a long time ago and it fit the bike perfect, so we used it. Then Scott Dimick and I did a lot of the fabrication in the last couple of weeks, in between the Victory Project 156 build,” Roland explains.

Roland Sands Yamaha RD400 6

The engine works, frame solid, all that was left was to fit the bike with a wide range of Roland Sands Design parts and accessories, such as the tank strap, bar grips and the clip on bars themselves, and a few unique pieces from Team Kenny Roberts: this time, the gauges – which come from a 500 GP bike. The wheels are also old racing units and shod with Dunlop KR slicks too.

Roland Sands Yamaha RD400 7

Finally, the pin striping was performed by Tom Clark, and the Japanese text aptly reads: “2 Stroke Attack” in Japanese, transforming this Roland Sands Yamaha into a piece of rolling art.

Roland Sands Yamaha RD400 8

All in all: this isn’t your average build and definitely one worth celebrating. If you like Roland’s design aesthetic, then you might be interested in his former employee, Winston Yeh, and his brand of custom builds too.

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Joe Appleton
About Joe Appleton

I’ve done a bit of work here and there in the industry – I’ve even ridden a few bikes for actual money but what it comes down to is this: I ride bikes, build bikes and occasionally crash ‘em too. I like what I like but that certainly doesn’t make my opinion any more valid than yours…

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