First Time Bike Build from up North


XS400 Addict
Reaction score
Saskatchewan, Canada
Hi everyone,
I just picked up this 79 today. About 45,000 kms but she runs really well. The pickings are kinda slim up here so I jumped on this when I saw it.




My long terms plans are for a cafe/brat/tracker style I guess. I dont really know what to call it. Something like this:




This is my first bike so Im gonna focus on the maintenance stuff first then a few mods. Heres a list ive come up with below:

  • Replace brake fluid
  • Clean up calipers
  • Change oil
  • Replace fork seals and the fork oil

  • Drag bars
  • Bar end mirrors
  • New grips
  • Mini tach and speedo
  • convert lights in dash to smaller leds
  • shorten up front fender
  • smaller turn signals
  • pod filters and rejet
  • paint wheels black
  • remove chainguard
  • replace the gigantic Harley mufflers with smaller reverse cone mufflers
  • smaller headlight
  • longer shocks in the rear to get the bike to sit a bit more level

Long term mods:
  • Smaller battery
  • Hide electronics and get rid of sidecovers
  • weld in rear upswept loop
  • make new smaller seat and seatpan
  • new/ smaller rear fender
  • smaller brake light
  • knee dent tank
  • wiring harness from scratch

Theres probably more but thats all I can think of for now.
Im glad to be here and have already downloaded the manual and have read a ton of threads/ how tos etc.

The only problem with the bike is the battery was weak. I took it out and one cell was really low so I filled it back up and have it charging now. I know the charging systems on these old bikes seem to be a problem so I figure I may need to replace parts of it.
I like those builds you're looking at, but they are all totally illegal. Where are the lights? Turn signals? License plate? Gauges? Front fenders? Lol, you couldn't ride any of those in New Hampshire. Consider those items; they will change the way the motorcycle looks a lot.
That said, turn signals and tail lights can be very small but powerful LEDs. Front fenders can be chopped back so they're legal, nut not obvious (paint it black to match the tires and wheels helps.) Gauges are not required to be legal - tachs are optional, and speedos too. Speeding is against the law, and ignorance of your speed is no excuse, but you can get around it... And plates can sometimes be placed low on the rear axle (although not in Ontario, as far as I know...)

I say dream big, make sure it runs first, and try not to make the mistake I did, and do stuff that takes the bike off the road for too much time. Much as I love wrenching, I do miss riding sometimes...
Speedo's may be optional, but Odometers are required by law. And changes to Odometers must be documented such that the correct mileage for the chassis can be calculated.

Customizing any on-road vehicle is getting more and more difficult with every law passed...
Thanks guys. Those builds are more for inspiration/ a style I like. If you look at the list of upgrades, I plan on having all signal lights, brake lights, gauges etc.
Hey Mechnewb. Awesome pickup. We are in the same boat. I am also building my first bike and just finishing up most of my fabrication. I hope to have it done before the start of summer but wont be upset if I dont. These are perfect winter projects!! Good luck.
Hey Mechnewb. Awesome pickup. We are in the same boat. I am also building my first bike and just finishing up most of my fabrication. I hope to have it done before the start of summer but wont be upset if I dont. These are perfect winter projects!! Good luck.

Thanks ksqrly. I just checked out your build, it looks like its coming along nicely. I recharged the battery back up and installed it. Started up no problem. The only thing is it idles a bit high. Around 1800 when I believe it should be about 1200. Im thinking they turned up the idle with the new exhaust.
Picked up some bar end mirrors, new blade style fuse block, new front brake lever, new led indicators and 5.5" Bates styles headlight this week. Taking the carbs off and cleaning them this weekend and hopefully going through the forks as well. Cant wait for this snow to melt.
Hi MechNewb Looks like a worthy project. I also just found an XS400 Mine is an 80 with 15000 mi on the clock I've been looking at the inspiration pics and one thing continues to hit me in the mug. Those wonderfully huge tires front & rear. With the black wheels the cafe seat and drag bars those bikes look amazing. My only hope is that mine will turn out 1/2 as good as your's will. Thanks for posting some pictures I think you'll inspire a number of builds. I know you inspired mine.
Finally got the bike out....or almost at least. When I bought it and put it in storage till winter ended, i took out the battery and the carbs. I cleaned the carbs as it wasnt running all that great before and was idling high. After gettign it going and taking it about 2 kms down the road, it died and wont re start. Plugs look fouled up like its running too rich.

When I cleaned and rebuilt the carbs, i set the idle mixture screws at 3.5 turns out from the point where the tip is right at the hole in the carb body. If i tightened them more, the tip would actually stick out into the airflow. Is this correct?

Both sides of exhaust are warm and it has strong spark. It ran amazing until it died at the stop light and wouldnt re-start. im thinking of rebuilding the carbs again and possibly dropping the main jets one size. Its got 132.5 mains right now. other that or wait till my pod filters show up and tune with them. The pilot jets are 42.5.
I'd revisit your carbs but also your idle mix should be GENTLY seated then turned out 3.5 turns. I'm new to this bike my self and hadn't had much time to work on mine yet. I'd also get it running as is b4 you re jet for pod filters. I'm sure a really good soaking and cleaning along with rodding out the passages with a small copper wire will do your carbs good. I can't put enough emphasis on gently seating your idle mix needles.
Today I got a bunch of parts in the mail. I replaced the carb boots, installed an inline fuel filter, upped the main jet one, replaced the float needle and installed pods. Now the thing just cranks over and won't even start. Decided to give up for the night when the mosquitos got too bad.