Too Much Fun: New Member from BC.


XS400 New Member
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Vancouver Island
Hey everyone,

(Heads up, longish post, photos farther down)

Okay, so, I kinda just want to start off by thanking everyone who has contributed and will make further additions to not just this forum but pretty much every model specific enthusiast forum in existence on the web; places like these are invaluable for reasons I'm sure most everyone who has accessed them can probably relate to. You know, things like inspiration, motivation, information...

Anyways, in the past I have pulled much from and provided less for these kind of forums and I guess I'd like to take a few steps at actually getting, I dunno, involved. Without getting into my life story, these sort of webpages have been crucial to the maintenance of my vehicular independence; a healthy relationship with a shop has, for a twentysomething who is perhaps less put together than others his age, often proved to be prohibitively expensive when held to the intangible expense of time invested in acquiring skills. CB7tuner, Rollaclub, and come to mind as resources. More recently I've been browsing around DoTheTon as well. So here goes.

On to the bike.

I happened to come in to possession of my 1978 XS400 after a discussion with my great-grandfather. He asked one of my younger brothers and I if we would be at all interested in the "junk" bikes he was planning on throwing away; two Yamaha's, the XS, and a two stroke trials bike from the same period.

They had sat on his property for years... held over from when he was pretty into riding. He still is, pretty into it that is, so I was fairly surprised by the proposition. Sensing, I think, a bit of incredulity, he went on to state that we'd really be doing him a favour; he was unsure of their condition besides that the blocks were known to turn over, had been tuned up somewhere between five years and a decade ago, and was apparently tired of looking at them.

Honestly, I'm pretty sure he just knew I'm kinda into things with wheels and moving parts, and my brother likes to boot around.

In any case, we quietly said something about payment, he replied by stating taking them away would be payment enough and had a bit of a laugh. He said something about how they might be more trouble than anything anyway with a chuckle.

Addressing my brother, he mentioned the two stroke had been kept up and shouldn't need to much work beyond cleaning up the carb, changing out some rubber, and potentially changing out the seat as the one on it was more moss than vinyl. Bit of a Saltspring Island Special.

The XS400, on the other hand, he was a little less sure about. (I'm pretty sure he was more sure than he would have me believe.) It had been torn down; the block stored with lightly oiled rags in the ports in the shed around back out of the wet and turned over semi-regularly, the forks and everything attached besides the bars were on a sheet of plywood under said shed (lol, said shed, rhymes, anyway), and the frame pitched out into the far end of the yard. The rest had been tucked into boxes or arranged around the rafters of the shed and whatever wasn't there had likely been sold.

I asked him why it had been torn down; was something up with it? Must have been, right? He smiled a bit and said "no... it was just too much fun!". Apparently he had liked riding around quite a bit. He had picked it up sometime in the early eighties from a guy who had bought it new (presumably) and apparently had rode it on the beach a couple times for photos (or something) and then parked it. From what I was able to make of the exchange from the original owner to my granddad the fact that it had been ridden on sand weighed heavily in the negotiation process.

After the papers changed hands it was cleaned out a bunch and cleaned up a bit. The license plate that was bolted to it when I pulled it out had an insurance tag on it that expired in July of 1982.

I couldn't really believe his answer, and I think he could see it, as he went on to say that he had just been out riding around and looked down and seen sparks a couple times when he had been going through a corner or two. He got to thinking about things and took a hiatus from riding at around the same time he tore the bike down; said he had really enjoyed riding for many years and begrudgingly had felt that something like a minor incident like a rolled ankle from kick-starting or anything really might have meant more downtime than it would have perhaps in years previous. He's a stubborn guy though and of course took a few rides here and there on some of the other bikes left over from when the house was full :bike: .

Ok, bit too deep. Moving on... how about a picture...


Long story a bit shorter, my brother and I hauled the frame up from the bottom of the hill, pulled the two stroke out from behind the shed, gathered up anything that looked related to the XS, and crammed it all into the back of my truck (which has since developed a blown head gasket or worse... different story though) and after a bit more talking and a wave we were off. I dropped my brother and his bike off, sprayed the frame with a marinade of Fluid Film and Rust Cure Formula 3000 and left it in pieces under the tonneau of the pickup, parked up for another day.

Fast forward a couple months, a few final exams, and a change of residence... and...

IMG_20150106_143111.jpg IMG_20150106_143305.jpg

Essentially pulled it out, wiped it down, and threw what was there together to take stock of the situation. Tested the compression, came back within a pound of stock spec, cheaper tester though so I'm going with within five pounds. Polished a thing or two just 'cause. Determined I was missing a few things, and after a bit of phoning around and the discovery of a decent used parts store in Victoria.

IMG_20150213_230426.jpg IMG_20150214_103448.jpg

Went home with a tank, petcock, cap, a pair of forks, some head-pipes with a less rusty taillight bracket thrown in for good measure. The tape on the headlight is just for amusement. Over the course of the next few weeks, got a bit of a hand with finding a pair of carbs that were a little (a lot) less frozen than the originals. The replacements were cleaned in one of those immersion ultrasonic parts cleaners. Figure I'll use the OE ones for spare parts as the throttle plates refused to budge and I kinda buggered them attempting (forcing...) to get them to open. Otherwise the originals were good, just had a bit of gas left in them when they got tucked away I suppose.

Beyond that, there's still some odds and ends to figure out, the details. I'm going to take more photos as I go; looking to replace the rear master (was left attached to the frame and saw a few winters unplugged, thinking one from a Ninja 250 or ideally a PS13 from a KTM or something...), replace the chain (also left outside, badly corroded), locate some missing electrical components (battery, starter solenoid, condenser, taillight lens), test the rest of the wiring, clean out the replacement tank, rebuild the petcock, give it some fresh oil... then rubber...

First things first though, I'd like to hear it run. Going to get the fuel system cleaned up (tank, petcock, lines between them...), go over the engine maintenance list (valve clearances), get it wired, and double check everything. Get it running, get the original stuff working where possible, replace and resto-mod the rest. Plan on resisting the urge to make too many changes to the original form of the bike before I at least give it a few spins in semi-original shape.

Oh, and I'll be honest, I'm a total newbie when it comes to working on motorcycles. I've worked on my own cars, drove parts until they let me work in a couple general auto service shops for a while, and was at one point pursuing an apprenticeship as an auto technician... life intervened. I just work on my own stuff now, I'm 26, finishing up my second year in college, aiming for a business diploma, accounting option. Planning on getting some work in to go with last summers co-op before I head out for a couple years more training in management accounting down the line; eager to get back out into the workforce.

I'd definitely appreciate any input as I actually have little clue what I'm doing beyond applying transferable skills and putting my mind to it. I'll do my best to better document things as I go; I'll ideally create a thread or two reporting on figuring out a decent rear master solution and anything else I find that could be documented that may be of use that hasn't already been covered. This site rocks so we'll see what's left to contribute.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. any questions feel free to ask.
Another Vancouver Islander! Welcome! Are you down in Victoria?

Great story. I wish it were that easy for me to track down an xs400. Hoping to get a second bike once my 360 is running well. Haven't seen many 400s listed for sale locally.

Is that the salvage shop on Discovery St you found? I got a decent headlight bucket and front master cylinder/reservoir from them last year.

Supposedly tire prices are going up significantly this year. At least that's what the parts guy at SG Power said wednesday. They didn't have any matched sets in stock but you'll find better prices at Canada's anyways.

If it needs it and you are down in Vic Alpine Transmission's truck shop can line the gas tank for about $80. Mine was rusty enough to warrant it.
Thanks guys,

Tape is off, crabs have been through an ultrasonic cleaner (I'll go over them again though before I attempt to start it), happy to be keeping it alive :) .

To BBS360: I'm kinda in Victoria. I bounce between the Capital region and Cowichan area; school and home. Lived in Vic for about a year in my first year, left for a co-op work term, wound up in Cowichan somehow on the way back :shrug: . Tank is looking pretty good, had it picked by the gents over at Acme Safe on Fort Street and received a new cylinder with keys as well, they got it done within a half hour or so. Pretty clean inside, millimeter or less sized occasional specs of rust starting to form, plenty of clean bare metal though. We'll see, the guys over at Action Motorcycles recommended rinsing it out with a bit of gas since its not too bad and running it as is considering there's a filter inline and a screen before the petcock. Which leads to...

A bit of progress...

XS400 Headlight Lit.jpg
XS400 Stock Gauges Lit.jpg

It's got a pulse! It may yet live...

Managed to pull together a couple more missing parts from Discovery Street. Headlight brackets from a 77' I believe. Over the course of the last few weeks was in and out of Action Motorcycles, put together an order or two, those guys get things done quick :thumbsup: .

Purchased a Yuasa battery, a 12N14-3A, stock replacement serviceable type. Fits pretty snug, posts are reversed from original I suspect, relocated the ground to accommodate. Dug out a Ford starter solenoid randomly as I was cleaning and organising my tools that I've probably had since 08'. This coincided (somehow) with finding a page on using a similar solenoid on another page ( so I went ahead and rigged it up after finding some electrical odds and ends like a length of 6 gauge wire and some appropriate hoop connectors...

XS400 Ford Solenoid.jpg

And it works! Starter turns over upon pressing the button with the bike on and the brake pulled. Used some wire I had kicking around and some assorted connectors to ensure no wires needed to be cut so I can hook up original components once things progress a bit. Also got some NGK plug boots, a couple oil filters, air filters as the originals were rather flaky from corrosion, some fuel and vacuum hose, a few liters of 4-stroke oil (10-30W, Castrol, motorcycle application specific, it was on sale...), inline fuel filter, a condenser from Daiichi, and a set of taper bearing from All-Balls. Went ahead and installed just about everything; still need to flush out the tank a bit, make up a gasket for the petcock and the intake manifolds (one appears to have a little chunk missing, we'll see when I pull em' off) outta some gasket paper, and a couple other mostly electrical odds and ends.

Then a test fire. Hope to get it running, my great-granddad (who I have to thank for the bike) had a bit of a heart attack a few weeks ago (he's okay, wanted to drive home, didn't like being told no), would be good to send him a video of it put-putting away even with the short headers. Wondering if running it shortly at idle with the pipes chopped as they are would be anywhere near safe for the internal components; concerned it might run lean though I haven't found any conclusive evidence it could be harmed by firing it as is.

Neutral indicator doesn't seem to light up, moved it through the range a couple times, felt for neutral at the sprocket, going to take a look at the bulb and then at the switch. Also still need to find an appropriate tail light. Planning on going over (refreshing) the suspension, getting the brakes functional, and buying a chain and tires in May. Detail work till then.

Still pondering the exhaust. Thinking short flared mufflers like those Emgos' I've seen a couple of these bikes with, perhaps a couple fairly short resonators just cause or a bit of pipe to lengthen the system a bit, have at least one baffle, mess about with jet sizes. Or just find a complete stock setup if I can, they appear to be in short supply on the Island. Or a two-one. Or stock head pipes running under the frame to an X-pipe followed immediately by a Y-pipe and then up and out the left side of the bike to a more modern muffler. Or... anyways, you get the picture, indecision. Open to input.

Might have to move this to the build section somehow. We'll see.

Either way, when it's as roadworthy as I can get it I'm hoping to take it to a shop just to get an all clear from someone who knows what's good.

More to come...
Neutral can be hard to find on these.... Took me a while to get the hang of it, wasn't like any other bike I've owned. Keep trying, you may find it. I found it easier to get into going down from second gear, rather than up from first.



Cleaned up a bunch of stuff. Rewired the stator and replaced the regulator with a compatible unit. Charges and idles, kinda. Working on it. Right side ignition breaker is missing a tiny lockwasher and the connections between the plug wires and caps is kinda bunk; jiggle the wire and let off the throttle a bit and the right side comes back to life. Left side runs okay. Just got a replacement throttle cable; would only run if i was holding it open at the carbs as I broke the factory cable a while ago messing around with the original carbs. Neutral light is fine after cleaning up the ground. Tires purchased from and installed by Action Motorcycles.

Been through the carbs again and will be pulling them out soon to install replacement float needles and seats.