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Pista Design Yamaha WR400F

Pista Design Yamaha WR400F


Design Study 

Lindsay Ross lets his imagination loose on a Yamaha WR400F.

WORDS Lindsay Ross  IMAGES Alex Bernstein

Sometimes inspiration strikes in the dead of night, jolting you from bed and sending you scrambling for pen and paper. But that’s not how this Case Study 001 Tracker came to life. Like most designs, it evolved through mistakes and revisions until it finally became something special, far from where it began.

I wanted to build a vintage-looking ’70s bike with modern geometry, suspension, and engineering that I could reliably kick around on. A friend’s old workhorse, this ’00 Yamaha WR400F spent years exploring America’s southwest as a proper enduro bike, and when it went up for sale I snagged it. The WR is street legal in California and has a wide-ratio gearbox; that’s what the “WR” stands for, and it makes a big difference for a street-ridden bike. The WR’s steel backbone frame made a great foundation to build around as my longtime friend Alex Kors — who handles mechanical and fabrication work at Pista Design Moto — and I went to work bringing my retro-futurist concept to life.

Aiming to use a vintage tank and classic tracker tail with an under-seat radiator, Alex and I mocked everything up and then set forth building a functional chassis base. Traxxion Dynamics tailored a competition-spec YZ450F suspension to my weight and riding style, and Alex and I laced stainless spokes to 19-inch Sun rims and installed a set of Stage 2 YZ450 hot cams in the engine. We swapped in lighter or stronger components where we could, from a titanium exhaust to billet triple clamps.

“…our mantra is, ‘Handcrafted fun, by way of custom motorcycles. And racing.’”

Then late one night, as Alex mocked up body panels with cardboard and tossed foam around in frustration, I looked over at my bike and noticed how smoothly its tail transitioned into its thin backbone, like some triangular weapon: half Howerton Kawasaki “Skinny Bike,” half F-117A Stealth Fighter. We got rid of the found fuel tank and mocked up a seat that would run between the tail section and triple clamp, allowing the rider to sit as far forward as necessary in order to load the front wheel. To improve riding dynamics we fitted a longer YZ450F swing arm, and to even out the weight distribution we designed a rear-biased fuel tank. I made a faceted model of the tank and sent the plans to my buddy Chairslayer in Colorado to get CAD and fabrication done with 6061 aluminum.

As I made the bodywork and Alex worked on the remaining mechanicals, I remarked that this bike felt like a case study in building a modern tracker. I barely finished the sentence before I pissed Alex off again with another change of plans. A case study! Another bolt of inspiration: I recalled old footage of Charles and Ray Eames adjusting a wooden buck to get the ideal posture and comfort for one of their lounge chairs. My bike needed to be a study, using experimental ergonomics and simple materials that echoed 20th century modernist design in an affordable and attainable way — a useable, evolving experiment.

We did away with traditional motorcycle finishes, like paint and carbon fiber. Instead of painting fiberglass, we tinted the resin. Instead of anodizing the aluminum, we brushed it. Instead of using plastic or carbon-fiber body panels, the Tracker’s side panels are pressed plywood with American Walnut veneer, also used on the iconic Eames Lounge Chair. The seat is another nod: button-tufted and trimmed with piping, more suited for a lounge than a garage. 

A meandering, organic build turned my WR400F into the Case Study 001 Tracker you see here. We don’t make the most intricate or trendiest custom bikes at Pista Design, but our mantra is, “Handcrafted fun, by way of custom motorcycles. And racing.” Mission accomplished, then, because I love this thing. It’s a capable, performance-oriented street tracker that pays homage to mid-century design icons while critiquing the somewhat stagnated state of design in the 50 years since.

Owner: Lindsay Ross  Year/Make/Model: 2000 Yamaha WR400F  Fabrication: Pista Design   Assembly: Pista Design  Build Time: 6 months  Engine: HotCams YZ450F Stage 2 intake and exhaust cams  Carburetor: Keihin FCR39  Exhaust: Custom Ti, Custom Arrow silencer   Air Cleaner: K&N   Transmission: Stock, Renthal Sprockets  Frame: Stock Yamaha frame, custom subframe  Fuel Tank: Pista Design, produced with Rob “Chairslayer” Parsons  Handlebars: Renthal  Grips: Onimotorworks Mid Mod  Seat Pan: Pista Design Upholstery: Pista Design  Forks: YZ450F built by Traxxion Dynamics 
Front/Rear Wheels: 19x2.15, 19x3 Sun rims, Buchannon’s spokes  Front/Rear Tires: 130/80/19, 140/80/19 Dunlop DT3  Shocks: YZ450F built by Traction Dynamics   Front/Rear Brakes: Brembo RCS13 master cylinder, Galfer pads   Electrical: Pista Design  Headlight: Baja Designs Squadron Pro  Taillight: Motobox  Graphics: Pista Design produced by Vaderwerks 

Featured in Iron & Air Magazine Issue 027




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