Steven Liu’s 1982 Yamaha XS400J
Just like how Jeffrey Lebowski’s rug really tied the room together, the rear shock of a Ducati Sport Classic 1000 monoposto was really going to bring the build together for Steven Liu. He didn’t even have a bike to put it on! He found the rear suspension on eBay, liked how it looked, loved the price, and bought it.
“I found myself scratching my head trying to put that suspension to use,” he said. “Between making motorcycle inspired furniture, or a display piece, I decided to build a café racer around that mono shock.”
This is a bold move from a war veteran who learned to ride at age 20 while deployed in Afghanistan with the Canadian forces. His job in the Middle East was to fix armored vehicles and tanks. One day, his friend Mike found a 100cc motorcycle in a junk pile. If it even had a brand or name, Liu doesn’t remember it. All he knows is that they got it running in their down time and Mike taught him how to ride. That led to Liu getting his motorcycle license when he returned home and buying a Ducati. Then another, and another, customizing each one along the way.
“I came to the realization that I loved creating bikes unique to myself and presenting the transformation as a piece of art than to just ride it. I love the satisfaction of standing back and looking at the bike as a piece of art and saying to myself, ‘yes I did this.’ And to know the nuts and bolts, torques, wires, and every component that goes into a machine, and having to know something inside and out is a whole different feeling I cannot explain.”
That’s where the inspiration for randomly buying a shock came from. Now he needed an actual bike to put it on. After months of searching and pondering, he settled on a 1982 Yamaha XS400J. He liked the power of the DOHC but at only 400cc, his insurance company gave him a much better rate than a 750. “I took the bike project on as a hobby, to prove myself my abilities to build a café racer unique to my own vision where no one else has attempted and to showing the world the potential of these DOHC.”
To match the color of the shock, he swapped the stock forks out with a set from a 2011 YZFR6. The seat is from a bobber off a Harley.
“The bike was stripped to the frame and measured and measured again and again before cutting and welding. Paint and assembly with new components was simple but electrical was an issue. The mix using R6 Hand controls and XS400 chassis harness with Acewell gauge and swapping to all LED lights was a brain teaser. Like any custom café build the fine line between “WOW” and “meh” is the harness management and the hiding of the battery to give it a clean look.”
Liu spent a little more than six months working on the bike, squeezing in project time where he could.
Instagram: @ l_i_u_c
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- Acewell MD052-201 Digital Multi-function Speedometer & Tachometer
- Polished Aluminum Velocity Stacks, Full Taper
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- 1/4″ VISU Inline Fuel Filter
- 1/4″ Translucent Red Fuel Line
- Bent Wire Universal Brake Light Switch
- TC Bros Universal Ignition Switch
- Red Universal 8mm 90 Degree Pro Plug Wires
- DEi Protective Split Sleeve Wire/Cable/Hose Cover