YAMAHA YZ400E (1978)
YZ 400s have proved selves around the world.
MLTF are the initials. MX ‘n’ YZs are where they ply their trade and the weapons used. MLTF represent the Team Milledge-Motorcraft MX side of Yamaha in Victoria. They are both personalities within the top echelons of moto-cross and are among the very best combination of Yamaha riders in Australia (along with NSW rider Stephen Gall and the West Australian star, Graham Smythe, plus fellow Victorian Bernie Ryan).
Mike Landman and Trevor Flood. Both have Australian Motocross titles to their names but neither scored at the 1977 championship& Both want get back in the national sash tally.
1978 has been good to both riders I least until late August, at the time of writing), in various ways. One significant factor is the current Yamaha YZ400E motocross machine; perhaps the best over-the-counter big bore available. Rather than bring you a straight test of a standard showroom production model, we thought a test of two race machines would be more interesting. And we might just find out how far removed from stock are the bikes ridden by two of the fastest Yamaha riders in motocross here.
Your basic, down to earth 400 YZ Yamaha has come a long way in the course of it’s development. The cantilever system and the frame concept has been defined and then redefined until it provides a rigid, stable platform from which a powerful engine can deliver constant drive to the ground. The YZ’s have become hard to beat, offering handling accuracy and predictability, with enormous power from a modified production engine, all being easy to work on and providing a very much low-maintenance race machine.
The big Yamaha has a number of significant changes over the previous D model. In the past, the biggest problem facing fast YZ400 riders was the sudden over-the-bars trick in the rough, or weird steering, as the rear end flexed. The YZ400E overcomes these by utilizing heavily gusseted, triangulated rectangular-tubed aluminium for the rear swing arm/monoshock section. In addition, the frame is now made from thin wall chrome-moly. It is still a full duplex cradle design.
Yamaha’s monoshock design is one which heavily loads the steering head region as it transfers the rear suspension loads straight to the front. There are thus more lateral and twising loads an the front and than before. YZs of the past have been stable, in general, but have been known to get out of shape with the power off, or over whoopdis, where the suspension could not keep up with the bike. The YZ E gets better suspension all round to handle the improved frame and the needs of the faster riders.
DeCarbon’s shock absorber unit, which has a high pressure nitrogen charge separated from the oil, has a large damper valve rod to allow for complete control of the damping rate to suit each rider. This includes a thermostatic element to keep the action constant at all working temperatures; a piece of trickery straight from the works developed machines.
Damping can be adjusted for both compression and rebound damping by just rotating a slotted adjustment ring within the frame ahead of the tank. There are a total of 35 settings 1 Spring preload is adjusted by moving a large nut to compress or expand the spring on the shock body.
Up front, ends are basically the same air/oil forks as the last model, with improvements. The oil-damped forks are air pressurised via valves in the fork caps. There is an additional 20 mot of bearing surface between the forks and the sliders to minimise flex and smooth out the action during initial compression. The lower legs are extended further below the axle. Fork tubes are a strong 38 mm diameter. By varying the oil and the amount, changing the springs and varying the air pressure, the forks have an almost infinite number of settings to suit each rider.
Rear wheel travel is a healthy 285 mm while the front wheel has 266 mm travel.
The YZ E retains virtually the same engine as the D version, one of the strongest and most reliable big bores available. A 38 mm Mikuni feeds the cylinder through six petal reed valves. A Mitsubishi CDI provides the spark. The barrel is relatively conservative looking, with a large unbridged exhaust port, one intake port and four transfers. The piston has two rings. Clutch action is firm, but an extra plate guarantees it works all the time. The right side kick lever brings the big white beast to life easily, without fuss.
With the monoshock unit taking up so much space in the upper backbone frame, the YZs have a high centre of gravity. It also means the upswept pipe cannot easily fit through the frame. Yamaha have done a good job of fitting the large pipe along the left side of the engine, under the sidecover, adjacent to the air cleaner and then emerging behind the rear upper frame tube. A large silencer fits to the pipe and attaches to the rear frame loop. It works well and is out of harm’s way.
Weight has been one problem facing the monoshock Yamahas. The factory has improved things markedly this year and the 400E has a dry weight of around 107.5 kgs. Strong, but heavier than the opposition.
But although latest Yamahas may be heavy, it doesn’t feel that way under most motocross conditions. The balance is there and the ability to corner makes the bike faster and more predictable then ever before. The seat height of around 940 mm takes a little getting used to but it is one of the unavoidable consequences of long travel.
Brakes are still excellent and are still sought after as replacement items on other machines. Allay hubs front and rear, with magnesium backing plates. The mar brake is mill not fully floating but it works well enough. New brake linings this year make the brakes slightly less prone to lock-up than before.
In all, a powerful, muscular, motocrosser, one without that awesome feeling which many open class bikes give. One that can be paddock ridden as well as play raced, although it is still an expert’s bike; one made for serious racing. It’s the one that Mike Landman and Trevor Flood ride, the one that has it all together.
For Trevor Flood, the comeback to Yamaha followed a period of being a I privateer’, despite winning the Australian Unlimited Motocross championship pionship in Queensland. Trevor, at 25 years of age, is a weathered veteran of the scene. He has ridden as long as he can remember and raced since he lied about his age at 15. He has never been a fitness freak but occasionally did a little work to tone up for a major meeting. He has become, through the years, a tuning-of-suspension expert and his experience in setting bikes up has helped win many events.
Despite the many brands of machines on which he has ridden, it was the Yamahas which first brought Trevor national titles when he won the Unlimited championship in 1974 and placed second in the 250. The Milledge Yamaha-Sport and Road sponsorship finished and in 1975 Trevor spent time on Bultacos, Husqvarnas and RM Suzukis. In 1976 it was a buy-his-own and he raced a modified Montesa 360 before switching to a Maico 400. On this he did the trick and won the Australian Unlimited NIX title again. A powerful display of total mind power.
He gave the Maico up because of lack of assistance and went looking for the best Japanese machine. “The best buy was the YZ D model. I asked for sponsorship but didn’t get it so I bought one,” said Trevor.
“I didn’t start riding for Milledge until after the 1977 desert race at Hattah. I broke my ankle there fan wide). I always seem to have a getoff. It’s pretty dangerous, that desert! Anyhow, after the Christmas Hills Grand National where Anton Alers lost his leg, I filled in for him and have been there ever since, along with Mike.”
Trevor combines business with riding and it gets fairly hectic as he tries to control the expanding Fox Wear clothing business ‘ Flood leathers and the distribution of Sidi boots and Koho protective gear, along with maintaining riding form.
His days of total dedication have gone but he mill has pace when he’s hot The Flood brothers shared Mr Motocross, Trevor winning in 1974 on the Yamaha, Gary in 1975 on the Bultaco before Gunter grabbed it in ’76 and ’77. At the time of writing, Trevor was fourth and within touch of the leaders but did not rate his chances at Amaroo as too high.
Asked whether he tries all the time: “No, I keep out of danger now. I suppose I’ve been getting used to speed again this year. I’m still just off the pace but then I haven’t turned the throttle on for a long time now ! Not because I didn’t want to but I just haven’t been capable! ”
Psyche has been an important part in Trevor’s makeup but serious injuries have slowed him down. Plus, the business means more responsibilities elsewhere. He has plates in one ankle, pins in both. His worst one was the broken femur which still remains pinned- He has also broken several vertebrae in his back on two separate occasions, as well as getting one broken hand. He has reason to proceed with caution I
For Trevor the race future is uncertain. He wants another Australian sash, But things after 1979 depend on business and results. “I’m training now with some squash, a three kilometre run every second day, and exercises too. It’s Mike’s influence. (Landman is really fit). It’s the only way to stay with the fast runners now, they’re all fit, especially Landman and Falls- But I know that you don’t have to win each heat to win sometimes. You don’t know what is going to happen and so it’s important to finish in the top group. At Queensland I only had to finish fourth to win overall, but I didn’t. That’s what can happen. (Mr. Motocross first round).”
Mike Landman, at 23, is a different rider to Flood. Landman is lean. Landman is pace. He is hot stuff indeed. Fit, keen, dedicated and devoted to one thing right now – racing. His association with Milledge has been consistent and in his seven years of racing Mike has only taken one break from the Yamaha range.
Racing began in 1971 when Mike was 16. On a Yamaha. Sponsors included Geoff Taylor Yamaha and Peninsular Yamaha over a period of time. The orgy break came in 1974 when he rods a 125 Honda Elsinore and Maico 250 for Keith Stacker. However, late ’74 and into ’75 Mike started using the Milledge Yamahas and has been looked after by the company ever since.
He has been through all models, virtually, and knows more than a few tricks about each one. Also, Mike has raced the works machines, the OW26 400. He inherited the original OW brought out in 1976 for Per Klitland and then Milledge got him a new one for 1977.
During his Yamaha race career, Mike won the 250 Australian MX title in 1976, has won many Victorian championships and done very well in South Australia – winning all the titles in 1975 and being the current ’78 250, 500 and Unlimited champion. In 1978 he won the prestige Grand National in Victoria, leading home four YZ400E model Yamahas. He won the Hang Ton cup in 1977 and has two Laurie Boulter MX marathons to his name (the same as Trevor Flood).
Mr Motocross is one series in which Mike has never figured well. “I don’t really like that form of racing; it’s not an accurate reflection of a rider’s true motocross technique. I suppose one has to try because the money and the prestige is pan of the series. Luck in the multiple starts p a a a big part in how you’ll go. I was for fourth last year but broke my collarbone before the final round,” said Mike.
“in fact, I’ve never had a smooth run through the series; there’s always been flat tyres, chain problems or seizures to break the run.” Mike was sixth when we wrote this article.
The big change to Mike came in the time spent in New Zealand. He took the OW26 there in November 1977 but it had to return to Japan a month later (all works machines must go back to Japan as each one is only out on consignment). He finished the NZ tour on a 250E, coming home third on in the Unlimited championship behind Miller and Major. Not only did Mike learn a lot but he trimmed down considerably.
“The tracks there are real tracks, much harder to ride than anything we have here. You must think a lot mom. I believe the European type of terrain, soil and very hard, natural courses makes for much more exciting riding; tougher riding. I think chasing Miller a lot helped me also.
“You get keen just being able to compete over there. They are the best tracks I have ever seen but the organisation is still at club level; you just roll up and enter on the day.”
Did the OW have many differences from the production model YZs?
“it was a similar design. looked the same in some ways, but it was 20 pounds lighter IS kilograms), had six horsepower more (4.5 kW in a fierce powerband. In fact, nothing from the D was interchangeable. The engine was completely different. The suspension was special, with less unsprung weight and an all-alloy gas reservoir, things like that. The crankcases on the 250E are the same as the OW, narrow and light.
“in some ways, the OW was too light. It was hard to ride on certain tracks, on hard loose shale it was skitterish and tricky. On European type tracks with soft loam dirt, where it was grippy, then the OW was just fantastic. And fast I I learnt a lot on them.
“The OWs only go to Europe and the USA now, but considering the overall performance level of the E model I think that is fine. The E model s the best yet and the new F model, which we hope to have for the Australian championships next month, should be almost perfect.”
Mike tries to ensure he is in the best position to know, by regular training. From gym work last year to a solid exercise programme, lots of skipping, exercises and runs four times a week of around 6.5 kilometres. “I find I can float more with the bike than ever before; it’s all easier and I’m not tight. The weight I lost in New Zealand is still off and I watch my diet carefully now.”
Mike is full-time race committed. There is some part time work as a mechanic for Terry Bryant (Bryant Suzuki, Frankston), but racing keeps him occupied and there is no conflict. The future depends on how things happen and that was all Mike would say.
“The hard part is persevering over the years at the riding and the training. It has to be a big commitment. The fittest? Well I suppose Palle and Pace are fit and myself, the others have relaxed a little. Bernie Ryan is fit tool
“The bike I ride is virtually the same as the one Trevor has and the same as Stephen’s. They am all the same. standard E models with a few changes; mostly cosmetic stuff to suit us. Stephen runs his on methanol sometimes, on the short circuit and faster circuits, but we don’t do that.”
Trevor, who won the 500 Victorian championship on the D model describes the changed model as having different action in the forks and the rear unit, longer aluminium swing arm and different power which lets the engine rev more. It means the bike runs longer in each gear.
“It’s a more stable bike than before and it turns better; as good as the Maico. It’s the best off the shelf race bike and while I can’t say for sure I think it’s better, over a longer period, than any other big bore.
“I rate the Husqvarna 390 and the Maico 400 as the toughest competition, but in value for money the Yamaha is better.
“The Yamaha is still heavier but it’s in the middle and the high centre of gravity doesn’t make it handle funny anymore. It’s well balanced and the brakes, the gearbox and the suspension compliance make it the most comfortable big bore to ride fast. The F model coming up has even more changes, including a longer wheelbase and that should be a further improvement. The E is even on the ground, jumps well and doesn’t tire you, and the weight doesn’t affect the results on Australia circuits.”
What do the MLTF bikes have done to them? Is it a big secret? Nope, it’s all straightforward.
- The handlebars are either KTM or Maico style a accessory ones which curve back mote.
- A Twin Air double foam element
replaces the standard air filter.
- The rear axle is moved as far back as possible to lengthen the wheelbase and this means another 25 mm at the start of each race over standard length.
- There is 2 mm more spring preload on the DeCarbon unit and 6 notches more on the damping, which suits the 12-13 stone riders. That’s both ways.
- 15 weight oil is used in the forks and 1 kilopascal of air pressure (the recommended is between I and 1 ” 2)
- One size down on the main jet.
- One notch leaner on the needle.
- An 8 petal reed system from the DT trail bike is used. This gives smoother off idle power and makes the potent 400 bike easier to ride as the reeds are lighter than the MX ones. But the trail petals do break.
- Petrol-oil is 100 octane at 25:1
with Castrol TT oil.
- The barrel gets cleaned up, transfers smoothed up, while the inlet port is lifted and widened and the exhaust is lifted. It makes the bike rev harder again. This was the problem with Landman sei . zing so often. Boring to 2.5 thou’ clearance was not enough as the piston expanded under hard riding. Now they bore it to 3.0 thou clearance and there is no trouble at all.
- Tyres; Metzeler deep lug at the front; 300 x 21.
- At the rear they started with the 500 x 17 Metzeler but it was too big and the wrong shape as well as being too heavy and it killed the engine.
- Now there is a 17 inch Trelleborg Tenmaster 744 directional fitted to a Husqvarna gold alloy rim (the only one available at the time). This works fine and both riders like it.
These things are standard on both machines.
Mike Landman uses a Preston Petty ‘No-dive’ while Trevor uses one s me of the time.
I like IL on certain circuits and it definitely makes the bike feel better. It doesn’t shake as much and it sits flatter under brakes,” commenced Trevor
“The advantages are better braking on most tracks and a more stable ride under certain conditions, particularly on off-camber turns,” said Mike. “Only the off-camber, sauce turn on the South side of the Wallan circuit makes it go all the way down with the suspension and lock down! There’s nothing quite like that corner anywhere else.”
Landman, with his long involvement with the Yamaha models continued: “The changes are minor really, the barrel job is for the top racing in this country and the power is enough, standard, for most experts. The reed induction Rem is about the trickiest part of the whole deal. The measurements of the barrel . . . look, we can’t tell everything . . . buy a couple of barrels and find out I
“The E is definitely the best Yamaha so far. And without doubt Yamaha have progressed with each model from the start of the monoshock design. Each has improved in some area and that is not always easy to do; look at Bultaco, look at the Suzuki (a comment here about the RM 400 being far less competitive than the revvy RM370) as examples of fluctuating response in later models.
“I rate the Husky and the Maico as the toughest to beat; good machines and easy to ride.” (That was an independent comment, almost word for word the same as Trevor).
“The E is also easy to ride and it’s very comfortable on the rider, especially in long races. It is still too heavy and perhaps an all alloy shocker and further frame changes will lower it more in the F model.
“As I look at things, the E is approaching the end of its model year and the F model will be here shortly for us and for the general market by the end of the year. The suspension could still improve in some areas and I expect the F model will be a greater improvement again. I’m not complaining about the E’s suspension, but I was spoilt by the OW (and anyone who saw the incredible uphill cartwheel in Wallan will know that not all the whoopdi handling trickiness has gone from the IF at high speed).
What is the one area where the E might be lacking?
“In whoopdis and the weight probably causes this more than the suspension (Trevor nodded at a this).
“Maintenance is okay; in fact, the engines are bulletproof. I’ve done one clutch in 18 months and the two bikes are just reliable. Nothing else to say, they just go and go and go and all of it fast. The chain trouble at the Hang Ten was not the DID chain. It was some crummy half link I used to get the full swing a” adjustment. It broke. The standard TR DID (Heavy Duty) is fine and I’ve never had any trouble at all.”
The 250E is the best buy for a beginner, as the 400 has too much power; it’s a harder bike to learn on. The 17 inch rear tyre is the go for us and I use the KTM bars. I’d use a Gunner Gassa throttle if I could get one but the standard Yamaha controls are good. The E model turns better, different to any other Yamaha; predictable. The steering might not be as fast and accurate as the Maico but it’s just as good because you can drive out quicker. The E is the fastest open class MX machine in standard trim you can buy and it keeps traditional brands at bay without any trouble. Plus it pulls better than before. It has to be one of the best production motocrossers ever made. I mean that. (A grin). What else would you buy?” he asks. We’ve got to agree!
For Mike, the chase is keen. He wants to be the best. He knows he can do it. His run through the years has been kinder than Trevor’s list but it is still an example of what a motocross rider must expect on the way to becoming a good A grader. Mike’s lot includes a broken kneecap, broken ribs, broken foot, concussion and broken collarbone. The letter was the worst and took some months to be completely fixed.
Neither rider is paid money, so the search for the elusive full-time professional motocross rider continues. Yet both have substantial sponsorship agreements in accessories, machines, pans and minor money. Plus the chance to win their share of top purses.
In addition to the YZ400E each, a YZ250E each and a YZ 125E each, Milledge Yamaha supply all pans and back-up, including the tent and two mechanics for major meetings. The most recent acquisition is Motorcraft for pans and travel (involved with the Milledge Road Race team as well). Aside from these big ones, other sponsors include Foxwear, Sidi, Castrol Oils, Lambert Leathers (Mike), Flood Leathers (Trevor) and Stadium helmets from Sport & Road. Both use the latest lightweight ‘Scorpion Cross’ helmets, JT gloves and Kobe chest and shoulder protectors.
It’s not past tense, what ML and TF did at the Australian titles, because this will be printed after the event. But whatever happened you can see the two were as serious, as professional as possible here, and both had done everything on two great bikes: YZ400E’s, a total motocross production machine and our vote for top model of 1978! Yep when you’re serious, the YZ E can take you to the top.