It may have had a mere 35 bhp, an air – cooled 350 cc parallel twin engine, and a top speed of 160 kmph; but it still is a bike that leaves enthusiasts swearing by its name!
Yamaha launched the RD350 (RD stands for Race Developed) in 1974 with the 350A model. They mated a parallel twin, 350 cc 2 – stroke engine to a 6 – speed transmission, all packaged into an awesome chassis. This chassis was developed from their experience in motorcycle racing, something Yamaha was a part of since 1951.
|The Legendary Yamaha RD350 ad.|
The RD350 had a top whack of ONLY 100 mph (160 kmph), but it was the way it got there that left riders speechless. Shift into 1st gear, open the throttle and be off! The RD would throw back the rider and wrench his gut right until she reached her top end. The world would turn into a blur! That unmistakable exhaust note warned everyone around that the RD was on its way and would splatter mud into the face of even the fastest 750. 100 mph was reached in a matter of mere seconds when the rest of the bikes would still be entering their power band. The bike wanted to wheelie in the 1st, 2nd & 3rd gears and it took a professional hand to be able to tame that wild beast (not that anyone wanted to tame her; ‘handle’ is a more apt word). The sheer manner in which she reached top speed and left others in her smoke was a journey in itself. That journey left riders grinning from ear to ear (or in my case, screaming inside the helmet with blood pounding between my ears).
The chassis inspired a lot of confidence when one threw it into a turn. Fast as she was (and still is), she was accommodating. She gladly held her line when treated with respect and blasted out of a turn with you holding on for dear life. But accelerate too hard & have a not – so – good swing arm setup and she would spit you off (yeah, actually made you feel like Superman).
|The Rajdoot RD350 LT.|
The RD350A had a successor, the RD350B. The B was a superhit worldwide and Yamaha entered it into the Indian market in collaboration with Auto Escorts Ltd. in 1983. Unfortunately, the RD350B could not repeat its worldwide success in India. We didn’t know how to handle the power, the suspension was not setup for India, we didn’t have knowledgeable mechanics and all we wanted was average/mileage. Escorts launched the Rajdoot 350 LT (Low Torque), a tuned down version of the Yamaha RD, which was lower on power (produced around 26 – 28 bhp) and offered slightly more mileage. However, the Rajdoot failed to succeed and Yamaha pulled the plug on the project in 1990. A few RDs were sold until 1992.
The RD350 is still a legend across the world, India included. Many bikers still swear by the RD, even though they’ve ridden many 1000 cc bikes. The sheer pleasure of being able to zip through traffic in the city, yet being able to rip open the throttle and leave the world behind on an open road is unmatched. In my next article I’ll outline some problems faced by RD350 owners in India and how they can be tackled, as I’ve been through the same (read that story here). Those tips will be useful for RD owners who are despairing over its maintenance, or those who want to buy one now.