The Yamaha RD350 was indeed the most legendary bike which stormed Indian roads. But it also was the most difficult to maintain. Or so some say. In this post, I’ll talk about how a little dedication and effort will take you a long way in resurrecting your RD 350 and enjoying a everlasting love – affair with her.
I’ve already given preambles to the 350 here. So let’s get down to business directly.
There are many who wish to buy and ride an RD, but fear the fact that she’ll be too much effort to maintain and still not give rewards like they expect. Suckers! Her spares will be tough to find and so will a competent mechanic. True! We find many mechanics who claim to be able to restore an RD (they’re just posers actually). But if you pick the right mechanic (and I mean a good one) and know where to look for parts, life becomes much easier. It’s still NOT a cakewalk! Trust me, if you’re looking for a cakewalk, go look elsewhere. Don’t waste an RD... It’s simply too precious to fulfil stupid whims and fancies.
The best thing to do (if you REALLY want to OWN an RD) is to buy one in a beaten down condition with the engine running and clear papers. Yes, clear papers! Else, boy, are you gonna be in trouble! You may even forge papers, but you don’t know the history of that bike! God knows which jackass got her into trouble and bailed. So go for one with clear papers and a running engine. Then approach a mechanic whom you’ve known for some time, who’s less talk and more action, and get ready to have the time of your life. Depending on the diagnosis, your RD will need:
1. A New Ignition Kit – Lots of folks go for RDD (Ron Chinoy’s kit), or the Raju brothers Racing kit, or a CDi with TVS Scooty Pep ignition coils, or others. The 1st 2 work okay for a while, after which compatibility with modern and classics starts to wane and it shows on the performance of your bike. The best option is to pick a Points or Kiran Bhide TCi kit, both of which are highly compatible for with RD350 (Hell, they’ve been made for the RD). The ignition kit will also need an alternator, a magnet, a mounting plate and a cam. The Kiran Bhide kit can be sourced from Bangalore (you just have to look it up on the web). For Mumbaikars, the rest of the parts (points, plate, cam, magnet, etc.) can be bought at Suraj Auto at Grant Road, opposite the famous Ram Auto Parts.
|Yamaha RD Points ignition kit|
2. A Paint & Vinyl Job – Rip apart the bike while you’re having her restored. Open her up completely. And put the chassis, tank and panels, headlamp and tubes (what they call ‘ears’) for painting. Pick a good painter; the total shouldn’t cost you more than 12,000 bucks. Alongside, put the chain cover, mud guards, U – guard (at the rear below the seat), tire rims, engine block and clutch housing case for buffing and chroming. Finding a good buffing vendor is difficult, but there is a famous and reliable one here in Bhandup called Sai Services (one people from all over Mumbai visit). For stickering on the tank and side panels, there are many people across Mumbai who do a good job. This will ensure your RD is set in the looks department.
|RD350 American Spec Paint Job|
3. Spare Parts – Spare Parts for cosmetics will be available at many places; just that not all may be original. The exhaust & bend pipes, chain cover and U – guard can be found upon searching at Chor Bazaar, the speedometer & tachometer dials (with cables) and leg guard can be bought from Suraj Auto (location mentioned in Point # 1), indicators are regular Yamaha RX 100 ones, reflectors and tail lamp can be picked of the Royal Enfield Bullet, the indicator mounts can be fabricated at a local lathe shop (dimensions can be found on the web) and so can the carburettor jets. Get some good Mikuni 2 CV carbs and if the jets aren’t good, have them fabricated like the indicator mounts. Anything I’ve missed? Oh yeah! Pistons! Mahale are the best Indian makes, while Wesico and other imports can be used also. Spark plugs also – MICO W5BC are the best. Sourcing pistons and spark plugs is not tough, sourcing genuine ones is. A lot of spurious ones are doing the rounds in the market, so make sure you take along some expert to pick the right ones.
|MICO Spark Plugs|
Anything I missed? If I have, drop a comment and I’ll help you out.
So remember, an RD is not one you can show off to your friends or try to impress girls with. She’s one that will spit you off if you don’t respect her. And DON’T abuse her if she stops on the way. Remember, she’s above 25 years old and doing you a favour by running for you. And she’s probably stalled on the way because you couldn’t take care of her properly. So push her (trust me, I’ve done my fair share of pushing), tow her, or haul her 150 kg body all the way to the nearest mechanic and tell him WHAT TO DO, rather than take his suggestions. Or take her home and get your trusted mechanic to look.
This is the last in my series of posts related to the Yamaha RD350. This post is aimed at helping anyone who owns an RD350 or plans to own one. I went through a lot of troubled times for getting her up to where she is (hell, she still isn’t even 90% of what she was in her heydays). I went through depression, made enemies, fought with and lost many people. But I made friends. Some real ones. And I developed a confidence which makes me feel I can do ANYTHING! She’s really got me high on life. The sheer feeling when you rip open the throttle is priceless. Feels like all is good in the world. The heads turning, the admiration, the respect from onlookers... In Boman Irani’s words “The prize is worth a lot more than the pain.”