Trip Machine Two Stroke Tuesdays E17 : Yamaha RD 350 - Dream Machine
Vijay Krishnan Aug 5, 2019
The RD 350 moniker needs no particular introduction in the motorcycling community. The fire breathing two stroke rocket from Japan’s finest hit Indian shores in 1983 and flipped the enthusiast’s world upside down. It was India’s first true performance machine, a legendary two stroke motorcycle that was light years ahead of anything on the roads in India at the time.
The Rajdoot RD 350 was a derivative of the Yamaha RD 350B model sold overseas in Japan and the US and was sold under license in India by The Escorts group who owned Rajdoot Motorcycle. They were serving to a crowd, most of whom based their evaluation of speed and performance of a bike probably on a Yezdi Roadking or a Royal Enfield 500. The RD 350 blew their collective minds and romped the performance charts. The Torque Induction (HT) and Torque Reduction (LT) models on offer in India were considerably detuned to 30 and 27 horses compared to the 39 buff horses found on US spec Yamaha RD 350’s. Yet it was too hot to handle for the average Indian rider and scared the living daylights out of anyone who dared to twist the throttle.
This was attributed partly to the ill-prepared Indian rider who had never before been exposed to such power and to the drum brakes that replaced the discs found on the overseas models. All this, compounded by the poor fuel efficiency returned by the RD 350 meant that all its impressive stats counted for nothing in the end. The bike was taken of production in 1990 owing to its poor sales. However, what the 80’s and 90’s did away with has been put on a pedestal and is now one among the most sought after Two Stroke bikes in India, if not the most.
This week on TST, we see what dreams are made of. This week's episode might just be the inspiration you need to get your dream bike. Episode 17 features one guy and his dream bike, the Rajdoot 'Toofan' RD 350
Tell us about yourself
My name is Nikhil Murtadak and I am from Nashik. I am a collector of vintage and classic motorcycles. I have been obsessed with the RD 350 since I have been into motorcycles and is now a proud owner of one. As for life, I run a successful business in the form of a Mobile Shop, one that I credit to my RD 350.
How did your love for motorcycles start?
I think it all started in my 11thstandard days when I saw a rally of Royal Enfield Bullets in my city. I was awestruck at the pride with each rider carried their motorcycle and the whole commotion around them. From then, I wanted a motorcycle for myself. One that I would ride everywhere and one that was unique like the Bullet.
Where did this love affair for the RD 350 begin?
In my childhood days, there was a garage near my home where a friend of mine worked. I was drawn to this sound from a bike whose name I didn’t know that came to the garage regularly. All I knew was that it made one hell of a ring ding noise and left a trail of smoke. 5 years later, the same friend offered me the bike to ride. I had flutters when I sat on the bike for the first time as this was something special to me. I actually crashed the bike the first time I rode it. Like any noob with a bike, I underestimated the power on tap in the RD 350 and gave the throttle a full twist. I was nowhere near capable or ready to handle the RD’s power and I ended up crashing it. My friend told me it was okay since it was my first time on the bike and offered me another go. This time I took it on the highway and that is when I got the full force of what was on offer. I kept shifting gears and got to a good speed. This was when my friend, who was my pillion this time asked me to go to the next gear. I was totally amazed as I never realized a bike could have 6 gears. It was the first time I had heard of such a thing. I felt like riding a bullet while riding the bike and I was still shaking after I had finished the ride. That was how I was smitten for the RD 350. It showed me what Two Strokes are capable of and what were the levels of performance a Two Stoke motor could achieve. It was a very significant bike for me then as a Two Stroker.
Tell us about your RD 350 story
I eventually asked for a Bullet to my parents after being shook by the rally. They vehemently said no and asked me to move on like any parents those days. I was then turned to a certain bike that I had twin silencers and looked pretty good. I got to know that it was called the Yezdi and is no longer in production.
I raved about the bike to a neighbor of mine and told him I wanted to get that bike. He had a job and used the income to get himself a Jawa a few days later. I was so jealous at this point seeing his bike and yearned to own one. One of my relative had a Yezdi on which he used to sell milk. I asked him if it was for sale to which he replied that it wasn’t but told me he would consider me if he was to sell in the future. I came home one day in 2013 to see an unfamiliar Yezdi parked outside my home. Inside was my relative who had the Yezdi and on asking whose bike it was, he replied that he had bought another one. At this point I was losing my mind thinking everyone I speak to about my craze for the Yezdi ended up getting one for themselves. I was angry realizing I still did not own one and went back in the house.
He later pulled me aside and told me that it was for me. It was the surprise of a lifetime and that is where the Two Stroke life began for me. I painted the bike silver myself and called it ‘Captain’ seeing as it was my first bike. Now people recognize me more from Captain than my actual name.
I was riding with some friends of mine who owned Jawas and Yezdis and had gone for a camping trip. We had set up a bone fire and the whole shebang when my head started aching bad. I went back to my tent to sleep it off for 10-15mins but ended up sleeping for an hour. I woke up to a very heated discussion outside the tent among those gathered there around the bonefire. It suddenly caught my attention as they were talking about the Yamaha RD 350. Now, I had been pining for an RD 350 forever and was literally desperate to own one. Every one of my biker friends who knew me knew that the RD 350 was my ultimate poison. It was my dream motorcycle. I leaped out of bed and went and sat with the crowd and joined in with the discussion. The discussion reached at a person by the name of Mr. Vinay who owned 23 Yamaha RD’s. Mr. Vinay was in fact with us that night and he wanted to sell off one of his RD’s.
So, a couple of my friends who knew about my passion for these bikes asked Mr. Vinay to sell it to me. They told him how passionate I was and that I would truly be a worthy guardian to the RD. He didn’t respond that day and we all went back to our usual lives the next day. A week later, I got a call from Mr. Vinay who told me that he had this RD 350 up for sale for 85 thousand rupees. It came with the running gear, frame, tank and a handle and pretty much everything else was missing including the papers of the bike.
My parents were left gobsmacked at my decision to go for the bike. Despite telling them it was a rare bike, they just couldn’t find any logic with a bike whose legality had expired 5 years back and one which came in pieces. They told me to drop the idea and go for a newer bike. How could I explain to my parents what the bike meant to me and what it had on offer.
I got a call from Mr. Vinay 2-3 days later and he told me that he wanted a decision from me soon as he could easily find a new buyer for the bike owing to its high demand. I could do nothing else but ask him why he would want to sell to me in the first place. To which he replied that he admired the passion I have for the bike despite still being an 18 year old then and that he could understand how much I wanted it. I told him that I still wanted the bike.
I get another call from him a few days later and this time he invited me to his home. He told me that he had an offer for me. He had offered to sell the bike to me for an EMI. So he explained that it would be spread over four months, with 25k to be paid on the first two months, 15k for the third and 20k for the last month in the scheme. I was smiling inside thinking I could own my dream bike in four months and immediately said yes to the proposal.
So, these were the days I was working for a mobile company as their sales executive. I was earning 15k a month and usually saved all but the 2k that I ‘splashed out’ on this and that. I had gotten my second monthly pay when I was to put in my first installment for the bike. So I took out the entire second month’s salary along with another 10k that I had saved up from the previous one and gave it to Mr. Vinay. This was basically my whole earnings from 2 months and I gave it to him telling him that this was his first installment. He congratulated me and told me that I was now free to take the bike with me.
I told him that I would take the bike with me only after I paid him the entire money that I owed him for the bike. He made a receipt of the payment and gave it to me. This is something that I still have, kept framed in my home. I remember I was literally crying in bed that night knowing I had taken the first step to get my dream bike. I can’t explain in words the emotions I had for that night. Mr. Vinay called me the next day and asked me if I could forfeit the deal if he returned the money. He explained to me that he had gotten back the papers for the bike from a relative of his who owned the bike for 15 thousand rupees and that I had to now pay that over the initial price. I told him that was not an issue and focused on paying the money. It eventually took me 5-6 months to complete the payment, with none of the subsequent EMI’s after the first being really testing for me. I had to sell of my Jawa for 10k to make the second payment. During this time, I was working purely to pay for my RD 350. I worked for a few more months after that and left the job for college. The second day after I had quit my job, I had this realization of starting a mobile shop in a shop space we owned. I banked on my experience in the telecom industry and my love for the RD 350 and went ahead. I am happy to report that it has paid off for me big time with me now having a thriving business that pays for all my motorcycle adventures. Even my dad has joined along with me in my business after leaving his job.
I even bought the fairing for the RD 350 even before getting the bike. That is how committed I was to the cause of getting the Yamaha RD 350. I now keep the RD 350 parked in the living room. I have pulled up my sofa near the bike and made it into my bed for a while. I just wanted to see the bike first thing after I woke up. I make sure to give it a wash before taking a shower myself. That is how much I love my ‘Toofan’ which is what I have lovingly named my RD 350.
As for the 1969 Jawa, it arose from my need to get a bike from the pre 70’s. I had a 74’ model Yezdi and wanted something a bit older.
Why Two Stroke Motorcycles?
I love riding a Two Stroke because of the pure sensation of riding one. The blue smoke trail, the roar of the exhausts and the raw power and acceleration. A four stroke bike can never offer me this sensation I get from a Two Stroke. Not many modern bikes can keep up with an RD 350 and this is a bike that is almost 36 years old. This is just a testament to how advanced Two Stroke technology is over Four Strokes. And on the Yezdi, I have gone far and wide on my rides and never endured any niggles. That goes to show just how reliable they are.
How many bikes do you currently own?
Apart from Toofan and Captain, I own a RX 100, an RX 135, a Jawa, a Lambretta and a Royal Enfield Himalayan aka Leila.
Any dream motorcycles?
I feel like I own whatever I need. I can see myself growing old and riding the RD 350 and the Yezdi. I don't really see myself riding any other bikes, certainly four strokes in the distant future.
Check out Nikhil on Instagram @thebikeguy_
Follow Nikhil on his motorcycle adventures by checking out his YouTube channel here.