Two Stroke Tuesday : 1986 Yamaha RD 350 - The Musafir's Love
Vijay Krishnan Oct 1, 2019
I am Ali from Aligarh. I am a Two Stroke nut and a wanderer on Two Wheels. I ride a 1985 Rajdoot-Yamaha RD 350 among other Two Stroke Bikes. I work as a tour guide for a company called Motorcycle Expeditions based in Manali. And when I'm not on tours, I restore and sell scooters as a hobby. I have clients from Thailand, Vietnam Indonesia, Austria and Goa. Basically, they are from all over the place.
As for the others, I have a garage of 10 motorcycles, of which wight of them are Two Stroke Motorcycles. I have a Jawa, Yezdi, RX 100 RX 135, Vespa, Lambretta and Vijai Super. I was 7 or 8 year old when I rode a bike for the first time and I remember that it was indeed an RX 100. Ofcourse, I wouldn't recommend that anyone this young operate a motorcycle, but that is how things were with me.
Why the RD?
I absolutely love the RD 350. I used to remember seeing an Iranian student was riding it around where I lived in Aligarh. Since then, the love for the bike was such that all I wanted to do was to just own the motorcycle. It had become wedged in my mind and all I wanted to do from then was to get one for myself. I finally bought the RD in 2006.
For me, motorcycles are a reason to live. They are a constant part of my life as in they are ever present somewhere or the other as my life revolves around them. I have ridden solo in Sri Lanka and across India. My clients don’t make me feel hard pressed for time. And while some give me a free reign when it comes to creative license making the bikes, others are very specific when it comes to what they want. If I’m away on work, or if I’m riding the motorcycles, then I put the restorations on hold until then.
The first affair
My first Two Stroke motorcycle was the RX 100. I bought the RD 350 after. It’s my commuter bike in the city. I ride the bike every day. Aligarh is a small town basically and I love the bike so much. So naturally it makes sense to use the bike as my daily driver.
I’m not a collector. I ride them every day. Every motorcycle that I own, I make sure I take them all out when possible and I make sure to properly flog them each time when they are out. As for my daily bikes, those would be the RX 100 and the RD 350. I don’t believe in buying bikes and just storing them away. I believe it’s better to sell the bikes than to keep them tucked away from the road where they actually belong.
RD 350 - A Dream
Before the RX, I was aware of the RD 350. When I was a kid, a friend of my cousin owned the RD 350 and that roar from the twin engine just touched that 6-year-old in a way that would stay with him for an entire life. The bigger stance, twin instrument pods and of course the twin exhausts got me hooked. This is the bike that is responsible for getting me into the motorcycle lifestyle. I wouldn’t have done what I’m doing now if it weren’t for the RD 350.
So I bought a couple of RD’s from Agra and Jhansi and ended up being conned y both the parties. One of them has returned my money since then after years of pursuing him and the other person has not given back the money at all.
I finally got my RD courtesy of a friend of mine. He wanted to restore it and I helped I’m get it done by taking him to a specialist in Aligarh and even overseeing the entire build myself. However, after restoring the motorcycle, the guy who owned it seemed very disinterested in the bike. I even ran in the completely done bike for him. He kept the bike for about 6 months and wanted to sell it after. So I offered to buy motorcycle off his hands. I had literally overseen the whole build and the bike was made according to my tastes as he had handed me the reigns to the build.
This particular RD then, was completely in a spec of my liking. I bought the RD soon after and has owned it ever since. Many motorcycles have come and gone, but this particular motorcycle remains a constant. It is simply the favorite motorcycle in my garage. Basically everything on my bike is bone stock except for the paint which I changed when the bike was restored.
What is this distinction with High Torque and Low Torque version?
As for HT and LT, LT is more practical as it offered slightly better in fuel efficiency and was friendlier around the city. It also had the CDI electric system and was tuned for practicality while the HT was the most extreme variant of the RD in India and was ideal for those long highway blasts and was the weapon of choice for the hardcore biker. So the Low Torque was the most practical choice while the HT was the one for the guy with a death wish and a penchant for absolute excitement. If you are a young guy or an amateur rider and want a hassle free time, you go for the Low Torque model.
My RD still has the old point set system as it is the 1985 model. I actually prefer the point set system as it is much better to bring out the character of a Two Stroke motorcycle. I got a point set Yezdi converted to CDI model. I preferred the sound from point set bike as it sounds more brutal and authentic while the bike after CDI conversion gave out a more muffled sound.
For me the thing that attracts me most to the RD has to be the sound. The metallic noise emanating from those twin exhausts. The appearance of the motorcycle on the other hand is brutal and imposing. It is like a magnet and is sure to grab people’s attention with its old school charm and its thunderous sound.
I’m not a stickler for stock. I value practicality greater than any attribute. I sold a friend of mine and RD that he converted into a modern café racer with bigger brakes, modern electrical system and the whole works. Even though I won’t ever do something like this with my RD, I appreciate people who modify the RD to make it more practical so they can be run every day. The Cafe Racer concept just wouldn't work for me as it would mean my body will be in constant agony for the 100km+ trips I take on the bike. The RD is like a beautiful canvas and I appreciate anyone who turns the RD into their version of art.
The RD is infamous in US. When the bike came out in the US, people famously remarked it to be the revenge of the Japanese on the US for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bike was notorious for crashing and biker fatalities on the RD shot through the roof. It was soon one of the most dangerous bikes to ride on the planet due to the casualties it resulted in. This gave the bike infamous titles Road Death, Rapid Death etc. among others. The common title for the RD was soon ‘The Widowmaker’. The bike had very poor aerodynamics and was terribly twitchy to say the least. It also had brakes that just couldn’t keep up with its monster engine. Although they came with the best front discs in the business at the time in US and Japan, they just couldn’t contain the livewire engine. As for India, the bikes fate was sealed before it came out as it was offered with just the drums in the front. The guy who sold the bike to me initially told me to take special care while riding the bike on handing me the keys.
There are just three motorcycles in my garage that simply aren’t up for sale and the RD is obviously one of them. I have stockpiled enough spares to keep the bike running and plan to run it as my daily driver for as long as the law permits. Currently there is not much of an issue running a Two Stroke in my hometown but I feel soon we would have to go the way of the Americans by sneaking them out into alleyways to enjoy riding them.
Two Strokes for me are madness while the Four Strokes is calmness and practicality. The RD, despite being almost 35 years old can still hold its own against any modern 300-6550cc bike. You simply can’t compare a Two Stroke and a Four Stroke. Even a well-tuned RX 100 can take on a modern Pulsar despite it being from the pages of yesteryear. That is how advanced the Two Stroke technology was.
As for long rides, I like to take my time and take in the scenery on the way. I drop my pace down for these rides and focus on enjoying the ride itself. So I don’t take the RD or RX on these kinds of rides.
Owning my Dream
My RD is nicknamed Eleanor. The name is derived from the Nicholas Cage movie 'Gone in 60 Seconds' and just like the Shelby GT500, the RD takes no prisoners. If you are someone who has no clue about how to ride an old motorcycle or one with a large amount if power, the RD is surely a dangerous proposition for you.
Eleanor for me is the reason to live. For me, there are only a couple of things I really can’t do without in life. One would be my parents, the next would be my 15 year old dog and then would be the RD 350. No matter what mood I’m in, the RD has this magical effect of lifting your spirits up. It is and has always been my dream motorcycle and I can say with absolute confidence that I am a man content with what he has. I have all I needed in terms of a motorcycle with the RD 350 and plan to run it as soon as possible and enjoy it as much as possible.