A small standard like the RD is the perfect errand bike if you don't need much storage space. In this case, a round of trips to the local home improvement store, motorcycle dealer, and the tag/DMV office, was made enjoyable by taking the 350. People are always surprised to hear a street bike making sounds that they associate with a dirt bike. Older guys smile and nod or give a thumbs up. Taking the long way, I incorporated some country roads and let the bike open up a little. The pull of this machine over 5k is addictive!
1975 Yamaha RD350
It is good to be down to small annoying things. The blinker on the left rear was often pointing to the sky or to the ground due to a siezed grub screw which had been broken off at some point prior to my ownership. There was no way to get this out, and so I decided to drill it. The lens assembly attaches to the stalk by threads, but the grub screw keeps it in place and horizontal. After the drill session, I considered drilling all the way through the stalk and then using a tap to thread the hole. My eventual solution was just some removable loctite. I might have used a different solution if this bike was going to go across the country, but it is not, so plumber's tape might have been just as good. Mission accomplished and to prove it worked, I went for a ride along some bumpy asphalt roads. So far, so good.
A perfect test for the RD was coming up in the form of The Gathering of the Nortons. I have been attending this annual event for over a decade, and it is always good enough to be covered in the main blog. Despite the name, it is an excellent gathering of other British bikes, European Marques, and vintage Japanese machines. I have not seen an RD there in years, so I decided that this was a good choice. It would also provide a 100+ mile test as well. The bike was great there and back, with only a stumble at idle now and then which causes a stall. No issues once underway, and at speed it once again reminds you why this would have spanked any other 350, and done the same to some 500s as well. I rode in the company of a fleet of Guzzi Le Mans including a 1000. No problem keeping pace, and I could have surprised a few in the corners giving how light and nimble the RD is. Giant Killer indeed!
in order to put a few solid miles on the bike, I decided to brave a chilly day and get about an hour of running time. I had previously done a short loop, and things seemed to be ok. The carbs seem to need a fair amount of time to warm up, but then again, this has been an arctic winter so the bike may not be at fault. Ten minutes into the ride, everything feels warmed up, and smooth. Like all 2 stroke machines, it has a relatively narrow band where it makes optimal power. On the RD350, once it hits that band, hang on! It feels like a 500cc or better in the power band, and you can see why it embarrassed bigger bikes. It is relatively light and nimble as well. What a great combination. It needed a minor adjustment to warm idle, but other than that, this rocket rules!
On a brief break in the arctic winter, I took the RD outside and started it up. It was a little finicky to get started, but it improved once it warmed up. However, the electrical system did not. Right turn signals were sluggish, and the left just stayed on without blinking. The headlight varied between dim and off, as did the tail light. It seemed to be suffering from the same kind of maladies as the Honda a few months back. Into the headlight bucket we go, and it is actually pretty stock. I do find a loose ground, and a few connections that are a little crusty. Sandpaper and reseating is followed by looking for other grounds. The headlight and tail light are now better, but the turn signals are not. Methinks it is time for another new relay....
Under the seat, the RD is a little less than stock. It has a foam unifilter where the airbox would normally be. I have the stock airbox and I am tempted to put it back in place, once I sort out the carb issues. The battery is also not the stock size, and it leans against the filter. I don't like that particular combination....Anyway, the 2-Stroke Oil is now topped up and more serious testing can begin...
The bike is pretty much stock except for a few items. The mirrors are black shorty versions that look good on the bike, but are not at all usable. They provide a great view of my arms and torso. I changed them back to the stock chrome units. At the rear of the bike, I installed the factory chrome luggage rack. It takes a little away from the sporty stance, but it looks great and is practical. A small Nelson Rigg tailback that I have had for ages seems to fit the rack well.
It was the usual story. Not looking, no room, projects already in process. Then up pops a decent example of a sought-after machine from my youth. The RD350. Back then, I did not even understand 2 stroke vs 4 stroke. I didn't know that the 2 stroke era was coming to an end, and that Yamaha was a holdout. I just knew that a bike with a 350 engine and a 350 price was blowing away bikes that said 500 and even 750. A real giant killer, how could I get one ?
Well I couldn't, not back then. Fast forward decades, and now I can. For some reason, examples of this bike in good cosmetic condition are hard to find in my neck of the woods, so I had been looking on and off for a few years. This one looked good, and had a decent asking price, so I was on the road right away. As usual, there were more scuffs and paint blemishes than the photos showed, but nothing too serious. It fired up from cold, and I took it around the block. It was dark, and cold, so the test ride was an abbreviated one. A little cold-blooded, but pretty good. A little haggling, and a deal was made.
The bike has good rubber, and a few accessories and parts came along. This should be one that does not need very much. Good thing, because I have others that do....