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Why The Yamaha RD350 Is So Revered In India?

“Don’t feel bad. You’re not the first 750-rider to get blown off by a Yamaha 350” – Yamaha in one of its commercials for the RD350. This 2-stroke bike was known to be a giant-killer as it could easily leave the giant bikes with almost double the engine smelling the white smoke from its exhaust as the RD350 zooms past them. Yamaha RD350 was India’s first performance-oriented motorcycle. Let’s take a look at the history behind the cult.

1983 – Yamaha RD350 comes to India

A bike that was already famous in Japan for the performance was introduced in India with the collaboration of the Escorts group and Yamaha under the name Rajdoot. For those who think that RD in the name of the bike stands for Rajdoot, sorry to break it to you but it doesn’t. It actually stands for “Race Development” in Yamaha’s terminology.

Rajdoot Yamaha RD350
Rajdoot Yamaha RD350

Yamaha RD350 came to India with a 347cc 2-stroke engine which was capable of producing over 31hp in the High torque version and around 27hp in Low Torque version. The Japenese counterpart used to produce over a 40hp of power.

An Old Brochure
An Old Brochure

RD350 – The Rapid Death Machine

Within a matter of few seconds, 6 seconds to be precise, this menace could reach over a speed of 100kmph. The normal drivers who were not used to this much speeds were not able to handle the raw power. This resulted in accidents and the bike earning the name of Rapid Death Machine. The bike could easily reach top speeds of over 150kmph.

The front drum brakes
The front drum brakes

Another problem was the brakes. The Japenese RD350 was equipped with disc brakes while the Indian version had to use drum brakes.

The police department was also given some Yamaha RD350 bikes at that time. The ones who used to drive Royal Enfields were not able to handle this beast too. This resulted in more accidents. Thus the Rajdoot 350 became unsafe for the roads for normal drivers. For the real drivers, it was a boon. We will get to this part later.

Another name – Rapid Drinker | Fuel Guzzler

No, this was not a common name for the bike, I gave the name to it. It was not at all a bike for those who wanted fuel efficiency. The Yamaha RD350’s mileage lies anywhere between 10kmpl to 25kmpl depending upon the driving conditions. Some cars at that time used to give better fuel mileage than this bike.

The Real Bike for track racing

Although it was not safe for the roads, the Yamaha RD350 was surely made to race. It is known to be the Giant-killer. The reason being the raw power the engine was able to produce which even the bigger bikes somehow managed to. Moreover, RD350 was way ahead of its time.

RD350
RD350

It was equipped with the Torque Induction ignition system technology which made sure that the air-fuel mixture goes straight into the combustion chamber and does not come back. The result was high torque at lower RPMs without compromising high power.

The converted RD350
The converted RD350

Rajdoot 350 was equipped with twin-carburettors. It was the first Indian bike to have a tachometer.

And the real USP of this bike is that a skilled mechanic can tune the engine to reach 65hp of power. What else do you need? The massive torque producing capabilities were unmatched by the 4-stroke engines of the same capacity.

The Failure

Yes, the Yamaha RD350 was way ahead of its time. Yes, the bike was powerful. But, No, the bike was not able to sell. Reasons being very low fuel efficiency and high power. Normal day-to-day drivers were simply not able to harness the power and the higher number of accidents lead to the faith of Indian buyers deplete. The bike was launched at a price of ₹18,000 at that time, which was a huge amount. So people were simply not ready to spend on a bike and then spend a lot on the fuel and hospital charges. This bike was put up against Royal Enfield Bullet, Jawa 350 and Yezdi Roadking. The rivals had a stronger base in the market simply due to better fuel economy and servicing network which the Escorts group lacked.

Good Things Do Come To An End!

The bike was a real craze amongst the youth and the race drivers. It was said that if you own an RD350, you will surely get a date and that too with ease. The different sound and powerful revs were enough to attract females towards the owner.

A Modified RD350
A Modified RD350

The bike has a cult and is still loved by those who keep on searching for this bike in the places less travelled and return the RD350 to its original glory. Although the current emission norms will never allow a 2-stroke bike to revive, race tracks are still open for such bikes. And not to forget, some races don’t allow RD350 to compete with the 4-strokes as it leaves them in embarrassment.

Do you own a Yamaha RD350? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Take a look: 10 Forgotten Bikes In India: From Yezdi to Mini Bullet

 

Ritvik Guptahttps://gomechanic.in/blog
Ex-Technical Content Developer at GoMechanic | Automobile enthusiast with a knack to decode it for everyone | Automobile Engineer by passion

24 COMMENTS

  1. Own 2 RD.s, never gets bored or tired with them cause everyday there something to tweak and race to reach to that sweet spot…then higher and a lit more…

  2. RD full form is not Race Development, it stands for RoaD version and TR stands for track version of yamahas. RZ & TZ represents Road n track liquid cooled versions. RD series started from RD80, RD100, RD 125 up to RD/RZ500.

  3. Yes, I own a RD350 1984, since 2005… that’s my first bike at the age of 19. It’s been best companion all these years and will be forever. I am the first Rider to successfully complete 1000 miles Saddle Sore in 2013, Certified by Iron butt association.

  4. Have 2.
    A 1983 HT and a 1979 Import.
    Own the 1983 one for 17 years now.
    Even to this day my legs wobble when I get off the bike. Scaring the bejesus out of me.

  5. Just sealed the deal for a pristine metallic blue, 1984 HT. They say one feels the most alive when one is close to death…that’s what this RD at 5000rpm felt like to me. I am most definitely in love with that feeling!
    This big brother is going to join my 1987 Y1 bore RX100..
    #purebliss

  6. Having lived through the history and having an RD purchased first hand in 87′ I would strongly disagree with some points. a) The drum brakes ( with a twin leading shoe ) that the RD came with were par for that time and provided better stopping power that all the motorcyles that were on sale back then. Infact I used to find the brakes perfectly ok even until the early 2000s b) the number of accidents on this bike happened not because it was unsafe, Infact its high speed handling was leagues ahead of the Enfield or any other bike of that time. It was just that the average Indian rider had faulty riding habits and the use of the front brakes was a no-no for them. This may seem funny today, but back in the 80s and 90s, it was common for bike riders to disconnect their front brakes and use rear brakes only. This lead to rear wheel lock ups and subsequent skidding thereby saddling the bike with a reputation it did not deserve.I have seen policemen skid like this right in front of my eyes. c) The RD was capable of a fuel efficiency of 30kmpl+ if you rode it at around 60 kmph ( Very possible in the 6th gear , but riding an RD at that speed was a joke ) . Thus the claims that the Enfield Bullet returned 30+ kmpl while having a similar sized engine was flawed. An RD was mostly ridden insanely and if one rode an Enfield the same way, its fuel efficiency would have been even worse and it would have had serious mechanical damages ( again first had experience ). One cannot make rev a bike to cross 100kmph in 3rd gear and then expect great fuel efficiency. In my opinion, the real reason for its failure was actually the reliability quotient. Its CB point ignition system required to be set every 1000 km or so and its spark plugs were prone to fouling with the bike suddenly becoming a single cylinder one !. This is where the RX 1000 scored with its CDI ignition which was bullet proof.

  7. I have two Giant Killers, always brings me a smile to my face. I never get tired of riding them and listening to the dual two stroke sound. Long live the RD350!!

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