“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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