Back when I was a senior in high school, almost ten full years ago, a family friend named Phillip gave me a Yamaha RD350. These bikes are 350cc twin cylinder, two-stroke, reed valve units. Estimates I’ve come across put the rear wheel horsepower of the bike at around 35. While 35 horsepower does not seem like much today, in 1973-1975 it was a decent amount of horsepower considering the bikes relatively low weight. This is one benefit of the two-stroke configuration. Additionally, the RD350 was well known for its stopping ability thanks in part to its front disc brake, which was a class leader in its day.
Part of the deal when Phillip gave me the RD was that when I got the bike running I would ride to his place and let him take it for a ride. I haven’t forgotten that deal and plan to make good on it. The problem with giving a bike to an 18 year old not even out of high school is that an 18 year old can not afford to fix it. As a 27 year old who is almost 28 I am in a much better position to get the bike running. Not only do I have a job, but I also have a garage and workspace of my own. Miraculously, I even have a girlfriend who supports the project as well. As far as I can tell, the stars have aligned and it is time for me to get to work.
At last check, the bike needs a full engine and transmission rebuild. The pistons were solidly seized into the cylinders as a result of the engine sitting dormant and the cylinders rusting. I have a real fondness for two-stroke engines. They are simple, fast, and a dying breed. I own two motocross bikes that are two-strokes, I’ve raced numerous karts that could achieve over 20 thousand revolutions a minute, and I’ve enjoyed every second of it along the way. As a result, the RD350 is an engine I can’t wait to get my hands on. I plan more than just a rebuild, but to port the engine as well.
To be safe, the brakes and tires need attention too. The brakes will be rebuilt, and the tires will be replaced. The excitement won’t stop there though. I have always been a fan of cafe racer style motorcycles and am planning on taking the RD in that direction. Many of the trimmings on the bike like the fenders and the seat are in pretty shabby condition. Replacement of these parts with factory Yamaha bits would be expensive. Instead, I plan to fashion or modify many of these parts myself. There are many designs and bikes out there inspiring my plans, but I hope to be able to add a unique touch to the build as well.
During this project I am going to take photos and keep the blog updated as I work on parts and pieces. Additionally, I have a theme in mind that I am going to apply to the build throughout. I am going to start the project by taking the bike apart and inspecting pieces carefully. Expect a new post by early next week that explores these early days in my RD350 rebuild. Thanks for reading, and be sure to stop back!