There are bikes that I love, there are bikes that I hate… and then there is a bike that I respect – The Yamaha RD350 aka the Rajdoot RD350; or the ‘Yamdoot’ as it was nicknamed in India.
The RD350 is not something that you can buy off the shelf, it is a part of motorcycling history; the last RD 350 in India rolled out of the Escorts factory sometime in the early 1990’s. This post is a reminiscence of the times gone by & my brush with a bike that has been rated as one of the 10 best superbikes of the century by CycleWorld magazine of the USA.
First of all I must confess, I am not much of a bike-person..I have mostly preferred 4 wheels to 2 any day. But once in a while I feel this itch to buy a bike..Especially when my ‘bike-freak’ friend comes back from a cross country ride & talks about the open road, wind in the hair, back-pack behind him & an Enfield bullet thudding between his legs..
I usually tell him..”Dude, one of these days I’ll buy a bike & join you..” Rather than a promise, it is more of a ’wishing out loud’. You see, my better half will not let me buy a bike..I do try to convince her that a bike is practical for the sabzi-mandi trips or for a quick zip down to the panipuriwala in the evening..Easier to find parking..or I even try to pad my argument by complaining about rising petrol prices & how much we are spending on our cars..Did not have too much luck anyway..so I would let the argument rest, atleast till the next time I got the bike-itch..
Now that my birthday was almost round the corner, I tried tugging on her emotions & said “I would love to buy a bike for my b-day..” She couldn’t say no to that, could she 😉
“Which bike? Activa??” she asked..
“Nope, that’s a scooter dear, I was thinking more on the lines of a Bajaj Eliminator or an Avenger..a cruiser sort of thingy”..
“Isn’t that a geared bike? Do you know how to ride a geared bike?”.
“Yes, of course I know how to ride a bike!”..
“When did you learn? I’ve never seen you on a bike”
Hmmm..ok, get yourself a cuppa coffee, sit down, make yourself comfortable & let me tell you about my ’other life’..when I had a brief affair..with a bike..if you can call almost a year a ’brief affair’..Let’s start, Once upon a time, in a land far far away..
I had a bike for a while when I started college..It was a ’Ind-Suzuki’ 100cc from TVS. It was a reliable commuter bike, used to run like a sewing machine & took me around to college, tuitions etc. Evenings, I would bum my dad’s car for parties & stuff..& life was pretty mundane. But fate had other things in store for me..or rather, other bikes in store for me..
My cousin, who used to work for a software company, got assigned to a long-term project abroad & he dumped all his stuff at my place when he left. This included his stereo, his collection of shoes & his Yamaha RD350..He gave me the keys & said “take care of her”..
I had always heard people raving about the RD350 & even seen some ads in some old Readers-Digest mags, in which the power & balance of the RD350 was compared to a ’Katana’- The Japanese Samurai sword. But hey, a bike is a bike is a bike. Right? I walked past it in the garage everday..telling myself..”I’ll start it tomorrow to charge up the battery”..This went on for almost 10 days..Finally it was a sleepy Saturday afternoon; I was washing my bike & decided to take the RD out for a spin..
Kicked it a couple of times & it burst into life! Now, the sound that a twin cylinder RD makes is something ’orgasmic’. Rev it up a couple of times in the confines of a garage & you’ll know what I mean.. I eased it onto the street, it felt heavy at around 180kgs, engaged 1st gear..a twist of the throttle & I was on a wild-horse!!!
If you are not careful with the throttle in 1st & 2nd, you’ll get a spectacular wheelie without wanting one..Acceleration on the RD350 is not something that you’ll see in any of the Indian bikes produced today. The 30bhp package begs to be ridden hard & fast..0 – 60 in less than 5 secs, 100 in around 12 secs & a top speed of around 140kmph. One ride around the block & I was in love..
The next day I took the bike to a stretch of road where I could open up the throttle..the NH4 highway on the outskirts of the city. I revved up the engine & ’take off!’ 1st,2nd, 3rd, 4th..reminded myself to flick into 5th..I was hanging on to dear life! Somewhere in my head I heard a voice..there is one more to come..flicked to 6th!!! Most Indian bikes have 4 gears, an occasional one features a 5th..& the RD has 6 gears..tells you a lot about performance, doesn’t it ?
The next few months of my life with the RD were awesome..took it out quite often..sometimes just to feel the exhilaration. A couple of times I went out to the local library, decided to take a short spin on the highway & managed to reach the nearest town around 80kms away! I just could not stop..As I progressively got familiar with the bike, I started pushing the limits..acceleration first, high-speed cornering next, went on to wheelies…
But all is not a walk in the park with the RD..Unless you are using really good quality brake-liners & the drums are squeaky clean, the stopping power is less than what you need for Indian roads. I had a nasty fall which resulted in more of a scare than injury. The bike is also quite temperamental & requires regular sessions with a good mechanic..adjusting the twin-carbs requires some skill..so does the point-set. Mileage too was around 20 kmpl..[For a bike with almost as much power as a Maruti800, mileage is in the same league too.]
Spares are not easily available & you should know what & from whom you are buying, to avoid low quality parts. You should also know the best alternatives for quite a few spares..such as rear shocks from a bullet, front fender from a Rajdoot 175.I have seen some RDs with a front-disk brake, either an imported kit or from an Enfield Fury.
As I read somewhere, buying a RD is just the beginning..slowly you get sucked into the world of tuning, spares, mods etc. all of which costs money that the average college-goer couldn’t afford. Add to it the age of the bike too showed at times..refused to start if drenched in the rain..battery would go flat..fuel leaked out of the carbs. It was like maintaining a temperamental girl-friend. You’ll have to put up with all the idiosyncrasies 🙂
Nothing lasts for ever..I had the bike with me for almost an year & must have covered around 5000+ kms. It was quite difficult to part with it when my cousin came back to India. I told myself that I would get one for myself as soon as I could afford it..not any other bike, just an RD350. But as time went by & the practicalities of life took priority, the RD350 wish got pushed back into the attic of my memory. Whenever I come across a RD or read about it somewhere, I wonder..what if ?
Maybe I should look for & buy a RD350 for my Bday..but then, one of my justifications for a two wheeler was the ease of use for the Sabzi-mandi trips, so I should probably stick with a ’Honda Activa’ for now..it has a cavernous under-seat storage space that can carry a whole week’s worth of groceries & veggies 🙂 Cant do that with a RD, can I ???
Engine type: 2-stroke,twin Cylinder, twin carb, 7 port, Reed valve,torque induction
Torque is around 3.3kgm-6500rpm
Bore x stroke: 64x54mm
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