The RD 350 was the very first super performance offering to the Indian Consumers at a time (1983) when the only bikes in India were the Bullet 350, the Jawa (Yezdi) 250 2 stroke and Rajdoot 175 cc 2 stroke. The other two wheelers being geared scooters like Bajaj Priya, Chetak, Allwyn Pushpak, Vijay and Lambretta. The original Japanese RD 350 had 40 bhp but the Indian Editions were detuned to 31 bhp due to lower fuel quality in India and also to increase Mileage.
The RD was produced from 1983 to 1990 in India. The first edition was called HT(high torque) edition, this edition had 31 bhp. The first sets of RD’s were given to the Indian Traffic Police to help them in nabbing criminals quickly. The Indian Police were used to Enfield Bullets previously and the RD proved to be a handful for them to control. The result was many accidents by the officials.
The first HT edition of the RD 350 had too much power for the average Indian Rider as back then our Market was not used to such a performance product (and sadly even now). The RD was a crotch Rocket capable of hitting 165 KM/HR in 6th gear. The RD used to frequently wheelie at the hands of inexperienced riders, being a high revving 2 stroke the bike was uncontrollable except a handful of experienced and matured riders. This prompted Yamaha to bring a detuned version of the RD 350 LT (low torque) which had 27 bhp with less pick up and slightly better mileage.
The RD used to return a mileage of anywhere between 6 to 23 km/ltr depending on how it was driven. The RD was fully imported in earlier models but by 1990 the bike was manufactured completely by Escorts Yamaha in India. The name RD stands for “Race Derived” performance and had technology from the Motogp bikes of the 1970′s. The bike had cult status all around the world since it was produced from the early 70′s in Europe, Japan and America. The bike was stopped production in America in early 1980′s due to stricter emission and sound norms.
The Indian Scenario: Unfortunately the RD did not enjoy that much success in India. The running costs was the greatest deterrent for the Indian rider to buy the RD and with the reputation of it being a “Lethal” bike ensured the sales of the RD was poor. Some people thought RD stood for “Rapid Death” ! Yamaha promoted the bike with the line “For the few who dared to Dream and be different” but that’s what happened literally in reality. The Hero Honda CD 100 which was launched in the 1985 further dented the RD’s sales figures as it had better mileage. Yamaha still continued to offer the RD LT. The RX100 was later launched in 1985 and it continued to sell better than the RD. Finally the RD 350 was discontinued by Yamaha in 1990 after years of frustration. The “Fill it, Shut it, Forget it” era marked the demise of the RD 350.
The RD 350 was a bike way ahead for its time and especially in the Indian context, the bike was not suited for the Indian consumer. The bike though a very competent and quality product enjoyed little success in our country.
Technical Aspects: The RD was a twin cylinder “Reed Valve” air cooled 347 cc engine with each cylinder having a displacement of 173.5 cc. The RD had a slick 6-speed close ratio gearbox with 1 down 5 up pattern. The RD also featured “Torque Induction” ignition technology of Yamaha. The RD could do 0-100 in 7 seconds and a top speed of 165 km/hr in its heyday. The RD could touch 150 km/hr in just 16 seconds and was the first bike to have a tachometer in India.
The RD had twin exhausts and the Indian models had only 150 mm drum brakes at both ends. The drum brakes lacked the bite of a disc and the abroad models had a front disc brake, which was absent in the Indian models. Coupled with the skinny tires the RD had scary high-speed handling and braking control characteristics. The RD is still the performance benchmark of any production bike in India and even after 25 years no Indian performance bike has even come close to it.
The Race RD’s: The RD 350 was modified for track use at the MMSC race track in Chennai and ran on Aviation fuel (white kerosene). The Race RD’s were turbocharged and had smaller sprockets and wheels, which pushed the power upto 85 bhp. The top speed was in excess of 220 km/hr. The bike had just the chassis, suspension, large 25 ltr fuel tank, disc brake on both ends and a thin sponge cushion for seat as everything else was removed to lighten up the bike. The Race RD was very light and agile and was very different from the Stock RD. The Race RD’s had modified powered up exhausts and the sound would be intoxicatingly addictive as well as deafening when they would zoom past in the track spewing blinding smoke all over the track. I was in complete awe of the action taking place on the race track. The Race RD was the “Undisputed King of the MMSC Race Track” before it was discontinued from racing.
Salute the Grand-dad of Indian Performance Bikes: The RD was the first proper performance Superbike in India and it still enjoys cult status in our country. Performance Purists still swear by it and we can find many RD clubs all around our country. The RD had many editions like RD 400, RD 500 LC (liquid cooled) all of which enjoyed considerable success through out the world and attained cult status.
Truly The RD 350 was the Greatest Landmark bike of India, which paved the way for performance biking in India and Yamaha’s greatest offering to our country’s performance enthusiasts. None of the modern day Indian Performance bikes can even touch 150 km/hr. Only those who have experienced the raw power and pure adrenalin rush from the RD will know its character and importance. The Race RD’s were in a league of their own. The RD 350 is a Legend and not your everyday bike and having driven it few times I can vouch that RD is a Legend par Performance Excellence.
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