1975 Yamaha RD350: Best Bang for the Buck

1 / 10
The Yamaha RD350 was THE Seventies poor boy racer. It was relatively cheap, relatively easy to work on and fast through the twisties.
2 / 10
The RD350’s 2-stroke engine produced a claimed 39 horsepower.
3 / 10
The RD350’s 2-stroke engine produced a claimed 39 horsepower.
4 / 10
As a result of Yamaha’s “Torque Induction” system — along with a crankshaft supported by large ball bearings, with roller bearings at the bottom and needle bearings at the top of the connecting rods and a 6-speed transmission — the RD pulled well from 4,500rpm to 6,500rpm, made 39 horsepower, and topped out just shy of 100mph.
5 / 10
The small window lets you know if there’s still oil in the tank.
6 / 10
Zeki’s RD350 has covered just more than 6,000 miles from new.
7 / 10
The RD’s single-disc front brake was one of the best of its day.
8 / 10
The RD’s single-disc front brake was one of the best of its day.
9 / 10
Like most 2-strokes, the RD needed revs to perform, but gearshifts were quick and easy, making shifting anything but a chore.
10 / 10
“The RD350 is in a class by itself. It will comfortably wax all bikes with equal displacement and will out-brake any machine in motorcycling. Keep the 6-speed box in harmony with the power band and the Yamaha will climb mountains as fast as you can ride.” — "Cycle," February 1974

1975 Yamaha RD350B
Claimed power:
39hp @ 7,500rpm
Top speed: 95mph (period test)
Engine: 347cc air-cooled 2-stroke parallel twin, 64mm x 54mm bore and stroke, 6.6:1 compression ratio
Weight (wet): 352lb (160kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 3.2 gal (12ltr)/35-40mpg
Price then/now: $1,224 (1975)/$1,500-$4,000

School is out and the cool kids, the ones with the feathered rocker hair, Led Zeppelin T-shirts and worn jeans, are headed for the parking lot. Two swift kicks and a Yamaha RD350 chatters into life.

That ring-ding-ding sound is unmistakable as the helmetless owner threads his way through the after-school traffic, narrowly missing a mother driving her daughter home. Mother is appalled. Daughter smiles. She is thinking about sneaking out of the house to meet that insolent creature on his bad boy bike.

The RD350 was THE Seventies poor boy racer. It was relatively cheap, relatively easy to work on and fast through the twisties. Unlike the many stoplight-to-stoplight dragsters of the early Seventies that had to be muscled through corners, the RD was light and flickable, just the thing an aspiring racer needed to hone cornering skills. “It was brutal, fast and wheelie prone,” says Zeki Abed, the proud owner of the original-condition RD in the Image Gallery.

Unfortunately, teenage racers are not the best at caring for their toys. Although a best-seller in the mid-Seventies, finding a Yamaha RD350 in good shape today isn’t easy. The RDs that weren’t thrown away in Turn 7 or slid out on a patch of gravel on a mountain road were still usually ridden hard and often put away wet, the maintenance schedule forgotten.

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine Featuring the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!