Riding the thing
The entertainment begins the moment you kick the engine into life (there’s no electric starter) and the two-stroke powerplant comes to life with a burbling, rather harsh sound through those twin pipes, which also belch out a fair bit of smoke and fumes. Along with good, clear instruments, the Yam has excellent controls and a light clutch.
Some play in this LC’s gear linkage means the change is less smooth than it should be, but the six-speed box still works well. For a rev-happy two-stroke the Yamaha is very easy to ride in town, where its relatively upright riding position also helps make it impressively comfortable.
It’s out on the open road, though, where the 350LC really comes alive. One moment the bike is dawdling along behind a line of cars, the next, there’s a gap in the oncoming traffic so I’m cogging down two gears, winding back the throttle and holding on tight as the Yamaha streaks towards the horizon with enough force and noise to send a tingle down my spine.
The wind-blown riding position and high-pitched shriek of the exhaust combine to make the bike feel as though it’s travelling faster than it really is – in many ways that’s a good thing.
The Yamaha also provides plenty of entertainment in corners, where its light weight (140kg) is the main reason for its flickable handling.
Nobody who saw the outrageous manoeuvres that took place during a typical RD350LC Cup race will doubt that the bike’s frame is stiff enough, and its basic geometry and chassis layout good enough, to allow fearsomely hard and fast riding. This ageing bike’s suspension feels soft and bouncy at times, but still encourages me to throw it into turns with enthusiasm. Among this LC’s few non-standard parts are braided front brake lines that help the twin discs’ old-fashioned single-piston calipers deliver a respectable amount of stopping power. A narrow pair of Avon Roadrunners don’t grip like modern radials, but they make the most of the slim twin’s ground clearance, of which there is plenty.
One reason the LC is such fun to ride after all this time is that its components are still nicely balanced – there’s just enough power for some full-throttle excitement without crazily illegal speeds, and enough handling and braking ability to cope with the straight-line performance. It’s easy to understand why it captivated so many who rode it back in the day, and is still so fondly remembered all these years later.