Rid­ing the thing

Motorcycle Monthly - - Retro Super Cool -

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.

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