Bike India : 2020-07-10

CLASSIC BIKES : 60 : 60

CLASSIC BIKES

Few bikes would feel so good after such a long time, but the RD400C was no ordinary motorcycle. When launched in 1976, it was the outstandin­g middleweig­ht in the market. It looked good, was reliable, handled well, and was relatively inexpensiv­e. Most of all, it was fast, screaming to over 160 km/h and showing a smoking pair of silencers to rivals such as Kawasaki’s KH400, Suzuki’s GT380 (both two-stroke triples) and Honda’s CB400 four. One American magazine even described it as “the closest thing to a perfect motorcycle that we’ve ever run up against”. Back then, few people were surprised that the new RD400C turned out to be good, because it was merely the latest in a line of impressive Yamaha 350-cc two-stroke twins that stretched from the YR1 of 1967 to the 1975-model RD350. The letters “RD” stood for “Race Developed” and that was certainly true. Yamaha’s TZ twins had long dominated the middleweig­ht classes and the firm had won countless titles and grands prix with stars including Phil Read, Rod Gould, and Jarno Saarinen. Far from simply being a bored-out RD350, the 400C featured a major restyle and a comprehens­ive updating of the engine. A new, longer-stroke crankshaft increased capacity to 398 cc and the reedvalve motor also benefited from reshaped pistons, a bigger airbox, revised carburetto­rs, new cylinder porting, and a modified oilinjecti­on system. The RD’s peak output of 40 hp at 6,500 rpm was a few horsepower up on the opposition’s figures, but it was in mid- LIKE A REUNION WITH AN OLD FLAME OR A RETURN TO memorable holiday destinatio­n, riding a favourite bike after a gap of many years risks serious disappoint­ment. Just as those stunning curves might have slipped or that once golden beach been polluted, so a once loved bike might feel horribly old and slow. That’s why I was more than a little reluctant to have another ride on Yamaha’s RD400C ― a bike which, of all the machines I’ve ever owned, was one of the best. The Yamaha was superb in its day and I had a great time on mine. But motorcycle­s have progressed so much in the last few decades that riding an RD again all these years later would risk spoiling the memories. So, it was with a slightly anxious feeling that I eventually arranged to ride an original and unrestored 1976-model 400C. But from the moment I turned a street corner and saw the clean blue Yamaha sparkling in the sunshine, I knew everything was going to be all right. Sure enough, a swing of the RD’s kick-start produced a ring-ding exhaust note and a faint smell of two-stroke smoke that were both instantly evocative. The bike pulled away as smoothly and keenly as I remembered it doing ― and when the tacho needle hit 5,000 revolution­s per minute, the Yamaha surged forward with a force and a high-pitched scream that sent a nostalgic tingle down my spine. So much for disappoint­ment ― I was almost in love all over again. 60 www.bikeindia.in July 2020 Bike India

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