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
© PressReader. All rights reserved.