YAMAHA RD550LC

Look­ing straight off the boat from Ja­pan, ad­ding an ex­tra cy­clin­der was only part of the process that now sep­a­rates this LC from the hordes

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Spe­cial Build of the Year 2018 - Mark Gra­ham

Mark Gra­ham’s (not our MG, natch) im­mac­u­late RD-LC is a stealth spe­cial.you have to look twice.and when you do, you can’t stop look­ing, as your eyes are drawn to the myr­iad of one-off, mod­i­fied, and made-from-scratch parts that make up this re­mark­able ma­chine. “It took more than 1000 hours to build, nine months to plan, and the only two things on the mo­tor that haven’t been mod­i­fied are the kick starter and the wa­ter pump.”

The idea to graft a third pot onto a 350LC had been run­ning through Mark’s mind for a while. “I’m a fan of Allen Mill­yard’s hy­brid builds, plus I’d seen a cou­ple of ‘ex­panded’ LCS, so I thought I’d have a crack my­self.” Even the bike Mark bought to trans­form into his 550 seemed to serendip­i­tously ap­prove of his plan. “It was a very early 350LC, an in­com­plete pre-tie-bar mod model.when I saw the first three letters of the num­ber­plate – MAD – I knew the build was on…”

Mark started with the en­gine. “I’d been in con­tact with Harry Hawkins (our SS50 spe­cial builder, page 60) through the RDLC Crazy fo­rum, as he’d built a multi-cylin­der Elsie be­fore. Be­tween Harry and his mate Gra­ham King they ma­chined my cases, cylin­der head and mid­dle bar­rel to fit.the ex­tra cylin­der mates to the left side of the mo­tor, so the gear­box sits up against the clutch as nor­mal, and still runs on the same amount of oil. It runs a CBR600F out­put shaft – 2mm thicker but has the same splines as the LC – and it con­nects to the ex­tra case through an outrig­ger bearing.the clutch runs nine plates – EXUP fric­tion plates, LC metal plates, with an FZ600 bas­ket.the clutch cover has been mod­i­fied to suit the ex­tra width.”

The mo­tor has been through the hands of 2T tun­ing ace Mick Abbey, who also made the pipes. Mark spent 22 hours fab­ri­cat­ing the air­box, a part so beau­ti­fully made it looks as if it came from Yamaha. “I sculpted it from wood, then used that as a tem­plate to con­struct it from ally. It breathes through a large K&N un­der the tank.”

Stand­ing next to this 550LC it’s hard to pull your at­ten­tion away from the mo­tor. It’s so well done it’s as if it’s fac­tory, but there’s so much more to this bike than just an en­gine on steroids.

“The frame’s been spread by 20mm. I first worked out how the new sec­tions needed to be us­ing con­duit, then went onto 20mm tube. Once I’d bent it all into shape I gave it to Stu­art Digby who made a jig so it could all be welded to­gether.the swingarm, and wheels are RGV, the forks GSX-R400 – they’re bet­ter for the weight of this bike than those off the lighter 250.”

After 1000 hours work to get his 550 to­gether, you’d ex­pect him to put some time aside to en­joy his cre­ation, but you’d be wrong. He’s already hatch­ing plans for his next LC project – a four-cylin­der 700. Now that will be mad.

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