Yamaha RD350 - The RD350B in India

The RD350B in India

The RD350B was assembled in India between 1983-1990 by Escorts group under the brand name Rajdoot 350. It did not repeat the worldwide success of the RD350B in the Indian market. Its lackluster sales figures can be attributed to high purchase price and poor fuel efficiency. However, it established Yamaha as a performance bike manufacturer in India. There were two models for the Rajdoot 350 - High Torque and Low Torque. Compared to the Yamaha RD350B that made 39 crankshaft bhp, the Indian-made HIGH TORQUE made 30.5 bhp (22.7 kW) and the later LOW TORQUE made only 27 bhp (20 kW), all in quest of better fuel economy. By the time the production ended in 1990, the bike was completely indigenized with very little Japanese part content.

Owners clubs and organized rides are existent in almost all major cities. A lot of the bikes got scrapped or became non-runners due to lack of spares in the early 1990s. However, specialist dealers are supplying all major spares that are locally made or imported from USA and Singapore. Also, Yamaha India has promised to supply all spare parts for the RD350 henceforth (Needs to be Verified).

The RD 350 was the very first super performance offering to the Indian Consumers at a time (1983) when the only bikes in India were the Bullet 350, the Jawa (Yezdi) 250 2 stroke and Rajdoot 175 cc 2 stroke. The other two wheelers being geared scooters like Bajaj Priya, Chetak, Allwyn Pushpak, Vijay and Lambretta. The original Japanese RD 350 had 40 bhp but the Indian Editions were detuned to 31 bhp due to lower fuel quality in India and also to increase Mileage.

The first HT edition of the RD 350 had too much power for the average Indian Rider as back then the Indian Market was not used to such a performance product The RD was a crotch Rocket capable of hitting 165 KM/HR in 6th gear. The RD used to frequently wheelie at the hands of inexperienced riders, being a high revving 2 stroke the bike was uncontrollable except a handful of experienced and mature riders. This prompted Yamaha to bring a detuned version of the RD 350 LT (low torque) which had 27 bhp with better pick up but less top speed & slightly better mileage.

The RD returned a mileage of anywhere between 6 to 23 km/ltr depending on how it was driven. The RD was fully imported in earlier models but by 1990 the bike was manufactured completely by Escorts Yamaha in India. The name RD stands for “Race Derived” performance and had technology from the Motogp bikes of the 1970′s. The bike had cult status all around the world since it was produced from the early 70′s in Europe, Japan and America. The bike stopped production in America in early 1980′s due to stricter emission and sound norms.

Unfortunately the RD did not enjoy that much success in India. The running costs was the greatest deterrent for the Indian rider to buy the RD and with the reputation of it being a “Lethal” bike ensured the sales of the RD was poor. Some people thought RD stood for “Rapid Death” ! Yamaha promoted the bike with the line “For the few who dare to live their Dreams” but that’s what happened literally in reality. The Hero Honda CD 100 which was launched in the 1985 further dented the RD’s sales figures as it had better mileage. Yamaha still continued to offer the RD LT. The RX100 was later launched in 1985 and it continued to sell better than the RD. Finally the RD 350 was discontinued by Yamaha in 1990 after years of frustration. The “Fill it, Shut it, Forget it” era marked the demise of the RD 350.

Technical Aspects: The RD was a twin cylinder “Reed Valve” air cooled 347 cc engine with each cylinder having a displacement of 173.5 cc. The RD had a slick 6-speed close ratio gearbox with 1 down 5 up pattern. The RD also featured “Torque Induction” ignition technology of Yamaha. The RD could do 0-100 in 7 seconds and a top speed of 165 km/hr in its heyday. The RD could touch 150 km/hr in just 16 seconds and was the first bike to have a tachometer in India.

The RD had twin exhausts and the Indian models had only 150 mm drum brakes at both ends.Coupled with the skinny tires the RD had scary high-speed handling and braking control characteristics. The RD is still the performance benchmark of any production bike in India and even after 25 years no Indian performance bike has even come close to it.

The Race RD’s were modified RD 350 for track use at the MMSC race track in Chennai and ran on Aviation fuel (white kerosene)and also 97 Petrol. The Race RD’s were turbocharged and had smaller sprockets and wheels, which pushed the power up to 85 bhp. The top speed was in excess of 220 km/hr. The bike had just the chassis, suspension, large 25 ltr fuel tank, disc brake on both ends and a thin sponge cushion for seat as everything else was removed to lighten up the bike. The Race RD was very light and agile and was very different from the Stock RD. The Race RD’s had modified powered up exhausts .The Race RD was the “Undisputed King of the MMSC Race Track” before it was discontinued from racing.

The RD was the first proper performance Superbike in India and it still enjoys cult status.Performance Purists still swear by it and many RD clubs are found all around the country. The RD had many editions like RD 400, RD 500 LC (Liquid Cooled) all of which enjoyed considerable success throughout the world and attained cult status.The RD 350 was the Greatest Landmark in performance biking in India, which paved the way for performance offering to India’s enthusiasts.

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