Yamaha RD350LC Review & Ratings
- 17 February 2018
- Author: Nikolas Perseputto
Riotously noisy, moderately refined, yet still commendably ferocious, Yamaha’s loony LC was rightly proclaimed 1981’s Bike of the Year.
THEN: The LC has to be judged as a special bike. It’s refreshing to find such a machine since manufacturers are generally unwilling to stick their heads on the block and come out with a single-minded product. It is slim and light as good bikes should be. The seat is hard without being uncomfortable, the stance forward leaning, the handlebars flat, and the levers within easy reach. All these details create a definite impression before you’ve even ridden the thing. It’s the kind of bike that gets you into a racey mood by some kind of osmotic process of molecular transfer from machine to rider (a theory first propounded by Flann O’Brien in The Third Policeman – worth a read if you’re into Irish surrealism and people changing character with bicycles). Even better, it lives up to the initial promise in all but a few details. The steering is accurate, the ground clearance admirable, the suspension compliant and tuneable (five notches on the monoshock) but it’s very twitchy. From time to time I wondered (usually when feeling the front wheel skipping on bumpy roundabouts) just how much the LC’s frame owed to the geometry of Yamaha’s trail bikes. If the LC is a catch-em-quick product the frame could be a rehash of existing jigs. It never felt dangerous or unstable – the trail bike frames are excellent anyway – but if I owned an LC the first bolt-on goody would be a steering damper.
NOW: One of the cheapest thrills the world has ever been offered (£1131 when introduced in 1980) and still one of the finest examples of the right bike at the right time for the right people. By today’s standards it’s neither particularly fast nor notably agile. And yet it’s still genuinely exciting to ride and equally enthralling to stare at (in black or white). As your man Smith pointed out it’s slim and light and it feels just as trim and wieldy now. The black-finished, finless engine and huge radiator still shout TZ (even though the LC has about as much to do with TZ engine architecture as a Fizzie). The italic-spoked wheels remain as seductive as ever and the burble from the tapered pipes on tickover is still one of the most distinctive and alluring sounds of the universe. On the move trying to exercise any form of restraint remains as utterly hopeless as it ever was. It’s wobbly and underbraked, but there’s something so satisfying about the upper reaches of the rev range so repeatedly attainable through the excellent six-speed ’box that only a fool would deny himself the pleasure at every opportunity. With prices now around four grand for something tidy to eight (and beyond) for an all-original minter or a properly rebuilt and restored example, the LC is approaching investment level status. But don’t let any of that filthy money business put you off experiencing one of the more genuinely hilarious experiences of the early 1980s.