CARtoday.com correspondent Patrick van Sleight writes that although Yamaha’s legendary RD350LC didn’t change his dislike of two-strokes, it still had several endearing qualities.

CARtoday.com correspondent Patrick van Sleight writes that although Yamaha’s legendary RD350LC didn’t change his dislike of two-strokes, it still had several endearing qualities.


The Elsie attained cult status… It was remarkably different – lightweight and small, with a major attitude problem. It was developed from Yamaha’s TZ Grand Prix bikes and banned from club racing for a short while because it won everything it entered. It was quicker than most 750s of the time, and outhandled everything else. Twin brake disks and mono-shocks were exotic for road-bikes at the time. Riders were trading down from big-bore beasts.


Bike magazine UK ran a feature on it (June 2000), “Hear the note rise and rise until bang! You’re in the power-band. Grab another gear, then another. Repeat until fade… The LC is so willing to wheelie that it is rude not to. Every set of traffic lights goads you into a bout of twist-grip brutality.”


I remember seeing a full-bearded, leathered, tattooed and chained biker riding off on an Elsie, one day, a very long time ago.


I was puzzled why such a hardcore-type biker would ride such a puny little machine, so I suspected then already that it must have been something special. That particular Elsie was very clean, and he rode it the only way to ride an Elsie – hard, as I was to learn.


Elsie has a timeless shape, a purity of line so typical of the bigger XS and XV models, and other naked bikes of the era. And this one is enhanced by the still original white paint with trademark Yamaha designer lines outlining the simplicity of it’s shape.


Finn, Kris and myself had planned a tour around the Western Cape that will last a whole weekend. Two-wheel Mecca showroom owner Cedric supplied us with two very old bikes - the Elsie and a 1979 Suzuki GS1000G. You can’t get more retro than this.


Finn was on visit from Denmark and had not seen the Cape yet, and Kris, on his own GS1000G shaftie. I was supposed to get a Yamaha FJ1100 from Cedric - a perfect touring companion for the GS shafties. But after worrying about the weight of the FJ the entire night, it turned out to be not ready for riding in the morning, so the Elsie and I hooked up. It was going to be two cylinders versus four, two strokes versus four, 350cc versus 1000. I am not happy. At least I had 160kg versus 240kg in my favour.


On the Saturday morning I clumsily kick-started the Elsie into life. I hate kick-starters. The engine eventually fired into life, but not with the crisp crackle of an NSR or RGV. Instead, it sounded like gravel being air-blasted around in the sump. I wasn’t very happy with the Elsie at that point.


The first sign of trouble came when the starter wouldn’t kick-start again and I discovered there was no electric-start button. I thought the Elsie was advanced for its time? I hate kick-starters. One-up for the electric-start GS1000s. A kick-starter might look macho, but I’m not brawny and it would need to be in working order for it to look cool anyway.


Hitting the highway in convoy for the first time was cool. The Elsie also rides strange… It was as fast as the GS500 I once owned, but the similarly-powered GS500 had that pull in the arms as I opened the throttle. With the Elsie nothing happened apart from an increase in the pitch of the machine’s whine.


The town of Franschoek was full of breakfasting bikers on the sunny weekend morning. I parked the Elsie next to a latest model R1 and I made sure not to meet any of the bikers’ gazes. “If you sneer at its capacity…”. Push-starting the Elsie in the main road in front of all the breakfasters didn’t help.


By that point the carburettors were flooding as well. But climbing Franschoek pass, the Elsie began to feel moderately happy on the snaking road. The Elsie is very light and manoeuvrable. I kept the gears low and the revs up. I flicked past cars without effort. I think I know what the Elsie wants, but I continue to ride it like a lazy tourer after the pass.


After Worcester the Elsie spluttered under 4 500 r/min and I tried to keep the revs up. We cruised between 90 to 100 km/h. Lonely farm houses and dry hills rolled by. The two GSs were barely ticking over, but the Elsie was positively asthmatic.
At Swellendam we turned back west, then south towards Bredasdorp. And I opened up the throttle more but a strong south-east wind kept me bac

Original article from Car