Giant Killer: 1975 Yamaha RD350

This zippy little hornet surprised many much larger bikes back in the mid-1970s, and it wasn’t just the trail of blue smoke that was left behind from its two-stroke engine. This 1975 Yamaha RD350 was known as a giant killer and it can be found here on eBay in Cypress, Texas. The current bid price is over three times its original cost: $4,000.

This bike checks almost every box for me. It’s a Yamaha – I’ve been a Yamaha fan and owner for almost five decades. It’s orange – a cool and unusual color on anything, even a suit. And I don’t mean a jumpsuit. It’s a small, tossable, fairly-lightweight bike that’s fun to ride. And, it has a two-stroke engine that will lay down the law against many bigger bikes. Last but not least, this thing looks pretty much like new.

The RD350 was made for three years, from 1973 through 1975 and they were best in the twisties or as a nice commuter bike. Sure, a bike twice its size could often beat it to the next stoplight but once they hit a curvy road it was all over for the most part. The seller has provided a video here on YouTube, listen to that two-stroke symphony – bravo!

The seller says that this bike is in great condition, everything works, and it runs like a champ, starting on the first or second kick. The inside of the gas tank is as clean as a whistle and I don’t really see a single flaw in this bike anywhere. But, maybe it’s because I have my Yamaha rose-colored glasses on. I love these bikes having learned to ride on a late-60s Yamaha 100 YL-1 Twin Jet which I still have. There’s something about two-stroke engines for me, motorcycles, cars, whatever.

My 1978 Yamaha XS750E has a black engine and I’ve always liked that look but they can be tricky to keep clean and looking good. This one has Yamaha’s 347cc two-cylinder two-stroke (which I’ve beaten into the ground by now, sorry) with just under 40 horsepower and a top speed of around 100 mph. If all was well with the world in 2020 I would have a decent motorcycle fund built up and I would jump on this one for sure. Have any of you owned a 1970s two-stroke Yamaha motorcycle? Or any two-stroke motorcycle?

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Oh, I remember this one, the guy across the alley had one. It did one thing, no 2 things well, go fast and create a smoke screen. Not much could keep up with it, until maybe 80. It was no highway bike, although, I’m sure more than one enterprising individual took one of these cross country. These were cheap to begin with, under a grand, and the “RD” quickly became known as “Rapid Death”, because of the power and poor handling, but it could beat many 750’s, and ANYTHING American. Most people stuck the motor and threw them in the trash, cool to see one again.

    Like 6
  2. Euromoto

    I ride this one’s baby brother, a 1975 RD 200. It’s a whole lot of fun and the perfect bike for a middle-aged kid like me; quick, but small enough and under-powered enough not to kill me. And, it’s the only RD with electric start.

    Like 6
  3. ADM

    I had a friend who bought the exact duplicate of this bike, same year and color. He bought it, in 1977, for $275.00, in nice shape, with low miles. Even when he ran it out of oil, he rebuilt it in an afternoon. The neatest thing was that he would ride it to an automotive college, on the southern shore of Lake Superior, from a town south of Boston. He ride up to Montreal, then hang a left. His next bike was a Daytona 400.

    Like 6
  4. Troy s

    Had a few two stroke dirt bikes as a kid/teenager, never rode a street bike and never will after seeing the remains of…
    I do remember one of the local hoods having a Kawasaki street bike that was a two stroke and quite fast, a triple or something like that. It’s a different kind of noise that’s for sure. Stay safe.

    Like 2
    • james malone

      Probably a Kawasaki Mach 3 500. Scariest thing I ever rode. Our local hood (and admittedly a friend) owned one and on graduation night…
      Yeah, I still rode street bikes but it was never the same.

      Like 1
      • Steve

        I learned to ride on this exact bike . Same color same year. I had a job in Vancouver bc as a motorcycle courier in the 80s. Fun bike to ride but I started to value my life as the rain set in. Okay on a dry day but rain in a busy city gives you religion.

        Like 3
  5. Rob

    2 Stroke…Had a 68 Kawasaki 250cc, the acceleration in 6th gear up to 3600 RPM felt like an afterburner kicking in.

    Like 5
  6. Richard Cheney

    I had one of these, bought new for $900 in 1976. Commuted on it for about 6 months before it was stolen. Great bike, I took the insurance proceeds and bought a 1974 RD350 for $300 and rebuilt the top-end for another $100. Wish I still had either of them!

    Like 1
  7. JCA

    Yup. Had a similar bike in the same color in the early 90’s except i believe it was a 400. Bought it from my neighbor for maybe $50. I got it running and sold it a couple years later for $500 including a green 400 parts bike that someone gave me. It was a fun bike when it was running right.

    Like 3
  8. steve

    Impossible to keep 2nd gear in the transmission. Bought mine with a blown 2nd, put one in, followed by another one and then, when it blew 2nd AGAIN, I traded it off. These were sold as a “commuter bike”..Ha ha ha…
    NOTHING happened until 3000 rpm..and then..it all happened..RIGHT NOW…
    If the oil injection pump was working correctly, they really didn’t smoke much.
    Replaced it with a BMW R60-5..talk about a paradigm change!

    Like 3
    • Rob

      Steve, you jogged my mind, yep 3000-3600..yank!! Rob

      Like 1
  9. Rick Vinson

    You have a twinjet? I’m jealous. My first bike was a Honda Cub 50, followed by a twinjet. I’ve been looking for a YM-1 for years. This 350 is awesome.

    Like 3
  10. Greg

    My first ride in 1963 was a 1958 Rabbit scooter, 2 stroke 125cc, then a couple of Honda 50’s until I got a 1964 Yamaha YA6 and then a 1965 YL-1. A couple of Suzuki X6 Hustlers came along in the later 60’s, then 1970 Suzuki 250 Hustler. In 1972 I bought a new orange Kawasaki H1 500, added a Suzuki Tc125 and a Trailhopper for my 5 year old son in that same year. 1977 added a 1974 Suzuki 750 Water Buffalo and in 1983 a new holdover 1982 Yamaha 650 Seca which I really didn’t care for and sold in 1985. In 1998 added a new holdover 1996 Suzuki 1400 Intruder and then a 2003 Suzuki Volusia in 2004, 1400 was added in 2010 and another Volusia in 2012. 2 Strokes ruled the 60’s and 70’s IMO and are still my favorite rides.

    Like 2
  11. 2 Stroke Fan

    Those tires are very, very old. Should not be ridden with those.

    Like 2
  12. Goatnvairs

    Had acouple of these. Keep the revs up or you’ll be installing those spark plugs you keep in your pocket for road fixes. Also, when the revs get past 4000 you’d better be holding on.

  13. PairsNPaint

    My first bike was a ’73 RD350 bought in ’74. I got it before I had my motorcycle license or had ever even ridden a bike, and the second day I had it I installed flat bars on it. Subsequent mods included rear sets, Bassini expansion chambers, milling the heads and porting the cylinders, plastic fenders, going to full clip-ons, bikini fairing, dual front discs courtesy of a Yamaha 500 fork swap, a cafe-style single rider seat and aluminum rims. The aftermarket was HUGE for these pocket rockets and I took full advantage. I think I might have been the best customer Blaylock’s Cycles in Wheaton, MD ever had. I painted it just like Kenny Robert’s yellow and black factory racer. God, what a screamer! I sold it when I had modded it so much I couldn’t keep the front wheel down in the first four gears and I knew if I kept it it would kill me. Great bike.

    Like 4
  14. Gerry Montee

    Have a ‘78 Suzuki A100 in my current stable. Only bought because I wanted smoke and noise. Tremendous fun!!

    Like 1
  15. Arden

    Smooth as an electric! Better use Yamalube or foul a plug.

    Like 2
  16. Robin M

    I had a ’73 with shaved heads. It was SCARY fast. Wish I had it back.

  17. Timothy Youngberg

    I had one given to me. No title because the previous owner had left the country for the mission field and never came back. I should’ve applied for a new title and kept it but instead I just sold it for a few hundred bucks. Same color.

  18. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    I’m right there with you, Scotty. Lovin’ Yamahas.

    I’ve had a ’74 DT 400 – single cylinder, 2 stroke monster and a ’79 XS 750F – smooth cruiser, used to call it Triple Threat.

    My 2 wheel days are in the past, but my wife and I still enjoy a 3 wheel Can Am Spyder.

    Like 2
  19. JoeBob

    There’s a few bikes in the group photos I’d be interested in. Nice collection. The 73 H1 is really pretty.

    Like 2
  20. Cman

    My uncle’s freind’s sister’s cousin once had a box of cutter pins that looked vaguely familiar to the ones on here.
    Great memories!

    Like 1
  21. Bernie Chaziquasidence

    Never had a 2-cycle bike, but I did have a 2-cycle SAAB and I can definitely vouch for the smoke, in the winter when the car and the outside temp wascold. God, I loved that car! I can also vouch for the frequent spark plug changes after too much stop-and-go driving, but I also got really good at changing plugs quickly. God, I still loved that car! I really enjoyed taking bigger, faster cars on winding back roads and watching them disappear in the rear view mirror. All the wonderful traits that you enjoyed with bikes weren’t lost in that wonderful, ugly little car. Need I say it again? God I loved that car! But I think that, all things considered, the bike owners probably enjoyed their 2-strokes more than I enjoyed mine, if that’s possible.

    Like 2
  22. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    Like Scotty, my first bike was a ’69 Yamaha 100 Twin Jet. I bought it new from a dealer in Dublin, Ireland with my saving from my after school job pumping petrol in a little service station in Sallynoggin. I was big man on campus at high school in my senior year as only my buddy and I had bikes. I had so much fun with that bike and have fond memories of my many adventures riding it, mostly sober. I even raced Milo O’Shea (of Barbarella fame) through the streets of Dalkey one time. I’d love to find one of those again. Currently, I ride a 2009 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic LT, a very nice cruiser. I’m looking for a Can Am Spyder RT for next season. I love the Vulcan but back issues are pushing me to get a cool trike.

    Like 3
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      I love my Spyder. I hadn’t ridden in years and my wife wouldn’t trust me on 2 wheels.
      Here is my 2009 that I got this past summer. The header pipe makes it sound like a Harley.

      Like 2
  23. Comet

    I was humiliated by one of these on my Honda 750 in 1980.

    Like 3
  24. cyclemikey

    Lots of “had one” and “I remember these”, but I can do better than that. I have a ’75 RD350B exactly like this one in my herd. This one was made early in the 1975 model run by the serial number, mine was made later, but they’re identical.

    I was looking for an RD400 when I bought it, but I’m a sucker for the bright orange paint, and I like the lines better on the 350B than the 400. By the way, the “smokescreen” feature is greatly minimized by using modern synthetic 2-stroke oil.

    Like 4
    • Robin M

      Lucky man. I traded mine away in 1974 for a ’73 Olds Cutlass S. They gave me $450.00 towards the down payment. lmao. I was young & dumb.

  25. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Have a few – 350’s/400’s and remember walking in the dealership when the KR special’s came out – longed for one but being water cooled I just didn’t know if would best the earlier ones. Buddy raced a TZ in the vintage class – man that was scary fast bike.

    Like 1
  26. Barney

    I had a YDS3 in high school. It was a twin cylinder two stroke 250cc street bike. Wish I could find another one.

  27. Willowen Member

    In ’75 I was doing freelance art, catalogs and how-to drawings, for a bike accessory outfit and Yamaha dealership in Redwood City, CA. One of the perks was getting to take a bike for a run now and then … and the most fun I’ve ever had on two wheels was taking a freeway ramp on a new RD-350, by just holding the throttle wide open and shifting as fast as I could. I do not even remember how fast I was going at the bottom of the ramp! A couple of days later I borrowed the same bike to take my girlfriend on a tour of El Camino, up to San Carlos and down to Santa Clara and back, all quite sedately and comfortably. We did one ramp-to-ramp freeway side trip, just for a little excitement …

    I never could afford to buy one, but that was one bike I felt like I could easily use for anything, comfortably and (relatively) safely.

    Like 2
  28. Showbiz

    Good sale price ,awesome bike,I am lucky to have a 1973 Yamaha RD350 that I am restoring right now ,was in dry storage for many years and was left outside for a very short time with the spark plugs out and rain water got in and locked up the right side piston . Took engine apart very carefully and ordered up the new barrels and pistons with the new billet crank system. never have ridden a RD350 but have heard lots of stories,after reading through all the cool posts have got me thinking of getting this bike finished. have had a few kawasaki h1 500s a few years back a holy grail 69 and a 70 . congrats to the new owner and hope you have many hours of fun on a lonely deserted twisty country road.

    Like 3
  29. Robert

    Yes I owned a 1973 maroon with white stripes on the tank I put Basani expansion chambers bored , ported , rejected and that bike blew all the yellow 400’s away . Quick , sounded awesome and by far the best and fastest bike on the lower portion of hwy 2 the Angeles Crest Hwy . One of my most favorite bikes , a diamond in the rough. And if you really want a thrill ride next to a buddy on the freeway same bike ….. harmonics cool … have fun stay safe!

    Like 1
  30. George Mattar

    From an era of superior quality and styling. I had one of these in 1974, them graduated to a new Kawisaki 400 S3 triple. In all, I owned 9 Japanese two strokes. Never a problem. Keep oil injection tank full, add gas and go. And the sound out of those chrome pipes was music. Far better quality than any overpriced junk Harley. I want this one.

    Like 2
  31. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update: this Yamaha sold for $5,266.66.

  32. Russell

    “Have any of you owned a 1970s two-stroke Yamaha motorcycle?”
    Might as well ask “Have any of you ever had a beer?”
    I “restore to life” old 2-strokes (usually Yamaha CT and DT’s) … it is an obsession.

    Like 2
  33. Macon Michaux

    First bike was an RD350 and second was an RZ350. Sold them both for next to nothing. The RZ’s bring five figures now. I’d trade about anything I own to get a good RZ back in the stable!

    Like 1
  34. Mr.BZ

    I grew up on the back of Dad’s CB160, and learned to ride on it. Neighbor Billy down the street gave me a ride to school one morning on his RD350, and I knew I had to have one. Mine was a ’74, and definitely one of the fastest vehicles in our little hick town at the time. Once I found the right heat range, never fouled another plug and very little smoke, ran perfect. Occasionally the retainer bolt would vibrate out of place and the muffler “silencer” would shoot out backwards like a red-hot torpedo! I quickly learned to let them cool off before handling, and not to kick them into the weeds on the shoulder.

    Like 3
  35. DaveO

    I had the same bike (color & year) – bought used in late ‘75 for $450 and sold in ‘76 for $500 when I went overseas with the USAF. Scary fast – the front wheel would drift up off the ground at around 7k rpm in the first three gears.

  36. Ocean Cowboy

    I had one of these. Gave it a stage three track modification on the motor. Tuned pipes, ported, built up bottom end, rejetted. Different carbs eventually. Amazing bikes. With my mods it had no power below 6600rpm. As soon as i hit the sweet spot all hell broke loose. Blew past 1000cc bikes of the time. Topped out a t 157(that was my fear limit). I put bags and fringe on it to make it the ultimate sleeper. Kept it ratty looking with all the money in motor and minor suspension mods. I made some people wake up as it howled. Howl it did and it did not want to go slow or carbon built up fast. I sold it as I was afraid it would kill me. The buyers test drive was interesting, He was always a big bike guy. I advised him this bike was not normal. He said”it’s only a 350.” I said I had to follow him and told him not to exceed 6000 rpm in 1st 2nd or 3rd and to watch his tach and wait for it. So off he went with me behind. I listened to him and he puttered off never getting too 5000rpm. I could know by the sound. He said to me” I told you it was just a 350″. Nothing there. I asked if he had watched his tach. He said no. I said try this again and watch your tachometer and do not exceed 6000 rpm until you are at least in 3rd and hold on. He smirked and said he would. I follow him again and as he went inti second I hear him roll the throttle on. At the right RPM the bike howled like the satan coming after the good. The bike went completely vertical with a 225lb rider, bags, windshield and all. The brake lights came on and the front end bounced down and he pulled to the side, I walked up to him and asked how he was. He could not speak. Only garbled words were coming out. He was shaking and his hands were trembling. I advised him that this bike was likely not for him. After several attempts at speaking his words came out garbled, but understandable “I want it”. Three weeks later he went 90mph into the front end of a station wagon sliding on his side. Broke hip hip, clavicle and femur. He would live and return to work. The bike went intohistory for me. The motor was best left unidentified.

    Like 3
  37. Bhowe Member

    Scotty I got to meet you some time. Almost all the stuff you like from 3 cyl engines to Yamaha’s, 2.strokes etc and 80s Japanese cars are exactly what I collect. We have a mint 75 RD 250 in the family as well as a bunch of other 2 stroke Yamaha’s like my 75 happy, 81 dt125, and a nice 86 Yamaha SRX6. Several 80s vintage hondas and toyotas, plus low mileage 84 indy fiero, low mile 83 z28, and low mileage 84 Corvette. BF should have a meet and greet some time.

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