MCN Fleet: Is the RC390 the modern LC?

Two generations of teenage dreams go head to head.

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At the launch of KTM’s RC390 many people were asking whether young riders have ever had it so good. The RC is the raciest thing 19-year-old A2 licence-holders can sling a leg over, and it even has its own one-make race series: BSB’s KTM RC Cup.

Yet 35 years ago young riders were being seduced by a siren with a different song – the heart-piercing two-stroke note of Yamaha’s RD350LC. In 250 and 350 form the LC was the must-have machine for the ’80s fledgling rider. And, like the KTM, it had a one-make series: the infamous Yamaha Pro-Am. So, has 35 years of evolution made the KTM RC390 the faster, more competent machine? 

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Turn the LC’s key, pull the choke, flip up the thick rubber footrest and kick. The engine crackles into life, the combustion shockwave sounding like a drum roll through the Allspeed pipes. 

The LC is alive, it’s a vibrating, breathing, visceral experience. You can see, hear, feel and smell every explosion inside its twin cylinders. But, it’s smooth and vibe-free. Whack open the throttle and the LC fires away in a blur of smoke and noise. 

Jumping from LC to RC the world is instantly more refined. The throttle turns with less resistance, and you get the feeling you’re being shielded from the fire and brimstone of combustion beneath you. Even the exhaust note is just a muted drone. Because of this, the RC feels less quick and a little sluggish. 

But you shouldn’t always believe your ears. Strapping on a datalogger reveals that the Yamaha is not only slower than the KTM from 0 to 60mph, but it can’t match the RC’s 115mph top speed. The RC390 may be faster, but it’s no match for the LC’s all-round assault on your senses.


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