am, I know, a ridiculously privileged motorcyclist. Twenty-two years as a bike journo has gifted me a biking CV money can’t buy: riding the very first FireBlade in the UK; attending the launch of Ducati’s world-changing 916; interviewing Sheene, meeting Roberts, Rossi, Schwantz and more…
But today, daft as it sounds, riding this 31-year-old Yamaha is the icing on the cake. It may be my personal nirvana, but the RD350LC, specifically a W-reg, white and blue LC just like the one that rocked and changed my formative world all those years ago, is as good as it gets for this 46-year-old.
In truth it’s not identical to mine or even 100% correct – I’m enough of an LC anorak today to be able to spot wrong mirrors, ignition switch, clock cover, misplaced sidepanel stickers and the odd incorrect finish at 20 paces – but it’s close enough for monumental déjà vu to kick in. Even before getting on board I’m scatter-gunned with memories of teenage haunts and adventures, my old AGV X3000 and red quilt-lined leather jacket, black drainpipes and more.
Although this LC’s baffle-less shriek unsettles me for a moment everything else is like slipping into a pair of favourite old trainers.
Slotting into the riding position is as completely natural as ever – like a modern ‘naked’ (as we now call them). And although the tank’s not quite as chunky as I remember (and the wheels, tyres and forks seem impossibly skinny, too), it’s still broad and beautiful and the view ahead to the classy clocks is the same.
Wiggling out of the parking bay reveals it to be ridiculously light – whatever happened to light, simple bikes? Prodding into first and burbling out of the car park reminds me of the LC’s defining schizophrenic personality: in ‘bimble mode’ it was always pleasing and easy, but you always knew – just knew – a singular, intoxicating madness awaited ahead.
With the 30mph-limits behind me it’s time for Mr Hyde. 6000rpm was always the magic LC number. Stomping down one, maybe two gears with a slight slip of the clutch does the trick – brrrrr-IIIIINNNNGGGG! – scream time takes over. My eyes flit between tacho (gotta keep it between 7000 and 9500rpm) and road;
I smile at the slight haze in the mirrors, am impressed by the light, predictable and still largely acceptable handling, and for the next few miles time-travel to a better, more daring place.
Every car passed has to be done on full pipe and the powerband is exploited mercilessly – I’m addicted once more. Thirty years on, of course, a standard LC’s not particularly fast – an SV650 would murder it – and its mahogany brakes and tyres are rubbish, but its schzoid delivery is as exciting and intoxicating as ever.
Sure I’m biased – my LC stole my heart years ago. But I was amazed how much I was stirred again. That’s the thing about LCs, especially to those of us of a certain age who were ‘there’. They’re like hooking up again with that perfect old flame. The LC’s not just beautiful, not just achingly cool and exciting, but they’re a little bit ‘bad’, too – and they just don’t make ’em like that anymore…
Words Phil West