Hugely popular among power addicts, Rajdoot RD350 certainly is the first bike you'd pick to take a trip down memory lane
Once in a while we love to reminisce the glorious past. Swinging a leg over the stocky RD350, I'm instantly shot back to more than two decades of biking nostalgia.
It all began in 1983, when the Escorts Group came up with this unique urban commuter weaponry in India. Using a highly sophisticated seven-port two-stroke parallel-twin engine that employed reed valves and a six-speed gearbox, the bike was ahead of its time. During its stint in India, the RD was sold in two versions — High Torque (HT) and Low Torque (LT). The HT was made between 1983 and 1985 and was the more powerful of the two with an output of 30.5bhp. The left-hand engine cover on the HT had ‘Made in Japan' inscribed on it. Additionally, both the silencers received a flat-end treatment and the exhaust note had an aggressively sporty grunt to it. The LT was produced from 1985 to 1989 and put out a respectable 27bhp in the interests of improved fuel economy. The silencers incorporated a soft taper at the end, similar to the RX, and the exhaust note was more of a humble beat compared to the HT.
The RD was a racing delight bringing home gold at many an event. The bike in the picture has undergone painstaking restoration work to retain the splendid stock look. To this date, many bike enthusiasts feel that the air-cooled RD350 is the best two-stroke motorcycle to have ever hit Indian shores.
There's no debating that a short spin on the RD is all that you need to get hooked. Once on the move, you'll notice a second's lag for the 347cc motor to respond but as soon as the power kicks in, it throws you into a controlled frenzy. The manner in which this twin-cylinder two-stroke beast howls its way to its 8500rpm red line is overwhelming, and just brilliant. When the RD hits the manic power band, the pull is so fierce that you can feel your tendons clinging on to keep your elbow intact. Make no mistake; a RD in stock form can be ferociously quick. It hits 60kph in 3.55sec and catapults to 100kph in just 8.12sec before hitting a top whack of 150kph on the stock speedometer.
As inanely awesome as the bike was, it did have its fair share of problems too. The lack of basic maintenance knowledge left a lot of mechanics scratching their heads when an RD rolled into their garages. What's worse was that this inevitably earned the motorcycle a demeaning reputation of spending more time at the workshop than on the road. Then there were the single-digit mileage figures the bike offered its owners. The RD was originally designed with a front disc brake in the U.S., but both Indian variants came with just a 178mm front drum brake option to save on cost. This in turn led to the most concerning problem with this RD350 — its inability to stop in time if travelling at a quick pace.
A couple of years ago, RD diehards began to learn how to restore their machines and also spread the know-how through the internet. Members would help each other wrench their way out of problems. As the inherent flaws of the bike were analysed, it was understood that this bike needed a more efficient ignition as the points-system required constant attention. If overlooked, it would lead to overheating and hence rob the engine of power and super-accelerate wear before seizing the engine. An aftermarket CDI would eliminate this problem. and in fact the bike you see here has been retrofitted with a digital one. It's designed to work at optimum combustion times and hence makes more power, reduces heat and burns fuel more efficiently, which inadvertently results in better fuel efficiency figures. The CDI was only the beginning for those who craved for more from the RD.
Original RD spares are a dying lot in India and anybody who has stocked up on anything of true value will probably demand a fortune for it. Spurious spares are just as expensive but are not a viable option as they are unreliable, which is why many RD owners have begun to import their spares from the U.S. A few websites even deliver them right at your doorstep. These steeply priced spares feel like a fairly manageable price to pay for the wide smile on your face after that ride back home on your RD.