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India's first performance bike - Yamaha RD 350 (Rajdoot 350)

Introduction of RD 350 in India

By RBPublished 4 years ago 4 min read

RD 350 was introduced in India in 1983, when Indian roads were ruled by the likes of Bullet 350, Yezdi 350, Rajdoot 175, and scooters like Chetak, Vijay super, Lambretta 150, etc.

RD 350 was launched by Escorts Group in collaboration with Yamaha Japan. Escorts Group which had multiple businesses like, Agri- machinery, construction, and material handling equipment manufacturing and auto products also had a motorcycle division which was started in 1962 by manufacturing Polish motorcycle SHL M11 175 under the brand name Rajdoot as Rajdoot Excel T. In 1983 they started assembling Yamaha RD 350 in India under their Rajdoot brand as Rajdoot 350. RD350 was sold in Japan between 1973 and 1975 and produced 39 bhp power 7500 rpm. The Indian edition introduced as Rajdoot 350 was detuned to 31 bhp due to the low fuel quality and to improve fuel efficiency. Even 31 bhp was too much for the Indian riders in those days. The first set of RDs were given to Indian police officers to help them chase down the criminals faster, but the police officers who were used to heavy Royal Enfield Bullet bikes couldn't handle the power of RD, resulting in lots of accidents. The RD used to frequently wheelie at the hands of inexperienced riders, only experienced and matured riders could handle the high revving 2 stroke machine.

RD had 2 versions in India. The first one was the HT or High Torque version producing 31 bhp that was introduced in 1983. By 1985 they introduced a low torque (LT) version which was detuned to 27 bhp. This was done because the power of the bike was more than what normal Indian riders could handle, and to improve fuel efficiency. HT version could easily hit a top speed of over 165 kmph, It could do 0 to 60 in less than 4 seconds and 0-100 in around 7 seconds. The Torque induction system which was a technology far ahead of its time, helped the bike produce high low-end torque without compromising top-end power. There are not many Indian bikes that can beat RD350 in terms of performance even today. It was the first bike in India to feature a tachometer and 6-speed gearbox. The bike was in production till 1990 and the last bike was reported to be sold in 1991.

RD 350B, the original bike produced in Japan had undergone many changes before introduction in India other than engine detuning. One of the significant changes was the substitution of front disc brake with a 180mm drum brake to keep the cost low. The bike was rebadged as Rajdoot and Yamaha badging came only on either side of the engine.

Reasons for failure

- RD350 had more power than what Indian rider could handle, it was only for experts and mature riders.

- The bike was introduced at Rs 18,000 ex-showroom, which was considered high during those days.

- The fuel efficiency of the bike was just between 10 and 25 kmpl according to the riding conditions

- The bike was expensive to maintain and the lack of service network for Escorts group and non-availability of properly trained mechanics to handle the 2 cylinder engine added to it.

- Spare parts were not readily available and were expensive.

A total of only 7000 RD350s were sold in India although the bike was a real craze among the youths. Yamaha in tie-up with Escorts group later introduced bikes like RX100 and RX135 which turned out to be successful due to less maintenance cost and better fuel efficiency. The earlier RDs had a lot of Japanese parts, but Escorts Group localized more than 90% of the parts in a few years, which has led to poor quality of parts.

Indian bike enthusiast's favorite

There are many active clubs of RD owners of all ages across the country. RD350 was a bike that every bike enthusiast deserved but launched at the wrong time in India. A well-maintained RD350 can be sold for over 3 lakh rupees these days. It is said that a good mechanic can tune the bike to produce as high as 65 bhp. Enthusiasts spend a lot on maintaining the RDs due to a lack of availability of parts. Some people even imports parts from Japan.

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