Monday, December 04, 2006

Down memory lane: Yamaha RD500LC

The Yamaha RD500LC - a Grand Prix bike for the road!

If Ducati can do a full-on MotoGP-replica streetbike with the Desmosedici RR, why can’t Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki or Yamaha do one of their own? A Honda CBR1000RR in Repsol livery sure looks great, but it isn’t really the real thing, is it? A road-going RC211V or M1 would be the coolest thing on the planet. What a pity they’ll never be built…

Speaking of road-going race-replicas, some pretty hot ones have come out of Japan and Italy over the last 20 years. The Suzuki RGV250, the Yamaha TZ250, the Kawasaki KR-1, the Honda NSR250 and the Aprilia RS250 were pretty torrid stuff. These two-stroke machines had great power-to-weight ratios and very high speed cornering capabilities – on tight, twisty roads, even litre-class superbikes would struggle to keep up with these absolutely mental 250s.

But for the ultimate in repli-racer street-cred, the mid-1980s Yamaha RD500LC has to be the motorcycle. Based on Kenny Roberts’ Yamaha OW61 YZR500 Grand Prix machine, the RD500LC was powered by a two-stroke, liquid-cooled, 499cc V4, which made 88bhp@9500rpm in stock condition. It had a six-speed gearbox and dry weight was around 208kg. Top speed was 225km/h!

The RD500LC had underseat exhaust pipes, ran a 16-inch front wheel and an 18-inch rear, and carried twin brake discs at the front and a single disc at the back. Yamaha also fitted their YPVS (Yamaha Power Valve System) on the RD500LC. Chassis was box-section steel tube, but a Japanese-market-only version – the RZV500R – had an aluminium chassis, though the engine was actually detuned and made only 64bhp.

Of course, tuners regularly pumped up the 500LC engine and power outputs of 100-120bhp were not uncommon on tuned and fettled bikes! Yes, the RD500LC was not very successful in production racing series of that era, and never became anywhere near as popular as the RD250 or RD350 machines, but still, it has to be the world’s most desirable Grand Prix racebike replica ever made.

Also see:
Motorcycle Grand Prix racing - then and now
MotoCzysz C1 MotoGP replica
Ducati Desmosedici RR MotoGP replica
2007 Yamaha R1

A short video showing the Yamaha RZV500R, the Japanese-market RD500LC

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