Thursday, January 10, 2008

Performance Bikes: The World’s Finest Strokers

Like most people who love bikes and who grew up in the 1970s/80s, we love two-stroke bikes. Sure, today we’d choose a GSX-R1000 over an RD350LC, but that doesn’t really take away anything from the fact that the RD and its ilk were great, great fun in their time.

Recently came across a copy of the August 2006 edition of PB magazine, where they’ve compiled a list of the finest two-stroke sportsbikes ever. We quite loved the story, and we’ve posted a few excerpts here. (While PB have compiled a more exhaustive list, we’re only posting what they have to say about their ‘best in class’ choices.)

[Best in class] Honda NSR250R

Can there ever be a cooler paint-scheme than the Rothmans job on this NSR250?

>From 1986 – 1994 >Top speed 192km/h (1989 SP model) >Power 45bhp@9200rpm (restricted)

Not the fastest or most powerful 250, but the most beautifully engineered. By a mile. Based on Honda’s delectable 250 GP bikes. Made Yamaha’s TZR feel like a fish and chip dinner.

[2nd] Suzuki RGV250

[Honourable mention] Aprilia RS250

[Best in class] Yamaha RD350 YPVS

The RD350 YPVS was sold as the RZ350 in the US. And a certain Mr Kenny Roberts was doing some of the selling...

>From 1983 – 1991 >Top speed 200km/h (F2 model) >Power 49bhp@8500rpm

The 350LC was seminal, no question, but the 350 YPVS (called the RZ350 in the US) was always the one that mattered. It had the technology: powervalves, perimeter frame and rising-rate rear suspension. Capable of leaving big four-strokes, including Yamaha’s own 240km/h five-valve FZ750, trailing in a sweet-smelling haze. A masterpiece then and now.

[2nd] Yamaha RD350LC

[Honourable mention] Yamaha RD400

[Best in class] Suzuki RG500 Gamma

Suzuki RG500 Gamma - the best 500 GP replica ever made...

>From 1985 – 1989 >Top speed 240km/h (tuned) >Power 86bhp@10,500rpm

The best 500 GP replica. Suzuki allegedly blueprinted the first test bikes so they’d do a genuine 240km/h. Neat trick. The legend has lived on ever since. Spindly chassis and laughably thin tyres were out of date from the start, but the RG’s motor has been the two-stroke special builder’s powerplant of choice ever since. With 100bhp well within reach, who can blame them?

[2nd] Yamaha RD500LC

[3rd] Bimota V-Due

[Honourable mention] Kawasaki H1 (Mach III) 500

Open class
[Best in class] Kawasaki H2 (Mach IV) 750

Kawasaki H2 Mach IV 750, the real wild child of the 70s!

>From 1971 – 1975 >Top speed 200km/h >Power 74bhp@6800rpm (claimed)

Piston-ported inline triple with a fearsome reputation, but the handling was more frightening than the powerband. Inspiration for the terrifying H1R racer.

[2nd] Suzuki GT750

Overall leader

The RD350 YPVS is also PB’s ‘Best of the best’ among all two-stroke sportsbikes ever produced anywhere!

The worst

Honda MVX250
[Unreliable V3 engine]

Yamaha RD350R
[Restricted model, made in Brazil]

Yamaha TZR250
[3MA, Mk1 reverse cylinder model, ruined by lumpy carburetion and suspect reliability]

Cagiva Mito
[Fell apart frequently]

More two-strokes:
Memorable: The mighty Yamaha YZR500!
HRC: Saga of the Honda NSR500...
Memorable: Cagiva's C593, 500cc GP racer...
The glorious Suzuki RGV250!
Suzuki RG500-based Barry Sheene replica...
Honda NSR500 race-rep: The best we've ever seen!
Memorable: The Yamaha RD500LC...

External links:
Read more about the Suzuki RG500 Gamma here and here
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