The Yamaha RD500 LC! If you haven’t heard of this bike you must have been living under a rock for the past 35 years. Yamaha, along with Suzuki and Honda were keen to produce a road going version of their 500cc gran prix bikes to give riders a similar experience for the road.
Yamaha’s take on the road bike was fairly close to the grand prix machine, a v-four two stroke 500 engine with a cradle style steel frame. The brakes and suspension are what you’d expect from a machine of the 1980s, with fairly primitive anti-dive forks, brakes and rear suspension. Tyre technology was also several steps behind, with compounds and construction more suited to touring bikes by modern standards.
Yamaha also produced a home market variant of the RD500 called the RZ500 which sported an aluminium frame, and the bike I’d probably aim for, even though purists only usually focus on the RD500. Whilst the chassis is definitely 1980s, the engine is a real peach and utilises Yamaha’s Yamaha Power Valve System (YPVS), found across the majority of Yamaha’s RD range, and went on to be used within other ranges such as TZR and TDR.
Two stroke engines don’t utilise a regular exhaust system, and require an expansion chamber to make the most of the two stroke engine’s power characteristics. Many owners chose to replace the standard expansion chambers with after market race systems in search of more power, however unless implemented with correct changes to the fuel/air you could run the risk of damaging the engine.
Always be sceptical of anything claiming to have a ‘Stan Stephens’ tune, unless they can verify the work with receipts or photos. Setting up the Yamaha RD500 also requires access to a good mechanic who knows their way around a two stroke engine, or a technically minded owner who’s not looking to implement any bodges or quick fixes.
Engines with 20,000 plus miles should have received a major service by now, which includes a review of the crankshaft bearings. YPVS valves are also known to get stuck, which leads to some erratic running and fuelling, so investing in a manual which gives you a good understanding of the key service areas is a worthwhile investment.
1984 Yamaha RD500 LC on ebay
This 1984 example looks fairly honest, and whilst it obviously has a couple of items missing, all of the major components are there, and looks like a very good basis for a restoration project. If you are looking to bid on this bike with a view of restoring, you should probably make some preparations to get tools, storage and expert contacts organise. We created a workshop article which may provide some inspiration.
Joining an owners group is also very worthwhile, and will probably be able to tell something about the history of the bike, including information around registration history. Many bikes being advertised at the moment are unofficial imports and have originated from overseas, which often includes restrictors (mechanical and electronic) requiring removal to get full power. California bikes were notorious for additional plumbing for anti-smog laws during the 1980s.
If you are choosing to bid on this superb Yamaha RD500 LC we you the best of luck, and hope you are successful in securing this bike for a good price. We are always interested to know what owners are planning for the bike after purchase, a complete restoration? Convert to a classic race bike? Donor bike for another project?
The window for using classic two stroke machines on the road is probably closing based on the emissions legislation, and seeing these superb bikes out on sunny days is always a special occasion. Remember share you experiences on our social media channels and chat with the community.