Dragon Slayer: 2-stroke weapon built for the Tail of the Dragon…
Indiana’s Keith Carlson, who specializes in two-stroke builds, is one of our very favorite builders. Each year, Keith and his friend Steve Hoy of Hoy Vintage Cycles build a pair of bikes to ride the legendary US 129 through Deal’s Gap, including the Tail of the Dragon — 318 curves in 11 miles! Living in Indianapolis, Keith has access to the expertise and skills of an incredible lineup of race teams.
This year, Keith has built his most incredible two-stroke custom yet, the 1984 Yamaha RZ350 restomod you see here. The RZ350 was a liquid-cooled, 347cc parallel-twin developed with ideas from Yamaha’s Gran Prix racers, including YPVS — Yamaha Power Valve System.
Keith’s build includes an R6 tail, FZ600 swing arm, GSX-R front end, programmable CDI, and much more. He says the bike performed so well in Deal’s Gap that he’s been spoiled:
“It is so fun to rip the corners and does EVERYTHING great. Trying to progress further forward would require stepping into the exotic RG500 or RZ500 world…now I am spoiled!!!”
Keith, we can’t wait to see what you would do with an RG500 or RZ500 😉
Yamaha 2-Stroke Restomod: Builder Interview
Photos by Dan Tijerna.
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I build predominately 2 strokes. Restoring and building for 12-15 years. MANY vintage motocross builds. I work from my home garage. Hobbyist but also work on customer projects. I am fortunate to live in a town with MANY race teams from Top Fuel dragsters to Indy Car teams to Sprint cars etc. Access to some great fabrication and other shops that support the race large race teams.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1984 Yamaha RZ350 engine, chassis and fuel tank. Yamaha R6 track tail assembly, rear shock. 1986 Yamaha FZ600 swingarm, 1987 Suzuki RM250 rear hub, Brembo caliper, GSXR front with Kawasaki KZ650 headlight assembly. Engine has Vforce 4 reeds, Zeeltronic programmable CDI, Toomey full kit (pipes and intake), oversize radiator with R6 cooling fan.
• Why was this bike built?
Bike was built for the annual Deals Gap trip in May 2018. Handled this trip PERFECTLY. US129 Dragon was a joy with the RZ350 power, agility, brakes and handling.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Design was to “modernize” the classic ’84 RZ350. Color scheme is tribute to the European Yamaha speed block design. Spoked wheels for weight and lightened throughout.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The entire rear subframe was built to suit the R6 tail.
1986 Yamaha FZ600 swingarm with slight modifications, R6 rear shock with Race Tech spring, adjustments and valving. RM250 rear hub and running with a KTM Brembo rear caliper.
Full Toomey setup for engine.
• How would you classify this bike?
I would say this is more a restomod style
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
This RZ350 ruined me on my 2 stroke quest. It is so fun to rip the corners and does EVERYTHING great. Trying to progress further forward would require stepping into the exotic RG500 or RZ500 world. Going back to build RD400, Suzuki and Kawi triples feel like regression….now I am spoiled!!!
- Photography: Dan Tijerna (@tchon76)
- Paint: DB Customs
- Fabrication: Dan Drinan and JKAT
- Powdercoat: Pro Kote
- Engine help: Brian Bissonette