That was the headline of a 1975 magazine advertisement for the Yamaha RD350, and it was true. Introduced in 1973, the oil-injected, 36-hp twin would become one of the great two-wheeled giant-killers, embarrassing triples and fours on canyon roads and racetracks all over the world. Motorcyclist said it best:
Enter Marc Martin, an Australian who grew up riding dirt bikes, but caught the fever for road-going customs about four years ago. With access to a workshop at his job, he set out to build his first custom, based on a 1975 Yamaha RD350, and what an amazing job he’s done. He went deep into the guts of the donor, rebuilding the engine from the cases up and re-jetting the carbs to match those nostalgic DG pipes, as well as de-tabbing the frame and lacing the original hubs to wider rims.
Timeless Auto Trimming handled the seat, complete with a café style hump, and our friend Tom from Purpose Built Moto lent some solid suggestions while kitting out the build with PBM lights and a custom mudguard. All in all, this two-stroke ripper is quite the auspicious start for a young builder, and the riding experience is just as we hoped:
“I’d be lying if I said it was a comfortable tourer. It’s great fun in the mountains and tearing through the suburbs with the front wheel in the air though, it handles really well.”
Below, we get more details on the build from Marc himself.
Yamaha RD350 Custom: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I’m 25 years old and from Brisbane, Australia. I had been riding dirt bikes all my life but it wasn’t until I started working at my new job four years ago that I got into bikes we could ride on the road. Everyone there was into cool bikes and it rubbed off on me. I want to build and collect custom bikes. I have access to a workshop where I work with all the equipment I need to do most things.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
1975 Yamaha RD350. Twin cylinder 2 stroke.
• Why was this bike built?
After seeing all the cool bikes on Instagram I wanted to build my own. I had brought the RD350 about a year before I started the build for $3000 and wanted to build some kind of café racer but that’s about all I had in mind.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
I liked the café racer style given it was a small bike however I wanted to give it a slight modern touch. It actually ended up turning out a little different to how I first planned it to look but I couldn’t be happier with it.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The entire bike was either customized or freshened up. I started off stripping it down and rebuilding the engine. The cases and alloy parts I planned to reuse were wet blasted and the heads and barrels were ceramic coated. I then rubbed back on the fins for the polished alloy look.
The original hubs were powder-coated black and laced into some wider alloy Sun Rims with stainless spokes and wrapped in some modern rubber. I had some custom decals made for it. The tank had a few dings in it so they were repaired before it was painted yellow. The frame was de-tabbed and the back of it was cut off so I could weld a raised loop in. I made a new slimmer alloy seat base then had Timeless Auto Trimming make a seat for me with a café style hump but flattened off.
While it was there Tom from Purpose Built Moto suggested we take off the flat bars I had on it and put some low-rise Pro Tapers on it so we did that and it looked heaps better.
While it was there Tom mounted his PBM lights to it and made me a front mud guard. I kitted the bike out with a bunch of Motogadget gear. The whole bike was re-wired using an M-Unit Blue, Motoscope Mini and their bar end indicators and glassless mirrors. The rear shocks were replaced with some much more modern YSS shocks and the forks were rebuilt using Race Tech springs and their Gold Valve Emulators.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride?
I’d be lying if I said it was a comfortable tourer. It’s great fun in the mountains and tearing through the suburbs with the front wheel in the air though, it handles really well. Everyone who gets on it comes back with a smile from ear to ear.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Nothing in particular honestly, I’m stoked on the whole thing. It was my first build and I learnt lots. It’s given me the bug and I’m already half way through building a 1979 Honda CBX 1000.
Follow the Builder
My Instagram is @its_marc_martin. Photos done by me.
Seat was done by @timeless.autotrim.
Front mudguard and Lights came from and were mounted by @purpose_built_moto.
Ceramic coating was done by @moto_kote.