A 1984 (!) Yamaha RD350 from the Himalayan foothills…
The Yamaha RD350 is one of our favorite two-stroke street bikes, a parallel-twin standard that boasted 39 horsepower, Autolube oil injection, best-in-class brakes, and lovely colors and styling. In India, the bike enjoys nothing short of cult status as the country’s first performance bike. Here, the acronym RD is sometimes said to mean not “Race Derived,” but “Racing Death” or “Rapid Death” — a tongue-in-cheek nod to the bike’s high-revving character and the chilling wail of the exhaust note.
Enter one of the world’s foremost RD350 builders, Arjun Raina of India’s MotoExotica. Arjun, who’s been hopping up two-strokes since his high school days, pursued an education in mechanical engineering and a masters in machine design before opening his shop in the northern city of Dehradun, located in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. He and his crew started out building exhausts for RD350 race bikes, perfecting welding techniques that were only available at an industrial level at the time.
After a close friend brought them a wrecked RD350 race bike that appeared beyond salvage, they managed to resurrect a lightweight street bike from the wreckage, and MotoExotica was born:
“Motoexotica is Art engineered, the bikes we build are fast, handle well, and look great, they are examples followed by others…”
Believe it or not, the bike you see here is a 1984 RD350 — that’s right, while the RD350 was only available from 1973-1975 here in most of the world, it was made in India until 1990! Arjun says the expansion chambers alone have probably 100 man-hours in them, and the bike also boasts a monoshock conversion, carbon fiber fender, 3D-printed side panels, rebuilt engine, and much more.
Below, we the full details on the build.
Yamaha RD350 Cafe Racer: Build Sheet
- Custom calculated expansion chambers, have probably 100 hours into them…
- Super sport front USD
- Rear custom swing arm with monoshock convertion, adjustable suspension all round
- Completed rebuild motor, ported, digital ignition system
- Motogadget speedo, blinkers…
- Custom machined triple clamps, rear-sets, brake rotor carriers front and rear
- Carbon fibre front mudguard
- 3d printer side panels
About MotoExotica: In the Builder’s Words
There is no sharp date when we started to produce custom motorcycles — back from the high school days, the idea of a faster than my friends’ motorcycle remained with me. I selected my education in the field of mechanical engineering and then a masters in machine design — at that point I thought I was equipped to carve my dreams.
We started with making performance parts for the Yamaha RD350 somewhere in 2009. These high performance exhaust systems were a lot of work, they introduced us to a certain technique in welding, which was only available at an industrial level then. We worked hard to design and form a process of our own to manufacture them and it worked ? .
These exhaust systems went on bikes that won races, at that point in time a close friend brought us a heavily crashed RD350 which appeared beyond salvage, so we worked with what we had and were able to pull out a lightweight street bike out of the pile, it was this bike that got us noticed and got us thinking seriously about building bikes.
We decided to form a small company and MotoExotica was born, the first bike that was built under the new name went on to win the 2014 India Bike Week Builder award. We felt welcome into the custom motorcycle world.
Motoexotica is Art engineered, the bikes we build are fast, handle well, and look great, they are examples followed by others…
The idea has been to push beyond the envelope always. Our dream to build these lightweight motorcycles introduced us to carbon fibre, though we had a hard start at it, today we have the capability to manufacture any size and shape of composite material — in fact, some of the race bikes we build are 100 percent carbon fibre panelling.
On the technology front, we follow world-class design processes — things start simple with a digital sketch, then specific CAD drawings, and then a real-world prototype and production. I will take pride to say this, that all of this process is completed here with no external dependencies, all under one roof — we’ve had a 3D rapid prototyper for four years, and lately have added a 4-axis CNC to the machine shop.