Dusty Miller builds an electric orange giant-killer…
The Yamaha RD350LC was the first liquid-cooled evolution of the RD series, which appeared in 1980 to succeed the air-cooled RD400. It had the same bore and stroke as the older RD350 (64 x 54mm), but made about ten more peak horsepower (46-49 vs 39 hp) with cleaner emissions.
In 1983, Yamaha revolutionized these two-stroke street engines with their Yamaha Power Valve System (YPVS), which used an electric servo motor to vary the port timing over the rpm range, giving a broader, more efficient power curve. The YPVS-equipped 350 twin — known in different markets as the RZ350, RD350LC II, or RD350 YPVS — made 59 horsepower in stock trim — another 10 hp jump from the previous generation!
One man who knows the RD350 series inside and out is our friend Dusty Miller, a retired UK firefighter with a penchant for building high-performance RD hybrids. Previously, we featured his “Hybritza” RD350 YPVS and air-cooled RD400 hybrid. Now we’re thrilled to present another one of his builds, which began life as a 1981 RD350LC. Says Dusty:
“I bought the bike ‘unseen’ apart from a few pics sent by the previous owner. I took a chance, knowing that even if it was a wreck, I could do something with it.”
The bike was running, but it was a definitely rough around the edges. The P.O. had already fitted an assortment of RGV bits, but the pieces were not well-sorted. The pipes rubbed the swingarm; the swingarm was too long; the bike had been painted Subaru blue with no decals…the list went on.
“I had every intention of tidying a few bits up and then riding her, but I can’t leave things alone, so before I knew it the bike was in lots of pieces on my shed floor, and a plan was hatched to rebuild it, better than before.”
Dusty spells out the full list of modifications below, but highlights include a newer 350 YPVS engine, stock-length Metmachex swingarm, original Giuliari (Gully) seat, GMX radiator, alloy end cans from Dave “Muttsnuts” Whattam, and brakes that could “could stand a Jumbo jet on its nose.”
Below, we get the full story on this incredible orange LC hybrid straight from the man himself!
Yamaha RD350LC Hybrid: In the Builder’s Words
I bought it in 2015 as a running 350LC with an RGV front end fitted, and an RGV rear wheel and swingarm adapted by N K Racing to fit the LC frame. The bike had been painted in “Subaru blue,” but had no decals fitted. The whole bike was a bit “rough around the edges” but ran well enough. The seat cover was horrible, the Allspeed pipes didn’t fit correctly at the back due to the wider swingarm, which would rub against them if they were fitted as they should have been, and some of the fasteners and fixings were either tired or not well thought out. The RGV swingarm conversion is tried and tested over here, but it’s not an ideal swingarm to use in an LC as it’s four inches longer than a stock LC arm — not the end of the world but it does affect the handling — great for a drag strip though!
I had every intention of tidying a few bits up and then riding her, but I can’t leave things alone, so before I knew it the bike was in lots of pieces on my shed floor, and a plan was hatched to rebuild it, better than before.
Make, model and Year of the Bike.
It’s a 1981 Yamaha RD350LC. Built into a hybrid by a previous owner, using Suzuki RGV Vj22 wheels, forks, yokes, and brakes. The original swingarm was a VJ22 arm, converted to fit the LC frame by N K Racing here in the UK.
Why was this bike built?
I bought the bike “unseen” apart from a few pics sent by the previous owner. I took a chance, knowing that even if it was a wreck, I could do something with it. They are such simple bikes to work on, and I had already done a few by that point. I had it delivered by a bike courier, so by the first time I saw it up close I already owned it! I rebuilt it completely, mainly to improve some parts, and to repair or replace others. I enjoy building them more than anything really, and two prolapsed discs in my lower back means riding bikes can be painful, so I get my “fix” by stripping and rebuilding them nowadays.
What was the design concept, and what influenced the build?
I love the look of the LC’s, and they are an iconic bike. There is a huge following for them, certainly in the UK. Lots of owners modified their bikes when they had them as teenagers, and it was rare to see standard LC’s flying around! Most kids modified them in some way or other, whether it be paint schemes, pipes, racing bars and footrests, home tuning etc. A whole industry developed to make aftermarket parts, and tuners like Stan Stephens are still tuning the engines, 40 years later. This mentality of modifying has always been strong with me, and I rarely build a standard bike. That’s what drew me to buying this one in the first place — the fact it had already had hybrid parts added meant I didn’t need to find them. I wanted it to be an LC at first glance, but with some subtle modifications. I did have some LC spares knocking about at the time, and the bike went through a few different incarnations before I finished the build in 2019.
What custom work was done to the bike ?
I started by stripping the bike down completely. The frame and cycle parts went off for powder-coating in gloss black, and the wheels bright white. I had originally planned to keep the blue paint scheme and just add decals, but that changed later on, meaning the wheels ended up black. I polished the RGV forks at home, and rebuilt them with stiffer springs and heavier oil. I swapped the Tokico front calipers for a beautiful pair of Beringer six pots from a Hayabusa, which had been pro-polished previously, and had come on another bike I bought. A Tyga carrier and Brembo caliper replaced the standard Suzuki set up at the rear, and I bought my first Metmachex swinging arm to replace the overlong Suzuki arm.
A new YSS monoshock was fitted, and new tyres, wheel bearings, and chain and sprockets were added to replace the tired items originally on the bike. Prior to buying this bike, I had sold a Powervalve 350 hybrid, but had kept the engine as I had spent a small fortune rebuilding it, and it had zero road miles. I decided that the PV engine would go in this LC, so I sold the LC engine and fitted the newer PV lump straight into the LC frame.
I had actually made a bracket for the PV servo motor and had it welded into the frame before powder-coating, so there was a proper fixing point for it. I bought an LC airbox for it and junked the K&N’s it originally had fitted. Then the airbox came off and I fitted foam pod filters, and made an alloy plate to sit in place of the airbox for all the PV electrical gizmos.
A new Dyna coil and Taylor leads went on to upgrade the originals. I completely stripped the clocks down for a deep clean and rebuild, and experimented with different handlebars. I like the Renthal “straights,” but they do have disadvantages, so ended up with ultra lows.
In the four years I took to build this bike, I had other LC’s too, and would rob parts from one to fit to another, so that’s how this bike gained an original Giuliari (Gully) seat in mint condition, plus other parts. This meant I could experiment with paint schemes. I tried a white/red tw0-stripe paint set that I really liked, and went well against the white wheels, but as the build progressed, I really fancied doing a scheme that I hadn’t seen anywhere else before. Early Yamaha aircooled bikes came in orange as an option, so orange was a Yamaha colour at one time. I decided on Ford “Electric Orange,” which is a metallic, and Mark Cordwell in Derby applied it to a brand new pattern tank I bought, along with brand new side panels and tail piece made in modern ABS plastic, which is less likely to crack and far more pliable than the original plastics.
I topped that off with an original alloy fuel cap that I polished up at home again on my bench mounted polishing machine. I also used the polisher to buff up some new TSA stainless pipes that came off one of the other LC’s — did I mention I swapped parts between bikes! Those pipes are stunning — beautifully made and so light, and do wonders for the mid-range where most of the riding is done nowadays! New alloy end cans from Dave “Muttsnuts” Whattam were polished up and fitted too.
I bought a new GMX radiator — a stunning thing compared to the Chinese rads you find on ebay, and it had the extra spigot welded on for the rad bypass needed for the PV engine. A rad guard was added to help protect it damage.
There are lots of small changes too — every fastener on the bike is stainless, lots of small parts are painted, powder-coated or polished, and I try and refurb every single component on the bike, or replace for new or improved.
Does the bike have a nickname?
No, not as such, but as I built three LC hybrids in close succession, so I call this one the “orange LC.”
What is it like to ride ?
Lovely! The PV engine is very different to the raw power delivery of the LC, but no less enjoyable. And it sounds awesome with the TSA pipes. The ride is much improved thanks to the stiffer front and rear ends compared to stock LC parts. 17″ wheels means much better, modern tyre choices, and the Beringers could stand a Jumbo jet on its nose and make the rear Brembo virtually redundant. The bike has done a few thousand trouble free miles with the new owner now , a good friend of mine — I sold it in late 2019, and he absolutely loves it!
Anything that I’m particularly proud of ?
The paint choice I think. I have seen orange LC’s before, but not this shade or decal combination. Straying from the norm can be very risky, but I absolutely love the colour and I think it suits the LC perfectly. You can understand why I swapped some black RGV wheels over to this bike, as the white wheels wouldn’t have suited it so well. The orange uses a pink undercoat, believe it or not!
There is a comprehensive rebuild thread on Norbo’s Rdlccrazy forum: My latest Lc | The RD LC Crazy UK 2 Stroke Forum.