Redtail Works builds a dirt-ready two-stroke enduro…
Introduced in 1968, the Yamaha DT-1 would change motorcycling forever, offering the world a lightweight and affordable 250cc two-stroke dirt bike that was street-legal — the “godfather enduro,” as it’s been called. The bike was a massive sales success, and Yamaha enduros were soon available in other displacements, including the 175cc CT and the mighty 360cc RT, which won the 1970 Roof of Africa Rally shortly after its introduction. It made 30 horsepower, weighed 258 pounds wet, and was tougher to kill than Chuck Norris.
Matt Cuddy of SuperHunky waxed nostalgic about the bike:
“The enduro that I liked best was the big one, the 360. And since I owned one in high school, it has a special place in my heart as both an evil handling, ankle exploding terror, and a rock solid reliable motorcycle, that seemed to thrive on abuse.”
Enter our new friend Jacob Hardin of Western North Carolina’s Redtail Works, a one-man design and build operation that does a wide range of work, including custom architectural installs, furniture, small batch home goods, and motorcycles. Jacob got his motorcycle license as soon as he turned 16, but it took him four years of obsessive saving to afford his first bike. He was hooked:
“Sometimes it feels like I know what I’m doing and sometimes it feels like I haven’t even scratched the surface of riding and wrenching and that’s probably why I love motorcycles.”
As a hobby dirt and trials rider, Jacob wanted a machine that could do double-duty, hitting the trails and burning up the backroads. After riding a friend’s RT, he reckoned this ’71 RT-1 B 360 was just the ticket:
“The geometry and handling I think is great on paved curves and single track, and the big hunky motor covered in fins with only one intake and one exhaust is sweet.”
Jacob’s first order of business was preparing the bike for his style of riding, so he outfitted the RT with an aluminum bash plate, enduro handguards, and new risers/pegs for stand-up riding. Other mods include a new tank, “blinding” Baja Designs LED lighting, shortened subframe with solo seat, and the number plate, rear fender, and front fender bracket, which he made and rolled himself, as well as the paint. The result is a twin-shock two-stroke “Jappalachian”-style enduro, perfect for the winding roads and tight singletrack of Western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains:
“For me, success in a project is when a dent, scratches, a little dirt, and boot wear on the cases make the bike look even better and tougher than if it were in pristine condition. Because then you can ride the hell out of it and crash it and it just keeps looking cooler.”
Below, we talk to Jacob for the full story on this Blue Ridge blaster.
Yamaha 360 Enduro: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I’m 26 from Nashville, but I’ve been living in North Western N.C for the past 8 or 9 years. I got my moto license when I was 16 and then it took me about 4 years to (obsessively) save up enough money to buy my first bike. I was hooked immediately and I’ve learned a lot on my own and from my buddies. Sometimes it feels like I know what I’m doing and sometimes it feels like I haven’t even scratched the surface of riding and wrenching and that’s probably why I love motorcycles.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
It’s a 1971 Yamaha RT-1 B 360.
• Why was this bike built?
One of my friends has a ‘72 RT and I really liked the simplicity of the two stroke motor and the dual-sport styling. The geometry and handling I think is great on paved curves and single track, and the big hunky motor covered in fins with only one intake and one exhaust is sweet.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
I’m a dirt and trials rider by hobby, so I wanted something that I could ride in the woods and also zip down back roads if I needed to. For me, success in a project is when a dent, scratches, a little dirt, and boot wear on the cases make the bike look even better and tougher than if it were in pristine condition. Because then you can ride the hell out of it and crash it and it just keeps looking cooler.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
I started with trials tires, the aluminum skid plate (a must for me), Enduro Engineering handguards (also a must), and some name brand bar risers and foot pegs so riding while standing is more comfortable. The motor is in good shape and compression is great so I haven’t even cracked the head on this bike, but the clutch actuator was shot, so I had to retrofit one from another bike.
The seat was roached but I managed to save some of the pan so I cut it down and had a new cover upholstered. I went rough-out on the top of the seat so it stays grippy even when it’s wet, an old Malcom Smith trick. I moved the original latch and hinges to open the seat and give access to the electrical box underneath holding the battery and fuses.
The tank is a brand new “universal” tank that I made fit and was able to use the original gas cap. I also cut a bunch of tabs off the frame and took about 4 inches out of the subframe to match the single-seat and make it look racier. The number plate, rear fender, and front fender bracket I made and rolled, and all of the paint I did myself.
There’s a blinding Baja Designs LED up front and a lithium battery under the seat. The bike had a tach and speedometer up front but I made a single mount to run just the speedo. Then there’s always the additional hours of the little stuff that makes the bike cohesive, like blackening the fasteners and cutting up an old air intake boot to make the headlight look built-in.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
It’s usually just called the 360, but I like to think the styling is “Jappalachian.”
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
I’m always surprised at how well the bike pulls through the full throttle range. It doesn’t have a power valve or much of an expansion chamber, so, for a two stroke, the power is really nice and predictable. I like that new riders can putt around in the yard on it and feel comfortable, but you can also smoke it up a hill climb and pick up the front wheel to get over stuff.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The clutch actuator took a lot of time. I ended up using a Yamaha XS unit and modified it to work, and I left the cover off on the side case so you can see it.