Story Behind The Design: The Original Superbike RD350 T-Shirt
Biking in India isn’t the same as it used to be. Today, technology has brought in bikes where stop pies and wheelies are less complicated; thanks to the Pulsar generation. My generation (born in 70’s) has experienced bikes that were raw. Two-stroke engines that literally smoked the streets of India. I’m lucky to have owned few.
In the 90’s, the biking world was divided into multiple tribes – the Bullet tribe, the Java/Yezdi tribe, the RD 350 tribe and then, the modern bikes. My days of motorcycles started with TVS 50 (50cc) followed by Hero Puch Turbo Sport (65cc), TVS Suzuki Shogun (11occ, 14bhp – most “powerful” in the 90’s) and then, the only Indian super-bike (still is, though not manufactured) – the RD 350 (350cc, 35 bhp).
Though the Shogun belonged to my brother, I did use it for about a year before he took it back to his college in Hassan. And, it was time for me to buy a bigger machine. Living in Tirunelveli and in an era before HTML or the Internet, RD 350 was unheard of. I’d never seen one. Through various bike enthusiasts, I got to know about RD 350. Done. I wanted to own one!
It took a lot to convince my parents about buying a bike. Like most parents, they were worried about their teenage son, whose life revolved around the thrill of speeding. After months of one-way conversation, I managed to convince them. I told them that I’m planning to buy this bike that looked like the Bullet. Never mentioned the word Yamaha – that’s a bad word for most parents. They assumed that it would be this big fat slow moving piece of metal. I never spoke further.
Thanks to my cousin Arun, I managed to test ride his friend’s bike. The bike was in stock condition and well maintained. It was a 1984 model LT version and the price was Rs. 35,000, which at that time was high considering that we bought the Shogun for less than Rs. 30,000. Somehow, the deal was closed and I brought the bike to Tirunelveli. First, my parents saw the bike and were confused. It looked big fat and slow moving but they read “Yamaha”. Umm…I kick-started the bike and the roar of the engine made them sceptical about their decision – a decision that they could obviously not reverse. The rest is history.
Unfortunately, I never really had the opportunity to ride the bike to far off places. My memories revolve around the fact that I managed to clock 160kmphin rains, my “experiments” gone bad and riding in single engine (RD had two carburettors) and of those little street races. But towards the end, I think I enjoyed the most. It was those simple rides taking Mina and Ninja around Nungambakkam. The bike was as smooth as it can ever be. The sound was distinct and you always know when the RD entering your street. Mina and Ninja were fans of this bike too!Those who have not seen an RD before, called it a “modified” bike or Rajdoot. At times, I’ve had to rev hard to prove to the RX100 boys that they shouldn’t be messing with this machine. There were very few mechanics, who knew anything about the bike. Many experimented and it resulted in me building the bike from the frame up – not once, but thrice!! Eventually, things settled when I moved to Chennai.
I’m not too sentimental but emotional. I loved the fact that I built this bike and owned it for close to 15 years. The amount of time and money that I spent on it wasn’t measurable to the pleasure of riding this beautiful piece of art. In 2009, it was mind over heart and I decided to sell my RD for a CBR 1000RR. I know that I was selling a collector’s bike but I know that it isn’t fair for one person to own far too many rides. It had to be sold. And I did it. Those who truly know me know for a fact that I would have never parted ways with my RD. There were jokes that it might end-up in my living room but yes, it was mind over heart. The day I sold the bike was one of the most emotional day in my life. I felt that a piece of me was going away. For rest of the week, I had this heavy heart but today, I know that I’ve a bigger and better bike. I’m not too sure if my CBR 1000RR and I will share the same bond that I once shared with my RD 350. It is not fair on my part but then, I guess I’m stuck in a time capsule! Long live RD 350!
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