Tiddler Winks: 1975 Yamaha RD125
Like cars, motorcycles have gotten bigger, heavier and more powerful since the malaise era. Nowadays most street motorcycles feature displacements over 1 liter and beginner bikes are considered to be 500cc’s. However, back in the bell-bottom era you could buy a 125cc two stroke street bike featuring 16 angry hp from Yamaha that you could ride on your commute and not be considered a nervous novice. Find this 1975 Yamaha RD125 for sale in Bothell, WA for $1,900 via craigslist.
The smallest displacement street Yamaha you can buy today is the liquid cooled 321cc twin YZF-R3. But back in 1975 you could buy this RD125 with an aircooled two-stroke twin! Imagine two pistons the size of 12 GA shot gun shells whizzing up and down to 8,500 rpm to make peak hp of 16! The RD125 will turn the 1/4 mile in 18 seconds at 71 mph, but you have to rev the nuts off it. But that is all part of the fun in riding a small displacement two-smoke!
The bike has about 7,300 miles on it and the ad mentions a recent top end rebuild with about 2 hours on it. It should be good to go for another 7,000 miles at 10,000 rpm. The speedo has that weird cracking that all 70’s Yamaha’s get, but that’s patina, right?
The twin tail pipes look to be in good shape without a bunch of oily dreck oozing out the ends. Two strokes eat pipes and especially baffles due to their unique method of combustion. However, when the baffle gets plugged you can use the firepit in the back of your suburban home to burn it out. Just make sure your spouse is away that evening.
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Gianni is Daily Turismo’s Pacific Northwest correspondent. He’s a lifelong Alfista and grew up riding two-stroke dirt bikes in rural Washington State when no one cared where you rode off road. He wrote this bio in third person, but isn’t nearly clever enough to make witty jokes about it. Vote for Manuel, in reverb we trust.
Nice piece. Brought back lots of memories. I lived in Pakistan for a couple of years. When you rode a bike of more than 125cc. it was likely a late '40s, early '50s bike left behind by the British (Matchless, Ariel, Triumph). The mainstay was the Honda 50 cub and Honda 90 Super. A friend of mine and I went down on a rain slick stick on his Yamaha 100 twin. Nearly run over by an old Leyland double decker bus before we got back onto it and rode away, but hey, that's what reckless youth is all about. After all, a 125cc bike could hold 5 people instead of the usual family of 4!
Love those 'bars! Nice write-up, G.
Yeah, but it doesn't have scooter floorboards so your toddler can't stand between your legs, so it's not appropriate for the current-since-last-Friday market conditions.
I really love how the bigger RD350/RD400 evolved into the RZ350LC. Now those were truly great 2-stroke bikes. Those powerplants even made their way into the fastest ATV of our time, the Yamaha Banshee.
I had a 1974 Yamaha RD350 when I was in high school. I weighed about a buck and a half and that thing scared the s@#t out of me on numerous occasions! That bike would fly. My buddy had a RD250, but it wasn't near the machine of the 350. These reed valve twins would get up and go. Brings back great memories!
Love 2-strokes. The RD's soldiered on only to be replaced by bulkier and not necessarily better 4-stroke bikes. The 2-stroke bikes that were truly scary (at the time) were the Kawasaki Mach I (500) and Mach III (750). The Suzuki Titan 500 seemed to be ubiquitous in the 70's but wasn't the muscle machine the others were and it was just kind of a smoky, noisy, substitute for the sexier British bikes. The Yamaha's RD's solved the seat for every rider with one series as well as anyone could expect in the 70's while still sticking to the lightweight 2-stroke paradigm.
As a footnote, Honda made (in my mind) the wildest of all 2-strokes in the NR500 . Nothing like taking an outside of the box read of the rule books to create something that was ultimately more trouble than it was worth.
*It still amazes me how you can buy a motorcycle that feels truly scary and within 24 hours wonder if there isn't a way to open it up a little bit more by just rotating the handle just a little further (you know… to 11).
In the same way that an MG Midget can be a blast to drive flat-out, an RD 125 is a blast to ride. You feel like you're going much faster than the 'patina'd' speedo is likely to indicate.
Thanks G for giving us all something new to chatter on about.
I've had my share of RD350s in the past. Great, light, flickable bikes. At 190 now I don't think the 125 would do me much good, but I've got my eye out for another RD350/400.
They are simply the most fun bikes I've ever had and that power curve, esp if it is tuned right, is a killer. And they are so light and track so straight I used to lane split down 9th st NW in DC in morning rush hour, wearing a Davida half helmet, smoking a cigarette without a hand anywhere near the bars, just flicking the bike side to side to weave on down the street, catching every light I could.
Then grab the throttle and scream through the tunnel on the way to the Navy Yard.
hunsbloger, the oval pistoned nr500 was a four stroke that honda built to try to compete with the two strokes. it's flywheel was so light that it would stall between shifts.
honda built an nsr400 street bike that was a V3 two stroke similar to their nsr500 three cylinder
That left side foot rest looks like it tangled with a tree ! I have a 72 Suzuki T-250 twin pretty fast 6 speed Kicker is on the left side lousy drum brakes in todays world !
Oh and i run without the baffles because the Guy next door is a Wanker !
Back in the day, the pipe rusted and the baffle fell out of our Kawasaki Trail Boss and it lost power (but you could hear it 10 miles away).
Loud Pipes save lives !
But they draw cops like free donuts/coffee!