Cult bike Yamaha RD 500 LC

Four-cylinder racing engine for the road

In the best tradition, the Yamaha RD 500 also ensured that the motorcycle scene whispered real horror tales about the two-stroke beast. Just as it was the case with the first Kawasaki 500 Mach III.

Yamaha R.D 500 LC – decadence on wheels.

Nowadays, if the Yamaha engineers were to put even a tentative sketch of a similarly complex and radical construction on paper, they would immediately be out of their jobs. But it was different almost 30 years ago. The Japanese earned real money with their motorcycles because they dominated the market with quality and impetuous ideas. They dominated racing, swept European manufacturers off the market and had an answer for every niche. And the engineers all freedom. Even building a four-cylinder racing engine for the road. The two-stroke freaks hyperventilated, hastily terminated their home loan and savings contracts or sneaked to the Yamaha dealer with grandma’s piggy bank to invest 11,188 marks in their dream.

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Cult bike Yamaha RD 500 LC
Four-cylinder racing engine for the road

Madness, this engine!

But this thing was absolutely awesome, and I will never forget the moment when my boss and mentor Franz Josef Schermer handed me the keys: “First the photos have to be in the box, then you can get the Yamaha RD 500 LC keep over the weekend. And then back – but please in one piece and without scratches. "

Madness, this engine. Just the start, when the four cylinders are still a bit fat and grumpy, the gear cascades on the crank drive loudly and audibly pass on the power flow to the clutch. Heard and feel like the real racing engine of a YZR-500 GP rocket. However, only with about half the power. Almost 90 hp, more was not possible as standard. Logical, if you flanged a measly 26 carburettor at a 90-degree angle to the inlet membrane and forcefully slowed down the fresh gas flow. But there was hardly any other solution for the series in order to press the oven carburetors between the two cylinder banks. Which, despite the power valve exhaust control and other tricks, gave the engine a rather inhomogeneous power delivery. In good German: lame below, moderate in the middle, and shortly before the red area the storm breaks out. With which the Yamaha RD 500 LC served exactly the cliché that the four-stroke fans confirmed in their opinion.


The Zamaha RD 500 LC.

And because of the V-4 engine – puff pie. Strictly speaking, the Yamaha RD 500 LC has a square four engine with two cylinder banks inclined at 50 degrees. But that doesn’t change the fact that this high-tech engine still knocks every two-stroke freak out of the boots today. A circumstance that ensures that the almost 500 still approved RDs are in firm hands – or mercilessly screwed up.

The Yamaha technicians also pulled out all the stops on the chassis. Internally ventilated brake discs, hydraulic anti-dive, strut under the engine and of course a 16-inch front wheel that was fashionable at the time. Only on the frame of the export models was it safe to use radical lightweight construction, which is why steel tubes were preferred. Yamaha technicians only welded filigree aluminum square tubes on the rare RZV-R model for the Japanese market. It didn’t help: just three years after the spectacular appearance, the Yamaha RD 500 LC disappeared from the scene again.

facts and figures


Extremely elaborate four-cylinder with two superimposed crankshafts, a balance shaft and lots of gears.

Water-cooled four-cylinder two-stroke engine, 499 cm³, 65 kW (88 PS) at 9500 / min, 67 Nm at 8500 / min, oven 26 mm carburettors, diaphragm inlet, YPVS outlet control, separate lubrication. Six-speed gearbox. Weight fully fueled 216 kg, front tires 120/80 V 16, rear 130/80 V 18, top speed 223 km / h. Price 1984: 11,188 marks.

Books about the Yamaha RD 500 LC are not on the market, as the number of items sold does not suggest a worthwhile demand.

Often only long-established dealers can help with real problems. For example Motorrad Klein in Dillingen an der Saar (www.motorradklein.de) or the motorcycle store Stocksiefen in Nauheim (www.motorradhaus-stocksiefen.de).

Market situation
Of the around 1,500 new vehicles sold, around 500 should still be registered. For machines in good condition you have to reckon with over 10,000 euros. Defective Yamaha RD 500 LC are mostly used as a parts store and are rarely for sale.

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