1975 Yamaha RD350

What was your intended objective when you started the build?

The objective itself was to make a nice custom bike, without going overboard.  I wanted to have it almost look as if it was factory done, and have people need to look at it for a few seconds before realizing what it was.

What motivated you to start your project?

When I got the bike originally, I sort of cheated to get a cafe racer style look by throwing clips-ons and a cafe style seat on the bike.  It was alright, but not really unique.  Then, I eventually blew up my motor on I91 going 70mph (lucky I had pulled in the clutch before it seized) when air sucked in from a not properly torqued head.  At that point, I decided I wanted to do more to the bike, got the front end really cheap, and it just became one of those ‘not really done’ projects from there.

This was also a very fun project to work on with my father, Sonny.  He grew up racing Motocross/Enduro and worked at a CZ dealership in Port Chester, NY.  He is very familiar with the older bike tech, including 2-stroke, and it was a great learning experience for me.

What was the most unique and creative thing you did to the bike?

The paint usually gets the most compliments, and I feel is the best part of the bike (after all, it is what people see first!).  My very good friend Carina helped me come up with a clean looking, simple design.  The text on the oil tank/side covers are transliterated into Japanese and say the exact same thing as the English it normally has.

The tuning fork logo, and the text on the sides, all have a ‘brushed on’ look as if from a calligraphy brush, which really makes it.  I wanted it to have a more Japanese feel, and I went with red on white to represent the Japanese flag.

What are you most proud of?

My overall most proud of change on this bike is the rear end.  It is a monoshock from an 87 FZ600 (the aluminum swingarm as well which is nice).  Unlike the 92 GSXR USD forks on the front, which was more straight forward of a conversion, this took some work.

The pivot on the swingarm had to be milled down a bit to get into the frame (thankfully my good friend Andy from CT British Iron had a machine shop).  Once in, to line up the chain the sprocket carrier had to be milled in a bit, and the front sprocket was replaced with a 10mm offset one.  The monoshock needed some mounts fabbed up, which also made me eliminate the center stand.  There were other small adjustments needed (like a new inner rear fender, and adjusting the chainguard a little to get around the frame) but overall the feel of the bike is great and it tracks in a straight line with no hands on the bars.  My father was a huge help getting things fabbed.

What do other people say about your motorcycle?

A lot of the time, guys who grew up in the 70s riding RD’s and similar bikes, will recognize it the quickest and once they do they love to talk about how fun RD’s were back when they were new in their time.  They will always mention how these bikes pack a punch for such a small package, and I usually get the ‘how often is the front wheel on the ground’ comments!

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